Greenbrae woman brings capoeira to Marin – Marin Independent Journal

Lisa Willoughby knows plenty of people haven’t heard of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art form she grew up seeing in Brazil. But, she’s trying to change that through ABADÁ-Capoeira Marin, the nonprofit she founded that teaches capoeira to people of all ages throughout Marin. As one of its principal teachers, Willoughby, 43, teaches her students martial arts techniques, acrobatics, how to play musical instruments, as well as some Portuguese.

Despite being born and raised in Goiânia, Brazil, she didn’t take up capoeira until she moved to the United States. After taking a few classes in the Bay Area, she started training at ABADÁ-Capoeira San Francisco in 2007 with Mestra Márcia Cigarra, one of the top-ranked female capoeiristas in the world. Since 2008, Willoughby has been a member of its performance troupe.

After years of training and competing, she opened the Marin branch of ACSF in 2014.

She lives in Greenbrae with her husband, Rob, and their son, Sebastian.

Q Growing up in Brazil, did you have an interest in capoeira?

A I grew up liking it but I swam a lot when I was young. I did some ballet, and played handball. I also did a little taekwondo. When I had my son was when I started taking capoeira seriously. I was training four to five times a day, traveling back to Brazil to compete and trying to get better. I was like OK, I’ve got to do something with my life. At ABADÁ-Capoeira San Francisco, I could see myself being challenged in a good way. I felt at home.

Q You started your career in the marketing field. What inspired you to go down this new career path?

AI didn’t have the opportunity before. I grew up with the mentality of work and study. That’s all I did. When I married my husband, he said, “Do what you love. I’ll support you.” I was taking care of the baby and doing capoeira, and things progressed. I started to teach capoeira, and I started with youth.

Q Why did you want to bring capoeira to Marin?

AI was shocked to see how little people knew about capoeira in Marin County and still don’t know. Capoeira has everything to do about community. I really wanted to work with the community because I wanted to make Marin my home, too. I thought I could contribute by bringing the art form to the area, and getting people to understand what capoeira is: the social aspects, the physicality of what it takes, the music.

Q What have you learned from your time at ACSF?

A You have to be disciplined and train not just your body, but train your mind, not just in capoeira, but in life.

Q Has your son shown any interest in capoeira?

A He’s the only one in his school that does capoeira. He started very early with me, and now, he comes to train with me twice a week. Some of my students, I started teaching them years ago. It’s interesting to see them growing and becoming little men and my son is integrating with them.

Q What’s it like when you’re performing?

AI used to be very nervous for performances. I feel good when I am with the kids performing at schools — we do a lot of those — because you’re just being yourself. I am way more comfortable. I don’t think anybody is looking at me. Some people think, you should think everybody is looking at you. I want it to be the opposite.

Q Is your family proud of what you’re doing?

AI would imagine so. It’s very hard having someone in the family that went on a whole different track. My sisters, they all have well-defined careers. When you grow up in a Latin country, like Brazil, in the middle class, you have to learn how to provide for yourself, because you are responsible for your family. I am the only one that left Brazil. In the end, I cared that my husband and my son were happy about it, too.

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