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.

First up is Ronaldo.

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?

Mestre Gato & Ronaldo

In the early 80s some friends of mine practised capoeira and we all tried to join the school which was a rented garage in Ipiranga São Paulo, hardly space to draw a roda on the floor, but my parents really didn’t like the idea as capoeira still had a bad reputation. However I would often go to watch the class and practise some moves with my friends such as aú, benção, macaquinho and so on.

But it was not until 1996 that I properly started training capoeira in Brixton Leisure Centre. Although it only lasted 2 months it really stuck with me and I was sure I’d continue practising capoeira.

Returning from Brazil back to the UK around July 2001 I went to live in Bedford which is close to Cambridge and that’s how I started training capoeira under Professor Sangue Bom & Carrocell, students of Mestre Gato. My capoeira name Is Refinaldo, given to me by Mestre Gato from Senzala, but most of you call me Velinho (even though it was I who called Julio Sanhaço by that name). You can call me Refinaldo Velinho.

Your personal journey
– Why do you still train capoeira, what keeps you interested and motivated?

What are your favourite parts about capoeira?

It’s hard to say as I cannot be without capoeira. Capoeira is everything you need in life; it teaches you some unbelievable skills that you can easily apply in your day-to-day life and for sure it helps many people in the process. The art, music, culture, history and the social aspects – you just have to love it.

Your classes
– How long have you been teaching/assisting? What do you enjoy about it the most?
– Tell us a bit about your classes – what’s your teaching philosophy?

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

I remember when I started training under Julio Sanhaço and after a few months he asked me to take the class as he had some appointments. Although the class was not big (4/5 of us) I felt really nervous. I didn’t even look back as since I met Julio all I could see was his potential and his amazing personality.

I really like to work on fitness, the flow of movements, drills and techniques, the small tips that makes you say, “Ohhhh that’s what was missing…” We squeeze as much as possible into our one hour class on Mondays, keeping it high intensity,with good stretching and some specific fitness/cardio exercises to improve stamina, adding malicia, with capoeira techniques too. I plan the main idea of what to teach but always adapt to what is required on the day… if that makes sense.

My main advice to any one trying to learn capoeira is to always keep your mind open to different styles and techniques, and to focus on capoeira as a whole and not just what you think you want to learn.

Ronaldo teaches adult classes on Wednesdays and children’s classes on Saturdays. Check out our class timetable here.

Ronaldo & CM Sanhaço