By Hakeem Alexander
(Exercising Your Mind)
“The malicia which the capoeirista refers to is an indispensable trait in the game of capoeira. In capoeira, malicia means a mixture of shrewdness, street-smarts, and wariness. It should not be confused with the English word ‘malice.'” –Nestor Capoeira: The Little Capoeira Book
Sometimes, you just need to set the record straight.
I started training capoeira with my comrade Jose Canelo aka “Gigante” in 1993 after meeting Jelon Vieira during a demonstration in Broward County. For five(5) years we practiced from Nestor Capoeira’s “The Little Capoeira Book” to the rhythms of Capoeira Senzala de Santos’ CD “Brazil Capoeira, Samba de Roda, Maculele” before meeting Mestre Pele of Capoeira Corpo e Movimento in 1998.
During a roda hosted by Capoeira Explosion (now Topazio) circa 1999, Professor Sula, Mestre Pele’s brother, was attacked by a frustrated capoeirista who couldn’t hang with Sula’s skills. I knew Sula could handle himself, as he had applied some nasty Jiu-Jitsu locks on me before, and I have witnessed him drop into a guard and lock a guillotine choke on a capoeirista who tackled him during a game.
However, being a 185 body-builder, loyal to Sula, my Padrinho (Godfather in Capoeira who downed me during my batismo initiation) I stepped in, picked up the assailant by the shoulders and gently moved him away from getting his ass kicked by Sula. No one confronted me for it, including the man I disarmed, partly because he was wrong, and, probably because they don’t understand “valente nao existe“, as Nestor Capoeira says “There’s no such thing as a tough guy.” Lucky for me, because my presence was enough to help cool the situation, without further disruption when he realized this “tough guy” was with Sula.
It may be said that malicia has two basic aspects. The first is knowing the emotions and traits—aggressiveness, fear, pride, vanity, cockiness, etc.—which exists within all human beings. The second is recognizing these traits when they appear in another player, and therefore being able to anticipate the other players movements, whether in the roda, or in everyday life.”
Later that year, the brothers Cleber and Kadinho, leaders of Capoeira Explosion, took a few of their students to Mestre Pele’s Academy. Using a combination I learned from Eddy Gordo (oh yes, the Tekken 3 video game character) which was a queixada (outside crescent chin-strike) followed by a rasteira (low leg sweep), as he escaped and countered with a meia lua, I dropped one of their yellow cords who was training three(3) years with them literally on his ass. There were plenty of “oohs” and chuckles from his camp.
“The player who is malicioso is able to dodge under an opponent’s kick, and prepare for a counterattack or take down before the assailant finishes what he started.”
Obviously he was not happy with this, because a week or two later, he showed up at Atlantis Night Club’s Monday Night Raw Amateur Fight Competition with a burley capoeirista with a hairy body and a bald head. This guy challenged me and signed up to fight. I made quick work of him and dropped him with my lethal combination of right hook to the body followed by a right haymaker to the head in less than ten(10) seconds of the first round.
I fought in over 50 of those fights starting January 3rd 1999 to late 2001, losing only to Steve Lavalle’s East Coast Karate Fighter, Mike “Big-Train” Balsy(?) who was 215lbs to my 180lbs. No excuse, he was just good, I defeated another fighter called “Taco” a muscle-bound bouncer from VooDoo Lounge who was 225lbs and another muscle-juggernaut weighing 250lbs. Most of my bouts were against larger opponents.
“In everyday life, he should be able to recognize the real human being that hides beneath the social mask of someone he has just met.”
Another occasion, in the year 2000, while I was out drinking with some guys I met on the beach, one named Misha or Sasha or something like that, who was dating a girl I went to high school with in 1996, accused me of stealing his flask. He then backed me into an alley with a butterfly-knife or a switch-blade. I started to ginga, hoping this would intimidate him into retreating. Instead he said, in a rather amused tone “oh, capoeira, I guess I don’t need this then” put the knife in his pocket and tackled me to the ground. I dropped into guard and pulled his head towards my chest to reduce his striking space. His friend started to kick me in my left shoulder.
Suddenly, seconds later, the police arrived and broke it up. I was fortunate because I could have been stabbed to death. I later found out that he trained in Hapkido and felt it was superior to Capoeira. Apparently he was suffering from what Nestor Capoeira calls “…false precepts and stereotypical ideas such as… the notion of the superiority of one fighting art over another.“
“Another aspect of malicia, consists of deceiving or faking the opponent into thinking you are going to execute a certain move when in fact you are going to do something completely different and unexpected.”
After moving to California in February of 2002, I began an Entertainment Public Relations Internship at Levine Communications Office in Westwood with Michal Levine. During that time I was introduced to many well known figures in the film business. One of the guys I met and shared capoeira with from the University of Miami, Chris W., who also moved out to L.A., asked me to be his manager because of these connections. I asked him to write a treatment for a screenplay he wrote, supposedly about his life as a No-Holds-Barred Fighter in Gainesville, Florida, because I had been to the home of legendary Paramount producer Robert Evans, making deliveries of proofs for magazine articles for Levine. I had also been on the phone with Jed Blaugrand of WWE Films. Chris thought I should get his treatment to these guys.
I asked Chris to deliver the treatment while I was at Levine’s so I could fax or hand deliver it before my internship shift was over at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon. This never happened. Then, one Saturday morning, while I was asleep at 7am, my door was loudly knocked on disturbing my sleep. It was Chris, wanting to come in and watch wrestling or hockey on my T.V. since he didn’t have cable at his place. I was disturbed because it seemed as if I was doing a lot of work to get his writing noticed and he couldn’t deliver at 2pm one day because he was sleeping in, but could rise at 6am for some dumb-ass sports event.
Later that evening, I confronted him on this after we had both downed some beers. We were out in front of my apartment and I said to him arrogantly ” If you think that you are doing all you can, and I am holding you back somehow, I am going to close my eyes and you go ahead and knock me unconscious.” Chris struck me in the face with a punch of some kind. I stood there with my eyes closed surprised at what had happened. A few seconds later, upon opening my eyes, expecting him to be standing there, I saw him half a block away. So I went upstairs to the apartment.
Moments later, after spitting up what looked like a quarter pint of blood in my bathroom sink , I grabbed another beer and went to enjoy it on the fire escape hanging over the front of the building, and there was Chris, at the call box. He looked up and saw me and started to call out “I’m not afraid of you, come on motherfucker!” -So I went downstairs. We squared off in the street. I told him exactly what I intended to do, which was sweep him off his feet with a rasteira from my right leg, which I did three(3) times consecutively after letting him up and calling out the move. He would not quit. So I did it one last time. By then, he had been backed
up against a fence of a building across the street. This time I applied a rear naked choke and told him if he did not stop struggling and quit, I would choke him unconscious. He continued to fight. So I tightened the hold and he tapped on my arm. I spit blood in his face and went back home to finish another beer.
“The development of malicia is a never-ending process that is stimulated by playing the game itself, by observing others as they play capoeira, and by observing everyday events in our lives and in the lives of others.”
In 2003, I began training with a capoeira group that I had found while walking around L.A.. Their Mestre was famous and had trained a few movie stars. I bought a uniform from them and was able to perform in a few demonstrations and festivals with them. Then my girlfriend who I moved to L.A. with dumped me and I ended up living in my car at the top of Lake Hollywood. I stopped training with the group.
At the time, I had a membership at Bodies in Motion in Century City. I used it to shower and change while working part time for the Church of Scientology’s Hubbard College of Administration. I had also become acquainted with Pro-Boxer Floyd Weaver, one of the Boxing Triplets, and boxing instructor at the gym. Floyd was scheduled to fight at a Pro-Event being hosted by the Burbank Airport Hilton. I called the fight promoter to get tickets to watch the fight, and while on the phone, I told the promoter I was a fighter and would like to compete sometime. He took my number down and told me where to pick up my tickets.
A few days later he called me and told me he was in a bind. Floyd’s fight and several others had been canceled the night before the event. He said that according to the Boxing commission, if there wasn’t a certain amount of rounds, the whole event would be canceled and asked if knew anyone that was willing to do an exhibition kickboxing match with me for five(5) three(3) minute rounds. He would lose a lot of money if the event was cancelled and offered me eight-hundred dollars($800.00) if I could do it. I agreed, and began to make some calls.
I stayed up all night without sleep and finally got someone who I thought was a friend to do the exhibition with me. He was from the capoeira academy I had trained with. Let’s call him “Don”. Don had been to my home before I was on the streets and we were on good terms. I told him I would pay him four-hundred dollars ($400.00) and would like to donate three-hundred dollars($300.00) to the capoeira academy he trained with, leaving only one-hundred($100.00) for myself. He agreed and showed up to put on a show. While the fight was going on during the first round, many “boos” were heard from the blood-thirsty crowd because we were just play-fighting, not to hurt each-other out of what I thought was mutual respect.
During one clinch-up, I told him to “pick up the pace a little to make it look more real!” After a few exchanges he tied-up with me again and said “Hey, take it easy!” So I did, but he took advantage of this and went to town on me. Later, when I was sharing capoeira for free with other people because I truly love it so much I just can’t stop playing, rumors began to spread on his capoeira group’s website that I was “Teaching perversions of capoeira”, and a friend of Don’s from that group said that he had seen Don make short work of me in a Muy-Thai Kickboxing match. Don did nothing to set the record straight by telling them it was a fake bout, even less than an exhibition between us. I began getting disrespected from all over in the capoeira community because of this.
I am also pretty sure that Don and his then girlfriend, now wife, never donated that $300.00 dollars to their Mestre and Capoeira Academy, as I requested as part of our agreement. If this is the case, I wonder how their Mestre would feel about this theft-in-fact. But the Universe moves in her own way, and “malicia” is a beautiful creature!
“Malicia sometimes is called mandinga, although the latter word has an even broader meaning, since it also implies that one understands the basic forces of nature and knows how to use them to a certain extent by means of rituals involving magic.”
On January 16th 2009, eight(8) months into experimenting with a strictly vegan diet, I went to visit Don during one of his academy’s Friday Night Open Rodas. I brought a gift of berimbau recordings I had recently finished, with my then new website www.KappaGuerra.com written on it to give to him, which I did. This was after six(6) months or so of initiating some friends into capoeira at Meridian’s Bodies in Motion Encino. I trained with and played capoeira with my friends John K., Cary Singman, Erin Fukuda, Amber Clancy and Christine Snipes. ~Amber, Christine, Erin and a friend of her’s Jasmine, accompanied me to the Open Roda. It was an exhilarating experience, and for the first time that I noticed in a roda, I was in a trance-state more than half the time I was in the ring.
I began to notice that I was more severely out of breath than usual, which I later discovered was the early onset of pernicious anemia from a lack of vitamin B-12 induced from the vegan diet. I still played three of the best capoeira games I had ever played in my life, I knew this because I was having so much fun like I had never before. The best was still to come. My fourth and last round in the roda, as fate would have it was with Don. Most of it was a fluid blur of lightning fast kicks, one of which he placed beyond my defense as if to say “gotcha!”, which is a normal part of the game, and then he went for the kill!
I would later learn Don’s “nome de guerra” (war name or capoeira nickname) means close. Our game was very tight and inside, close indeed. He executed a perfect tesoura, or scissors takedown while he was on my left side with his right leg at my pelvis in front of my body, with his left leg in the counter-revolutionary position behind my heels and turned swiftly into it… Or, should I say that was a near-perfect take-down? I simply turned into him, to my left side and onto all fours which dumped him right on his ass! Many “oohs” were heard as I scurried on all fours, accidentally head-butting a player waiting at the foot of the berimbau. Game over.
Earlier in the evening before the event, another guy from the group, before leaving the academy, asked me in a rather condescending tone and demeaning grin “Are you stll teaching kickboxing and stuff like that?” It seemed as if Don’s wife was trying to avoid having me play in the roda for some reason, saying it was “canceled due to Mestre being out of town.” Then, after announcing that “If anyone plays an instrument, please feel free to play” I was denied access to the bateria (percussion orchestra) by a negative nod of her head when I wanted to play. Seconds later, when I asked Don if anyone would like me to relieve them in the bateria, he said “I think they’re alright” with a smile. And even more strangely, when my entourage showed approval of my playing, his wife, who was leading the roda, stopped the whole event to inform everyone that “Capoeira is not just about doing tricks, its about roots. Our Mestre has roots, almost forty(40) years of capoeira roots.”
When I was on my way out, one of the female capoeiristas, with beautiful Gold hair, who had recognized me from when I previously trained there, gave me a parting hug and kiss, while I was ignored and shunned by Don’s wife even though I was kind and respectful the whole time. Regardless, I had a lot of fun, and these occurrences are no different than what I have witnessed before in other rodas and groups. Capoeira has some strange polit
ics, but it is a phenomenon that has given me vitality and joy in life. Capoeira has saved me. I wish that I could do for capoeira what it has done for me. I love Capoeira!
“Although an understanding of malicia and mandinga are essential to becoming a capoeirista, many players get carried away with it in the greater scheme of things. They forget a popular Brazilian saying ‘Malandro demais se atrapalha,’ which means that when one tries to be too clever or smart, instead of confusing his opponent, he confuses himself. They lose their way as they come into contact with this type of knowledge. They get obsessed with being smart, smarter than others, and with being powerful, more powerful than others; they get obsessed with being famous and with having status. And they forget that we all belong to the same roda, and that one has to have friends, one has to have fun, one has to enjoy the company of other human beings, in order to get the most out of life.”