(Exercising Your Mind) Capoeira is simultaneously a dance, a game, and a deadly martial art. It is a deceptive discourse with the body, a song of life, and a diverse phenomenon with live music and singing, ritual, and body-play; rich with the soul of African and Brasilian traditions.
Capoeira was created by Africans who were carried to Brazil as slave cargo since around the year 1500 by the Portuguese monarchy who colonized Brazil. There are many theories as to its manifestation, so I will leave that to your personal research, and certainly a later writing of my own.
I was first introduced to Capoeira when my great friend Jose Canelo or “Gigante” (Jee gun’sh) invited me to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts to attend a seminar hosted by Jelon Vieira in 1993. Vieira is a “renowned capoeira master, dance choreographer, and pioneer of capoeira in the U.S” according to the Brazilian Cultural Arts Exchange in Gainesville, Florida.
Jose and I trained only with each other, and no Mestre or instructor – consistently in backyards, parks, school grounds or any spot we could find to ginga, throw kicks and hurl our bodys through the air; and at each-other. I bought a few CDs of music, and we trained to the recorded sounds of the Berimbau from a boom-box when we could. I also used Nestor Capoeira’s book to train the sequences, movements, and techniques that were provided within.
After five years of Capoeira with no teacher, in February 1998, while passing the Brazilian Tropicana Cantina on foot one day, I happened inside and found fliers announcing Capoeira classes with then Contra-Mestre Pele (Djalma Pereira) and later his brother Professor Sula. I trained on and off with them for free mostly for only 8 or 9 months. Pele graciously trained me, and Sula even “Baptized” me as a Capoeirista on March 29th, 1998. According to Gigante I was “sanctified… by a bald-headed cabezada to the solar plexus“.
Ie! viva meu Mestre, camara!
In the year 1999, after relocating to Miami from Ft. lauderdale, I visited an eccentric and lively Mestre Caboquinho, who teaches Capoeira Angola. He was at the time giving classes at a high school in Miami. From Mestre Caboquinho, I got my first Berimbau, the musical-bow that sets the mood and pace of O Jogo; the game. I still play and record with the same one today and find it pleasantly, and profitably addictive.
I am practicing, studying, showing-off and sharing my interpretation of African-Brazilian Capoeira now for over ten years. Because I relocate very often, most of my training has been going around to different ‘rodas’ (circles) in different academies, and jogando (playing) with the multitude of amazing Capoeiristas from around the world. I have also had many formal class sessions and private lessons. Some of the Rodas and classes I played in were with Capoeira Academies: Corpo e Movimento, Topazio, Abolicao, Tribo Afro-Baiano Capoeira Angola Tradicional (TABCAT), Abada, Capoeira Brasil, Cordao de Ouro, numerous street rodas and chance meetngs.
Many books on the subject have furthered my understanding of its varying philosophies; conversations with Capoeiristas, as well as numerous videos from participating in Games, movies, the internet, and even studying Capoeira video game characters, has provided supplemental material. I call this type of learning ‘immersion’, much like you do with Pimsleur audio language programs.
I am also able to glean a lot of very useful, and interesting life philosophy tools embedded within the jogo/game itself. I am sure that many other Players have found it very liberating to discover that one of the definitive characteristics of Capoeira, is the freedom it inspires. Freedom of critical thinking, freedom of movement for physical health, freedom of spirit. To suck dry the blood of a famous movie, it is to me, like stepping out of the ‘Matrix’, when I step into a Roda or Jogo.
I have been fortunate enough to find the many ‘flaws’ in my interpretations of extra-verbal language, and the many expressions of my own, that have led to misunderstandings. This has led the way to more productive interpersonal relations of all types. Capoeira has done so much for me and I am grateful.
My body has remained aware, supple, quick, balanced, strong and lean. I require very little effort to experience the things I enjoy. My pleasure in learning, reading books, listening to music, taking walks, and other forms of activity have all been enhanced through this practice. This is just one of many things I enjoy to practice Healthy Living and Self-Defense.
Keep sweeping through; in time, something you experience, wherever you may be, is all that you require to better understand that which you have chosen to explore.
There is a 1993 American film called Only the Strong starring Mark Dacascos that features Capoeira as the foundation of the movie. (Djalma Perreira aka Mestre Pele is in the opening and close of the film as a featured Capoeirista)
Tekken 3 for Sony Playstation offers a Capoeira combatant named Eddie Gordo. (Mestre Marcelo)
Ring of Liberation: Deceptive Discourse in Brazilian Capoeira by J. Lowell Lewis, 1992
Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game, 2002 and the Little Capoeira Book, 1995: by Nestor Capoeira
Capoeira, a Brazilian art form by Bira Almeida (Paperback – 1981)
Capoeira: African Brazilian Karate, Yusef A. Salaam, 1983, United Brothers and Sisters Communications Systems
CAPOEIRA the Jogo de Angola- from Luanda to Cyberspace [Volume 1] by Gerard Taylor, 2005