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Brazilian Capoeira changing the lives of children in conflict zones

students in class

A team of researchers and charity workers in Middle Eastern conflicts zones have found evidence that Capoeira is having a life-changing impact on the lives of children and young people. .

The research, by charity Capoeira4Refugees and the University of East London, is to be made public at a special event on Wednesday 9 September at the Garden Room, Museum of London.

The Afro-Brazilian art form, which combines self-defence, martial arts, street dance and live music was found to benefit children in five key areas:

  • Increased playfulness, as a means of self-expression and a chance to enjoy their childhoods.
  • Emotional stability, through improved mood and ability to deal with difficult life situations.
  • New friendships, thanks to the collaborative approach of Capoeira.
  • Increased tolerance and respect towards others.
  • Inner strength and confidence, particularly among girls and low academic achievers.

One young person who took part in the Capoeira sessions told researchers, “What I like about Capoeira is that whenever I take a class, I go home happy. I go home very relaxed and I can’t get the mood out. I’m always in the Capoeira mood and I am singing the songs until I sleep. I’m washing the dishes listening to the songs.”

Asked about the motivation behind the study, University of East London lecturer and study co-author Dr Kathryn Kraft, explained, “We’ve long had a hunch that Capoeira is doing something great in the lives of kids who’ve suffered from conflict or who are living in marginalised communities.

“We hear great stories of kids making friends, becoming more confident, and making good decisions for their future after joining Capoeira, so we felt we needed to find out why.”

Co-author and Capoeira4Refugees Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Hannah Prytherch, agrees. “We were stepping into quite new territory, and carrying out our research in very chaotic and changing environments,” she explained. Hannah lived in the Palestinian Territories for a year, talking with children and Capoeira trainers. Case studies from young people, teachers, and Capoeira trainers in Syria also formed part of the research.

Dr Kraft says the most exciting part of the research has been the stories from trainers. “It’s been fantastic to learn about the dreams the trainers have for their students. They’ve certainly inspired me.”

The launch event starts at 4pm and ends at 6.30pm. There will be a live Capoeira demonstration, networking time, and refreshments.

If you’d like to attend please email Alex Salfiti U1311120@uel.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.