Centro Cultural Senzala London is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

To celebrate, we’re posting a series of interviews with our teachers so you can get to know them a bit better.

Here’s an interview with John.

Ronaldo, John, Ieva, Açaí

Tell us a bit about yourself.
– When and where did you start training capoeira, and why?
– What’s your capoeira name and who gave it you, and when?

Having done Tae Kwon Do and Karate throughout the 80s and 90s, I had heard about Capoeira before but never really seen it live. In 1999 I was looking for something new to train besides traditional martial arts and I saw that there was a Capoeira school relatively nearby where I lived in Copenhagen and I thought I would give it a try. It was run by Mestre Steen and it was a small dance studio but the whole place and the people had a fantastic energy that I had not really seen or experienced before.

It was a slow start for me the first couple of months as I felt unsure about the dancing aspect, but suddenly I got completely hooked by the moves, the vibe, the people, the music, basically just the whole package that is Capoeira.

My Capoeira name is Ninja just because there was another guy named John and I had a martial arts-like style, so the other students just started calling me Ninja-John which eventually just became Ninja…. I prefer John though…

Your personal journey
– Why do you still train capoeira, what keeps you interested and motivated?
– What are your favourite parts about capoeira?

There are so many aspects to Capoeira that can be practiced like dance, music, acrobatics, fighting etc. that you never really get tired as there is so much variety. Also Capoeira is never static. People constantly bring new things to the art form, be it from other Brazilian musical influences, other dance styles like breakdancing or martial arts like BJJ, evolving Capoeira all of the time.

My personal favorite part of Capoeira is the community and the people. Mestre Julio has created an amazing group community here in London with people from many different places and backgrounds who all have Capoeira in common. In London you can always find a place to train and people to train with, but to find a place where there is also a real community spirit like in Senzala London is rare.

Your classes
– How long have you been teaching/assisting? What do you enjoy about it the most?

I have been teaching on and off for 12 years, and my favorite aspect is seeing people doing things they thought would not be possible for them or simply surprised at their abilities to learn new and sometimes difficult things.

– Tell us a bit about your classes. What’s your teaching philosophy?

I like to teach by breaking down techniques into individual components and then slowly putting it all together. That way each student can practice the component they find most difficult if the technique is too advanced. Each person operates on their own level and the main goal should be to become a bit better than you were before and not defining your success on whether you mastered a certain technique straight away.

I clearly remember Mestre Steen telling me when I started and was anxious about reaching a certain level that at the end of the day, what you would get by achieving your goals would not be as important as what you become by trying to achieve them. Ultimately I think the process is as important as the goal.

– What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying out capoeira?

My main advice would be to remember to enjoy it. Capoeira is not just training and learning to flip in the air but also dance and music, and generally having fun.

John teaches adult classes on Wednesdays. Check out our class timetable here.

Read our other teacher interviews with Foo, Roland and Ronaldo.