U can’t touch this!

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 😉


Filed under The Game

6 responses to “U can’t touch this!

  1. akira87

    I’m not a fan of the arrastao, which is a double leg takedown using hands and body. I prefer to rely on tesouras and leg sweeps. I’m curious, would you include vingativa as an intrusive movement? I don’t care much for this movement either, but what is your thought on it?

    I don’t mind them being used on me though. I just prefer not to use them myself. I’m a regionalista however, not an angoleiro.

  2. angoleiro

    No, I wouldnt see a vingativa as an intrusive movement. Of course it is stopping and arresting the other person’s movement, and it is definitely not the kind of movement which does promote the fluidity of the game, but it is fair game, cause actually you are not using your hands (which would be so much easier, eh?). The way I learned it you usually use your shoulder, I have seen the version with a cabecada, but your hands are not used in a way to touch the other person…

  3. E aí Angoleiro? Interesting post, it got me thinking some more about the use of the hands in the Angola game.
    I guess the grabbing part grew to be obvious to me that this is not the way to go, but I never realy stopped to think about it. But your post made me think about the use of the hands more, especially positioning and blocking.
    I’m still chewing on it though. And I find it hard to describe somekind of ‘rule of thumb’ about it.

    What I’m trying to say is that while you shouldn’t use your hands to grab, I think in the Angola game, probably more than any other, the use of your hands remains very important. Not merely to block your opponent’s kicks, but to position them in a place (on the ground) to block your opponents direction of movement, strategicaly forcing him to move otherwise, preferably to a direction of your own interest.
    Secondly I think the hands may also be used as some kind of ‘hypnotic’ mechanism. But now I’m taking it too far for a blog response.

    PS: “O Dona Alica não me pegue não, não me pegue não me agarre que eu não gosto não”


  4. angoleiro

    you are right though. the play of your hands. the distraction, the expression and the strategical placements alongside the usage of them because you have to when you want to do a nice Au are alright. As I said, it was just related to the grabbing part which is not part of the angola game!

  5. Javier

    I just want to thank you for having this blog, It’s great to see so many posts about Capoeira Angola and especially the issue of respect within a roda, I completely agree with this post especially, about the grabbing, I consider it incredibly childish and something someone resorts to when they don’t understand how capoeira angola is about communication and to grab someone is like cutting the word play with the bodies with a big fat ugly period. anyhow, axe irmao, muito obrigado 🙂

  6. bomjesus

    Interesting topic Angoleiro. The only thing i’d like to say and as with most things in capoeira words fail to deliver. I have heard from respected Angola mestres that the only time you grab in angola rodas is with quick hands.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s