Spot the mistake

Or: A painful lesson in malicia

The first time I have seen this video I thought, yep, this clip will make a big round in the web and people will start discussing about how effective Capoeira is in a fight or not. I don’t think that people who dont know much about Capoeira should judge about it. I also dont think that comparing martial arts is a highly intellectual thing to do. So I wont go into this topic. I didnt start Capoeira because I wanted to learn a martial art. But I learned things about fighting and about life. And, as everything in life is kind of a learning process, we will now start learning from the mistakes our fellow capoeirista made.

I dont know where this video comes from. I dont know who that capoeira fighter is. I just know that he did some serious mistakes and that the other guy did understand a certain aspect of Capoeira much more than this guy. Malicia.

Mistake 1: Honourful Fights

The first mistake might be a bit controversial. I will try to explain this as good as possible. The first mistake I see is that our Capoeirista is actually there. Why is he engaging in an arena fight? I am not against sparring with a practitioner of another fighting style. And I am also not against using Capoeira knowledge in a fight (I am against fights, but once it happens, there is no reason not to use Capoeira). And I know that some of the old capoeiristas did go into the arena. So I cant say “You should never engage in an arena fight.” But an arena fight has certain rules and the people want to see something special. A Capoeirista does – or better did – never fight to show off, but for survival. Of course there were the old Capoeiristas of Rio de Janeiro who did also fight for being famous, but even then it was a matter of survival. Because if you lost in these fights there was a high possibility that you lost with a razor in your belly. And if you fight for survival, you dont care about rules. That is why even the play of Capoeira does have so many unexpected situations. This is why I trained to throw sand into the eyes of the opponent in my old group. When you go into the arena, you deliberately give up many chances to turn the fight into your advantage. The Capoeirista is the one who fights when he knows that he can make it or who fights when he is forced to. So for me, the Capoeirista’s natural environment is not the arena, either the streets (where he fights) or the Roda (where he plays).

Mistake 2: The higher you climb the deeper you’ll fall

The next mistake is pretty obvious and you see it in the first seconds of the clip. This Capoeirista is a show off. Yeah, of course he is doing some mad and cool stuff out there. But he is there, in an arena, and seems to think that this is the best time to show some of his Capoeira techniques. With this he raised the expectations of one half of the audience, and the other half started to loathe him, to wish that he gets kicked in the ass big time. And when he then gets kicked in the end, the one half is absolutely disappointed and thinks “wow, Capoeira sucks” and the other half says “yeah, you deserved it” and maybe “Capoeira sucks! This is the proof”. Of course we dont have to care about people and what they think. But with showing off so much he just raised the stacks. And the higher they are the deeper is your fall. Otherwise this youtube video would not show up in so many places. And this puts Capoeira into a bad light. Which I am not pleased with.

In terms of Malicia this mistake is one of the most often made. A person who has malicia would be very careful to show off with his talents. It’s not about humility – there are some pretty big egos amongst Capoeiristas – but about tactical advantage. The less the opponent sees you “jumping around” or doing whatever, the less he will know what to expect.

Mistake 3: Corpo aberto

Another big mistake our Capoeirista made was his way of approaching the other person. As Capoeirista you learn that while playing you have to keep an eye on your opponent. When you ever had an opponent with malicia in front of you, you learned to be alert and to not do movements which leave you completely vulnerable to an attack. And even if so, then you certainly should know at least one way out. In this video our Capoeirista did about everything wrong while approaching the other person. Acrobatics look nice but are the best way to get yourself kicked (or in this case: punched). He does do saltos and does see the fist only in the last micro second – and far too late. He didnt keep an eye upon his opponent and – and that is the worst – had no defense at all. Already in the first lesson you learn to always have a hand somewhere close to your face. Although it might not be used much in a Jogo, sometimes it is the last chance to not being hit in the face. When you cant evade an attack, you must block it or get hit. But his hands where noway near his face.

Mistake 4: Intermixing play with fight

And the last mistake I see is actually the most fatal mistake this Capoeirista made. He did intermix the Roda with a Fight. This fight we see on the youtube video is obviously not a Roda. But what does our Capoeirista do? He does things which are amazingly cool in the Roda, when your partner lets you do it. Actually, most of the time such movements do come only when there is time and space in the Roda. In a fight, you do usually neither have much time nor space.

People have to understand that the Roda and a Fight are something different. In the Roda, we are playing. In this play we learn a lot about fighting, but we also do a lot of other things. We play, we sing, we dance. And by the way, we learn important things about a fight. That is the safe area in the Roda. There we can play the game with all its floreios and all its different rituals. Outside, a good Capoeirista will not play, sing or dance. He will only fight – and for sure he won’t do many movements he would do in a Roda. For example: he would leave out the acrobatics!

I believe the Capoeirista we see failing so miserably on Youtube is actually a long-trained Capoeirista. He seems to be athletic, he knows how to do beautiful movements. And he is, obviously, very courageous. But here the other guy was just much more malicioso. He waited, watched, and took the chances the opponent gave him. So, my dear Capoeirista friends, dont worry about this video. Cause, whoever thinks that this is a proof for Capoeira being not effective and dadada, doesnt know what Capoeira is about. And we do actually get a lesson in Malicia, for free!


Filed under Capoeira Today, Philosophy

17 responses to “Spot the mistake

  1. That clip is from a movie called Never Back Down. It’s a movie all about Mixed Martial Arts fights. Given that a number of Capoeira instructors I know also do Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, it didn’t suprise me at all to see Capoeira included in the movie. But you have to remember, it’s a movie, the inclusion of Capoeira was for it’s style and to make the character that knocks the Capoeirista out seem like more and more of the cunniving, malicious, prick that he is 😉

    Great blog by the way!

  2. Thanks Brian, that was a very informative comment. I didnt investigate about the movie, all I saw is that people were posting it around and having it on their sites and so on. Well, at least it’s relieving to know that this is only a movie. On the other site. It does definitely teach us the lesson I just posted, right? and yes, the other guy is definitely the cunning, malicious prick in this scene!

    of course sad that Capoeira is depicted that way, but well, it’s a movie, right?


  3. Wow Angoleiro, in support of what you said about this video going viral, you’re the 3rd person who’s “sent” it to me in the past month or so! Great commentary, by the way. I think you’re definitely right in that the player didn’t really seem to have made the distinction for himself between it being a fighting ring vs. a roda, so that’s important to note if one wants to look at it from an “is capoeira effective?” point of view (ie. It’s not capoeira that’s ineffective; it’s that the player wasn’t using it effectively.)

  4. …if you want to look at it from an “is capoeira effective?” point of view at all. there you’re right. my recommendation for students of Capoeira is not to think about effectiveness of Capoeira. When you start thinking like that you will start saying “why should I do an Au in the Roda?” or “when I use my fists i am much more effective…” and so on.
    and you are right, the video’s going viral, but I think it’s almost done. Thanks God, it’s not as long enduring as “Achmed, the dead terrorist” or the “Star Was Kid”…

  5. It looks very real to me. I don’t think it is a good thing to bad mouth the winner, “the cunning, malicious prick “. This is not very honourable. As you point out in your piece he has only taken advantage of the mistake the Capoeirista has made in approaching without looking at his opponent and not being prepared to defend himself. I see this as a perfect example of the old adage, “Nemesis defeats hubris”. That is, the Capoeirista at the beginning is playing to the crowd and demonstrating his ego, too much pride or over-confidence in any fight will result in defeat. Also in Eastern Martial arts there is a principle of economy of movement, that one should do as little as possible to achieve one’s objective. Very interesting piece, Angoleiro. Thankyou for sharing it.

  6. you’re welcome, Paul. though I have one thing to make clear. I dont think that the other person did anything wrong, and when I say “cunning” and “malicious”, even “prick”, I do mean that in a respecting, even admiring way. As we all know, in Capoeira you do learn, that a honourable fight is an illusion and a luxury only those have who are secured by all kinds of measures. I think the other guy did it right. from the beginning till the end!

  7. xixarro

    This is the zillionth time I see this video and I hate it, mainly because people who post it never seem to realise that this is a clip from a film.

    Your article is the first intelligent post I read about it. 😉

    PS: About is capoeira affective?
    Yes it is, but it takes a long time to master capoeira before it is ‘effective’. If you’re looking for an effective martial art, you’d better try something else.

    The guy in the movie is obviously someone who doesn’t master capoeira. You can see it by the number of mistakes Angoleiro mentioned but also by the quality of his move. Not one move looks smooth. He doesn’t land his salto well and was that an armada I saw? Hmmm… only low cordas do it like that….

    Let’s just never mention this movie again.

  8. whoohooo xixarro that is pretty much frustration I read out of that comment 😉 but thanks for your remark. you are right, usually you find this clip without any information and in the context “Capoeira is not effective”. As I said, this discussion is senseless, but if someone is looking around for an “effective martial art” then he should start looking around for something else than Capoeira. Not because Capoeira doesnt teach you how to fight, but when someone is only looking for a fight, than he is not suitable for Capoeira.

    And dontcha worry Xixarro, I am pretty sure that this video will come up again, because information does go lost over time, but pictures and movies stay…

  9. Soldado

    I do not make it a habit of debating, talking or discussing the effectiveness of any martial art, its all conjecture. It is obvious this gentleman made a lot of mistakes in general. It is only a movie though, something made for entertainment. I have trained in several martial arts over the last couple of decades and none of them were “complete” or more effective than another. It is all about the individual and the mindset. Capoeira while wonderful can only use the same two arms and legs as the others. The individual and circumstance determines what is best on any given day or in any situation.
    I have almost been knocked unconscious trying to arrest a 95 pound woman and have seen a 300 pound man cry when I yelled at him.

    Having said way too much on the topic, anybody doing backflips and handstands while they are preparing to fight is asking for it-

    The movie wasn’t that great anyway; try watching Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo Del Toro. Now thats a movie 🙂

    Angoleiro great post and maybe an idea for a future, more in depth blog.

  10. Guillermo del Toro has a great fantasy, indeed. And I like Pan’s Labyrinth, for sure. On the other side, you dont see much of martial arts in that movie (although Pan making a macaco would be a blast!!! 😉 )
    and, back on topic, you are right, soldado. Comparing martial arts does only make sense in little details, not in the sense of “which is better”.

  11. Skyman

    Ok,so the capoeirista is bad, but I wouldn’t vouch for the other fighter either. Whether they admit it or not, it looks very choreographed to me…

  12. Skyman

    Ah, so it is a Moive kind of movie, not a documentary! Sorry, should have made my research before posting! 😉

  13. well… what the other fighter does and how it looks I dont really care, you know? I just saw this capoeirista doing all that acrobatics and getting knocked out badly because of some common mistakes you learn to avoid after your first session of lessons. but well, at least you did see that it was choreographed. I didnt 🙂

  14. For what it’s worth, I found out that the scene is from a movie called Never Back Down, which is about a highschooler who joins an underground fight club and his mentor turns out to be an MMA veteran. It’s a typical Hollywood movie that just came out in March, so I think that pretty much says it all!

  15. yeah… it’s out on DVD. I’ve seen it in the store the other day. But I think I’m out of age for modern versions of “Karate Kid I” 😉

  16. Capoeira is a martial art. It is the practitioner who makes it effective or not, depending on nature and quality of training, conditioning, size, strength and conditions of the fight.

    That scene from the movie is just as silly. It would be just as silly if a Brazilian jujitsu practioner started grappling on the ground with one guy while three others kicked him in the kidneys and stomped his head into the concrete.

    Not everyone who does MMA is an effective fighter. Not eveyone who does Capoeira is a buffoonish showoff.

    Please don’t disgrace our ancestors in the art by denigrating their contribution to the fighting arts. Please learn to distinguish between the game and the fight of Capoeira.


  17. Erik

    Just a side note, when comparing martial arts it’s important to remember that what one does within the specific rules of the practice and in a ‘real life situation’ are two very different things. You wouldn’t do cartwheels in a real fight, just like a boxer might end up using his/hers feet or hitting bellow the belt. In its purest forms martial arts follows certain rules that don’t make sense in real fight.

    By the way, where in the Netherlands are you Angoleiro? I’m currently in Delft, but train a little with Totti Angola’s group, and have been meaning to visit a group/project in Utrecht that is connected to Mestre Abelha (not really sure how active they are though).

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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