Capoeira: Have your say!

Mestre Fernando "Usro" and CM Eurico in a Roda at the III Brazil Sweden Cultural Exchange

Capoeira Narratives: Share yours!

If you would like to help me keep my research on Capoeira and Social Inclusion tuned with the issues and problems faced by non-Brazilian practitioners within the Art-form, come and share your narrative.

The spreading of Capoeira from Bahia to other Brazilian states, as well as from Brazil to many other countries, to a great extent, affects how the art is been practised worldwide; including in Brazil. Brazilian practitioners are usually proud to note the multinational acceptance of the art, but generally not so keen to discuss how this intercultural interplay acts upon Capoeira.

Whether your experience in Capoeira provides a positive or a negative testimony towards Capoeira and social inclusion, please come and share your story. This will help me tune my research to the reality of Capoeira and its practitioners out of Brazil.

Thanks for your collaboration.

29 Responses to Capoeira: Have your say!

  1. sandro lionello aka vovo' says:

    “I started to practise Capoeira in the so called Regional style. I was excited and happy to have
    the chance to get close to this magnificent brazilian art. I was not aware about any other style.
    The instructor was a member of Capoeira Brazil Group based in San Diego, California. The way
    they use to play is very acrobatic and phisically demanding. It took me a while to get used to it
    ,but I liked very much and I did not give up . One day I found myself playing in a Roda with a
    Israeli girl that was moving and kicking differently and at a certain point the instructor stopped
    her and asked her to do not use certain movements. It was the first time I heard about
    Capoeira Angola.
    I was more curious and I wanted to know more about it. I did not know yet that I was going to
    come across an issue, a big argument : the major difference between the two styles is about a
    cultural matter. In Regional they never speak about legacy or rituals or spirituality, they
    privilege both the athletic and the spectacular sides of Capoeira, it is more a show, more
    superficial , but it attracts a lot of people.

                                                    GAP !

    In Capoeira Angola the style of playing is more ritualized and you hear more about its african
    origins, religiosity and “Candomble’ & Orixas” .

    The difference is huge , but it has became also a gap.

    What I discovered was very intriguing and I was curious to learn more about all this matter.

    I like to simplify and I love to think  Capoeira as only one. Capoeira is a simbol or freedom and
    it is means freedom from slavery. The slaves were able to free themselves because they made
    themselves one people determinated for the sake of emancipation : this was possible because
    they were armored by the fabric of their religious beliefs which helped them to overcome their
    own diversities ,as different ethnic african groups ( often antagonists in Africa, before the
    western colonisation) .

    Unfortunately, my way to conceive Capoeira is utopic and unrealistic: why ?
    Imagine a huge tree like the Baobab is, and two branches sticking out of his trunk, growing in
    two different directions. You cannot stay on the two at the same time , moreover if you want to
    move from one to another you have to make a big jump or go back to the fork to reach the
    other one.

    Nowadays we have Mestre Bimba’s ( Capoeira Regional) followers and Mestre Pastihna’s (
    Capoeira Angola) ones.
    It is for me a powerfull dichotomy, because from both sides there are Mestres who stand up
    against each other for their own interests , whatever spiritual and/or materalistic ones.

    And here comes the sadness of the situation : Capoeira is a laugther philosophical answer to
    the brutality of the” Power ” and its leaders are forgetting the meaning , the values , the
    profundity  of thought of Capoeira !

    Not just this : I felt pushed to make a choice. the message is :” with me or against me ” as
    President Bush said once upon a time . But the context is so different ! What a paradox !

    I want to know Capoeira as a whole thing and I would like to visit different groups and have
    friends everywhere, I’m interested to experience different sides and aspects of this great
    culture.
    I attended events and classes from a variety of groups around the world and in Brazil   as well,
    and often I was between the devil and the deep blue sea : even the smallest movement at the
    sight of a “fundamentalist mestre” seems to be a big insult to him, a big sacrilege. So at the
    end of the story we can’t be friend ,because I do Negativa or Meia Luae Frente like this instead
    of like that !
    Stupid, shortsighit ! Fragmented !  Instead of being united again to fight against the modern
    slavery, we are becoming sort of clowns of the Capoeira Circus around the world !

    I do not want this , I don’t love this at all !

    Please sit with me in a big circle and try to discuss with me ,in order to find a solution, a
    practical solution for tha sake of the Capoeira values, without being sectarian ! We need to
    break this vicious circle !

     

    I would like, at this point , to mention two facts that happened  along my most recent
    participation at a capoeira angola event in Australia. I’m speaking about the execution of
    negativa de angola which could be done on both sides simmetrically or standing on the same
    leg ; mestres angoleiros bahianos tought me  this second way in Bahia.    Iwas performing this
    movement when suddenly the Mestre there stooped me ,asking :” Eh! Where does it come
    from this funny thing? For sure is  Regional ! ”  I did not have my time to reply.

    Personally I think that a different movement should not upset anybody, and at the same time ,
    as long as this movement is efficient and beatiful it should be welcome.

    Or no more creativity is allowed in capoeira ? Are we joking ?  Unfortunately  it is  a seroius
    matter : we are speaking about intolerance and egemony. Non sense in Capoeira !

    The second episode is concerning my question to same mestre about mutual cooperation
    among the Capoeira groups around us: the anwer was :”Never !” that’sit !   Even worse than
    before !

    This is the actual situation in Capoeira

    • Linda says:

      Eh, you are confusing two things: capoeira, and capoeira teachers. Keep in mind that teachers are human and hence at risk from vanity, fear, egotism and all the other stuff that we carry in our heads. Many people are used to thinking that power comes from being able to tell others what to do, and teach like a Catholic father whose will is law. They may not be used to the idea that if you are good, people will choose to come to you from their own free will – an approach that sees students more like customers that you have to keep happy and offer quality to. Many mestres have the old-fashioned ‘control’ style in teaching. Then you get these situations where they have to assert their control over students by telling them off, telling them that everything that’s not that mestre’s is wrong, prohibiting them from visiting other schools etc etc. If your mestre forbids you from doing something reasonable in capoeira, you have to choose whether you are more committed to that teacher or to capoeira.
      Also, for many mestres the capoeira group is their income and business, so they don’t want to lose students/customers and try to control them even more.
      There will be other groups and some are more suitable for you than others. And there are blends of regional and angola, for example in the ‘angola-ish regional’ Benguela style, if that feels like your thing.
      Stay with one group, respect the teacher’s skills and learn their style well. If you like it, stay. If you don’t, you can move. You have freedom in your head even if not all mestres do so.

      • Oi Linda,
        Thanks for your comment! I’m not sure whether I got your point properly… I’m a teacher myself, and don’t think I’m confused… I know human beings are not perfect, so teachers won’t be either. What I believe, on the other hand, is that teachers above all those involved in Capoeira, should be coherent to art-form’s principles; that more than anyone else we (teachers) must aim for (educational) principles that surpasses market influences and limitations.

        I’m far from having all the answers, my point with this blog is actually finding like-minded people, people asking similar questions, and oriented towards the same goals (a more coherent philosophic practice in Capoeira), so that together we can look for the answers. So, please, let me ask you something. You say that “they (capoeira teachers) may not be used to the idea that if you are good, people will choose to come to you from their own free will – an approach that sees students more like customers that you have to keep happy and offer quality to“; that “Many mestres have the old-fashioned ‘control’ style in teaching. Then you get these situations where they have to assert their control over students by telling them off, telling them that everything that’s not that mestre’s is wrong, prohibiting them from visiting other schools etc etc”; then you add that “Many mestres have the old-fashioned ‘control’ style in teaching. Then you get these situations where they have to assert their control over students by telling them off, telling them that everything that’s not that mestre’s is wrong, prohibiting them from visiting other schools etc etc”.

        So, do you believe that the right approach would be customer-oriented form of teaching?; that this kind of ‘control’ style in teaching comes from Capoeira’s past? Wouldn’t it be possible that this conflictive controlling behaviour of teachers comes exactly from mixing education with a market-oriented approach of Capoeira without admitting that that’s what their are doing?

        I’m not sure I got your point… Sorry. Mais uma vez, obrigado por sua participação.
        Axé! Eurico

        Why do you think

  2. sandro lionello aka vovo' says:

    That was alucky starting point for Mestre Suassuna: entering the Capoeira world togethetr with
    two friends and understanding , after all those struggle learning process, the whole thing!

    We also are lucky to read this biography, which will give us the chance to understand what’s
    going on today by means of a comparison.

    I look forward for next chapter.
    thank you C.M Eurico !
    Axe’
    Vovo’

    • Ganga says:

      Vovo,
      I find your thoughts interesting. I also started capoeira in San Diego and my first group practiced both sides of the spectrum Regional and Angola. Now some 7 years later I feel that there is no way to describe my way of playing… just simply capoeira. It is a combination of what the berimbau says and how I feel. My mood reflects in my game. I have been to schools that train only regional and those that train only angola. I understand their origin and purpose, but I look at capoeira as my life. I feel that in life we should be prepared for any and everything and to me this can only be accomplished by being open to everything. I respect in all forms of capoeira and use this to better myself and those around me.
      Axé,
      Ganga

      • Ganga,

        As you travel a lot and visit different groups, I would like to ask you something: How does the groups that train specifically one or another style sees your ‘holistic’ take on your practice? Do you have friends on these groups, what do they tell you about your take?

        Axé!

      • sandro lionello aka vovo' says:

        Capoeira is sinonimous of freedom : labels? I hate them . Who tries to label aims to becomes the boss.

        It is beautiful to practise anywhere with this sense of freedom inside the soul!

        More over I will carry on to visit groups and make new friends and my aim will be to keep close to all friends, in name of freedom, in name of those before us who gave their lives and/or fought for emancipation. Which style do you play?: I play Vovo”s style with plenty of fun, childhoodness and laughter.
        We need to be united ,looking for cooperation to help the oppressed ones.
        Once i said :” I would like to play both “capoeira Suassuna” & ” capoeira Jogo de Dentro” Someone answered :’Good Luck! “.

        Well I took it seriously and I enjoy to practise this task !

        VOVO’

  3. Ganga says:

    Eurico,
    I believe that it is only natural for one to want to belong to something. A sense of belonging and family. Now days capoeiristas come from all over the world and we recognize capoeira as a Brasilian art form. From Japan to Spain… you can travel and not speak the local language, but we can communicate through portuguese and physical interaction. I took a trip to Budapest, Hungary, I don’t speak Hungarian by the way, to visit a capoeira group in Budapest… even there I was able to communicate with Hungarians not in their language and not in english, but in portuguese the tongue of capoeira. I cannot put a finger on it, but there is something about capoeira that satisfies the need to belong. People from all walks of life coming together in whatever group they belong to learn something different from how they were born and raised. For me capoeira is more than just an art form… it is a way of living. Now… how this way of living is received by a groups students is in the hands of the teacher.
    Axé,
    Ganga

    • Hey Ganga!

      Nice to see you around again!

      I agree with you. The sense of belonging is something natural to human beings. And I’m with you 100% when you say that Capoeira can be seen as common cultural practice bringing diverse people together; as we all ‘belong’ to the Capoeira community.

      But why sometimes belonging make to difficult to understand the way other people develop their Capoeira practice?

      Axé Ganga!

    • Eeka says:

      Hi!

      I just started to read this blog and discussions here, but I really have to make a little comment too…
      I have practised capoeira for four months only, but during that time it became very important to me. It wasn’t just a brasilian art or sport or anything like that, but much more! Like Ganga said, it’s a way of life.
      Soon after the beginning of training I already felt like being part of something, maybe a big family… The group of practisers got me with them, and very soon I started to train every day, not only for the skills, but the feeling. On weekends we trained at the beach, all together. I think one of the best things in capoeira – as a sport – is that everyone can practice and play together, in spite of their level. Rodas have amazing feeling, real axé, and everyone can play with everyone, starter with his master. The music and the movements together with the people make the difference from other kind of arts or sports that I’ve ever experienced.

      For me, capoeira is still something very deep in my heart, even when I haven’t practised it for 15 years!!!! When I hear the berimbau, I almost cry…
      How could I explain it??

  4. canarinho dalemanha says:

    Hi Eurico,

    In your post above, I will sign the statement that in today’s globalised world “the rapid motion of ideas and ideologies, people and goods, images and messages, etc”, produces “fundamental problems of livelihood, equity, suffering, justice, and governance”.

    Capoeira has spread with globalisation, and as you say, I perceive Capoeira to be promoting promoting social inclusion and positive contributions to practitioners’ lives – for those practitioners that accept this deeper meaning. To other practitioners it might just be mocking around or showing off or having fun – all of which is legitimate.

    I’m not sure if I agree with the spreading of Capoeira producing “fundamental problems of livelihood, equity, suffering, justice, and governance”. Do international practinioners “suffer” because of Capoeira spreading? Do they “suffer” from the meaninglessness globalisation has brought into some Capoeira teaching? Do they care? Same goes with livelihood. Many practinioners outside Brazil are those who can afford paying for classes. Governance? Maybe the globalisation of Capoeira and the increase in female practitioners has made Capoeira less governed by a macho attitude, which I find personally quite enjoyable.

    Maybe Eurico could highlight what he means by that statement, then I can sign that, too :-)

    Axe, Canarinho

    • Oi Canarinho,

      Welcome to the 4CapoeiraThoughts!

      I’m with you when you say that all forms of Capoeira are legitimated. But could you explain me better in which ways having the understanding of ‘a deeper meaning’ would foster social inclusion and positive contributions?

      As for my quoting, I’m sure the spreading of Capoeira is inserted in a broader socio-cultural and economic global trend. However, after its spreading the extent to which Capoeira is cause or effect within these trends gets complicated.

      Problems of livelihood can occur when Capoeira sharpens group competition and oppose, for instance, people from the same local community.

      Equality is a problem when counterparts who participate in the development of the art living in poor countries does not have the same chance to establish a career as practitioners in developed countries have.

      So, in this way “suffering’ means whatever affects the international practitioners lives through the practice of Capoeira.

      Does that make sense to you?

      Lets keep ‘talking’.

      Axé!

  5. sandro lionello aka vovo' says:

    from “Heranca de Pastinha” , by Mester Decanio here is a diamond for us , capoeristas of the new era, a precious gift from Mestre Pastinha. We need to keep him alive ! We have to ! :

    2.2.2. “…e’ uma revolucao no meio que se destina”…
    “Nao e’ para estranhar, no meio do esportes, mesmo de Angola”: o aparecimento de uma obra como a presente bem estudada, e’ uma revolucao no meio que se destina, esse Centro, trouxe uma NOVA LUZ para o mundo esportivo de capoeira; si antes nao foi aceita,…ja` hoje e’ bem aceita de boa vontade:…”
    (68b, 10-170.
    …UMA OBRA BEM ESTUDADA COMO ESTA”…
    …traz a` luz uma nova faceta da capoeira…
    …sera’ bem recebida pelo mundo esportivo a que se destina…
    …pois acrescenta os fundamentos metafisicos …
    ….indispensaveis a`s aplicacaoes PEDAGOGICAS E TERAPEUTICAS !

    Moreover, just to accomplish the recent commented matter with Ganga,

    2.2.3.-…”capoeristas que nao tem apoio”…
    ‘…ha’ muitos variados , capoeristas que nao tem apoio dividem-se em classes sem importancia,
    pela ignoranca, pelo orgulho, nada de bom, ve’, e nao aceita, porque?
    (69a,3-6)
    …Pastinha censura aqueles que…
    …por ignorancia…orgulho,…
    …sem falar no interese comercial
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ! ! !

    dividem a capoeira em categorias sem importancia…
    …COMO REGIONAL E ANGOLA…
    e nao aceitam a verdadeira capoeira…
    O JOGO DE CAPOEIRA…
    donde surgiram dois estilos…
    criados pelos dois maiores mestres da Capoeira Bimba e Pastinha…

    …os primeros alunos de Bimba…
    mesmos os da classe dominante…
    …durante o jogo de dentro..
    .., e no jogo baixo…
    nao se distinguiam do estilo daquele de Pastinha…
    …Dr.Jayme Tavares, Dr,Cisnando Lima, Dr.delsimaretc.
    (in the original pages more names follow)
    …Brasilino e Edvaldo “Rosa” ( filho de Bimba)…e
    eu tambem
    poderiam participar de jogos com qualquer Angoleiro…
    sem sair estilo !
    …a diferencia era fruto das regras…
    que proibiam…
    …certos movimentos no estilo de Pastinha…
    …tolerados… incentivados pelo de Bimba…
    …A REGIONAL…no dizer de Pastinha…
    …E’ A MESMA CAPOEIRA ANGOLA
    NAO HAVENDO MODIFICACAO…
    …QUE FACA PERDER O SEU PRECIOSO VALOR”…

    ,,acredito firmemente que
    os jogo reunindo os dois estilos
    nao apena sao possiveis, como,
    respeitando-se as regras fundamentais..
    apresentadas por Pastinha…
    serao muito beneficos
    aos atuais praticantes do estilo de Bimba ++…
    desfigurado pela aceleracao do ritmo do toque!

    ++( this is mine ( VOVO’) : and also of some Angoleiros, unfortunately and gor other reasons)

    I’m also a rock climber and I never forget what my teachers used to tell me :” Remember, we climb on the shoulders of our old Teachers !”
    As a capoeira I should practise it as well : we play capoeira , we live our existences , we progress only follwing the wisest ones. Another issue coming out from this article is that we do not read enough about the Capoeira history …we should and we could then avoid to be misleaded by modern charlatans.

    MUITO AXE’ !

    VOVO’

    PS Please , for simultaneus translation I call for C.M Eurico ! Obrigado , amigo meu.

    • Oi Vovô!

      Thanks for your contributions. I do agree that the elder Mestres were much more wise and selfless in their Capoeira quest.

      Mestre Pastinha remains a wise source for today’s Capoeira; as ‘wisdom on the contrary of knowledge, does not age’.

      Seu Vicente had many other important contributions like the intercultural origin of Capoeira; not so popular to the Afro-centric approach. He also commented on the broader cultural context in which Capoeira was inserted, mentioning that he missed the presence of ‘viola’ in Rodas de Capoeira.

      I’ll see what I can do to post some bits and pieces of Mestre Decânio’s book on Mestre Pastinha’s manuscript any time soon; as I think these deserve a space of its own.

      Axé!

  6. Chumbo says:

    Mestre Fran once told me “Once capoeira becomes a part of you, you take it everywhere you go”. He said a lot of other stuff in that conversation, most of which I didn’t understand because my Portuguese is horrible, but that always stuck with me (assuming I understood it correctly). That is probably one of the truest statements about my life I have ever heard. If I were a superstitious person, I would have called it a premonition. Capoeira has come with me from my home in Houston, TX, to graduate school in Miami, FL, to my job in Seoul, Korea, and finally here to Toowoomba, Australia where I continue to train on my own despite a proper school. The last 6 years of my life have been an interaction with, longing for, and sometimes struggle against capoeira. Even after only studying for a little over a year, I chose my graduate school with the criteria that was a capoeira school near. Even though I could not speak or read Korean, I found a capoeira school in that foreign country. I’ve lost weight for capoeira. Capoeira has helped me end unhealthy relationships. Capoeira calms me when I’m sad/mad/or other. I’m not a spiritual person by any means, so you I don’t see anything magical about this ‘connection’ at all. To me it is a conscious, and correct, decision to make capoeira a part of my life not unlike stopping smoking or getting married. I don’t want to not have capoeira in my life. It is important to know what makes you happy in life, and it is equally important to continuously develop that which makes you happy in order to feel fulfilled in life. I have met many capoeiristas who tell me about this spiritual connection to capoeira, like they had no choice in the matter. That may be true for them, but it’s simply not the case in my life. Once capoeira became part of my life, I chose to take it wherever I went. Thank you Mestre Fran.
    Peace to you, CM Eurico.

    • Chumbo,
      Thanks for sharing your experience and feelings towards our Art-form. Please, help to spread the word out about the blog. The more people interact and share their experiences, the more we all will learn about Capoeira in our lives.
      I know that it’s close from your place, but you’re welcomed in our classes and Rodas in Brisbane at any time.
      Paz pra você também Irmão!

    • Tessa Hill says:

      Hi Chumbo,
      I agree with everything you say about taking it with you. I have trained capoeira for 6 years and I love it. It makes me happy, defines who I am and gives me confidence everyday.
      Everywhere I have been I have made sure I find a capoeira group….until now, living in Toowoomba! I Was wondering if you still live here, if you train and possibly if you would even like to meet up and train together? I can’t to go to the Brisbane classes very often and I am very concerned I may go a little insane without capoeira in my life…..
      If you’re still here, please let me know so I know I am not alone my capoeira cravings! Many thanks
      Tess

  7. Pingback: Capoeira is a good tool to help social inclusion, BUT… | 4capoeirathoughts

  8. Shaolin says:

    I cannot say anything coherent but those who taught me the magic might:

    My mestre once told me that he was always in a Roda. When I asked him whether this sometimes distracted him he said “no, menino, because the Roda is life itself”. I was not born to Capoeira. In fact, I grew up in China and its martial arts, hence my nome de guerra. I stayed with Capoeira these last years because of that statement. A Capoeirista doesn’t just play to the sound of the Berimbau, he plays the game of life. I am not a man of absolutes but I will unequivocally say that if you have not used playfulness, trickery, flexibility or any other virtues on the street, then you are not yet playing Capoeira.

    My professor once told me that Capoeira is a citizenship: you will always have compatriots who will join you at the foot of the berimbau. We may not use the same songs, attacks, defenses. To that he said “there are as many Gingas as there are capoeiristas: esse jogo é Capoeira, não é karate”.

    My instructor once told me that Capoeira embodies its own virtues, the reason it is different in every country is because Capoeira is an art of adaptation.

    To this I can only add: smile, be free in your mind, and don’t come looking to beat seven shades of cocô out of people and you’re halfway there.

    • Hey Shaolin,
      If you’re bringing forward the message of those who taught you, you’re already doing and saying something coherent. ;)
      You seem to be lucky with your Mestre, Professor and Instructor respectively. To transcend our Capoeira practice to our daily lives is one of the biggest challenges. So it’s to accept the art’s inherent diversity. In all this it looks like you’re on the right track!
      Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!
      Axé!
      Eurico

  9. Montanha says:

    Oi Eurico,

    quite an impressive forum you have here. I just came across your site and I love what you have done here. I am busy with a project about capoeira and social inclusion.

    Can you give me some advise on where to start searching about information on this subject. I am training capoeira for 7 years now and the fact that capoeira can touch so may lives is just wonderful.

    Hope to hear from you.

    Axe Montanha

  10. Montanha says:

    I am looking for information on how capoeira can help people. Capoeira is great in many ways, I want to emphasize on the way capoeira is able to support people who are somehow left out or excluded. Something like articles about it, or maybe studies.

    I am busy with a website about capoeira and I would like to contribute to this aspect of capoeira. Since you have tons of experience on this topic I think you will be able to help me with this.

    Muito Axe,

    Montanha

    • Montanha,
      Check posts tagged with ‘social capoeira’, ‘Greg Downey’ and UNICEF. There are a few articles available over the blog. Also, check Capoeira Origins, development and global diffusion. This should give you enough material to start with.
      Axé!

  11. Montanha says:

    Oi Eurico,

    thank you so much for your information! I will keep you updated on my website.

    Axé!

  12. source says:

    Have you considered adding some differing opinions to the article? I think it might enhance everyones understanding.

  13. Ruth Kimball says:

    Dear Eurico and Social Capoeiristas,

    I was thinking it would be a cool idea if other Capoeriistas that are working also to use Capoeira as part of a social intervention could somehow share some of the games, methods, and songs that they are using. As part of my job I have recently been trying to collect capoeira songs relating to particular social themes (the environment, non violence, empowerment, gender/equality, etc). Also I have been trying to look for new games and ideas for teaching kids Capoeira (its always fun to change it up). It would be cool if this forum could be used to share/source ideas for social capoeira groups…This would be particulary great for self training groups that are far away from brazil or other Capoeira schools. Its so difficult to get resources and it’d be cool if we could all share.

    • Oi Ruth,
      This is an awesome idea! And totally feasible! I’m caught up with many things for the moment, but already planning a few changes to this website, so creating space to share and discuss such material shouldn’t be a problem. The language barrier, though, seems to impose lots of constrains when working in non-portuguese speaking countries. Let’s keep this ball rolling. Awesome idea!
      Abraços!
      Eurico

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