• Chunichi Shimbun

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Akari Tachi, a 13-year-old junior high school student from Ishikawa Prefecture, became the girls U-14 champion in the World Capoeira Federation’s U-18 online solo competition on Jan. 9.

“I hope to continue competing in capoeira and become infinitely cool,” said Tachi, a first-grade student at Matto Junior High School in the city of Hakusan.

Capoeira — dubbed the “beautiful martial art” because of its movements combining martial arts and dance — is said to have been developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil in the 16th century in an effort to secretly learn self-defense skills while appearing to be dancing.

Players practice a flow of movements in a circle formation, using the whole body, to the tune of music — such as songs and drum performances — while performing acrobatic motions such as kicks. Punching is prohibited.

Tachi, a member of Gueto Capoeira training gym in Kanazawa, began practicing capoeira when she was a first-grader in elementary school, influenced by her father, Toshihiko, 41, who also practices the martial art.

She said she was fascinated by the quick movements of capoeira when she first visited the gym. Tachi won the students’ national championship in 2017 and 2019.

“I’m attracted to capoeira because, compared with other martial arts, it has more freedom and many elements to enjoy,” she says.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world championship that began in November was held with participants invited to send video clips of 45-second performances. Eight competitors from Japan, Russia and Portugal took part in the girls U-14 tournament, for 12 and 13-year-olds.

In the third and final round where two players compete, Tachi performed 15 movements including au sem mao — an aerial cartwheel performed without using hands — and au batido — a one-handed handstand doing a side kick with one leg while keeping the other leg straight in the air — to become the champion.

Surprisingly, at school, she doesn’t belong to any sports clubs but is a member of the tea ceremony club.

“I can learn ways to control my mind” through tea ceremonies, she said.

Tachi’s next goal is to master a double twist, a technique that involves twisting her body twice in the air.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Jan. 20.

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