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Hidden Gems: Meet Luiz “Varal” Pereira of ArteLuta Capoeira Academy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Luiz “Varal” Pereira.

Hi Luiz “Varal”, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
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 around 11 years old, I participated in a social program that used capoeira to help kids in my neighborhood stay out of trouble, to help them make good choices, keep us active and inspired.

Since then, I have made capoeira my lifestyle. It guides me, it helps me make good choices in life and it has encouraged me to step up as a culture-carrier outside of my country, something I am very proud of.

I have been living here in the South Bay of Los Angeles since 2006. I met my wife here and my son was born here, and it is where I call home. I truly enjoy teaching capoeira to all ages and believe that it is an important and necessary cultural art that contributes to our community.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
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 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.

As you know, we’re big fans of ArteLuta Capoeira Academy. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
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, 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 everyone can benefit from it. That was my motivation to continue practicing capoeira and eventually open my own business.

Pre-Covid, we used to host a monthly roda at the Art Walk in San Pedro. The roda is a place for all capoeiristas to get together and exchange experiences and ideas. We also offered classes in other Brazilian cultural traditions such as samba and forró and would often have special events, like Brazilian cooking lessons and social dance parties.

Right now, with Covid, we are offering our capoeira classes for kids, teens and adults both virtually and indoors with masks. Once we can all get together safely again, we will happily invite everyone back into our space and start everything back up again.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Success to me is not just one thing, but if I had to choose one of the most important things for me, I would say that success means having dignity in my life and work. It’s the idea that whatever I do, it’s not just for me, but for my family and community.

To me, success also means aligning my values and passion with financial sustainability. When these things are aligned, then I can consider my business and myself successful.

One thing I have learned and would like to emphasize, is that we are not alone. We are all part of a local and global community and I always strive to be helpful and contribute somehow through my actions. I wish we would all think and act this way, so we could feel that collective success as a result.

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Image Credits:

Kelly Fajack (beach photos) Vince Minutelli (black & white photo)

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