Sport in the UK capital goes global
While London over recent decades has become increasingly global, so too have the sports it plays. The FT's Peter Chapman digs out his gym gear to sample Brazilian capoeira and Japanese kendo.
Producer and reporter Peter Chapman. Camera operator and director Richard Topping.
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Britain once took its sport to the world. Football, cricket, they spread on the old network of empire. But London then was a parochial place. Today the capital is far more diverse. And now the world brings its sports to London.
This is the Finsbury Park area of North London. It's my manor. It didn't used to be an exotic place, and I only ever dreamt of leaving. But these days you can come here and find a little piece of Brazil.
The ancient sport of capoeira came to Brazil with the slave ships from Africa in the 16th century. Actually it's a martial art that was once fought with knives and machetes. But today it's mixed with dance and music.
How would you describe capoeira?
Capoeira is a dance, is a fight. And there's elements of Brazilian culture. There's music. So everything is done to Brazilian music. So you learn the cultural aspect of it-- not initially, but along with your learning process.
About 33,000 people from Brazil live in the UK. But in Finsbury Park it's far from just Brazilians who study under Sylvia.
Hi, I'm Shireen. I'm from London. My family are from Jamaica.
I'm Alanta, and my family is from Lithuania.
My name is Andrew, and I'm from Edinburgh in Scotland.
Hi, I'm Richard. I'm from London via Lancashire.
I'm David. I'm from London via Scotland, Ghana, Malawi, and Lesotho.
So quite a lot of people practise capoeira today. When I first started it was mainly men. But now it's all women, children. It's taught in schools, after-school clubs. So it's practised all over. So it offers that sense of community, the friendship. And some people have even got married coming here, and they found their other part.
So it goes beyond the classroom.
Definitely, definitely. Much more. It sort of unites people. And there's a little jewel, a little hidden place for them to come and socialise, as well as become fit and healthy, and quite positive, I'd say.
And so London has suddenly become a capoeira capital.
So sport in London helps bring its communities together.
I'm now at the Elephant and Castle in South London. 45 years ago I came here and stumbled on the Japanese discipline of kendo, but didn't participate. Now I'm taking a second look.
Kendo is grounded in the samurai tradition, and performed with bamboo swords. It's a balance of the spiritual and the physical.
Yoshihiro Takaya is a member of the Nenriki Kendo Club, and has been coming here since he arrived in London more than eight years ago.
Now for you, what is the fascination of kendo?
So kendo is one of the martial arts. It's not just the fighting, or the sport. It's one of arts, in the moving arts. That fascinates me a lot.
Kendo, it's lasted for 50 years in this club. This is the biggest club in London-- the oldest club in London. This is the oldest. Are you surprised that it's so popular?
I was really surprised, yes, surprised so much to see their practising here. So I never expected this many.
This was one of dreams to have the practice with the people from other countries. We can have a practice, a kendo practice, anywhere in the world, even in a very small town. Yeah, we can make good friends. Yeah, like a football, or the rugby.
For Yoshihiro, the kendo classes are as much about meeting other people as about practising the sport. But for me, watching the action, it's about time to have a bash myself, after shunning the experience all those years ago.
Over the past 40 years, as London has become a much more global city, so, too, have its sports, and the people taking part in them. And I finally got to try kendo. For the Financial Times, this is Peter Chapman in London.