Dhaka, Bangladesh
Lawrence Pickford, 27, capoeira - 'Your personality is reflected in how you move'

Lawrence Pickford, 27, capoeira - 'Your personality is reflected in how you move'

Six years ago, I was a professional video games tester. I'd go out at the weekend with a few mates, then sit at home all night playing computer games. I was bored, and I was getting depressed. I happened to be reading The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks and one of the characters did capoeira. It sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try. Within six months I'd quit my job and gone to university. I've never looked back. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art with music. You learn how to kick and how to throw yourself about, and you get fit. But it's also a conversation. Your personality is reflected in how you move, and you can get to know someone instantly just by doing capoeira (which we call playing) with them, or watching them play. During a game, everyone forms a circle called the roda, with two players standing in the middle. On one side stand people with instruments. Whoever holds the largest berimbau (a stringed instrument shaped like a bow) dictates the speed and feeling of the game. Some rhythms instruct you to play nicely, others to be more aggressive. People start playing a certain song, and without even realising it you start moving differently. It's intense. You might do cartwheels and kicks at high speed while someone tries to put their foot on your head - you have to use your entire body to keep your stance strong and balanced. I was always thin, but now I've broadened out, got definition. I can do sideflips, walk on my hands and move my body in ways that I'd never have dreamed of. There's a huge community around capoeira, and it is very social. I was quite insular, so it was a bit overwhelming going into that environment. But the group was so inclusive, dragging me out to parties, that I've become completely confident. Before capoeira, I wouldn't have gone anywhere on my own. Now I'm happy to visit new places and meet new people. It's taken me all over the world. Capoeira has changed my life. o Do you have a passion for exercise? Send your story to fitness@theguardian.com Five ways to get started: capoeira 1 There are uniforms in capoeira (generally loose-fitting trousers and a matching T-shirt with the group's emblem on) but to begin with, all you need is something that you can move around in comfortably. 2 The most basic movement is the Ginga, which looks a bit like a dance. Standing with your legs apart, step one foot back, staying on your toes. Step that same foot back to its starting position, then repeat with the opposite foot. 3 Cartwheels, handstands and high kicks feature a lot, and people are often scared to try them when they first start. Don't be. Everybody can do it - it just takes practice. 4 When you attempt kicks like the Meia Lua de Compasso (compass half moon), practise using a chair. If you kick the chair, it'll fly away. If you hit someone's head, you could really hurt them. 5 Until the 1920s, it was illegal to practice capoeira in Brazil, so all capoeiristas used pseudonyms to make it harder for the police to find them. It's a tradition that remains to this day: prepare to receive your nickname.

Share |