Yeah, I gotta admit, I love MC Hammer. Makes me remember the good ol’ times when I was young and innocent 🙂 Actually, this post won’t be something about 90’s hiphop, dont worry, it is still something about Capoeira. It came up when I was reading an interview with Mestre Waldemar on the more than recommendable Capoeira Connection site. At one point Mestre Waldemar was talking about White Suits and said:
“In the old days, we played wearing starched white suits and impeccable shoes, and we didn’t get dirty. That is, unless the opponent was disloyal and stuck his foot onto us. But that was playing dirty; it’s not like today, where capoeiristas grab each other with their hands. In my time, capoeira was played only with the feet and head, in a fight of agility and quickness. The important thing was to have a good head and fast feet”
When I read this my first reaction was a deep sigh. That guy did say truths, I say. And then I remembered that just a couple of days ago, I wrote a post about how to behave in a Roda da Capoeira Angola but I forgot one very important aspect.
Ok, kids, story time again: Since a couple of months I am training with a Capoeira Contemporeana group. I still enjoy it, especially as the teacher of the group does accept that I am an angoleiro and do have….errrr….difficulties with the stream-lined ginga or playing in their roda. My presence there did give me opportunities to learn a lot (and I believe that the group did learn a lot from me, too), but there was one thing which annoyed me from the very beginning.
While playing in the roda even the advanced students did have problems with me, because my attacks came so unexpected, because I was coming so up-close, because I was on the ground and closed so often. So they tried to get through my defenses and eventually found out that it is really easy to grabble me and push me down to the ground. The many times I experienced that I got really really angry. It was an instinctive anger I had there. If this anger would have to be expressed in words, I’d say “How dare you grabbling me?!?” would be the right expression.
When I was singing already I usually directly changed the song into “O Dona Alica nao me pegue nao, nao me pegue nao me agarre nao me gusta nao” (this is definitely written wrong, feel free to correct or ignore my lack of Portuguese). Translated this would mean “Oh Miss Alice, don’t touch, do not grabble me, cause I do not like that”.
Some did get the message, most did not. Well, after a while I did explain it to people that in Capoeira Angola you’d never grab a person, but still some insist on using those techniques on me, techniques they obviously learned in their Capoeira classes. Well, I can’t blame them. I am the guest in this roda. I already learned avoiding their grabbling. But one thing should be clear to everybody: While in an Angola Roda, do never grab at your opponent!
There are several reasons for this.
1. “My body is holy”: This explanation came from my first teacher and I cannot say if this is a kind of Capoeira belief or belongs generally to some practices of Afro Brazilian culture. But the way my teacher told me, touching you opponent with your hands is considered disrespectful to the others body (strange that that comes up in Brazilian culture, eh 😉 ), especially the head being a very sensitive place nobody should touch with the hands.
2. It is poor play. Capoeira is a game where we put much emphasize on avoiding the attacks of our opponent. An important part of it’s beauty is that there are not many blocks or grabbling movements. Sometimes a block is somekind of a last ressort. That is one of the reasons why we have to take care that our arms do defend our upper body (e.g. in the Ginga). But that is exactly the point. It’s your last ressort. When you use it you use it because there was no other option. And even while using this an Angoleiro does learn to push or block, and he does learn that he is not allowed to grab. Usually the outside of your hands or your lower arm is used for those. Grabbing is disregarded as something not belonging to Capoeira (Angola) and something only people do use who just have no idea what they should do at all.
3. It does hinder the partner. Ok, blocks are not the best thing and they stop the movement of your opponent. But at least he has the possibility to go on and you both can start developing the game again. But if you grab the other person, you actively hinder him and do not let him move on. It is even worse if you grab his foot and give him a rasteira then (which happend to me once). It is disrespectful for the other player and for the game as you deliberately hinder both just to have your moment of victory.
As grabbing is a movement Angoleiros actively avoid it is highly disrespectful to use this while you are in an Angola Roda. That would be almost the same as using your fists or start doing Judo movements. So if you grab, one of these might happen:
a) the song O Dona Alica nao me pegue nao will be sung.
b) the person responsible for the Roda will call you back at the Pe do Berimbau and explain your fault.
c) the player you are playing with, will take off the soft bandages.
P.S. I think I have to apologize in advance for the somewhat harsh way I wrote this post, it is just to emphasize how important this issue is. And: it is for your own best 😉