The Joy of the Unknown –

or: Visiting an unknown group/Roda…

Let’s face it. Most of the time a Capoeirista does spend his time with Capoeiristas he knows. He plays in Rodas where he  knows the rules. Most of the time, we spend or time in our groups. That is where we are most secure and thus, most confident. Even when we go to other places, most of the time, we take people with us. We have somebody to rely upon. We know, there is someone who is on my side.

But then there are the rare occasions where the only one on your side is you. When you visit another group. These are not the most favourable situations. It is pretty unsafe, sometimes. But it does have its own fascination.

Since a bit more than one year I had the possibilities to visit different groups and every time I visited a new group there was this great feeling. Something in between excitement, curiosity and fear. This feeling is especially strong if you are going alone. Because then it is only you you can rely on.

Here a couple of hints for the next time one of you people visits a new/unknown group:

1. Always try to make first contact before you arrive at their Roda or Training. It is a demonstration of respect if you ask the responsible person beforehand if you are allowed to come or not. The possibility that the teacher will say “no” is low, but this should not stop you from showing your respect.

2. When you arrive at the Roda/Training do try to make first contact with the teacher/mestre as soon as possible. This should happen before the Roda/Training started. Do tell who you are, where you are from and who was your teacher (these are the most interesting pieces of info the teacher will want to have). In this situation it is helpful to a) refer to a mail/phone call you made before and to b) refer to a teacher/mestre of yours that is known. Usually a teacher/mestre does respect other teachers, although they might not always be of the same opinion.

3. Do not insist on playing in the Roda. Humility is the word of the hour here. As you are a guest you do not insist in showing your skill in the Roda. The first thing, if there is a roda, is to offer playing an instrument. Do not grab the next berimbau unless the teacher said so. Offer to play one of the percussion instruments, like the pandeiro, the reco reco or the agogo.

4. Do not show off. One of the most important rules. It is never smart to show off when you are in a unknown roda. You as a stranger do have the attention of everybody anyway. So whatever you do will be measured and rated. Of course the more you show off the higher is the possibility that they try to find out where your limits are. If your limits do not go farther than your show off abilities than you are done and everybody will just remember “the show-off who came the other day and was at his limits in 10 seconds…“. Another reason why you should not show off is that you should always have a good pool of movements for the times when there is somebody who really wants to test you.

5. Do not expect to play the teacher/mestre. It never happened to me that the first game I had in a new group was with the teacher or mestre. Usually they did send somebody else in and watched my game before they decided to get in or not. This is absolute logical. A teacher/mestre does know that there are a zillion of capoeiristas out there with a lot of abilities. A stranger coming into there group could be a bad-ass violent maniac or just a semi-beginner with a couple of show off qualities. As the teacher does have the responsibility over the group he does take the tactically smartest option, which is seeing first what kind of player you are and then deciding if they go into the roda or not.

6. Try not to play hard.I know a couple of you people does play hard on others on a regular basis. Some of you people didnt learn it another way. And within your own group it is ok. Even when you are a bit harder on one or the other colleague the possibility that you get beaten up in your own group because you are too hard is quite low. There are other ways to tell you to loosen up, like your teacher just telling you this in a quite minute or two. But when you are visiting another group you cannot assume that they have the same rules. So the best thing to do is playing soft and see what kind of game the these people have. Actually it is even better to first watch their game and see if you really like to join or not. The problem is that most groups do have a different game in public presentations and during training. So do not assume that a group who has a soft game during a presentation will also have a soft game in their Roda.

7. Do not get nervous or sensitive when you are in the Roda and you realize that the people are playing hard on you. Or when you are playing an instrument and the teacher does correct your music, dont be oversensitive. It cannot be a personal issue they have with you, because they do not know you. If they are unfriendly, well, then you at least know that this visit was your last. And if you can save your face and do shrug it off, then you are “the winner”. If they correct you, do accept the correction. It will not influence your style if you do change your [insert name of the movement] for one day. Do not insist on one way of movement or music or the other. And if you get attacked in the Roda then respond reasonably. Do not use more violence then the other one uses in the game (this might lead to a violence spiral and you should mind that you are the one who has no friends around).

7. Do not criticize. This is actually self-explaining. But I have seen guests arrive and thinking that they know things better and thinking that somebody gives a s…t! It is deeply embarrassing if somebody does this mistake and does usually lead to you getting a lesson in humility by the teacher or one of his better students.

8. Be thankful.It is not your right to be at another group’s training or Roda. It is not your right to play in their bateria or in their Roda. So everything they let you do is actually a favour. Do treat it like this. Be thankful and do express it after the games and after the training or Roda. Go to the teacher/mestre and tell him. Even if you did not like it. A good “Thank you” at the very end might even neutralize some mistakes you made at the end.

9. Do not bitch around afterwards. What happened, happened. You got beaten up in that roda? Maybe not your fault but your responsibility. You went there, right? Nobody forced you. You did not like their game? That is OK. That is the reason why there are different groups. You did not like the teacher/the students? Well, the world is not perfect, right? Your opinion about what happened or what not is maybe very important to you, but refrain from going around and bitching about your experiences in the other group. If there is something wrong with that group than most people do already know anyway. If you bitch around, people will talk about it. And as you do not have control about where your bitching goes to (it might end up at the group where you just been yesterday) it is just better to remain silent.

And if you follow these rules and do go in there, knowing what abilities you have and trying to learn from the other group, then the only thing I can tell you is: Enjoy! It is one of the biggest and most exciting things in Capoeira, when you face another player you dont know in a Roda you dont know! Then you can show if you are a real Capoeirista or not!


*picture source:


Filed under The Game

11 responses to “The Joy of the Unknown –

  1. GREAT guide. Here’s my report card from France…

    1. check – went in before roda on first day of the new year cycle to ask

    2. check….I think…probably…actually, this isn’t really a good thing, but I’ve found I have a tendency to, if they’re a stranger, ignore them more the higher belt they are…leading up to mestres…not out of disrespect, but more like the opposite because I’m too shy to approach them or don’t want to take up their time or bother them in the middle of something (and of course they’re ALWAYS in the middle of something)…not to mention, I don’t know if this is weird or not, but sometimes I feel okay not greeting people because I don’t know them personally, and worry they might think I’m presumptuous if I just go and give them a hug when we’ve never even had a real conversation with each other!

    3. check – well, I treated all the instruments the same as the berimbau actually since they’re all important to the rhythm and thus general axe of the roda, plus I’d played instruments exactly once in my own group’s roda before leaving, and that was pandeiro XD But somehow I scraped up the courage (audacity?) to ask if I could play a bit on the berimbau after the roda was done…I was *dying* to get my hands on one, after not having heard any live for a month!

    4. HAH! They played with shoes, I normally don’t. So out of respect, I kept mine on. Did you know several year-old runners have NO GRIP WHATSOEVER? Combine that with 1 month of no training, and you’ll get an idea of how much “showing off” I did that first round…
    5. check – I was more scared he *would* play me, than woudn’t XD I think I did get tested though, by a graduado, with a seemingly longer-than-normal game and what I will call The Sequence of a Thousand Rasteiras XD

    6. check check check – My group is more sensitive to this stuff to begin with, so I was prepared!

    7. check – though a confession, tried to keep my movements our way under the radar…I know one day doesn’t make a difference, but 3-5 days per week for 9 months probably would!

    Oops, you have two 7’s!

    7 the second: hmm…semi-check…nothing like style though of course (actually, didn’t have any major problems with that, and really loved it for some aspects), more things like “you close right after class ends?!? you’re not open on weekends?!? you follow all school and public holidays?!?!?!!?! [and there are LOTS in France]” XD

    8. check – and I am so glad I did. Made them a thank-you card and for a thank-you/good-bye gift gave them a clock that was their logo =D The funny thing is that they actually put it up in place of their main clock in the training room…so it’s like a constant reminder of me, lol (didn’t mean for that to happen, I swear!!)

    9. Well, I didn’t “around”, but wide-eyed, fascinated detailed descriptions of everything that happens to close friends is okay, right? Though I also heap tons of positives to make up for any negatives, in the end.


    It’s funny, because when I went on my university exchange, I thought whatever capoeira I did there would just be supplementary foraging, to maintain my skill level as much as possible. But by the end of the year, I realized it had actually turned into a full-fledged “capoeira exchange”, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I learned and grew so much, capoeira- and other- wise, and made a couple of incredible friends with whom I still keep in touch. It is such an eye-opening, and important, imho, phenomenon, to experience a non–centric view of everything capoeira you’ve ever known, and more.

  2. *that was supposed to be

    “non-INSERT YOUR GROUP NAME HERE-centric view”

  3. angoleiro

    wow! great comment…Joaninha! let me see, I think you did everything right. and when you go back to France (for whatever reasons) they will welcome you with open arms. oh…and thanks for the reminder of the two #7s, it was of COURSE on purpose! 😉

    about the Berimbau: I think if you ask somebody if you are allowed to play a bit on the berimbau after training, that is OK. What I meant in this case was asking to play the Berimbau during the Roda. Some do have no problems with that. But a lot of groups do take care that the Berimbau is played right and by somebody who belongs to the group. that is, because the Berimbau does have power in the Roda and if you screw up on the Berimbau you might disturb the Game taking place in the Roda. Out of pure fear to screw up other people’s games I would not insist in playing the Berimbau. On the other side, if you think your Berimbau abilities are high enough, you might try. But better make sure that you actually ARE good at the Berimbau 😉

  4. Haha yeah, I figured that was what you meant. I meant, I didn’t even offer to play atabaque or pandeiro because I have almost the same fear for them as I have regarding trying to play the berimbau in any group’s roda! And I know I’m not actually good at any of the instruments yet, so that was an easy decision to make XD

    Yes, I do miss them and really hope I’ll be able to go back and visit again one day. When I left, they gave me a goodbye card and had all chipped in for…a freakin’ pandeiro…as a going away gift for me. I was floored.

  5. angoleiro

    Ahhh… alright, now I got it. ok, then it is an easy decision to make. (sounds like somebody has to practice on her percussion skills 😉 and that the group gave you a goodbye present too is reeeallly nice. of course it’s good for you to know that there is a Capoeira group on the other side of the world where you are always welcome!

  6. Great guide! I’ve certainly seen a lot of visitors – both positive and negative – over my years of capoeira, who either ace or fail each of these points :p

    A good general rule that seems to sum everything up is “Remember that you are a guest in someone else’s house.” A lot of the same etiquette applies… greet the host, don’t be pushy or mean, make sure to say “thank you,” etc.

    On the flip side, as a member of an established group, I find myself thinking about ways I can make our group welcoming for people who visit us.

    For example – always greeting and introducing myself to new people/visitors, giving special attention if the person is struggling with a movement or instrument, and inviting the person’s participation in our end-of-class question & comment time.

    As a visitor myself, I’ve had widely ranging experiences. One group completely ignored me. Another group dedicated their roda to me and invited me to sing the opening ladainha. Some groups playfully challenge me in their roda, others not-so-playfully challenge me. The reception a visitor receives will probably make a difference not only in whether that person comes back, but also the reputation of your group.

    So, if you’re ever in New York City, stop by – you’ll be welcomed 🙂

  7. angoleiro

    Ola Shayna, you are, actually, right. These days I am not really member of an established group (some kind of homeless Angoleiro… ) so I wrote this whole thing out of the viewpoint of the visitor. On the other side there is also the case that sometimes you are not welcome. Not because you do something wrong, just because there is some “attitude” in the group. Thank you very much for reminding 🙂

    P.S. I would love to come over to New York, there is just a couple of thousand miles Ocean in between 😉

  8. I remember one particularly bad example of visitor behavior, someone who broke basically all of your guidelines!

    A guy (I’ll call him L) visited a group I was part of in Brazil. We warmed up by playing each other, and the instructor went around giving people help and advice on their games. L was playing aggressively and didn’t like the advice he got so he started to argue with the instructor, who told him they could talk after class.

    Next, it was time to work on songs. L immediately tried to get a berimbau, but the instructor said “why don’t you take pandeiro instead.” L kept messing up while playing the pandeiro, so the instructor put him on agogo. L was so upset by this that he stopped singing or responding to the corridos for the rest of the time.

    Afterwards, he gave the instructor an earful of complaining about how he didn’t feel welcome in the group…

    …oh well, too bad!

  9. angoleiro

    Yup, have also seen some examples like that. a
    And I think the guy “L” was lucky that he didnt get kicked out of the class. I have seen some example were my trainer just said “dude, you dont respect my class, you keep fooling around, you disturb my class. Go!” and I think he had all rights to do that. Because such behaviour does not only show no respect to the teacher, but also to the other students who try to learn Capoeira – and shouldnt be bothered with the issues of one visitor with ego-/manner-problems…

  10. hey! niiiice guide! I really enjoyed reading it. Thank u a lot!
    Last week me and my friends decided to go to Moscow to see what is capoeira out there. And before the trip i decided to translate this article into russian to prepare myself to this trip and to share it with other people! A lot of thankfull comments i received, which actually are all to you!
    We ve been to 5 different groups (2 of them were groups of Angola) and for me as a begginer your guide was really helpfull (of course thanx god that there also were two graduados who helped me as well ^__^ hug to Compasso and Espada)

    here the translation…yeah u would not understand a word, but anyway 🙂

  11. hey oceanica! welcome to my blog! I am really glad that my small advices did actually help somebody come along and enjoy her time visiting other groups. How was your experience with the different groups? Did you also visit the group filhos de angola in moscow?
    And thank you for the link. You are right. I do not understand a word, but I still like to see it 🙂

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