Hidden on the second floor of Preston Forest Village, the Dallas Capoeira studio is decorated with the colors of Brazil, the martial art form’s origin country.
Those new to the Brazilian martial arts may hesitate to try it, Absalon Bonilla, head instructor and owner of Dallas Capoeira, said.
“In addition to learning kicking and dodging and self-defense aspects, you also learn how to play the instruments, how to sing, how to do so in Portuguese,” Bonilla said. “That’s what makes Capoeira so unique.”
Despite moving around the shopping centers at the intersection of Preston Road and Forest Road, Dallas Capoeira has maintained a stable clientele for the last decade.
“The Preston Hollow area has been very good to us,” Bonilla said.
Bonilla was already skilled in tae kwon do before he discovered Capoeira. His interest piqued when he saw it being performed for the first time at a soccer match while in college. After that, Bonilla made time to attend classes after school and his full-time job.
After graduating from Dallas Capoeira, Bonilla took over the studio from its founder, his mentor Chad Adams.
According to Bonilla, Capoeira is not as strict as other forms of martial arts.
“We’re more loose. That whole Brazilian atmosphere is more present here,” Bonilla said. “Things are more light-hearted, more playful, more party, so you think Brazil.”
The walls of the studio are painted green, yellow, and blue, the colors of the Brazilian flag and also a reminder of the ranking system in Capoeira. As they advance, Capoeira students earn the green cord first, followed by the yellow, and then the blue.
“You advance as you travel inside of the Brazilian Flag,” Bonilla said.
Throughout the class, Bonilla teaches his students various moves to practice individually before they finish off the class by gathering around in a circle while two people dance in the middle.
Once in the circle, the duo first squat down and greet each other with either a handshake, a hug, or a high five to serve as a reminder that no matter what happens in the circle, the opponents are still friends.
When the berimbau — an instrument that resembles a bow and arrow — dips down in to the circle, the game begins.
“What we do when we squat down is we’re paying respect to the instruments,” Bonilla said. “We’re letting them tell us when to go in.”
After they begin, the pair moves around using various moves and acrobatics while trying to kick and dodge each other. Bonilla compares the martial art form to a conversation.
“It’s the same thing, I throw a kick, you dodge, you throw a kick, I dodge, and we get more creative [with] how we get into those kicks and dodges,” Bonilla said.
Sean Taylor, one of Bonilla’s students, has attended classes at Dallas Capoeira for eight years and said his interest in Capoeira stemmed from Tekken, a fighting video game.
Taylor believes Capoeira allows participants an opportunity to explore different aspects of their lives.
“You have to analyze the kind of person you are,” Taylor said. “Analyze where you’re deficient or where you’d like to strengthen, and chances are there’s a piece of Capoeira that can help you do that.”