Growing up in Sao Paulo, a city of nearly 20 million people, Gui and Joy Torres didn't stand much chance of bumping into each other. But fate had a plan, sending them both thousands of miles north to New Haven, Connecticut, and bringing them together at a capoeira event. Filled with playful, passionate movements, capoeira's 400-year-old fusion of dance and martial arts sparked a romance, and Gui and Joy soon married.
After marrying, the couple launched Brazilian Roots Cultural Center to help others cultivate fitness, creativity, and friendships. During classes for kids and adults, Gui draws upon years of experience as a capoeira teacher and performer, which includes gigs at Yale University and the Museum of the City of New York. Students weave cunning kicks, escapes, and acrobatics into a game more fun than hopscotch with a baby kangaroo. The classes also double as music performances as students learn to play traditional instruments and sing in Portuguese. Joy funnels her yoga and dance training into relaxing Vinyasa classes. In addition to hosting classes, the 2,700-square-foot studio showcases art in an airy gallery space.
Budo taijutsu is a Japanese martial art that teaches practical self-defense against armed and unarmed attackers. Few know this better than New England Ninjutsu's founder, Greg Kowalski. While in Japan, Kowalski trained under Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, ultimately earning his black belt in the art. When he returned to the United States in 1989, he decided the '90s would be cooler if he opened his own training studio, New England Ninjutsu. Today, Kowalski and his staff of fellow black belts—many of whom he trained—teach budo taijutsu to kids and adults.