By Hakeem Alexander
Learn Healthy-Living and Self-Defense while dancing and playing a fun game.
(Exercising Your Mind) Capoeira (Kap-oh-where-duh) can be played with just one person and recorded music, the music in your head, or with live music and a group of hundreds. In order to participate in capoeira events, parties and games, it is not necessary that you be an athlete. You may participate as a musician, choral singer, soloist or most importantly a spectator sending energy into the ring while you enjoy the action. In addition to singing, playing an instrument, hand-clapping or just watching the action, for me, capoeira features some more objective characteristics.
The game of capoeira is called jogo (zJoe-go). As long as I have been playing capoeira, my goal in the game has been to (1) avoid falling on my backside, (2) escape from strikes, and (3) keep moving like a perpetual-motion dancing-machine. The dances I get down with may be free-style, samba-like or the ginga. Ginga (Jing-gah) is a two step swing that is the main shuffle of capoeira. It is from this fundamental swing that many capoeira attacks and escapes are generated.
If I were being aggressive I would combat deceptively, as if I were boxing or wrestling, where the goal is to optimize your position to score a knock-out or a submission. In the game of capoeira instead of KOs and tap-outs, the goal is a take-down. An expert should be able to dys-equilibrate his comrade with intelligence and deceptive discourse, rather than mere physical might.
Capoeira then is (1) a dance -(2) a fight -and (3) a game. An escape ritual from the oppression of slavery, and a freedom of expression. The dance movements are made up of the ginga and various martial methods of your choice. The dance-fight moves are then strategically employed to unbalance your comrade by (1) misdirection, (2) suffocating their tactics and (3) trapping them. Strikes are to be avoided rather than blocked and you are to escape from being pinned rather than clash.
The capoeira arsenal goes total. Any type of kicking, striking, escape and even acrobatic moves are used to set-up, trick, bait or lure your comrade, while take downs are accomplished using foot sweeps and judo-like throws. I don’t really consider that there is any such thing as a “Capoeira move” except for the ginga.
Since I have been playing capoeira very often with others, (and imaginary comrades too!) I have also greatly benefited physical-fitness as it has enhanced me in a way that carries over into all other activities. Capoeira is the ultimate dynamic training for all around athletic fitness.
The objectives in Team KappaGuerra playing capoeira are to:
- Have fun!
- Learn self-defense while playing a fun game and dancing.
- Position yourself to sweep your comrade onto their backside; while skillfully keeping yourself on your hands and feet.
- Limit or immobilize the movement of your comrade while moving as freely as you wish.
- Simply flowing or dancing with your comrade.
- Learn songs, instruments, lyricism and singing.
- Improve cardio-vascular conditioning.
- Build powerful musculo-skeletal system.
- Enhance flexibility, balance, coordination.
Flowing or dancing with your comrade
A much simpler method of play is to dance with your comrade without being malicious or setting up mis-steps. You will still benefit from self-defense as you should be escaping from strikes, and countering during play. Also, of course, since the game is quite vigorous, you will maintain your Healthy, Athletic conditioning.
The basic capoeira moves you must master to play are the ginga /swing, au(ah-oo) /cartwheel, esquiva(ess-key-vah)/ escape, negativa /negative, and the role(hole-ay) /roll. As often as possible you should play capoeira and train to the rhythm of berimbau touches, African tribal drumming, war-music or the beats and tones of your choice. This all depends on the type of game you want to play. There are “pretty-games, hard-games, close-games and far games to name a few.
Get a berimbau (beer-im-bow) and learn to play and sing with it. The berimbau is a musical bow, derived from a hunting bow. It looks like you should be carrying a volley of arrows along with it. Instead, this bow has a dry and hollow gourd attached to one end to resonate the sound of the string that you strike with a twig. It does not matter if you sing in African, Brasilian-Portuguese, rap in English, or Yiddish if you please. It has been said that the berimbau teaches, and I have experienced this to be true.
It may benefit you in understanding the origins of capoeira to read about and discuss the enslavement of Africans in general and the Portuguese slave trade specifically, from around the year 1500. You might then find some interesting capoeira history from the mid 1700s to the present time in Brazil..