SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, July 18, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Gephardt Daily recently spoke with Mestre Jamaica Romualdo about Capoeira, the balletic Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and acrobatics.
Mestre, meaning Master, Jamaica discovered his passion for Capoeira at the age of seven and lived in Teixeira de Freitas, Bahia, Brazil. He began training under Mestre Gil of Capoeira Garras De Ouro and by the age of 15 was traveling all over Brazil training and competing. He later won three consecutive titles at the Brazilian Capoeira Confederation Championships, all before his 20th birthday.
Mestre Jamaica was certified to teach with the title of Professor in 1997 and his skill and acrobatic talent have since made him one of the most sought after instructors in the Capoeira community and he has taught and performed at workshops and events around the world.
He has also had roles in various independent films, documentaries, and music videos, as well as Shockwave’s popular Capoeira Fighter 3 video game, in which he aptly played a character named Jamaica.
In June 2013, Jamaica was awarded the title of “Mestre” by Mestre Amen.
He continues to teach workshops across the United States and around the world for capoeira schools, arts and professional dance programs.
He told us: “Capoeira is 100% Brazilian and was created by the Africans when they were forced to go to the countryside, then they became slaves in the country, then they created Capoeira as self-defense disguised as a dance.
“Capoeira is just a beautiful art form. I like to say it’s an art form because so many things are involved in it; it’s music, it’s dance, it’s culture, it’s language, but best of all, what I love most is the community, and especially the community that we’ve had here in Salt Lake City for the last 20 years have established a partnership with the Utah Arts Alliance.”
Mestre Jamaica said he originally wanted to master the art form to support his mother.
“Later on, I discovered that I could help not only my mother, but many people,” he said. “And that’s my mission, that’s what I’ve been doing for 35 years of my life.”
Mestre Jamaica also spoke about coming to Salt Lake City and founding the capoeira group Volta Miúda in 2009, named after the region his family hails from.
“In 1999 I was invited by a group of people who were teaching capoeira, actually practicing capoeira at BYU through a capoeira club they founded,” he said. “So the club gets so big, and then they actually need someone who knows a little bit more about the culture.”
He applied and got a visa. He first moved to Utah, then to Massachusetts for about a year and a half, and finally returned to the Beehive State.
“Utah had something about it that felt like it was a magnetic thing. I think it’s the mountains or something, you know?” he said. “So I came back to Utah and I’ve been here ever since.”
He added: “When I got here it was very difficult. I didn’t speak a word of English. I had to get used to the weather because it’s different where I come from. Also, as an immigrant I’ve done all sorts of jobs you can imagine – pizza delivery, construction worker, working in a hospital – but I’ve always had the thought that my mission in this world is to spread this beautiful art form that is Capoeira.
“So I always had that in mind and continued to train alone, going to parks and sometimes doing outside of opening hours when people go to the club and then come out of the clubs. They would go to a restaurant like Denny’s to eat, and I would stand in front of Denny’s, do capoeira, play berimbau, do somersaults, just get people’s attention. And then slowly build up a small group of people and start training in the park and slowly just keep getting bigger.
“And here we are today with this beautiful community. In our church, many children train, women, men, old men, young men, old women, young women. I like to say that capoeira is for everyone.”
He also spoke about what the art form brings to people’s lives.
“Let’s put it this way, Capoeira is great therapy. When you go there, interact with other people, clap your hands, sing, dance, challenge each other, my class is so beautiful. When you see a parent come in with their own kids and jump around in circles, play, smile, then go home and start competing with each other, but in a good way, it couldn’t be better.
“How often do I have cases of people coming into my class and they’re kind of quiet. I can say that there is something wrong with this person. Then, six months later, the person comes to me and says, ‘Thank you very much, this community saved my life. I was about to kind of leave this world, you know, I was in a deep depression, I was stressed, and suddenly, being with you guys, I feel alive again.”
“Every time we go out on the street and perform, it’s something really beautiful. It’s very entertaining for people; People just look at it and think, whoa, that’s awesome, you know? But then people always ask a question – do you dance or do you fight? We like to say we dance like a fighter and we fight like a dancer, so that’s the best way to explain capoeira, you know what I mean?”
Mestre Jamaica said he recently took a group of 10 people to Brazil to explore the culture and country. He said he couldn’t wait to have some of his mother’s food.
“My mother is my heroine, and I like to say that my mother is my first champion,” he said. “She taught me who I am today. Everything I use in Capoeira, my ideas, my passion for Capoeira definitely comes from my mother.”
He said he also learned lessons from his father, including focusing on the present rather than the future. “I think it’s very important to be there at the moment,” he said. “One thing my father always told me; Try not to worry about the past because if you worry about the past you only hurt yourself twice so try to learn from the past, leave the present and prepare for the future.
“So my preparation for the future is to have faith in my people and to make sure that the little kids who are training in the class today can be better people in the future and help us out in this crazy world we live in , about to change.”
Capoeira classes are held at the Alliance Theater in Trolley Square on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 3614 W. 2100 South.
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