USS PELELIU, At Sea - Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) are taking advantage of an opportunity to participate in Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines dances with fighting styles.
The three-month course occurs twice a week for approximately one to two hours for anyone who would like to learn, or improve their current skills.
This martial art provides another way of fitness while learning a new skill. With mats laid out, a group in mix-matched physical training apparel stretches as another group stands ready. Next the music starts and the dance begins.
"What draws most people initially is the fanciness and acrobatics they see on TV and in movies," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 2nd Class Juan Diaz, one of the two instructors on board. "We don't go as far as to teach all of that. But what usually keeps people interested is the same thing that kept me interested. It is the history behind it and the real reasons why Capoeira exists and it brings people together."
"I felt really slow at first like I was crawling and just learning to stand up. Even though it's just basic, it still requires a lot of thought," said Fireman Ana Parada, a Capoeira student. "I haven't notice any improvement, but I do feel like I'm catching up and learning more each session."
The students learn combat defensive moves in a form of rhythm and dance. As they progress, participants use the techniques through sparring.
"I wasn't really hesitant. I've wanted to do it for a while, ever since I stopped boxing when I was 16. I love the sport and learning martial arts was next on my list," said Parada. "I felt really excited and pumped up when we started because I love learning new moves and seeing how far I can push my body into doing something new."
The art of Capoeira originates from a colonial Brazilian society that prohibited slaves and other citizens from practicing martial arts. Founders created the dance form to conceal its real purpose as a hand-to-hand combat skill.
"The slavery that existed in Brazil in its colonial days was about three times greater than it was in the United States," said Diaz. "Learning the history, learning how to play the music, and learning Capoeira gave me so much more respect for life itself. For me, to be able to teach it gives me a great sense of satisfaction."
For some of the students attending the bi-weekly training sessions, it is not the first experience they have had with Capoeira.
"I used to do this when I was five years old, way back in the day, and I always intended to do it again. I saw the flyer and thought, wow, I really need to jump on this," said Staff Sgt. Hernany O. Conceicao, originally from S�o Paulo, Brazil. "It is fun, and it brings in culture from my home country with the music and the atmosphere."
The dance requires constant movement with hand-to-eye coordination, as well as a heightened mental attitude.
"Capoeira helps to balance your mind. It's not just a martial art. It's kind of like you're playing chess inside the game," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Andre Tyree, the second instructor. "It helps relieve stress and it teaches you things that you never thought you could do before."
The training involved can also improve other aspects of participants' lives.
"I have definitely seen the positive impacts in general on how I take my day-to-day routine," added Parada, "I feel more focused and calm when I study, and I can think quicker ahead of time when a situation comes up."
Instructors feel that Capoeira has additional benefits to Peleliu's everyday routines while deployed.
"It's a really great way to pass time, and it's a fun way to stay in shape. You work on cardio, but since you're having so much fun you don't realize it," said Diaz. "It's a great way to build camaraderie, everybody starts to have fun, and socialize. It's really a great atmosphere."