Meet the Capoeira Trainers: Fares

Fares shares his experience as a capoeira trainer in Raqqa

By Alessia Baker

Fares became a trainer in 2013, he came to know capoeira through Amr Al Berzawi, another trainer that arrived in Al Raqqa, Syria, and started organising classes for children in the house where he lived. The first thing that attracted Fares’ curiosity was that capoeira was the only sport he knew that used musical instruments. Another aspect that he liked was that it was based on equality, it brought everyone together and there were no winners or losers in the game. He also noted that the classes were a way for kids to express themselves and for the adults to understand them and get to know them better.

‘‘It helps kids to express their personality, to have more courage by breaking the fear that they have. In the roda, we can tell if this child is sad, happy, or if this child is shy or courageous’’

Fares recounted how, at first, it was difficult to launch the capoeira training sessions in the camp. It was a new and unknown sport and the children were not interested. However, after a couple of demonstrations, the kids started joining in. Playing capoeira had an incredible effect, kids that were shy and didn’t talk much, let down their barriers and made new friends. Singing out loud the capoeira songs and correcting each other, really helped the children to build their courage and build new relationships.

Fares also added that the training channelled the childrens’ energy in constructive activities, instead of being naughty and wasting time, it also helped them release negative feelings.

‘There is one kid, Mohammed’-  Fares said, ‘who was often angry and aggressive, he is smart and very good at building things, but he used his skills to build weapons with objects that he found laying around. Playing capoeira completely changed his attitude, helping him to resolve his anger and put his skills to good use, he started building instruments like agogo and berimbau, which are used to play capoeira’’.

When asked to recall if there’s something that all capoeira sessions have in common, he answered that when he thinks about the training there is always laughter in his memories. Kids find funny the strange-sounding names of the instruments and their pronunciation of the words.

‘‘Everyone sings in their own dialect when singing the songs. As you know, the pronunciation should be in Portuguese, but our language is Arabic so the song will come out as broken,  the sound of the mixed languages turns out very strange’’

Fares also shared some of his favourite memories from training experiences. One time a boy that had attended the classes only twice, not enough to fully grasp the capoeira moves, returned to the classes and wanted to perform. Fares was astonished to see that the boy’s capoeira technique had greatly improved and found out that the kids had been teaching each other the steps and practising outside of the training times. He was really pleased to see that the kids were enjoying the sport and making it their own also outside class.

Fares al thakhera

Another time when doing a class for kids with special needs, he didn’t expect them to understand the activities, because he had been told that the majority were autistic and had difficulties communicating. He was really surprised when these kids were eager to participate, they enjoyed the sport and wanted to play the instruments. 

This experience and many others have shown him that capoeira really has something to offer to everyone and has the power to bring together all people and improve their lives through music and interaction.