Bringing Capoeira to Life

Mestre Loren Due gives back to the community through the art of movement


Esha Gohil

Capoeira teacher Loren Due (’85) stands in a ready stance as he faces off against Johnny Wang (12).

by Mark Hu and Muthu Panchanatham

Intense music plays in the background as two students bend down to touch their teacher’s feet, surrounded by their peers. They then proceed to shake hands, acknowledging each other with respect as they were taught. Suddenly, the two cartwheel into the center of the “roda” or circle of people and engage in Capoeira, a martial art that fuses aspects of dance, acrobatics and music. Overseeing this match is Harker alumnus Loren Due, the Capoeira instructor who has been at Harker for almost 15 years, educating his students in the Brazilian martial art.

Capoeira originated 400 years ago in Brazil, brought there by African slaves. The sport consists of performing complex maneuvers such as spins, kicks and cartwheels. The slaves would practice the art to hide their intentions of defending themselves from their masters with music. After learning about the sport from magazines and movies, Due enrolled in a Capoeira school in San Jose and never looked back. Since 1995, Due has continued to practice and teach Capoeira, even though not many tournaments are offered in America. In addition to teaching at Harker, he also instructs at the academy, Capoeira of San Jose.

“I like to teach Capoeira because I need to give back to the art. After a certain point, Capoeira becomes a part of you and every day of your life,” Due said. “Everything translates to Capoeira; I want to carry on the art and pass on my knowledge to other people so that they can discover Capoeira by themselves and what a fantastic art form that it is.”

To his students, Due is known as “Mestre Poeta,” which exemplifies Capoeira’s roots as the sport had once been outlawed in Brazil for its presence in gang violence, and participants were forced to take on aliases. Students in the class find Due’s lessons thoroughly enjoyable as his nature provides a carefree setting for them to learn and play.

“After a certain point, capoeira becomes a part of you and every day of your life. Everything translates to capoeira; I want to carry on the art and pass on my knowledge.””

— Mestre Loren Due

“Mestre is really chill. I like that if I am doing something wrong, he’ll tell me. He’s a really nice person, and he creates a relaxing environment that takes my stress away,” freshman Melody Yazdi, one of Due’s students, said. “He always jokes around, and everyone in the class is happy when we are there.”

Even outside of school, Due incorporates Capoeira into his daily life. Since he was born, Kai Due (9) has been listening to Capoeira music and watching his dad execute moves at home. As a baby, Kai was often brought to the academy and would try to copy the movements performed.  

“It’s weird having someone like your father showing you how to do something that you wouldn’t think he would be able to do,” Kai said. “It’s awe-inspiring really. I saw him do a backflip once. That was insane.”

Due hopes that he can share the joy of martial arts and help his pupils reach their goals. Over the course of the class, he emphasizes that students learn the values of determination and grit, as well as understand their personal capabilities.

“One thing I hope they gain are life lessons. If they fall down, they get back up. If something’s hard and they can’t do it, they work and persevere and can see the results of their hard work and effort,” Due said. “Physically, I want them to move and get in touch with their bodies: their balance, their coordination, their strength, their flexibility.”