Surviving a Capoeira Angola Roda

This might be of high interest for all of you people who want to try playing Capoeira Angola in a Roda de Capoeira Angola. The reason I start this topic is because I have seen a couple of people who usually train Capoeira Contemporeana and then end up being very frustrated in a Capoeira Angola roda.

The first reason for this is quite obvious. You are a stranger in the group and have a different style, which usually leads to “mis-communication” in play. Even if you take care of all the subtle things you have to do when you show up in a new group (introducing yourself to the trainer of the group, sticking to the movements the trainer does show, dont put yourself into the first row while training and so on….), you will have problems orienting yourself in a Capoeira Angola roda.

I´ll just name the mistakes (in random order…)

Buying the game

Buying the game is far less common in Capoeira Angola rodas than in rodas of modern Capoeira. Usually the person being in charge of the roda (if you dont know it, a hint: it might be the guy with the gunga) does tell when a play starts and when it ends. You can “choose” your favorite game in positioning yourself in the circle of people, because usually the ones being closest to the batteria will play the next game, succeeded by those who are next in line. Do never attempt to buy a game without the headhoncho saying this explicitly.

Entering the Roda with an Aú

Actually it is not forbidden to start the game with an Aú. In some Contemporeana groups it is oligatory to do this. It definitely puts the two players directly into the middle of the Roda. But in a Capoeira Angola roda you start quite close to each other. If you start with an Aú mean players won´t insist giving you a straight Cabecada. And there is another reason for this. A good Capoeira Angola play does live from its development. You start being close, slow, almost ritualistic. In a Jogo de Dentro which takes a minute or two. And as you approach the middle of the roda, the players get more apart from each other. The game gets faster, higher and sometimes rougher (of course everything depends on the players, their experience, mood, relationship and maybe on daily constellations of the stars). In jumping into the Aú in the beginning you skip all the steps in between.

Fast start

If you are “lucky” and are chosen to play the first game, wait. Dont start playing when the music starts. This is actually common in every roda, but in Capoeira Angola rodas you always have the introducing songs (Ladainha and Saudacao) where you wait and stay sitting in front of the berimbaus. And even when they start singing the common capoeira songs (corridos), wait until the person in charge gives you a signal.

Hit the air

A capoeira angola game is usually played with the partners being close to each other. If you are in a certain distance and just do kicks into the air somewhere between you and your partner, it is disregarded as boring play or at least unneccessary play. This could result in the other player making jokes about you, while you are playing. Very embarrassing.

The Open Aú

This is an obvious issue. Don´t do Aús where your upper body is totally exposed. The Angoleiro in front of you will come to the idea that that´s a perfect target for a head-butt! In this case players of modern Capoeira must concentrate on doing a “close” Aú, having their knees and feet close to the torso, not stretched out. I know you can do it 😉

Taking the teasings serious

This is actually a problem EVERYbody encounters in an Angoleiro roda. In the game of Angola there is a lot of teasing the other. This can be in a theatrical and nicer way (e.g. when I did a flashy movement which was completely unneccessary, the mestre I was playing with stood in the roda and was mimicking a photographer) or in a less nice way (e.g. sitting at the bateria and your opponent turns to the bateria, sings with his whole voice, spreads his arms, and hits your head with the back of his hand). That’s part of the mailicia, that’s part of the game. Yeah, of course he is teasing YOU, but still it is nothing personal. It is as personal as a Meia Lua you couldnt dodge. Of course you have the full right to tease back or to revenge this with other actions in the roda. But if you take it personal and (in the worst case) apply a direct into-the-face kick just because he was teasing you, then it will be considered poor/brute/un-intelligent game of you. But if you take the teasings, repay them in a similar, or other but more creative way, then everybody will consider your play being smart!

Mistakes in the Chamada

A chamada

Actually the Chamada is a story of its own and I even now feel the need to explain it excessiveley. In short. A chamada is a very ritualistic part of the Capoeira Angola game. It exists for seceral reasons:

1. calm down the game when it got a little bit too rough

2. as a small pauze in between (as Angola games can take long sometimes you really need a second or two)

3. as a time for recovery when you just got a bad hit and now want to get back into the game

4. as stylistic intermezzo in the game.

5. as a test (how far you know about the ritual and the malicia of the Angola game)

The fifth reason is important in this case. The Chamada, with all it’s ritual and all it’s peaceful behaviour, is still part of the Capoeira game. And as everybody (who plays Capoeira) knows, hits and kicks are not forbidden as long as you are in the roda. So even while you are “dancing” in the chamada the other person might want to find out if your attention is all there. Of course, it’s good to know how to answer to a chamada. there are different chamadas. That means you should learn all of them. If you dont know a certain chamada, do not hesitate to show your uncertainity. Be very careful approaching a chamada. And – and this one is reaaally important: a chamada is a call. It is, as I said, also a kind of a test. So if you are playing with a Mestre, don’t call him into a chamada. Not all Mestres are sensitive about that. But there are some which are. And why? Well, who does give YOU the right to call a Mestre into a small test?

I think I forgot some things, but this is at least a good guideline. Feel free to add things or argue about one or other.

 P.S. not all points are equally important. And the importance of some things are changing from group to group. The possible pitfalls I have given are those I have seen personally.


Filed under The Game

13 responses to “Surviving a Capoeira Angola Roda

  1. This is great; really interesting and informative! Keep it up angoleiro 😀

  2. angoleiro

    never backing up, joaninha! ;9

  3. Great post…. very insightful and right on.

    The “Hit the air” bit made me laugh. My mestre is an expert at mocking people who do kick at the air, and I’m afraid I’ve picked up a bit of that, for better or worse 😉

    I would disagree ever so slightly with you about point 3 of the chamadas. Yes, I’ve seen chamadas used in this way, but I’ve heard several mestres argue strongly against it, pointing out that just after you’ve gotten hit/taken down, you’re not in your calmest mental state like you need to be for a dangerous situation like a chamada.

    Rather, they recommend using it the opposite way – when you’ve just hit or taken down the other player, OR when you’ve just marked that you could’ve done so and perhaps no one noticed – even them – and you want to draw attention to that fact. In that case, initiating a chamada is a way of saying “I bet you need a moment to recover after I just totally owned you.”

    On the other hand, Mestre Janja points out that this use of chamada shouldn’t be overused. If it is, the game becomes what she and her group used to call “capoeira mira my friend” – i.e. you’re constantly looking to show off what you’ve just done to the other player. So sometimes, it’s wiser to do the takedown, hit, whatever, and NOT break the game with a chamada or volta do mundo – instead, keep playing like absolutely nothing happened…

  4. akira87

    I love the bit about posing as a photographer! My instructor was a little more direct. A contemporanea player trained with our regional group for awhile and he was doing extremely flashy things, kept kicking at people’s heads and jumping everywhere. The instructor had asked him quietly to calm him game down on numerous occasions, especially against the beginners since he wasn’t letting them play at all. He kept playing his game regardless of skill and roda play style. He just wouldn’t listen and never changed one bit, not even against people who were not as skilled as him (which was nearly the whole group except a handful of us).

    Eventually, my instructor played a game with him and taught him a regional lesson. Every time the guy did something unnecessary or tried to go aerial, my instructor would put him on the floor gently but firmly. He was basically on the floor the whole time. The game made me wince, since I’ve never seen my instructor rasteira over and over again like that but I suppose the lesson is clear: respect the instructor’s wishes; respect the game; and above all, respect the players.

  5. angoleiro

    @ akira… I like the quote “respect the game; and above all, repect the players” Sometimes people seem to forget it and get overenthusiast about their own movements , forgetting that Capoeira is all about interaction with your opponent AND interaction with the rest of the roda (music, the chorus, the berimbau and so on). When people ask me sth like “HEy could you show us a little bit of Capoeira” then I usually reply “No, I am alone here. Capoeira is not practised alone. I need at least a second Capoeirista.” (you might see that I am not really fond of presentations where you are alone in front of all people doing all kind of flashy movimentos…)

    @Shayna… there can be something like an overuse of chamadas. THis is just depending on the two players and how the game is developing. If the game needs to be cut back every minute or so because the two players really love to get into each other, well, then you have to have a lot of chamadas, volta do mundo or back to pé do berimbaus. if the game is harmonical and does not include too many “breakers” one or two chamadas are ok. And yes, you are right, it’s not nice to make a chamada after every single hit being placed. I usually go into the chamada when I was completely outplayed.
    About the issue with making a chamada after you got a hit. You said that Mestres are arguing about it? Well, Mestres are even arguing about the way the negativa has to be done, so first of all I am not wondering. If your mestre does not want you to make a chamada after receiving a hit, you’ll better do what he says. I regularly se itthis way and…well…never had problems with it.
    A Chamada is a very complicated thing all in all, so there are even more points which are under dispute. I got kicked twice because I was letting a person wait in the chamada for “too long”. That was actually not the case but some Mestres do see it as disrespectful when they make a chamada and you dont directly approach to answer his Call. So, in sum, I’d say do know the different possibilities of a Chamada and DO know what the rules are in the roda you are in (best hint ever: don’t be the first one getting into the roda, first observe!)

  6. This is an awesome post! It’s great to see some of the beginner mistakes and inner workings of an angola roda, because I would never want to make any of them. I try to be a model of respect in whatever roda I’m at, so this is a big help.

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  8. akira87

    I feel exactly the same way Angoleiro! I do enjoy flasy acrobatics, but I admire more the subtle beauty of good positioning, timing and a well placed trip. On youtube, acrobatics are far too common. It’s very hard to find a video with interacting players. It’s harder yet to find videos that demontrate the qualities already mentioned.

    Can you tell I train with a traditional regional group? 🙂

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  12. Oi, Angoleiro, tudo bem?

    Man, I really liked the article, and decided to post it in my blog, traduced. Of course there is the link to your blog, and if you want me to remove it, I will. I hope you don’t mind I posted before your could answer. Thanks from México, and Axé.

  13. Pingback: Enlace, Surviving a Capoeira Angola Roda » Todocapoeira

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