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By Lindsay Chung

COURTENAY — It’s dance, it’s acrobatics, it’s martial arts and it’s a glimpse into Brazilian culture.

It’s Capoeira, and local residents have been learning and practising this Brazilian martial art involving music, song, acrobatics and strategic play for the past year through Axé Comox Valley.

Axé Comox Valley — which is affiliated with Vancouver’s 30-year old Grupo Axé Capoeira — offers children’s and adult classes through the Comox Recreation Centre this year.

Students in instructor Alicia Fennell’s children’s class — who range in age from four to 10 — have been enjoying learning something new.

“I like Capoeira because it’s a dance, but it’s also fighting,” said Khyla Power. “I think Capoeira is really interesting because we get to learn the history of Brazil.”

Her brother, Owen, likes Capoeira because training makes him stronger.

Rae Power has enjoyed watching her children learn so much in their classes.

“They’re learning a different culture, learning a new language and music,” she said. “It’s not just a martial art — it’s everything.”

Sisters Nula and Birgit Power — who are not related to Khyla and Owen — are learning Capoeira together, and Birgit likes learning martial arts and learning to play instruments.

“I like Capoeira because there’s lots of acrobatics, and you don’t get hurt when you fight,” said Nula.

Ella Ferneyhough likes many things about Capoeira.

“I like Capoeira because it challenges you a bit but not too much, and it makes you stronger,” she said.

Mika Kong says she wanted to try Capoeira because it sounded fun and interesting.

Robbie McIvor started Capoeira after being encouraged by his mother.

“My mom told me about it, and I really liked it, and it’s really fun,” he said.

Megan Truby first became interested in Capoeira when she saw it in a newspaper.

“When I first tried it, I never wanted to stop,” she said.

She has noticed that Capoeira has helped her asthma and given her more energy.

“It’s kind of like your life has changed,” she said. “You feel stronger. If you had cramps, you can get stronger and go for walks more.”

This is Fennell’s second year teaching Capoeira in the Valley, and she notices her students’ confidence increasing.

They also build up their strength, aerobic fitness and sense of music and rhythm, she noted.

Fennell hopes the discipline will help build community — bringing boys and girls together and bringing people from all over the Valley together.

“I think just being exposed to a culture that’s complete and is not one thing or another; it’s something that involves every aspect of our culture,” she said. “It involves music; it involves rhythm and dance. It’s not just coming to train and going home after a good workout — it’s a complete culture.”

Fennell has been practising Capoeira for 10 years, and she is excited to share the art form with people in the Valley.

“When I first started, the changes I noticed in my body were so huge; I’d never trained in anything before that changed my body into this strong, flexible machine,” she said. “For the first six months, I was on such a high from being so healthy and I think that’s what a lot of the kids are feeling.”

Fennell congratulates all the local Capoeiristas who trained so hard in the past year — some of whom earned belts at events in Victoria and Vancouver — including Alexandra Brett-Boutet, Owen Power, Khyla Power, Nula Power, Birgit Power, Kelsey Keeping, Kalyssa Heinrich, Ankit Bakshi, Jonathan Blancas, Mika Kong, Megan Truby, Zachary Taylor, Brandon Britton, Eddie Betinol, Angela Race, Hana Hermanek and Moki.

For more information about Axé Comox Valley, e-mail [email protected], call 250-898-7918 or visit www.capoeiracomox.com.