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ROY DOWNES A CAPOEIRA WAY OF LIFE

ROY DOWNES A CAPOEIRA WAY OF LIFE by Katrina Welch Fourteen years ago when Roy Downes made the decision to pursue capoeira, the computer specialist had no idea that this martial art would change the entire trajectory of his life, and improve his general good health, to boot. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art form which combines acrobatics, dancing and music. Speaking to

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ROY DOWNES A CAPOEIRA WAY OF LIFE
IWENT FROM BEING INFLEXIBLE TOSUPER FLEXIBLE

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Katrina Welch

Fourteen years ago when Roy Downes made the decision to pursue capoeira, the computer specialist had no idea that this martial art would change the entire trajectory of his life, and improve his general good health, to boot. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art form which combines acrobatics, dancing and music.

Speaking to what inspired him to learn this art form at the age of 21, he said, “At that time I was working at the Plantation Garden Theatre as the IT/ lighting technician. I used to watch the dancers and the acrobats perform on stage, and it was something that piqued my interest.”

Roy eventually discovered a newspaper ad for a martial arts academy offering capoeira. “For most of my life I was overweight. I joined the academy doing two classes a week and the weight just started to fall off. Then, I started doing marathons, 5Ks and fun walks. My diet changed and I cut my sugar intake in half,” he explained, adding he used to be 270 lbs which he described as not muscle, but fat.

For four tears he trained in the discipline and after a month long trip to Canada he knew he had to leave Barbados to improve his capoeira skills. In 2013 he joined a group called Capoeira Malês, to which he still belongs today.

“In 2015 I approached my capoeira master about opening up a branch of his school in Barbados because there was none at the time. Even though I did not have an instructor’s belt, he allowed me to teach due to my approach and eagerness. I opened the school that same year,” he said.

Initially the response to his venture was slow, because while some people were not aware that capoeira was being taught in Barbados, many others were not aware of what capoeira was; or many who had seen it being performed could not identify it for what it was. To counteract this, Roy would use social media and word of mouth to promote the school and he would also train his students in public outdoor spaces in Bridgetown to pique interest.

“I had to earn my way in the capoeira community. Between 2016 and 2019 I was able to take students to Canada each year and they did well. However, COVID-19 has put a damper on that,” he said. “I performed for the 375th anniversary of parliament and I performed with my student group at various health fairs, band launches and even Agrofest.”

In the decade and a half that he has practised this martial art, the father of one has enhanced his life in many ways. He said, “I went from being inflexible to super flexible. My cardiovascular endurance improved as well as my muscle tone, muscle mass and muscular endurance; I felt like a superman, literally. It gave me more confidence and my focus, in terms of my life and career goals, improved.”

Capoeira is not the only discipline which Roy learnt in his 20s; the martial art encouraged him to pursue gymnastics which he also teaches today. “In my first year of starting capoeira I realised that if I wanted to get better at all aspects of capoeira I would have to learn gymnastics or at least attend acrobatics classes. So I chose gymnastics and while I was in Canada I trained at a gymnastics school where a coaching opportunity arose,” Roy explained.

Back home in Barbados he provided coaching at a local gym for a few years before opening his own gymnastics school in 2015 when a friend from secondary school friend gave him the chance to train her children, who still train with him to this day. “Social media and word of mouth expanded my classes. Adult classes came about in 2017 when I collaborated with another coach to rent a space and host classes twice a week,” he said.

Through his gymnastics school, he has been able to provide training to children with special needs, particularly those on the autism spectrum. He explained, “Gymnastics improves motor function skills, cognitive abilities, hand-eye coordination and even social skills. In children, it reduces childhood obesity and non-communicable diseases while building body awareness, strength, speed, balance, self-confidence, self-esteem and most importantly discipline.”

Many of these physical and mental benefits are also realised by adults who take up gymnastics but in his experience adults commonly attend the school to socialise and find a new hobby, achieve lifelong goals, change their overall health, rehabilitate injuries and strengthen their bodies.

“My students have competed in bodybuilding competitions in the aerobics category and won. I have also had students compete in the very first bodybuilding and wheel chair event. In 2020, we were supposed to have another competition but COVID-19 impacted that,” he said.

To ensure he was well qualified in the discipline and as a coach, Roy completed the National Coaching Certification Programme (NCCP), Gymnastics Fundamentals in Canada. Additionally, through the Barbados Olympic Association he completed NCCP Multi-Sport Levels 1, 2 and 3. In Jamaica, he completed the FIG Level 1 in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, to become certified by the international gymnastics governing body.

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