Joao Lampreia Credit: Karen Juanita Carillo photo

Instructor Joao Lampreia, 50, teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the art of self-defense, and capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines dance, acrobatics, music and spirituality. He holds adult and kids classes on Nevins Street in Brooklyn most days of the week.

“In Brazil, capoeira is like basketball in Brooklyn,” said Lampreia. “The only difference is that capoeira is the whole [country], especially in poor communities, Black communities.” 

A native of Brazil, Lampreia believes that the self discipline central to martial arts is tantamount to living a meaningful life. Prior to the pandemic, he taught in many schools but hit an all too familiar financial snag in 2020. Thanks to the support in his community, he managed to pivot to online classes and continued until he could resume in-person classes in his own space. “It was really hard,” said Lampreia. “I didn’t stop teaching.”

He said that music as well as learning and teaching capoeira allowed him to excel in school and travel. He began practicing when he was very young and began teaching others under the tutelage of his master when he was 17 years old. By 19 years old, he branched out to teach on his own.

“Very soon I start to travel and teach in communities, at schools. And I started to think that that was something I could do for the rest of my life and be happy and help people,” said Lampreia.

Lampreia reminisced on how hard it was to teach at such a young age but credited the arts for its immense focus. He said while traveling the world he was invited to teach workshops in Brooklyn, Boston, New Jersey, and Connecticut in 2002. He soon decided to settle in Brooklyn. With the city as his home base, he continues to have students all over the world, including back home in Brazil.

“Any kind of martial art gives discipline. If you don’t have it, it’s very hard to go to work and be happy. That’s the number one thing for adults,” said Lampreia. “For kids, you understand that it’s not only about having fights.”

He tries to go home and visit Brazil as often as he can. His children are 17 years old and 14 years old, and while they have practiced capoeira all their lives, they are avid soccer players.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting:

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