Photography by David Finkelstein,

When I was in second grade, my inability to do a cartwheel was a huge problem. Despite hours of uncoordinated attempts, I was at a loss, unable to do anything that remotely resembled the gymnastic flourishes performed on the playground by my more popular female classmates.

Eventually I gave up, conceding that I would be a ball-sport kind of girl, never an acrobatic one. But honestly, it always irked me.

Twenty-one years later, after much prodding from my vexingly acrobatic boyfriend, I tried capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that involves kicks, escape moves, and all kinds of daunting gymnastic flip-flopping—cartwheels, of course, included.

This isn’t one of those annoying stories that ends with my becoming some kind of cartwheel master. But yes, I can do a cartwheel now. Well, sort of—it’s an ugly cartwheel.

More importantly, weekly classes with my capoeira group—in which we do drills, play music and sing (yup, it’s part of the practice), and spar in a roda, or circle, at the end of every session—has been a fantastic antidote to gym boredom.

I’m stronger, fitter, and more flexible than I’ve ever been, and I have a diverse community of friends, too (that’s them on the beach—see what I mean by fit?). They don’t even seem to mind that they’ve been infiltrated by a ball-sport kind of girl.

There are capoeira groups all over the world; so check it out!