When I was in grade school, I found science and math boring. We did experiments we already knew the outcomes for. We learned formulas that gave us one right answer every time. My drive to find something more thought-provoking and challenging pushed me away from these fields and toward the arts.
About Kate Feinberg Robins
Dr. Kate Feinberg Robins holds a PhD in Cultural & Linguistic Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
What if you just discovered Capoeira, or violin, or a love of mathematics, and you want to develop new skills in adulthood?
Despite popular belief, a growing field of research in psychology shows that it’s never too late.
If you’re a parent or have spent much time around children, you’ve probably noticed their tendency to pick up on things you do before you even realize what you’re doing. You might have wondered why it’s such a struggle to teach children what we want them to learn, yet so easy for them to learn things we never intended.
When I returned to the U.S. after a year of field research in Peru, a Peruvian colleague remarked with surprise that I looked slimmer than when I had left. “I always come back fatter,” she said, explaining that she couldn’t resist eating more than her share of delicious Peruvian food. I thanked her for the compliment, and proceeded to ponder what I had done that brought me back in such good shape.
Do you remember the first time you saw a Capoeira game?
For me, it was in northeast Brazil. As a ballet dancer who could accomplish amazing feats that most people don’t imagine possible, I had never seen anything like this—these men were as agile & powerful on their hands and heads as my colleagues and I were on our feet. They could balance in improbable positions, moving from one to the next with total control.
Is it a game? A dance? A ritual? A fight?
Capoeira is meant to trick and deceive by being all of these at once. The untrained eye viewing Capoeira often wonders, Who won? Yet the trained practitioner knows the subtle movements that may be just a game today, but would be deadly if the need arose.
Developing healthy exercise habits in childhood is essential for preventing disease later in life. But for healthy habits to stick, they have to be culturally meaningful, socially viable, and supported by family and peers. For many children, Capoeira is the perfect fit.
You always thought Capoeira was good for you. A recent study gives clues about how and why.
“I didn’t want to mix the students from Cara de Boi, who were kids from the hills. But I had to take them to spark things. […] So then the people from the college started to see and to want to do it. Later […] everything was mixed and I always said in class, ‘Here in Capoeira there is no discrimination.'”
Based on research with Mestre João Grande’s Capoeira academy in New York City, anthropologist Greg Downey identified 3 characteristics that set expert Capoeira teachers apart. João Grande spoke little English and his students spoke little Portuguese, yet his teaching was highly effective. How did he do it?