Empowerment

Empowerment is a term we hear a lot these days, but what does it mean and how does it pertain to movement, martial arts, dance and ceremony? I recently took a methodology class for teaching kids, focusing on the pedagogy of Capoeira, the history of its educational methods. The class was with Mestre Omri Ferradura who runs an amazing school for kids and also a series of classes to educate educators, teaching how to teach.  He told a story of when Capoeira arrived in Israel for the first time, and to recruit students, the Mestres would do public performances, as is common for Capoeira and Martial Arts in general. The Mestres who brought Capoeira to Israel were absolutely incredible movers and would flourish their performances with double back flips, twisting butterfly kicks, and endless displays of the pinnacles of Capoeira and human movement. When these teachers would go to pass out flyers at the end, and talk to the audience, something was evident. Everyone was in awe of the power of Capoeira, but it felt unaccessible to the audience. Similar to a circus performer swallowing swords, blowing fire, balancing on one hand and then approaching the spectators afterwards to say “want to try?”. This is disempowering. Capoeira, Dance, Movement, and Ceremony need to invite the world into the art, to make it accessible for all people of all different backgrounds and body types. No group of humans deserves to be empowered more than another, and those who are empowered must be cautious to not disempower, and must learn methods to integrate and build people up. This is the mark of a truly empowered person, not a person abusing their power. Similarly, ritual and objects can be empowered to take the responsibility and focus off of the teacher or leader. In this way the transfer of power can happen more smoothly and can be shared by all. I try to ask myself after every class now, “did the people here leave more or less empowered than when they arrived?”, and I try to answer that question honestly everyday and adjust my methods and lesson plans accordingly. 

-Luke

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