Category Archives: Capoeira Today

Capoeira for a good cause

capoeira_kids_76dp

All Capoeiristas say over and over again that Capoeira is not only a martial art. We tend to look down on other martial artists in the knowledge that they just learn how to bash their heads while we get to learn movement, music and philosophy in one. Actually, that is unfair, cause other martial arts do also have underlying philosophies. Still there is clearly differences between Capoeira and most other martial arts. Some of these differences come out of the fact that capoeira did not evolve in temples or was invented by soldiers in some academy. Those who did practise Capoeira in the past, were usually underprivileged people like slaves, unemployed men, street thugs and such. Capoeira did grow and develop further on the streets (taking advantage of the rich culture of African rituals, dances and martial arts brought by Africans to Brazil – but for this story check out the posts under “African Roots“). Maybe because of this, because most of today’s teachers still know what poverty and oppression does with people, many Capoeira schools are involved in social projects, trying to give the people “o povo” what belongs to them: hope, perspective, movement.

“Capoeira Beyond Brazil”

I realized the importance of this topic when I was reading a book which was sent to me by Blue Snake Books. It is named “Capoeira Beyond Brazil” and is written by Aniefre Essien (Tartaruga), who is teaching Capoeira to at risk youth in Oakland, California since 1998.

cover

The people from Blue Snakes Books asked me to write a review about this book. As I never wrote a review before (except in school, but that doesnt count) I was very interested in doing so, especially when it was about a Capoeira Book I never had heard of before. So I sat down and read this book and I liked it. I wrote this review a long time ago, but due to many reasons I was not able to complete it well and it took months – till today – till I was able and willing to do so. In the meantime one of my favourite Capoeira Bloggers Mandingueira did already post a review about this book. That’s why I decided to take this review one little step further and give a glimpse on this topic, Capoeira and Social Engagement. So, better late than never, here’s the review:

“Capoeira Beyond Brazil” is a short book written in easily understandable language, in which “Tartaruga” manages to give a good overview about many aspects of Capoeira. The first chapters do mainly concentrate on the classical topics, like history, the game and the training, and is perfectly fit for the beginner to have a quick understanding about capoeira. The last chapters are interesting for both beginners and advanced Capoeiristas. Because as Capoeira is expanding and becoming a world-wide practised sport, art and lifestyle, new challenges come up which have to be faced.  Essien writes about a broad spectrum of topics, like commercialization of the art and it’s misuse by some teachers as a tool to oppress their students. Of course, there is so many topics, that Essien wasnt able to cover them all  in a satisfacting manner, but as capoeira players will read about these in his book, their awareness about the existence of these problems will -hopefully- increase.

Of the highest interest for me was his detailed description of the history and reality of the project “Nosso Quilombo”. Essien’s dedicated work with children who grow up in a neighbourhood full of crime and violence and his success in this work is a good example for many Capoeira groups. Especially for those groups whose focus was, till now, the mere improvement of the teacher’s financial situation. Today Capoeira is still a force of change, and not only in Brazil, where the lives of many street children changed when they started practising this art, but also in the U.S., as this example shows us so nicely.

The strength of this book is that it is easy to understand and written from a personal point of view, enriched by Essien’s own experiences as student and teacher of Capoeira. It doesnt want to teach you as a Capoeirista, what to do, but tells merely what Essien thinks is right, explained using simpes examples out of his Capoeira life. Thus I can recommend this book, especially for beginners who just started with Capoeira and want to know why people make such a fuzz about it.

Capoeira and Society

Now, “Tartaruga” is, as you will see when you read the book, a Contemporean Capoeirista. This is a fact which I actually like a lot, because I have already heard a lot about social projects of Capoeira Angola groups, to a lesser extent I have heard about social projects of modern groups of Capoeira. It’s not that they dont exist, I guess even that you have also a lot of social projects of modern Capoeira groups. We just dont hear much of these.

Of course, some people say Capoeira is a martial art and a hundred years ago it was not connected to social projects but to tough guys who would beat each other’s brains out on a regular basis. Those who do argue like that dont see the changes of Capoeira during the time. As much as there is a difference between Capoeira in the times of slavery and Capoeira in times of the late 19th century street thugs, it also changed since it became legalized and en vogue in the last 60 years of its development. People of  “higher education” and of other social ranks started playing Capoeira. And for them Capoeira was not an obligatory school of survival or there favourite pass-time because they didnt have nothing to do. For them it started to be a hobby, which they can practise and then leave the training grounds and go home safely. The difference between these new Capoeiristas and the old guard is, that many new Capoeiristas are staying on safe financial and social  grounds and are thus able to help others. The modern Capoeirista can help the weak and poor much more than Capoeiristas of past times (at least in some parts). Now you cant force anybody to be charitable. Charity and egagement in social projects must be voluntary, so I wont start and discuss about “the duties of the ones which are better off than the poor”. What I want to point out though is that if somebody wants to do something charitable and does also train Capoeira, that he should realize that he actually has a powerful tool in his own hands. Capoeira as a visual, physical and musical art has so many facets and does attract people of so many different backgrounds that it is perfect for binding people, giving people some valve to get out the frustration with life, helping people express themselves in a way that they never experienced.

And if you say, you have no idea what to do, just check out the projects of every bigger master of Capoeira. Most of these masters do come from poor backgrounds. So their projects are more than just charity or social projects. They do comprehend the problems of “o povo”. And because most of them did find a way out of the misery via Capoeira, they feel obliged to give something back, again via Capoeira. So which projects are there? It’s impossible to give a good list of all projects. One of the good projects is obviously “Nosso Quilombo” from Tartaruga, but there are also the projects of  Mestre Moraes, Mestre Boa Gente, Mestre Russo, Mestre Janja, Mestre Cobra Mansa and Mestre Lua Rasta. And this is just the ones which came up in my mind spontaneously. Just check them out.

 

Axé!

Picture sources: http://www.bodysportbrazil.com/

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Open Roda in Amsterdam

Hello people,
yes, I am still alive. And these days there will be another post on this blog, but first things first:

Capoeira Angola Center of the Netherlands presents

Umoja (The spirit of togetherness)

A time to reflect on unity within our families, communities & nations.

Open Roda
Sunday 1 March 09
14.00 – 17.00

All styles are welcome…wear Capoeira clothes and sport shoes to play.

Bring a friend, fruits, juices & only positive energy!

Mercatorplein 17, Amsterdam
Tram 7 & 13 to Mercatorplein

For more information:
Phone: +31-64-881-4758 Email: capoeiraangolanl[at]gmail.com

check out the site of The Capoeira Angola Center of the Netherlands, too!

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Mixing styles: Can you train both Angola and Regional?

This is one of the most controverse topics in discussions between Angoleiros and Regionalistas. And it is a question which is coming up more and more often since several groups claim for themselves that they a) practise both or b) that the dichotomy between Regional and Angola is artificial and thus, that they are training “Capoeira só”. Capoeira e uma so, I agree. But most of the time this sentence is used to downsize the existing difference between the styles. Isnt it possible that there is one Capoeira, but with two different styles? Can you intermix those styles?

Capoeira e uma so?

First I want to talk about the difference between Capoeira Angola and modern variants of Capoeira. The question I want to ask is: how big is the difference? Because, if there is no big difference between the two styles of Capoeira, than the issue is not that big, right? We have to keep in mind that these styles are not monolithic constructs. They did develop over time and under the influence of different mestres and different schools, thus both evolving into artforms with a lot of variants. Thus the issue get’s more complicated than you think.

Let’s chose the most simple solution to this problem. Below I posted 6 videos of Capoeira games and you people will make a self-test and see if you can see the difference between an Angola game and a Regional game.

Ok, so most of you were able to distinguish the different styles here, right? Good, for me that’s proof enough that there is not only one Capoeira, bBut two distinguishable styles.

Enter: Capoeira Angonal

Can you intermix the styles?  As supporters of a mixed Capoeira do say over and over again, there was no dichotomy between Capoeira Regional and Capoeira Angola before Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha started teaching these. So logically there should be the possibility to get back to the traditional “pre-forms” of Capoeira by mixing Capoeira Angola and Regional, right? Although this logic seems to be intriguing, as an Angoleiro I have to say that there is one basic mistake in this assumption. That is to see Capoeira Angola as something which did evolve from the old Capoeira and which is significantly different from it, as different as other modern variants of Capoeira. We Angoleiros do insist on the fact that Capoeira Angola is the traditional Capoeira (or at least what comes closest to it). The dichotomy did evolve when the modern form of Capoeira Regional did come to existence. So if somebody wants to rely on tradition, why doesnt he play Capoeira Angola?

Thus, when you try to intermix the modern form with the traditional form, then what you wont get back to a traditional form. Present mixes of Capoeira Regional and Capoeira Angola are sometimes called Capoeira Contemporeana or Capoeira Angonal. When you search for both terms you will find modern Capoeira groups, Angoleiros still would still call them Regionalistas. Check it yourself on Youtube by typing in Capoeira Angonal. Some of the videos do sometimes resemble an Angola game, but as an Angoleiro (and I assume also as a modern Capoeirista) you will be able to see the difference. On the other side I have to admit that it is hard to name the differences. There is a lot differentiating the Angoleiro from the Regionalista: the ginga, the way of moving, the use of malicia (there is also malicia in modern Capoeira though), the expression, the speed, the proximity of the players to each other and much more. Although we might not be able to pinpoint it, we can tell if we see an Angoleiro playing or not.

But what is with those old Capoeiristas who did say that they were neither Regional and neither Angola like Mestre Canjiquinha or Mestre Leopoldina?

With these Mestres it is more difficult to put them into certain categories, as they are clearly no Regionalistas, but they seem to differ from the typical Angoleiro style. To answer this you have to remember that most Angoleiros nowadays are in the tradition of Mestre Pastinha and his students Mestre Joao Grande and Joao Pequeno. But there were other mestres, and those played different. For Angoleiros there is no contradiction. The other old mestres might play differently, but for an Angoleiro they are clearly traditional Capoeiristas, thus: Angoleiros. On the other side, supporters of the “Capoeira e uma so” idea do bring these examples as evidence that present day Capoeira Angola is also just a new style and that by practising Capoeira Angonal, you are actually really traditional! Angoleiros, seeing themselves as protectors of the traditional Capoeira, see “Angonalistas”, their game, and start getting suspicious. Is Capoeira Angonal just a marketing idea, brought up when being “traditional” started to be cool again? Because, Capoeira Angonal did not exist (neither as word nor as idea) when traditional Capoeira was threatened by extinction, when being modern was all, and being traditional was considered antiquated or plain stupid. Only when people started realizing that being traditional is not equal to being old-fashioned and antiquated, and when traditional Capoeira did start to rise in reputation again, only then the “true” “pre-forms” of dichotomy free Capoeira did come up.

Can you train both and keep them separate?

So, for an Angoleiro you can’t intermix the styles and make a Capoeira Angonal. That would be just taking over some of the traditions, but keeping the modern changes in it. Thus, it would still not be traditional Capoeira Angola. It would be more like taking your favourite pieces to spice your game up again, but denying the rest.

On the other side there are other groups who say that they train both, but separated from each other, having Capoeira Angola classes in one week and Capoeira Regional classes the other weeks. At first thought, there cant be a big problem with this, right? The only thing you have to do then is to define when you are going to play Regional, and when you are going to play Angola. I have met people who did say that they train both and yes, you could see that. It was still not the game of an Angoleiro. The following video is an example where you see a group of Regionalistas training Capoeira Angola.

But be careful: It’s not that Angoleiros dont appreciate when modern Capoeiristas do show interest in Capoeira Angola. I love it and I wish much more modern Capoeiristas would do that! But you should be aware that everybody will see the difference between a pure Angoleiro and a Capoeirista who learned to play Capoeira Angola.

At the end: it is one body and one brain we are training. And if you have seen people from other martial arts training Capoeira you know exactly what I mean. What you learned before, does influence your game. Be it another martial art, be it Capoeira Regional or Capoeira Angola. I trained for a year with a group of Capoeira Contemporeana, and I have observed two things about my game: One, if I would want to play the same way as the students of that group, I would have to train years with them, and concentrate on not using what I learned before. Only after years people will have a hard time seeing if I was an Angoleiro before or not. And on the other side, only after a year of training with a modern Capoeira group my first Capoeira Angola teacher and other Angoleiros could see the difference in my game. Less than before I was going into Jogo de Dentro, I was kind of restricted in my game. Had problems seeing through the malicia of my teacher, and so on.

I dont say it’s bad that I trained with a group of modern Capoeira. Life is a learning process and for sure I have learned things in the last year. But I realized myself that my game started to change, and develop away from my Capoeira Angola skills. That is why I now start focusing on Capoeira Angola again.

Is it impossible to play both?

No it’s not, when you see Mestres play you can see that there are a lot of Mestres who can play both styles of Capoeira. With some of the bigger Mestres it is impossible to see if they are Angoleiros or Regionalistas. They blend into any Roda. And that’s something admirable for sure. One nice example is the game in the following video.

But to be able to blend into both styles does not only need the will to do it, but also the coordination and the experience to do so. For the usual student of modern Capoeira, like most of my readers, it is impossible to play Angola Angoleiro style. And for me it is impossible to play Regional Regional style.

At least not with a few years of experience.

Thus…

So what does it mean for us? First, we have to decide on what we are gonna be. Do we want to be Angoleiros or Regionalistas? Do we want to concentrate on one, or do we want to learn both? It’s not a mistake to chose to learn both styles. I can see that there are different qualities in the different styles and that you want to learn and experience them both. I as an Angoleiro dont want to recommend on training some kind of mix of the two styles, because these mixes have not proven themselves to be a real alternative to the established schools and styles. And I would also recommend you to learn the two styles in different schools. Not because one school might not be able to learn you the basics of both, but because the chance to learn both properly is higher when you go to a modern Capoeirista for modern Capoeira, and to an Angoleiro for Capoeira Angola.

Axé!

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Today is Carybé Day

É argentino, é brasileiro, é quichua,

é asteca, é inca, é carioca por bossa

mas baiano por fé.

É amigo do mundo inteiro

menos de quem náo dá pé.

Canta cantigas de Cuzco

da Havana e do Tremenbé.

É um sambista milongueiro

Bate um violáo de terreiro.

E é santo de cadomblé.

–Vincius de Moraes

 

On the 1nd of October 1997 a guy named Hector Julio Paride Bernabó died while attending a Candomblé ceremony in the city of Salvador, Bahia. With his dead Salvador lost one of its big recent artists. Capoeiristas, Brazilians and artists around the world know him more under his name Carybé.

First of all, I have to admit, I am illiterate in terms of art. You cant possibly walk through a museum faster than I do. It’s not a lack of interest, I am usually not even aware of arts – as long as it is not Capoeira-related. So you can guess now why this guy fills a whole post in this blog? Well, because this guy had a unique ability to capture the beauty of Salvador, of Afrobrazilian culture and, of all, of Capoeira (Angola) in his pictures. I had one of his pictures on my shirts before I knew who this guy was. And as such, and as it is now 11 years ago that he died, I thought it would be great to acknowledge his life and art on this blog!

The person

 

At the 7th of February, 1911 in the city of Lanús a boy named Hector Julio Páride Bernabó was born. Lanús is a city in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentine. In Rio de Janeiro he worked as an errand boy and earned his name Carybé, which is a type of a piranha. When he was 14 he started engaging in artwork in his elder brother’s atelier in Rio and 2 years later he started studying in the Escola National de Belas Artes. After his studies Carybé did work as graphic artist for different journals and eventually visited Salvador for the first time. This was in the year of 1938. Only after many other travels and jobs he had, visiting all over South America, he was invited to stay in Bahia in the year 1950. And there he stayed till his death in the year of 1997. Here he produced his greatest artworks, like As Três Mulheres da Xângo and worked together with great contemporary artists like Pierre Verger or Jorge Amado. But Carybé was not only a famous artist, but he was also an Oba de Xângo, a Candomblé priest till his very end. At the 1st of October 1997 he died during a ceremony.

His art

 

Carybé was priest, painter, graphics artist and sculptor. His most known artswork does picture Afrobrazilian culture as he has seen it in his 47 years of Salvador, Bahia – and thus, is one of the most valuable sources of information on life in late 20 centuries Bahia. Of special mentioning are his pictures about Candomblé and of Orixás, which does leave us insight into a culture most non-Candomblistas won’t see much (especially us Gringos who are not even living in Bahia, let alone in Brazil!). Beautiful examples are his sculptures of Orixás, like the one of Oxun you see below.

 Capoeira

Carybé did also visit Rodas de Capoeira Angola, like Mestre Waldemar’s Roda in the Liberdade neighbourhood. Here he was in the 60’s and made his drawings, which are nowadays known in the whole Capoeira Community. I have seen a lot of them without noticing that it was actually Carybé. But next time one of you sees one of these pictures, or one which does look alike, maybe you will remember one of the few artists who was able to capture Capoeira’s beauty with only a few lines on paper. And now I will leave you alone with a couple of Carybé’s Capoeira pictures. Sit back and enjoy!

 

So, that’s it. No, it’s for sure not all the artwork you can find of Carybé. On the site of Capoeira-Info.org you can also read and see one of his booklets “A jogo da capoeira” with many beautiful drawings of Capoeira. Carybé was extremely active and I leave it to you people to look further and jump into this tiny, but strong, bits of Afrobrazilian culture Carybé is presenting us with his artwork.

 

In memoriam:

Carybé, 1911-1997

 

Sources:

Wikipedia

http://www.pinturabrasileira.com/artistas_bio.asp?cod=81&in=1 (Portuguese)

 http://www.geocities.com/Athens/6415/carybe_opener2.html

http://capoeira-infos.org

Pictures:

www.artenet.com.br

www.macacocapoeira.free.fr

www.uniflorgta.edu.br

www.vitorbraga.com.br

www.nzinga.org.br

http://musibrasil.net

www.gruposenzala.com

www.pitoresco.com.br

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Are Angoleiros Snobs?

The other day I talked with a Regionalista whom I didnt know much. And in this conversation he was talking about a teacher of Capoeira Angola who was (quote) “like all Angoleiros a bit of a snob”. He knew who he was talking to, so I smiled and replied “yeah I know, I’m like that, too.” Actually I was not even mad about that, I kind of saw where this prejudice is coming from.

Prejudices

It is kind of true. Angoleiros do often look down on modern Capoeiristas, or – and this is much more the case – try to point out why Capoeira Angola is preferable. Angoleiros do bitch about the music, which is so much better in Capoeira Angola than in Capoeira Regional, they do state that the interaction is missing in Capoeira Regional, they do say that modern Capoeira did lost its roots and does prefer muscle over brain and full-body-workout over freeing your soul. Some Angoleiros do smile when they see a pumped up guy walking around in his white Abada, because that Regionalista is so clichè! Of course this is not a one-way road. I have heard enough remarks which made me go mad, like “your training is for sissys”, “yu call that capoeira, I show you what Capoeira is” or just “well, Capoeira Angola is just slower Capoeira”. And the stereotype of the smelly Angoleiro with dreads and being stoned like a wall is so old, I won’t even touch it.

Where does it come from?

The habits Capoeiristas of my age (not that old) are showing around today – all these prejudices – are nothing new. It has its roots in recent Capoeira history. It’s the phenomenon of the Regional-Angola dichotomy which arouse in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This dichotomy did come to existence when Capoeira Regional did start growing rapidly due to the achievements and the regulations made by the Senzala group and their contemporaries. In those times Capoeira Angola was still small and stayed small till the 80’s, where some people said that Capoeira Angola actually died out. In these times Angoleiros had to struggle for acceptance in the Capoeira scene. The new modern Capoeira scene was growing so fast and there were so many Regionalistas who did believe that modernity and change was good and that traditions are to be discarded, that they saw Angoleiros as something inferior. “We put the angoleiros on the grounds and stamp on their heads.” is a quote Mestre Moraes cited about some comments he heard of Regionalistas (you can read this in Nestor Capoeiras ‘The Little Capoeira Book’). A lot of Mestres de Capoeira Angola resigned in those times and only a few did fight fiercly for their acceptance. In those times the GCAP from Mestre Moraes did start saving Capoeira Angola. Mestre Moraes, a highly valuable Mestre, is often seen as a difficult personality, as a typical example of the fanatical Angoleiro. What most people don’t see is that his way to stick to the traditions and to actively distinguish and define Capoeira Angola from modern Capoeira was the only way to keep the Capoeira Angola scene alive. If it was not for him and Mestres alike him, Capoeira Angola would still vegetate in an existence like in the early eighties, or it might be de facto non-existent.

And this is the heritage Angoleiros do carry around. We are learning movements, philosophy and attitudes from our Mestres and our teachers. And even if they personally didnt live through the hard times of Capoeira Angola, then it was their teachers who did.

Of course there are also other cases, like Angoleiros who were Regionalistas before. These convertits do have a classical convertit-attitude. They are Angoleiros because they are convinced that Capoeira Angola is the right Capoeira. If you started in a Capoeira Angola group from the very beginning (like I did) it’s quite likely that your attitude is less strict. People who changed usually fight hard for their acceptance as Angoleiros in the beginning (well, they even have to learn the Ginga from the very beginning) and might have the need to prove themselves, and also to convince others that the change from Regional to Angola does pay off.

And finally there are the ones who just see the success of Capoeira Regional and do feel the need to point out that Capoeira Angola does have its own qualities, which makes it a real alternative. Everybody knows that Capoeira Regional does have a strong effect on the common audience. People who have no idea about Capoeira do get attracted more often by Regionalistas than by Angoleiros. Capoeira Regional is considered to be cooler. Capoeira classes and workshops of modern Capoeira are usually much more crowded, while a group size of more than 20 is already quite big for a group of Capoeira Angola. Also the average age of Regionalistas seems to be lower than the age of Angoleiros. All this does certainly rise the need for some comments by Angoleiros.

Is this changing?

Yes it is. Capoeira Angola does more and more get the respect it deserves. More and more Mestres and teachers of modern Capoeira do accept Capoeira Angola as being a striving, modern part of Capoeira – and not just history which is only kept alive by some stick-in-the-muds. Capoeira Angola is still small in comparison with modern Capoeira. But it has found its nichè and new confidence does allow interstyle contacts, meetings, workshops and rodas. This development does not only occur between Mestres and teachers, but also between students. Angoleiros and Regionalistas do get more and more involved with each other. Some Capoeiristas try to learn both (which is something I’d post later about), some say that they do merge things together which were splitted in the past, and some just accept that the styles are different, but not to be compared in terms of what is better, what sucks?  Comparison between Capoeira Angola and Regional should be more What does suit me more?

This doesnt mean that you will never encounter snobistic Angoleiros, but this also does not mean that I will never meet a guy who says that Capoeira Angola is for old men, until I prove him otherwise 😉 What do we learn out of this? Don’t be too harsh with the Angoleiro’s attitude of teaching you or telling you what Capoeira Angola is about. This attitude is decreasing and as such you don’t have to bother (much) with it in future. And I try not to get annoyed when some Regionalista guy comes up to me and tries to explain to me that Capoeira Angola is too slow for him;)

And if there is an active Angoleiro-Regionalista contact, that will lead to so many interesting workshops, games and Rodas. And that certainly it will pay off in future, enriching both styles and the Capoeira scene in general. For a nice example of an interstyle game see this video:

picture source: http://www.nzinga.org.br/

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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!

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Bring Capoeira Back to the Streets!

Street Capoeira

This topic is circulating through my mind since a couple of weeks. Maybe it is due to me leaving my first Capoeira group more than a year ago, which lead to me visiting groups and training with different groups – also regional, which is not really my line of Game. Anyway, during those times I started to see Groups and Academies differently. It is not that I do have a problem with all the typical group issues which can come up when you are in one (see Mandingueiras page for this, she has some pretty good posts in there!). I just thought about one question, and that is the question I am gonna contemplate upon in this post:

Does Capoeira really have to be stuck in Academies?

I know it is a provoking thought, questioning about 80 years of Capoeira History and a lot of teachers would decapitate me with a clean martello for this, but Capoeira did survive because people did have the flexibility of thinking in another way. So that’s what I am doing right now: Thinking the other way.

Of course “Bring Capoeira Back to the Streets” is a very placative exclamation and more an eyecatcher for you people than meant that way. No, I think without academies Capoeira would still delve in the marginality in which Mestre Bimba did find it 80 years ago and did lift it up into publicity. Without academies only some special ethnologists or Brazil-fanatics would even know what Capoeira is, nobody would play it and I would still not be able to do a handstand (and would have not chosen any sport at all for my life!). So academies do have a pretty big influence on what Capoeira IS today. Actually, Capoeira is almost only to be found in academies (or at least groups). In Europe and North America much more than in Brazil. I will later come back to the advantages of academies for Capoeira (I think most of you do intuitively know it anyway…). But much more interesting is: Why do I come up with the Streets at all? What is what Streets can give Capoeira?

I’ll name three advantages of Capoeira on the Streets and then name some disadvantages and why the academies are exactly at the right spot for this.

Pro: Capoeira on the Streets

Capoeira on the Streets

a) The first thing one have to think about is that Capoeira does actually come from the streets – or at least has spent a lot of time on the streets, in suburbian Brazil, on the docks of Bahia, Rio, Recife. Of course, I as an Angoleiro do say that Capoeira comes from African slaves, but some major changes were coming exactly from the time when Capoeira was played on the streets. It grew up in marginality, being chased down by the police and being frowned upon by “general” society. Then, some brilliant mind called Mestre Bimba did succeed in pushing through the academies and although society did not really accept Capoeira, yet academies were ok. It was some people doing that stuff between walls, out of the sight of the public (and if, then it was some kind of folklore demonstration…at least that was what people might have thought). It was a Capoeira being under control. If there was a problem with Capoeiristas you did not have to hunt down a solitude Capoeirista, but just go to his school – and the problem was solved. This everything was good for Capoeiras survival, and once it survived and was tolerated, it could start spreading around. Yeah, but on the other side it is now stuck in this academies. Even in Brazil you have so many academies and groups that usually there is always a Capoeira school some kind of Capoeirista belongs to. Does it have to be like that? Is not Capoeira, learned and practised on the street, some kind of a more authentic way of Capoeira? Less ‘imprisoned’?

b) And this leads to my second point in arguing for Capoeira on the streets. With Mestre Bimba’s academy, and the thousands of spawning academies which basically do form the Capoeira Regional and Contemporeana scene of today, a whole other way of teaching entered the Capoeira world. There were groups before, and the one or other teacher might have taught Capoeira in a more structured way. But the real structured way of teaching came to Capoeira in the wave of the academies. What is wrong with this? Well, structured and standadized ways of teaching do usually not concentrate on a single student’s needs, problems or strengths, but somehow takes “the average student” which is a non-existing prototype. After a while in the standardized training method, each individual student does come closer and closer to “the average student” leading to a whole bunch of students, which play alike! And that’s what is the problem of academies. You can actually see where a Capoeirista comes from, when you know a specific group’s style. That is true for every size of group, but when you have groups with thousands of students, then this becomes a problem. Capoeira is born and lives from its diversity. Thus, uniformity does kill it. And that is something which can’t happen that easily on the streets. When people learn by playing other people, they might take over techniques of one specific capoeirista, but there will be the influence of a lot of other players – leading to more diversity.

c) The last point I have is actually the most important, to me. With Capoeira in Academies you have one problem. They are not out there. And if they are, then Capoeiristas are part of a show, with sometimes defined people (who plays the berimbau? who does the acrobatics? who’s playing whom? and so on…). That is not the same as we are playing in our Rodas amongst Capoeiristas, right? This way Capoeira will have it hard to integrate into any society other than the Brazilian society. We are here, outside of Brazil, playing Capoeira since 30 years, and still I have to explain people what Capoeira is. It gets better, but most people actually have no idea about Capoeira, until they have trained it… for years. But if Capoeira is part of street culture, people will be able to recognize the sound of the Berimbau, be able to link Capoeira to Brazil and will get interested easier. It will stop being a rare phenomenon and finally find its place in the middle of society.

So, now enough advantages. There are also major drawbacks of Street-Capoeira.

Contra: Capoeira on the Streets/Pro: Academies

Capoeira Academy

a) My first pro-point was that Capoeira was something that was belonging to the streets before Mestre Bimba came along and did make some serious changes. It is, of course, a romanticized view to say that everything was better. Street Capoeira was having an existence in marginality. And this was not only because it was a black sport. It was also a violent game. This inherent violence made it troublesome, threatening and suspicious for ‘general society’. And these were good reasons to chase Capoeiristas. At least for the ‘society’. (That a lot of Capoeiristas did the things they do out of poor desperation, or because there was no other way, that is something people do forget easily, but that is another topic.) Now let us go 10 years into the future and think of a Capoeira street scene somewhere in a major Norht American and European city. And suddenly violence does occur. Two groups/gangs of Capoeiristas do make use of knives in the Roda, or of shotguns… Well, welcome back to the situation of Rio in 19th century. I am exaggerating a bit, but where I am coming down to is this: Without academies there is no control of Capoeira at all. That is sometimes good for Capoeiras freedom, but we all know that Capoeira was also used for other purposes. And when Capoeiristas do become a source of trouble in other than Brazilian societies the reputation of Capoeiristas will drop into a grey area we all do not want to belong to. And it just needs a couple of stupid people for this! How does the oriental saying go? “When one idiot does throw a stone into font, ten wise men will not be able to get it out.

b) Another disadvantage of a street capoeirista is quite obvious and was obvious to a lot of old Mestres when they first saw regionalistas (the phenomenon is still existent today, though I think in a lesser degree than in the past). Street Capoeira does not teach you how to do things efficiently or beautifully or anything else. The degree of technique taught in a Capoeira Academy is – because of a streamlined and structural way of learning – higher than on the streets. Because of this we have more highly developed Capoeiristas than ever before. There is even still a difference between Regionalistas and Angoleiros. Angoleiros do usually receive a less structured lesson than Regionalistas. This does lead to the fact that Regionalistas learn playing and do achieve high performance faster than Angoleiros. Learning Capoeira Angola does need more time – with the advantage of pretty individualized styles. But even Angoleiros today do have much more structurized training than people had before.

c) The last point I have against a street capoeira scene is actually a direct response to my last pro argument. Capoeiras integration into society and a street Capoeira scene in Europe and North America (and Asia, Africa or Australia) would change Capoeira itself. It would generate some kind of local Capoeira, which is in danger of losing its roots. As an Angoleiro I am very considered that nobody forgets what Capoeira was, what the traditions are and that the Game does not lose its characeristics. Without an Academy the danger of losing Capoeiras identity is very high. When you think about it, MEstre Pastinha’s academy did evolve especially because there was a need of saving Capoeira Angola was felt. Maybe only this and the efforts of people organized in academies did save Capoeira Angola. And that is something I should not forget myself – e.g.when I am contemplating about Capoeira on the Streets yes or no. Capoeira might loose its cultural roots.

So where do we land at the very end. Should Capoeira go back to the streets? Yes and no – as it is with everything in the world, right? I think the invention of academies did save Capoeira and make it so big and this will continue. Without the academies the Capoeira world will shrink, diffuse or drift into a position where it is folklore or a violent game. Both nothing we really would like to have. And what can we do about this. Well, first of all: Belong and do not lose contact to one or other academy. They are the basis of Capoeira today and there are pretty good reasons to leave it like that. And on the other side – if your teacher does allow it – play on the streets. Do play with other people, meet up and do something. Let’s live Capoeira!

Axé!

 Pictures taken from: www.salvador-portal.com , www.wikipedia.org and www.achebrasil.com

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