Surviving a Capoeira Angola Roda II: Space


Some of those who know my blog might know the title of this post, at least its first part. Most things to know about surviving a capoeira angola roda were already posted in one of my first posts. Today’s post is about a certain aspect of a Capoeira Angola game. But this aspect is also something many people have to get used to. I hope this post will help in that process.

According to Mestre Moraes the aim of the Game of Capoeira Angola is movement itself. That is, maximizing your own and minimizing your opponents possibilities to move. One might say now “wait, that’s not the only purpose” and yes, that’s right. But, and that’s why I write about this topic, it comes up every now and then. With this post I will give you some hints, what to look for when you are in a Capoeira Angola Roda, but most importantly this information is for you so you dont panic when you feel cornered. Because, if you know what’s going on, you can start thinking about the way how to get out. And not panicking is a good step further on the way to a better game, no?

Geometry of a Roda

Ok, so now the big news, a Roda is a circle. At least almost a circle. On one side of the circle there is the Bateria. And the rest of the circle consists of people. The people observe your game, give energy by singing along and do define the boundaries of your game. These boundaries shouldnt be crossed.  Entrance to the Roda is defined by the edges of the bateria. And entrance into the game is defined by the spot in front of the Gunga. So far  most of these things are things you people already know. Some people who already have seen a Roda de Capoeira Angola will also be able to tell that in a Capoeira Angola Roda people are sitting or crouching in the circle. This helps keeping the circle tight and at one position. More important is that Capoeira Angola circles are usually smaller than circles of Capoeira Regional and Contemporeana. A diameter of about 2 meters or 1.50m (sometimes also only 1 meter) is a good size for a capoeia angola roda. The advantage of this size is that there is actually no space to keep out of reach. One step forward and you are close enough for an attack however the positions where before. This forces both players to play and react properly (on the otherside, usually you also have more time to do so, because too fast games are not liked much in capoeira angola). The knowledge about the dimensions of the Roda you are in is important. Also the knowledge that it’s a circle.


Capoeira has a lot to do with moving around. The Ginga and the Au are the first things you learn in Capoeira. And that is for a reason. There is only few things more boring than a game between two players who stay at their positions. It then resembles one of those 90’s computer games like “Mortal Combat” or “Street Fighter”, where player A is right and player B left. All the round kicks and turns and other movements of Capoeira do make less sense when you only have one direction to take care of (your front). So the first thing to know about the “Space Game” in Capoeira (Angola) is: you are mobile. As simple as it seems, some people panic and freeze at the spot. Although it might not be bad to stay at a spot sometimes, it definitely makes their game less fluent and thus, less attractive. The Roda being a circle does want you to move around each other.

Center vs. Edge

In a circle, and especially while playing Capoeira, there is only few preferred positions. (As a side remark, if you are playing outside, you can try to let your opponent face the sun over longer terms in the game. It’s not exactly fair, but well, life is a bitch!😉 )

The preferred position I am talking about is the center of the circle. In an ideal game between equal partners the game will be very balanced in terms of attack, defense and moving around the center. Most players do regard the center as ideal place in the roda for following reasons:

1. You can move in any direction, left, right, forward (to your partner) and backwards (away from your partner).

2. Your partner/opponent has less opportunities, because behind him there is the edge of the roda. So moving backwards is less of an option.

3. when you stay in the center most of the movements of your opponent will be left or right, which leads to him travelling around you. He is making more meters in the game than you are (because in the center you only have to turn around), which can, in a longer game, be extremely tiring.

On the other side it’s good to know that it’s not a shame to be on the edge. Yes, when you were forced to the edge it’s a sign that the other person did dominate you, but in Capoeira you get dominated once and the next day you dominate, and the other day nothing happens. As long as you dont panic on the edge the game is not lost. And the better you are the more opportunitues you will find to get away – or to gain dominance over the center.

The Art of Cornering

Cornering is a step further than just forcing somebody to stay on the edge of the Roda. Cornering is the art keep the other player close to the edge and to hinder him from moving sideways too, until he a) finds a way out, b) submits by standing still until you let him go or c) does make such a mistake that he could get a Rasteira, Cabecada or some other “finishing movement”. It’s not the nicest way to play with your partner (and some people might get annoyed or agressive because of such a game), because it is almost equivalent to a Rasteira. You stop the possibilities of your partner to move. On the other side, a Rasteira is usually much more spectacular than plain cornering, which is the reason why some people disregard cornering as bullying and playing unfair.

But cornering itself is an art because of two simple facts: a) the Roda is a circle and has no corners and b) touching is not much allowed in Capoeira Angola, so the most effective way to force a person into a corner – by strength – is not allowed. Cornering is something which needs skill, you have to learn it. Here are some tips how to corner (the best tip is to learn it at training):

1. Cornering by size: the bigger you make yourself the harder it gets for the other to get out. When your partner is on the edge and on the ground, standing up is an option (and a danger too, cause a Rasteira or Tesoura might end your attempt). You can also move and place your legs in the possible directions your partner might take, thus hindering him from his escape.

2. Cornering by speed/experience: When you are faster than your opponent you can just move into every direction he just wanted to move. This is not so easy, cause at a certain speed you will not be able to distinguish a feint from a real attempt to escape. And when you speed up your partner will speed up too. This will eventually spiral up to a speed where you will hear the Berimbau calling you cause you have been too fast. Experience helps more in this terms. This includes the ability to read the other player. When you know what he is gonna do then you dont have to be fast to be able to block that movement.

3. Cornering by psychology (or Mandinga): The best way to corner a person is making that person believe there is no way out. Either you scare that person by a sudden change in speed level or you distract him by a certain smile. Or you just look into a certain spot in a way that he thinks you gonna go there. Or you just dont look at him anymore (keeping an eye on him on the edge of your sight) which makes him nervous or at least ignorant about your motivation. These are only a few possibilities I can think of. And I guess that there are thousand others.

The Art of Escape

A good player does not only know how to corner somebody, but also how to get out of that. The ways to get out of there in a nice way are easily described, but all of them do need one premise: no panic. If you dont panic, and this accounts for the whole game, you cant do much wrong. Because if you panic, you will react instinctively, which can be wrong. Some of those reactions are letting yourself fall, run out of the roda, starting to grap the opponent, knocking him out, run against your partner, and stuff like that. All of them are ways do get you out, but with that you are killing the game. So which are the ways to get out of there?

1. Escaping by refusing: You can stop moving. OK, this is actually submitting yourself and giving up, accepting that the other person did corner you and that you are not able or willing to get out. At a certain point, your opponent will have to release you (otherwise the game will have to end). It’s not the best way to get out, but it’s far better than using brute force – or falling out of the Roda.

2. Escaping by fighting back: There are several movements which can help you get out of the corner. All of these are attacks which make your opponent back up or move another way. Those movements dont work always and with every opponent, but using them is often very secure and leaves you with more space at the end than before. These movements are: Tesoura, Cabecada and Chapa de Costas (amongst some other). All of these are simple movements, and that makes them so effective. On the other side, there is always the possibility to get a counter-attack, so dont think that they are optimum solutions.

3. Escaping by Blocking: A major part of cornering is hindering a person to go this way or that way. But this game can be played by both. This will eventually lead to a Remis situation, which wouldnt improve the dynamics of the game but would definitely improve your own situation.

4. Escaping by intelligence: finally, the best way to escape is also exactly the best way how to corner a person. By anticipating, by experience, by wit, by Malicia and Mandinga. If you are experienced and dominant enough you can make the opponent think you will definitely go there. Thus, if he tries to block that possibility he has to open up other possibilities.

Finally, you have to realize that this is only part of the game. It’s important and some of these hints are both smart in Capoeira Angola and Regional/Contemporeana. And, I know I repeat myself here, dont panic!


Filed under The Game

13 responses to “Surviving a Capoeira Angola Roda II: Space

  1. Erfurgem

    I just saw a fragment of the blog, havent got time to read, but my eye fell on one thing; the word ‘panic’.
    Just to be on the safe side; others might, but I dont panic when Im trapped in the game. I just find it plain annoying. And that has to do with personal space. It is my space and nobody is allowed in there without approval. Not only in capoeira, but in life. You do that? I simply go backwards, as in our culture that is more polite then to start a fight about it. And then you create a point where you are literary trapped; against the wall.

    And that is probably the reason why there is not much angola going on in Holland. We like our personal space VERY MUCH.

  2. Well, maybe the Dutch are just wusses😉 No, kidding (I dont wanna decrease my life expectancy dramatically here!)! It’s not that I havent seen people panic, get angry or nervous or whatever in that situation. But keeping a cool head definitely helps to get out of there – in a sensible way. Anyway, you might be right. In Capoeira Angola you gotta learn how to live with somebody being in very close proximity. Maybe that’s what makes the Dutch go for the “bit-more-distance-here-am-I-you-are-there” games of modern Capoeira. Though I guess it’s not the only reason (Germans are also known for their huge personal spaces and Germany has quite some groups…).

  3. oh yeah, and one thing which helps definitely: train being close. In capoeira angola you train all the movements close to your partner. so you kind of get used to that (and even more, you will search for the close proximity, cause that’s where you feel comfortable after a while!)

  4. xixarro

    Again a nice post angoleiro.

    But I have a question that’s been on my mind for a long time and I never got to ask it.

    You say you can use tesoura to get out. Can you really use this in any angola game? Or only in certain angola games (angola vs. SB Pequeno vs SB Grande de Angola)?

    I never quite understood how this fits with ‘don’t touch eachother’. And if it’s allowed, can you then also go for banda or rasteira?

  5. Erfurgem

    @ angoleiro;

    mind you, I play regional…. your last remark only accounts if you actually want to play angola….

  6. Thanks Xixarro, trying my best🙂
    To your question. I guess you overestimate the definitions of “Capoeira Angola styles”. All of Capoeira Angola does allow Tesoura and Rasteira (though a Banda is sth you rarely see). Especially when the Tesoura used is a Tesoura de Angola and when the Rasteira used is timed and placed well. Often the execution of the movement itself is not needed in Capoeira Angola. It’s enough to show that you can. when your partner is smart enough, he will get the message and – preferably – move away. If not, you might need a bit more to convince him to leave. In terms of not touching each other it perfectly fits. Because dont touch each other is a simplified view of a Capoeira Angola game. Saying “you dont touch each other in Capoeira Angola” is the same as saying “Capoeira Angola is played slowly all the time”. Capoeira Angola does have times when to play slow, times to play fast, times and places where you dont touch a person, and times and places where that person better do a negativa. Thus, it’s not a matter of “if”, but a matter of “when is it allowed”. Explaining the times when it is is extremely complicated. I guess my reponse to you here has to be “you know when you are in the game, and if you it wrong, you find out”.

  7. Hey Erfurgem, you are right. All I am writing is always referred to Capoeira Angola🙂

  8. xixarro

    Oh yes, that makes sense.
    And I forgot about tesoura de angola for a moment. I was solely thinking about tesoura de joelho and tesoura de cintura from regional🙂

  9. Oh yeah, that can happen. When I am talking about tesoura I usually talk about the one from Angola. I dont even think of the other tesouras. On the other side, it’s not that we dont learn the others, we just use them rarely.

  10. xixarro

    My fault entirely my friend. I should have thought of tesoura de angola when I’m reading an angoleiro’s blog😎

  11. Matter of perspective. I think a lot of my readers think of a different tesoura than I do when I write this word. But that, again, is just a problem of written information. and that’s the reason why you cant learn Capoeira Angola and Capoeira in general via Internet.

  12. xixarro

    But we can learn a mighty lot ABOUT capoeira instead🙂

  13. yup, you are right. otherwise this blog wouldnt make sense at all, no?

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