On October 11th and 12th SPEAR participated in the ABADÁ-Capoeira Academy’s Batizado festival—a celebration of Afro-Brazilian art, music, and martial arts dance. Throughout the weekend, participants attended workshops and performances featuring students from the academy, including some of SPEAR’s own patients. Our volunteer techs and therapists were on-site throughout the event to treat performers, answer questions, and learn about the physical rigor and history of Capoeira. Among SPEAR’s volunteers was Penn Plaza’s Neema Fotoohi, who brought his own experience with Capoeira and passion for martial arts to the festival as a Physical Therapy Technician.
What is Capoeira?
“Capoeira is a martial art, a dance…and a way to bring people together.”
How did you first become involved with Capoeira? Can you talk about your experiences?
“I started when I was in college. Prior, I did Tae Kwon Do as a child, and during high school, I was predominantly weightlifting. I first heard about Capoeira from the video game “Tekken” that I played with a friend of mine in high school. It wasn’t until I got into college that I decided I wanted to get back into martial arts. I was driving home, I looked up, and I saw a sign that said ‘Capoeira – Martial Arts.’ I took one class and got hooked.”
What did you enjoy about or gain from Capoeira?
“I really liked how it involved incredible body movement; it was a martial art yet had some flash to it at the same time. It was a combination of being a gymnast and a fighter rolled into one. I was enamored with the acrobatics and the strength required for some of the harder movements. I’ve gone on to train in other martial arts, but the best thing I’ve gained from Capoeira is footwork, coordination, and rhythm—all things needed in almost any sport or activity you perform.”
What made you become a Tech?
“I became a Tech, because I decided to pursue a career change into physical therapy and knew this was a great way to gain the experience and knowledge I would need as I apply to PT school.”
How was your experience at the event? What was it like to bring your two worlds together?
“I was excited to bring these two worlds together and combine my familiarity with Capoeira with the knowledge I’ve gained as a tech (and while working with Luis [Gracia PT, DPT] at the event) while working with the students and performers. I was able to explain the more common injuries he would be likely to see, and as a result, we were better prepared to look at the right things.”
What do you hope people at the event (performers, organizers, or attendees) take away from having our physical therapists present?
“The importance of stretching and strengthening as an adjunct to their Capoeira practice. We saw a lot of lower back injuries, specifically a tight QL [quadratus lumborum]. Doing simple stretches such as kneeling hip flexor, child’s pose, and lat stretches on a daily basis (before, during, and after training) can immensely improve the likeliness of preventing injuries or help keep injuries from getting worse while you continue training.”
What do you think we at SPEAR can gain from volunteering at this event and our other outreach efforts?
“This opportunity gives SPEAR a chance to interact with and positively impact individuals who might not come in on their own. Most Capoeira athletes (and martial artists in general) are pretty tough. So when they get an injury, they may rest it for a day or two but then quickly proceed to train and just ‘deal with’ the injury, trying to figure out a way to work around it. These events give us at SPEAR the chance to educate participants on what can be done from a preventative or even performance-enhancement perspective.
The message I’d like to impart to all athletes is that treatment with a physical therapist is an investment in your ability to sustainably go about your activities in a safer, smarter way.”