Meet Luiz Otavio (Varal) Pereira of ArteLuta Capoeira
My name is Luiz Otávio Pereira, however, I am known professionally by my nickname, Varal. I was born and raised in Brazil where I first began to learn capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art.
When I was 11 years old, I had the opportunity to participate in a social program that, through capoeira, helped kids in my neighborhood stay out of trouble, kept us active and inspired by being around mentally and physically healthy mentors. Since then I have made capoeira my lifestyle. It guides me me to make good choices in life and has encouraged me to be a culture carrier, something I am very proud of.
I truly enjoy teaching this important and necessary cultural art form to our community here in the South Bay of Los Angeles. I have been living here since 2006. I met my wife here and my son was born here, and it is where we call home.
It has not always been a smooth road. In Brazil, capoeira is still very discriminated against, mainly because of its connection to Afro-Brazilian culture, which unfortunately many people still judge and discriminate. When I first started, one of my biggest struggles was to get support from my family and friends, but after some time, when they could see that capoeira could give me opportunities and would become my profession, they were more supportive.
Then, I came to the United States where I struggled with the language and cultural differences, it was a really a culture shock for me. Language was definitely one of the biggest challenges because communication is so important in teaching.
But today I can proudly say that I was able to overcome all that because of the ability capoeira gives you to adapt. Versatility and resilience are qualities that capoeira helps you to develop.
In 2010, my wife and I opened ArteLuta Capoeira, a cultural and artistic space that offers classes in capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines aspects of acrobatics, dance, music, fight, self-defense and culture, among other things. Capoeira is unique because of its emphasis on the power of community, its history and connection to the roots, especially felt through the music.
I mentioned that I started capoeira when I was a kid, and it definitely helped me stay focused, healthy and grounded. Since it helped me in so many positive ways, I believe that anyone who wants to learn can benefit from it. That was my motivation to continue practicing capoeira and eventually open my own capoeira school.
ArteLuta also offers classes in other Brazilian cultural traditions, such as samba and forró, and special events, like rodas, Brazilian cooking lessons and social dance parties. Unfortunately, all of this is on hold due to Covid.
For the last few years, we have also hosted a monthly roda at the Art Walk in San Pedro. The roda is the ritual of capoeira, where the game, or jogo de capoeira, happens. Two players enter the circle to exchange skills and experience, guided by the music which is led by the principal instrument, the berimbau, accompanied by drumming, clapping and singing. The games are unpredictable, depending on the energy that is created.
Right now, with Covid, we are offering our capoeira classes for kids, teens and adults both virtually and indoors with masks and social distancing. We spent most of last year training outdoors.
Success is never just one thing, but for me, success means having dignity in my life and work. This means putting my morals and values into my work and finding financial sustainability. I am driven by the idea that whatever I do, it’s not just for me, but for my family and community. When these things are aligned, then I can consider my business and myself successful.
I would like to emphasize that we are not alone, we are part of a local and global community and I always want to find ways to be helpful and contribute somehow through my actions. I wish we would all think and act this way, so we can all feel successful as a result.