Revenge in Capoeira

A little test by the side: You are playing Capoeira in a Roda. Your partner in this circle is better than you are, which is – per se – nothing bad. At some point he does turn his upper body and your inner eye already sees the leg speeding towards you head, so you move into an Esquiva. Suddenly your partner stops his movement, turns his body into the opposite direction and the back of his hand slashes through your face. Several people in the Roda start to laugh. You are angry. What shall you do?

a) Smile. And then directly attack with the worst movement you have in your repertoire.

b) If he uses his hands, you are not gonna back up. Smack him.

c) Alright. He made a nice movement. But attacking him wont solve any problems. So you just shrug it off and swallow your pride.

d) You swallow your pride. But you will never forget. Next time when he doesnt expect it, you will give him back the exact movement he did to you.

So, which option is right? Which is wrong? The experienced Capoeirista will say now: “There is no right or wrong. But there might be smarter moves and not so smart moves, depending on the situation.”

So, no option of the four given is wrong, but one thing I can say (and most of you will think the same). Option d) is used only very rarely.

And now I am gonna tell you something what I heard from Capoeira Angola Mestres and teachers. There is the possibility to “keep” a kick. You get a kick and that one was somehow humiliating (for you)? Keep the kick or the attack in mind. And at an appropriate time, give it back to the same person who did that to you. This appropriate time – at that is the clou about “keeping” – does not have to be the same jogo, or even the same day. You just wait until you see the perfect opportunity. Even if it takes years. And then you strike. I just want you to keep in mind that this option exists. It is not said that all the other options given in the beginning are wrong or right, you can directly strike if you want so – or just forget about it. But there is also a third way.

Ok, now you know that it exists, but apart from the pure existence of this concept there is much more about it. A philosophical aspect which is much more interesting than the pure fact that you can revenge an attack years later. This aspect is malicia in its purity.

First of all: What is the advantage of this approach? I, for example, do not always play fair. When I get angry, tired, bored or when I see that I am physically overpowered I do use some small tricks to at least embarrass, if not annoy the crap out of my partner – or to overpower him by pure Malicia. Sometimes I just DO kick, even if I could also not kick. Everytime I do one of these attacks or fintas I know that my partner will not like that. Thus, I know he might feel the urge to answer me in a proper way. Usually such an answer comes directly. So, directly after a mean movement of mine, I am usually very careful and harder to catch than in other times. But when the other person “keeps” this kick he has the choice and he will chose a time point where I seem secure – and then he will give me crap back. This is Malicia and as Capoeira is not just pure technique and speed and strength, Malicia is an important part of everything.

But isnt this unhonourable? And isnt revenge a bad thing? Those question can come up. People who ask these questions usually do not see the background Capoeira is coming from. Capoeira was a tool for survival. It was the sport, the art of the African slave who had no rights and who also had no luxury to be generous. Nobody was generous to him. If he did a mistake, he was killed. Africans didnt have the luxury of being equally treated, they were literally called ‘pieces’, they were ‘goods’. You trade them, you use them, you throw them away. And after the abolition of the slavery in Brazil 1888 this did not change. After that Black Brazilians were not slaves, but did have little rights. Jobless, Rightless and without any social value, a lot of Blacks landed in the suburbs of the bigger cities. Here they tried to survive. In a world which does not care about honour. What those people do care about was Do I survive or not? and that did include some unfair measures. This did include some malandragem. Capoeira grew in these times and learned a lot about life. Capoeira is the philosophy of the small man, who already has seen misery. Honour and Truth and other virtues are nice, but at the end they do not feed your stomach. And the same does apply to the Roda, as it is a representation of the world. Once in a while rules are broken. And if this happens you better be prepared. And once in a while – and now I am coming back to the revenge – it is not a good idea to revenge a received kick directly, but to wait, wait until the one who gave the first kick does forget. This can be much more efficient and is much safer for you as a player than direct response, because, as I said, the other one does expect a fast reponse. This all comes down to one truth I heard once (or maybe read, I’m not entirely sure about that):

The violator will forget about his victim, but the victim will never forget the violator.”

There is another lesson Capoeira gives in there: if you are unfair to a person, do not be surprised if you get that back. Now think about it. Did you ever beat up a Capoeira player which was not as good in Capoeira as you are? Did he left afterwards, or after a while? What if you two meet up in a roda in 5 years, and you did already forget about the violation? Do you think he did forget? I for myself do know who kicked the crap out of me while I was still a bloody beginner. I do remember, and if I have the opportunity, yes, I might use it (although I have to admit that it was a teacher in those times and I think even today he will be able to beat me up, so I might have to wait a couple of years more…). So, if you didnt beat up a beginner yet, do not do it at all. It is not only a bad thing to do (as I said, Capoeira does not take care much about morale…), it is also not smart, because you never know how that person takes it. Be always nice in the Roda, at least to those you do not know. You never know if that person might take it’s (just) revenge in 10 years!

And how do we use this in our daily life? We all know that Capoeira gives lessons in life. The lesson here is quite easy. a) Do never let urgency or anger set the time when you respond to another person´s acts. b) Or even if you do, do know that that person will expect it. c) Do wait for the perfect time to do some things. Sometimes the perfect time is immediately, but not always. Do keep this in mind. And d) do not mistreat a person because you are able to. If you really have to do that, do mind that the other person will want to take her revenge, if not now, then later. Be prepared.

1 Comment

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One response to “Revenge in Capoeira

  1. Fouda

    Hmm…interesting post

    I would be one of the rare people that pick D hehe; I’ve always felt that capoeira was the only thing where i learned the most falling on my ass than standing up
    My coach told me about this mestre he trained under who was given a really bad rastiera by an Instrutor when he was a gradudado (the mestre). Twelve years later, the instrutor became a mestre but so did the gradudado (my coach’s mestre) and he gave him that same rastiera after luring him with a finta into the same move that he did the rastiera in.

    I thought that was…i dunno if he carried the kick with spite & hate but i can’t think of another reason why i would want to remember a point someone scored on me. If that happened, then there’s a very valuable lesson in it for me and this clean kick/slap/sweep…etc was just the price i paid upfront for that lesson; as we say here, no one learns for free

    Peace out y’all 😀

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