- Title: JERUSALEM-CAPOEIRA TEAM Palestinian brings Brazil's capoeira to East Jerusalem
- Date: 28th December 2014
- Summary: VARIOUS OF CHILDREN AND YOUTHS PRACTISING CAPOEIRA
- Embargoed: 12th January 2015 12:00
- Location: Jerusalem
- Country: Israel
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA7KM2S0OMPHQLIT7AD2SPDYUXJ
- Story Text: In the old neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, Muhannad Shihada trains youngsters the Brazilian martial art of capoeira.
Capoeira combines elements of dance, music and acrobatics.
Mahmoud Shihada was intrigued when he saw a performance by Brazilian capoeira trainers visiting the city. That's how he decided to open a centre in the Arab East Jerusalem.
"While they were practising capoeira, we met them and we liked it because it was very interesting, a new thing, we did not know what they were doing. As an observer, I did not know if it was a dance, gymnastics, Karate or Taekwondo. So, we met one of the trainers, and talked to him and we started communicating with him, through Facebook, to bring this game and spread it here (in Jerusalem)," he said.
Capoeira is said to have originated from African slaves taken to Brazil to work in plantations, and was first practised over 450 years ago.
Many capoeira masters from Brazil have emigrated to teach the martial art in other countries.
In Jerusalem, there are nearly 200 students taking capoeira classes.
"It (capoeira) has almost five Palestinian trainers who were students of trainer Muhannad Shihada, the trainer that has a belt that represents the highest level in Palestine (in capoeira). This sport is new and people like it." said Shihada.
After Friday prayers, capoeira trainees head to Al-Aqsa mosque compound to show their skills.
"Recently, we have been gathering at Al-Aqsa (mosque) every Friday where youths meet to practise capoeira sport as an encouragement and a hobby for them. It is an open space for them to meet and deliver a message," Shihada explained.
African slaves used capoeira's dance movements as a way to trick their masters into believing that this was a harmless, playful traditional dance. But in essence the slaves used the acrobatic nature of the dance to keep fit, fight for their freedom and eventually escape their masters. When the slave masters realised this, they banned capoeira. Anyone caught practising it was given the death penalty.
For almost 400 years, African captives taught and practised Capoeira in secret. It was not until the 1930s that it became legal.
After taking an intensive training in Brazil for a year and a half, Muhannad Shihada is training now children and youth. He said that it helps youth to channelise their energy.
"Everyone has energy that is buried, and he has to be used in a positive way. This is our goal of our shows," Muhannad Shihada added.
Children and youth pay a small symbolic fee for the classes.
Last month, Capoeira was given a special protected status by UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural arm.
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