The Chapeu de Couro is a beautiful move from the Capoeira universe that can be applied in a variety of contexts. It may be relevant for modern dancers, martial artists seeking to up their game à la Conor Mc Gregor, and all curious movers.
We recently dedicated two weeks in our Move & Flow classes to refine many details and several variations of this movement. As anything in the curriculum I teach, one has to look at the bigger picture and not limit themselves to achieving brainlessly a movement. Consider this : the Chapeu de Couro, amongst many other things, can:
- Allow you to understand the key mechanics of the pelvis area in many acrobatics, such as the butterfly kick.
- Allow you to explore the floor plane through a knee slide, that relies on the exact same mechanics as the Chapeu de Couro.
- Condition the scapula and stabilize the shoulder girdle for more complex and stressful movements such as the makako and the back handsprings.
- Improve the coordination between leg power, pelvis drive and shoulder push for movements such as the rolê, the S dobrado, the makako, etc.
- Allow you to transition from the floor – the squat – and the standing planes (00.33 of this video for example).
In this tutorial, we will cover the different elements that will enable you not only to perform the move, but to use it as a foundation for further progress. The full training program laid out hereafter should last approx. 90 minutes once you know what you are doing. If you are not familiar with the concepts, it will be probably take you 120 minutes the first time(s). Make sure you first understand and respect the requirements of the warm-up and the preparation stages, especially if don’t have the time to go for the full thing straight away: Prepare your body first. Enjoy the movement after. Check the Youtube Video as you progress on part II. and onwards.
The Chapeu de Couro can be stressful for the wrist, the elbow and the shoulder areas, obviously, but is also demanding for the hamstrings and the hips. I suggest the following warm-up, but feel free to tweak it if you know what you are doing:
A. Neck circles x 20. Perform slow and controlled neck circles, keeping the eyes open, trying as you warm up to draw bigger and bigger circles
B. Arms circles forward and backward x 20-40. Starting at a moderate pace, really feel what’s happening in the scapulae as you perform these. You may play with intensity and speed as you build on reps
C. Scapula push-up (protraction – retraction) x 15. Assuming a traditional push-up position, isolate your movement to the protaction and the retraction of the scapulae. Your shoulders should be over your wrists, without any planching, and your elbows locked. Here again, you want to go for quality and show some control in your movements
D. Ido’s squat routine.
E. Hanging shrugs x 10 – 20. Hanging on a bar or any support you can find, work on the depression/elevation of the scapula, again in a very controlled and mindful manner. We are trying to make your joints little by little stronger and more resilient. Don’t rush this part. And NEVER skip it.
F. Wrist & elbow mashup. You want to spend a good 10 minutes warming up your wrists and elbows, especially if you are not used to putting weight on your baby hands. I will soon post a routine, but you can find plenty of resources to get some inspiration from on Internet
II. Stucture prep
I am a big believer in preparing the body to sustain the stress and impacts of any kind of physical activity you are into. Warming-up is just not enough, given the sedentary lifestyle most of us have adapted to in our modern society. In other friendly words, if you are spending your days working on a computer and expect to throw some basic (or, dare you, complex) tumbling skills in a sustainable way after a 10 minutes warm-up, you are delusional. Now, I’ll soon post a long blog on that matter. Meanwhile, I invite you to trust me on this if you are not convinced yet, and to perform this prep routine, either as a standalone, or before jumping into the skill work per se. Once your body starts to get used to the demands of your training, you may increase the intensity and/or leave this part of the last bout of your training session, in order to preserve quality and awareness for the skill work. Exhaustion and quality usually don’t live happily ever after.
G1. The crawler walk (video coming soon) / Ido’s lizard walk x 1 stride. Don’t hesitate to expose your shoulder area to funny angles here. We are not just looking to crawl with efficiency here, we want to make it hard on ourselves.
G2. Elevated feet shoulder push x 10 + 10s hold at the end. Placing both feet on a 6-12 inch box, support yourself with one arm and hover your bum just above the ground. The idea is to extend the hips from here and stabilize the shoulder and scapula region as you bring your chest towards the ceiling. The reps should be slow – at least 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down –, and the focus should be placed on the pelvis region.
G3. Squat to Tripedal x 30. From a squat (elevate your heels on a plate if need be), place one hand on the side, slightly behind you, and commit some weight to it. You are basically going from 2 points of support to 3 points of support. Push yourself back to the squat and repeat the other side. The key is to find fluidity. How can you make the contact with the floor soft and organic? How can you use the momentum to your advantage? How can you travel with the pelvis instead of just pushing with the sheer strength for your arm?
I would also suggest you play with these by adding a 90/90 at the end of each swing, as in the Video.
Repeat G1 – G3 for 3 sets
H. Squat to Tripedal + extended leg (negative in the capoeira universe) x 30.
Repeat G3, but this time extend the leg that is on the same side as the support arm when you get to the final tripedal position. Notice how opening one leg this way gives way to motion to the direction towards which your leg is pointing. Get back into your squat using the same logic as before.
III. Pelvis mechanics & arm coordination
I1. The hook x ￼￼15.
What I call the « hook » consists in bringing back the extended leg from a tripedal position closer to your support leg. By closing your stance in such a way, you actually create some sort of a spring that will help you build momentum when the time comes. For now though, for the sake of refining correct awareness, we will purposefully kill the momentum, and extend the leg back again.
I2. 90/90 floor slide x 1￼5.
From your squat, use the hook to bring your bum cheek to the ground. Using the spring we were referring to earlier, try to drive your pelvis on a diagonal line by sliding on your bum. The idea here is to understand how the legs and the trunk are connected in these kinds of movements. How can you coordinate your limbs in order to promote momentum?
I3. Jumping from tripedal mechanics x ￼15.
From our squat again, go into your tripedal and extend one leg. Hook your extended leg, and travel the pelvis forward using the momentum created. You aim at landing with both feet on the same line and the support hand staying on the spot. Notice than the leg from the side to which your body is traveling is bent, whereas the other is extended. Ideally, you want to keep the torso facing forward, rather than facing the bent leg. Pointing your hand to the ceiling might help.
Repeat I1 – I3 for two sets.
III. Kicking mechanics
J. Martelo de chao x ￼30.
This move is a very nice one in itself, and may give you some headaches already if you are not familiar with these kinds of mechanics. From our squat, again, go into the tripedal, trying to keep the soft focus you have been building on during the previous phases. From here, extend one leg on the side you are intending to go towards, that is, the same side as your support arm. Don’t hesitate to stop here and work on this first bit. Rushing won’t help.
Did you hear me? RUSHING WON’T HELP.
Once you have understood this, use this extended leg as a pivot, shifting some serious weight from your support back leg to your front pivot leg in order to rotate and place your back foot parallel to the first foot, in a sort of a horse stance. To help with the motion, think of the back leg as a kicking leg, that will kick in front of you and land behind you. Again, aim for quality and efficiency. It is really about timing and weight transfer, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t nail this the first few sessions.
K. Chapeu de Couro x 10 & +
Performing the proper Chapeu de Couro is now « just » a matter of mixing together the Martelo de Chao & the jumping mechanics, without forgetting our hook. Once again, from your squat, hook your leg to create a spring. Instead of putting back where it came from, as in the martelo where you used it as a pivot, use the jumping motion you have been refining in I3 to jump and land on that first leg. Once you are in the air, as you are about the reach the peak of your momentum, kick with the back leg to finish the movement, the very same way you were doing with the martelo. Aim at landing again parallel, but the momentum should be enough to drive you even further. Notice that this motion requires you to actually commit all your weight on your support arm. Hence the importance of the prep phase. If despite your best sincere efforts this last stage is not coming, consider that your brain might also be preventing you from doing so, depending on your injury history.
I sincerely hope this tutorial has helped you in your movement journey. Please share your progress in the comment sections, on Facebook or on Instagram #VincentVis! Any question, feel free to leave me a comment.