The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Capoeira Batizados

22 02 2008

So, due to a slight mix-up between the name of my grupo and that of a Brazilian music band, and my apparent inability to understand event flyers correctly, I will be finding myself at the batizado of a foreign group in a foreign city this weekend.  (These things tend to happen to me.) 

I’m actually still pretty excited and looking forward to it, but nevertheless, for my own reassurance as well as for you guys, I thought I’d write up a mini “batizado survival guide”, inspired by the “Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook” series.  From transportation to buying into 50+ person rodas, finding lodging to surviving partner work (the absolute bane of my personal capoeira existence), never go unprepared to a batizado again!

Capoeira batizado and troca de corda eventCapoeira batizado and troca de corda eventCapoeira batizado and troca de corda eventCapoeira batizado and troca de corda event

How to Find and Get to the Location(s) of the Batizado and Related Workshops/Parties/Shows 

In your city:  Look up the main event locations on Google Maps (if you even need to), and plan your route(s).  Organize carpools, meet people to take public transit, or (if you’re lucky and live nearby) walk.  It’s a home game, after all!

In another city:  Figure out whether it’d be best to arrive by car, plane, ferry, train, hovercraft…and plan accordingly.  For road trips, group up with fellow capoeiristas, carpool, and split the cost of gas.  For planes, start searching for ticket prices as early as humanly possible!  They will just keep going up.  The prices of trains and ferries are generally fixed (I believe), but reserve a spot ahead of time just in case they don’t have room for you on the day of departure.  If you’re flying with instruments, check to see what provisions the airline has for those.  Be sure to put your berimbau in a case or wrapping of some sort; my friend had the fortune once of having her berimbau’s arame taped all the way down the instrument’s length, with luggage tape.

Plan ahead of time how you’re going to get from the airport/train station/ferry terminal to the specific event location: Google that location before you leave, and acquire a map of the city, or the relevant part of it.  Mark the locations that are part of the batizado, and try familiarizing yourself with the street names around them.  Either try and prepare rides (or confirm the availability of them) ahead of time for when you’re there, or take the time to familiarize yourself with the city’s public transportation system, if locations aren’t within walking distance.  The last thing you want is to miss the main event roda because you couldn’t find the right bus stop!

In another country: Think planning for “in another city”, but in overdrive.  Make sure that all your travel documents are in order—passport, visa, whatever else is required.  Bring enough money and plan a point to change currencies, if necessary.  If you’re taking a plane, don’t forget about the no liquids/100 mL container (for shampoo, etc.) /no sharp objects rules.  Learn a few key phrases in the country’s language, if it’s different from yours (e.g. anything to do with money, sanitation, time, transportation, directions, and in our case, capoeira if you’re keen).  If you’ve planned tourism time for yourself, doing some advanced reading on that end won’t hurt, either.  And don’t forget to check the weather for when you pack—you don’t want to end up training in a soggy abada (not to mention, for “regionaleiras”, look like you were just in a wet t-shirt contest…).

For all of the above, obtain a contact’s number before you leave in case of emergency, or just need of aid!  Either someone who lives in the city, or someone involved in the event in some way—ideally, the contact would be both.

How to Find Lodging

Phone or email the batizado’s organizers as far in advance as possible (within reason), and see if billeting with a capoeirista from the host group is possible.  If it matters to you, be sure to specify if you would prefer to stay with a male or female host.  Bring a sleeping bag.  [Editor’s note: If I’m billeting with someone, I also like to bring a small gift, like a box of chocolates or something, just to show my appreciation for letting me stay with them!] 

If billeting isn’t possible, search sites such as or for hostels or hotels.  Also check to see if your group or the host group has a deal with any hotels/hostels/etc. to give discounts to capoeiristas coming from out of town for the event.  Make sure you check the location of your place before booking, as you don’t want to be inconveniently far from the workshop locations; obviously, the closer the better, and especially try to stay within walking distance.

How to Make a 100-Person Workshop Worthwhile

Movements on the spot: It’s hard learning a move when you’re at the very back of an echoing stadium and the mestre or teacher leading the workshop is at the very front!  Needless to say, your first plan of action is to stay as close to the front as often as possible.  Failing that (e.g. if you’re a beginner student in an all-levels workshop and students are lined up by belt), glean what you can from watching the person heading the class, then learn what you weren’t able to pick up from watching advanced students more within your eye range, who will most likely do the move(s) correctly.  Confirm the move(s) by observing several different students, being careful not to get confused by someone adding their own twist or variation to the move, or simply doing it incorrectly. 

At the same time, make sure you have enough space around you to do the movements.  There is usually a large amount of space left at the very back of the lines—true, for good reason, but you can still observe other students to learn the movement, which is better than being at the front and not having room to do the movement at all.

Movements in lines going down the room: Very important: Leave enough space for the person in front of you to complete the movement!  It is both frustrating and annoying to be crowded during lines.  There will be enough time for everyone to go, as the next movement isn’t usually given until the teacher sees everyone has finished or is on their way to finishing.  Pay particular attention to distance spacing if part of the sequence involves the person moving back towards the starting point (e.g. for a multi-kick sequence or aus, floreios, etc.).  

If you are the one being tailgaited, take a page from a driving school manual: stop and wait so that there is extra space between you and the person in front of you; that will create enough space for you to quickly move in and do the movement, and at the same time (hopefully) prompt the overenthusiast behind you to hold back and give you space as well.

Don’t forget to pay attention to things like towards which direction the first movement of each sequence goes, whether you face the front or face the side, how you should end up, whether each kick lands to the back, to the front, parallel, etc.  Depending on what you want, stand in a line behind others so you can watch and check your moves against theirs, or grab a spot in the line nearest any teachers on the sidelines, as they might be more likely to give you any needed advice or corrections, since you’ll be passing right in front of them.

During speeches/demonstrations:  Get in as close to the teacher as possible, and make sure you have the view that will help you best understand the sequence.  If you are in front of the crowd, kneel or crouch down so people behind you can see.  You can also kneel or crouch down if you are stuck behind people and can’t see over their heads, to look through people’s legs.  Then again, a simple nudge and polite “excuse me” whenever needed as you push through to the front is probably a better recourse!  Most people are also very nice and willing to let you in front if they notice you can’t see over them (and thus won’t block their view if they let you go in front).

If it is a speech being given, and you are tired and the speaker is particularly loquacious, then do the opposite: find a spot directly behind people so that you can’t be seen in case any boredom or drowsiness shows on your face.  Or concentrate on thinking over what you could’ve improved on from the last workshop, or what you can try and pull off in the next roda!

Partner Work: The best way (well, for me) to learn a partner sequence is to focus on a different part of the demonstration each time, and only that part.  One: The entire thing, to get the feel of position and timing.  Two: The first partner’s sequence (ignoring whatever the second partner does).  Three: The second partner’s sequence (ignoring whatever the first partner does; you should already have the sense of how the dialogue works from the first viewing).  Of course, this falls through if the sequence isn’t demonstrated three times. 

If that’s the case, glean as much as you can and try to organize it in your head before you have to start doing the sequence with a partner.  Either memorize the entire sequence with both partners’ moves, in order, and sort them out right after (usually each partner’s role will be a sequence consisting of every other movement in the overall sequence you memorized), or, as a last resort, memorize one partner’s role very well and know it absolutely; then ask your partner if you or they can start, depending on which order lets you do the sequence you memorized.  Then, try figuring out the other partner’s role while your partner does it before you switch, and failing that, just ask them.  Most people won’t mind, although try not to let it happen too often (they want to get the most out of the workshop, too!).  If neither of you get it, observe another couple to quickly establish the sequence.  If your partner doesn’t get things and you do, embrace the opportunity to practice your teaching skills.  Also, don’t forget to clip your nails ahead of time—you don’t want to risk stabbing your partner in the ankle with a poorly aimed rasteira. 

As for finding a partner, make eye-contact with someone as soon as the teacher says go.  Once you’ve done that, start walking straight towards them, making it obvious that you want to work with them, and do whatever partners-work-greeting gesture is custom, saying hi with a smile on your face.  If you make conversation (asking them where they’re from, their nickname, etc.), it really helps to not forget that basic information as soon as the teacher yells “change partners!”.  Find something about them to connect them to the name they give you, and don’t remember them by changeable features such as “the girl with the really high ponytail”. 

If you end up without a partner, wait a minute or so and then buy in; it’s expected, and the other person should know to do the same.  You don’t want to just stand around while everyone else is working on the new movement (not to mention that’s not what you paid or travelled all that way for), but if you buy in quickly and so does everyone else, there are so many people that it should seem like no one had to sit out at all during the entire thing.

How to Buy into a 50+ Person Roda

Make yourself as small and unnoticeable as possible.  Everytime even the slightest gap opens, slip into it, or at least move towards it and close it off so someone else can’t slip into it and thus in front of you.  If you feel pushed, try and stand your ground as firmly as possible, just short of being rude (then again, maybe they’re rude for pushing in the first place, so all’s fair in love and capoeira?).  DON’T end up crowding the bateria, as you could easily get reamed out for that.  If you’re very, very petite, try crouching down and slipping in between people’s legs.  If you’re the complete opposite of petite…well, to be blunt…you’re able to pretty much do whatever you want anyway.  Gentle steering of shoulders out of the way, subtle slip-in-to-wedge-in-between people steps, etc. 

One trick that works for everyone is, if you’re prepared to buy in right away the moment you reach the opening, then walk to the end of the roda opposite the bateria, as there will be ample space there.  Then, quickly skim your way back right on the inside of the roda, reach the opening, and enter.  To set yourself up for another game entry, when you’re bought out, walk backwards straight into the side of the roda, and you will still be on the inside, perfectly positioned to buy in again.  Pay attention though, or you will be amazed at how quickly you lose that spot!

Above all, don’t let yourself forget that you are there to play and that you paid to be there and that you have a right to play.  Unless something else is going on, such as a fight, or a designated high/low-belts-only roda (or start of roda), don’t let lack of confidence trick you into feeling like you “shouldn’t” buy in at this exact moment right this second right now but maybe just a little later—because in all likelihood, if you keep thinking like that, later will never come! 

Having said that, don’t be obnoxious about it, either; adjust your own behaviour to the atmosphere/feel of the roda, and if you’ve already played, you could start paying attention to see if someone else is about to buy in when you want to, and whether they’ve played yet or not.  Finally, whether you’re about to buy in or already playing, always be alert to some sort of signal that you should leave or end the game—a mestre’s whistle, a teacher’s wave of the hand, a single note repeated endlessly on the berimbau—because as much as you need to know when to go (i.e. now!), you also have to know when to stop!

How to Make a Transition Directly from the Gym Floor to the Dance Floor

Go home or to your current accomodation; shower; prepare yourself as normal.  Nothing starts on time, remember?  In this case the worst-case scenario is taking so long that you arrive just when the party’s getting into the swing of things!  [Editor’s note: This backfired on me one year when our grupo’s wrap-up party actually DID start on time—who’d have thought?  In that case, say hi to everyone, plead “Brazilian time jetlag” from the workshops or previous events, and move on!]

How to Survive Missing your Flight/Ferry/Train/Ride Back Home

First, make absolutely sure that you can’t get home that night; that there’s no next/late-night/last ferry, train, flight, etc.  If that’s 100% out of the question, then book your hotel/hostel room for another night (they will most likely accept credit card if you don’t have enough cash), and book your ride home ASAP in the meantime.  If you didn’t stay at a hostel/hotel, there are two options here.  The first is to ask a friend who lives in the city if you can stay with them for an extra night, which should be fairly straightforward, since you’re friends.

The second, if you were billeting with someone, is to very, very nicely and politely explain the situation to whomever was hosting you, taking full responsibility, and entreating them to let you stay one more night in their home.  If helping you with damage control creates any work whatsoever on their part, help with as much of it as is humanly possible; after all, it was you who missed your ride, not they.  Do not, under any circumstances, have them running around all night trying to arrange emergency rides or accomodation for you while you continue to socialize the night away.

How to Deal with Not Receiving a Belt You Expected to Get

If you need to cry, do so, and then relax and put things in perspective.  It’s not the end of the world, and there is always next time.  Remember that not receiving a belt doesn’t mean you made no progress at all; you just didn’t make quite enough progress at this point yet in time, and you will probably be beyond the average level of that belt by the time you do get it. 

Another way to look at it is to ask yourself this: would you rather people overestimate you, or underestimate you?  If you really should have gotten your belt, then you were underestimated, and so you’ll show them.  In one scenario, you end with setting up expectations in people that you might then fail, whereas in the other, you will surpass their expectations. 

Finally, if you are still upset, concentrate on thinking about all the good non-capoeira things you have going on in your life.  More likely than not, capoeira is just one part of it, albeit a large part.  Would you let your job take over the rest of your life if something went wrong there?  Probably not; and so try not to let being upset about capoeira influence the rest of your life or what you think of yourself, as well.

How to Deal with Receiving a Belt You Didn’t Expect to Get

Don’t let it go to your head.  In some cases, the belt represents your potential to reach that level rather than your having actually attained that level.  Also don’t let it go to your head in the way that you make yourself believe you absolutely must train six days a week training with twenty hours of volunteer work at your academy on top of that every month, unless you really want to for the love of it.  Yes, in many cases a belt represents more responsibility as well as more skill, but there are many belt levels for a reason; everything goes up in increments, and so you should not be expected to immediately have the weight of an extraordinarily increased load upon receiving your next belt.  For the moment, celebrate!  Be (modestly) proud of your achievement—and there will be plenty of time to get down to making sure you’ve earned that belt as soon as the batizado is over.

Click here to read “Further Worst-Case Scenarios”!

Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guide for Capoeira Batizados

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How to Get Better at Capoeira When You Can’t Do Capoeira

20 02 2008

Do you want to turn your weaknesses into strengths?  To improve even while you can’t train?  To get the most out of every class even if you’re sick, injured, or otherwise incapacitated?  Well then, dear reader, continue on!

There's always something to do when it comes to capoeiraOne of the best and most unique parts of capoeira for me is the fact that as far as passions go, you couldn’t pick a better one that will never run out of steam on you.  There is always something new—or old—to learn, to work on, to improve, and if you feel you are weaker in one area (say, the actual  atheletic ability part), there are so many other ways in which you can become a master (such as music, singing, or language). 

With that said, you can leverage this versatility of the art to ensure, despite whatever happens to you, whether you’re injured or not, whether you can even make it to class or not, that you can only ever improve in capoeira.

“Creative” training:

Unless you’re made of steel, a bad injury or powerful cold can knock the axé right out of your poor, ailing body.  What’s a capoeirista to do?  Well, the first option is to continue training—since not only is capoeira extremely multifaceted, but so is each facet that makes it up, like, in this case, training movements and sequences.  A capoeirista in my grupo broke her arm once, and she kept training all the way through its recovery, doing everything on her uninjured side and modified movements if that wasn’t enough.  I’m not saying you should go out and break your arm, of course, but imagine if it were your good side that were injured, and all you could do was train capoeira on only your normally weaker side for two months: you’d be completely ambi-capoeirous afterwards!

Even if you’re not injured or sick but just plain unable to do a move, that can turn out to benefit you, as well.  When I first started capoeira, I couldn’t practice bananeira at all.  I was too scared to just kick up, thinking I could crash down and really hurt myself, and I was also too scared to kick up against a wall, thinking something could go wrong ending with me breaking my neck.  So, I practiced for months in a very narrow hallway at home, that was narrow enough for me to climb up one wall, and walk onto the opposite wall, letting me practice balancing in between, safe in the knowledge that I had support on either side.  Then once I could kick up against a wall, I was still too scared to kick up into thin air in case I overshot and crashed, so I practiced on a thick carpet in the basement until I could land from bananeira into a bridge with at least some modicum of control.  Then I could practice bananeira like normal, on any surface, and without even thinking about it, I’d developed a super flexible back that would help me in future training sessions.  My point is, there’s more than one way to string a berimbau, so get creative, and find it!

Get in tune with the art: 

If you’re too sick or too injured to do any training at all—now that’s where the fun begins.  Attend class anyway, and call dibs on the berimbau, atabaque, pandeiro…oh wait, you won’t have to, because everyone else is training!  If ten minutes a day is enough to become competent on the berimbau, imagine what 120 minutes a day would do for you.  The Bahia Philharmonic, anyone?  Moreover, you’ll get a really good opportunity to practice playing instruments or maybe even leading a song in an actual roda while everyone else plays, since if you were well, you’d probably be too busy buying into the roda yourself!

Watch like an eagle and soak like a sponge:

Now, what if you can’t train or play the instruments, for some reason?  Brief digression here: During my first half-year of doing capoeira, even though I went “only” twice a week, that still seemed like an extraordinary amount of time to devote to just one extracurricular activity, especially since it was 2 hours each time (plus commute), and moreover each on a school night (eating up all my procrastination homework time).  So it seemed even more amazing to me that people would attend class, in their uniforms, even when they were sick or injured and couldn’t train.  I mentioned that to someone once, and I’m pretty sure I even said something like “…since it seems like you’d have better things to do…” (I know, blasphemy!  😛 ) 

Of course, I know now that even if you weren’t just addicted to the environment and capoeira music blaring out of utility speakers, plain observation is a great way to improve in capoeira.  You can watch people playing each other and learn from their triumphs or mistakes, taking note of what you’d do or not do in their place.  Practice looking for vulnerabilities in people while they move, and still pay attention to the teacher’s tips and directions.  Even when I’m training normally, I like watching or listening in when the teacher corrects other students, because either I’ll probably need that same correction myself, or if I don’t, it’ll remind me to make sure I continue not needing it!  A good idea here is also to have your capoeira notebook on you, so you can take down tips, observations, sequences, or other ideas that you want to keep in mind for future reference.

Think like a capoeirista: 

Finally, how do you improve in capoeira if you can’t even make it to your capoeira class?  In tons of ways!  If you drive a car, keep capoeira CDs (note the plural’s lack of an apostrophe) in it so you can practice the songs (no apostrophe here, either—it’s a simple concept!) wherever you go.  The same goes for your iPods, CD players, etc.  If you’re stuck in bed at home and have access to the internet, try picking up some basic Portuguese, using sites like Portuguese for Capoeiristas (how convenient!).  Another good idea is just to read about capoeira, which will develop you further as a capoeirista intellectually, philosophically, and maybe spiritually.  The capoeira publishing industry seems to be growing by the month, and of course, a certain feminist capoeira blog will always be worth checking out… 😉

I hope you find at least some of these tips useful for the next time you find yourself out of commission (which, knock on wood, will not be for a very, very long while).  As I discussed in a previous post, capoeira never stops; now, neither must we!

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Capoeira Resource: Soul Capoeira Blog

23 01 2008

Berimbau, atabaque, pandeiro, reco-reco, agogoHey everyone, I wanted to tell you about an awesome capoeira blog/website I’ve been following for a bit now, called Soul Capoeira.  It’s an extremely prolific and informative site, run by Chan Griffin, that offers everything from in-depth history, to stories and tales, to intricately retold memories, to basic as well as (very) specific information about all sorts of capoeira topics. 

What really got me, though, was the inclusion of beat-by-beat musical rhythm instruction!!  You have no idea how excited I was to find this.  I don’t know how it was for you when you first started learning the berimbau, but I know for many people they do it intuitively, by listening to and watching someone else play, then copying as best they can.  For me though, I had to know exactly in my mind that it was, for instance, “1 down, 2 up, 2 buzz, repeat” or “4 down, 2 buzz, 3 down 1 up, 2 buzz, 4 up, 2 buzz, up-down-up-down” before I’d be able to play the toque successfully.  (Yes, I do find it easier to remember that than mimicking and yes, my friends thought I was crazy too.) 

Anyway, I still find that to be the most effective way I learn new rhythms (unfortunately, my teachers haven’t always agreed with me on that point XD), and it applies to the other instruments as well.  So if you happen to learn that way too—or even if you don’t, it can still be useful—Soul Capoeira comes through amazingly.  Whether it’s pandeiro technique, berimbau toques, or maculelê on the atabaque (at long last, our intrepid Joaninha has stumbled upon the Holy Grail!), if you can read…you can play!  Thanks, Chan!

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6 Keys to Building Upper-Body Strength (And Other News)

16 01 2008

Hello, class!

Today, we’re going to take a little field trip over to The Capoeira Blog, where Faisca has kindly published a guest post of mine.  Faisca was really nice in helping me when I first started trying to get Mandingueira off the ground, and so I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you! 

Before going on to the guest post, I apologize in advance for any irregularities in posting this week!  I’m actually on vacation in North Africa right now, so it’s going to be a little bit tricky.  The topic for today’s post went through an interesting process.  Originally, I was going to publish the article on maculelê, first in the Capoeira é Dança series.  Then, thanks to Day 1 of my trip, in fact, I completely forgot about that and was going to write a one-off post titled “The Scariest Night of My Life and Why Things Like this Blog Need to Exist”.  (Don’t worry, nothing happened, but that fact itself was also a part of it, as you’ll see.)  Now that Faisca has published my guest post, I also plan to publish a sister post to it, looking at women’s strength and the perception of it (or its lack) from a more theoretical point of view.  I hope to keep posting throughout my trip, and will hit all of the things mentioned above, so please keep checking back for more!

Click here to read 6 Keys to Building Upper-Body Strength

The Case of the Missing Capoeira Class (And What to Do about It)

27 12 2007

It was a day like any other.  The paper was stacking up, the cases were piling in, and the thermometer was about to blow its top.  I’d just lit my last cigarette, when there was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” I said.

The door opened slowly.  She stepped in, heels sinking into the coffee-stained linoleum, white gloved-hands trembling, white scarf hiding half her porcelain face; a real damsel in distress. 

“Oh Mr. Malone, it’s terrible!  If only you could help me, I’d be forever grateful!”

“‘S what I’m here for.  P.I. Sam Malone, at your service.  What seems to be the problem, pretty lady?”

Well, she told me.  And it wasn’t a pretty picture.  A job relocation, a popped kneecap, a closed academy, the works.  I told her I’d see what I could do, but it wasn’t looking good.  Still, every P.I. worth his salt has a few leads barking down the old chain.  I opened a new file, titled…The Case of the Missing Capoeira Class.

Detective’s Log: The Case of the Missing Capoeira Class – Leads

Exhibit A: Gym Room

Motive: Keeps you strong, keeps you fit.  Benchpressing is no jogo, but it’ll help you out in your next one (whenever that may be).  Cycle the room, mix things up.  Arms, legs, back, chest, cardio–leave no muscle unworked (except for the muscles around that popped knee cap, if that’s your issue; in that case, work hard on everything else)!  Gym room MIA, went down the same sorry road as that elusive capoeira class?  Look up workout ideas for the home, such as The Capoeira Blog‘s Strength Training Exercises.

Unidentified capoeirista - a shadowy figureExhibit B: Self-Training

Motive: As revealed by Exhibit A, benchpressing is no jogo, and lat pulls are no bananeira.  Just because there’s no Instrutor present threatening to revoke your belt doesn’t mean you can’t do those 60 esquivas on your own!  Making a routine helps–write it out and stick to the list.  Go back to basics, if that’s all you’re confident of working on without a teacher; that may be a blessing in disguise, as you can never do enough of those!

Exhibit C: Videos and DVDs

Motive: I once knew a guy…picked up a couple of capoeira training DVDs, was never the same again.  Finally joined a grupo, and blew everyone away.” “Really, Mr. Malone?” “Yes, really.”  A last resort in my opinion, but a good P.I. must face the facts.  They could help, especially if you are desperate or don’t trust yourself to be self-disciplined enough for self-training.  There are also some potentially helpful videos on Youtube (e.g. macaco).  Just be careful that you don’t try something dangerous that you or even the video might be unsure about!  And just in case you need the reminder: videos and DVDs are never a substitute for the real thing.

Exhibit D: Another Academy

Motive: You get a class, you get a teacher, you get the atmosphere.  The only problem?  It’s not yours. 

“Oh, but Mr. Malone, I couldn’t!”
“You may not have a choice, madame.”
I knew it; it was a can of worms just waiting to pop wide open.  Still, what could I tell her?  A lead was a lead.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply if your academy has just closed temporarily (e.g. for holidays), or if you’re injured, or anything like that.  Personal judgement rules here, of course, as well as school philosophy, relationships with and between grupos/teachers, degree of desperation, accessibility (or lack of) to your own academy, etc.  I’m not recommending going either way as a general rule; there are too many variable factors subject to each individual’s case, and it’s just one option to be aware of!

Exhibit E: Other Capoeiristas

Motive: If you’re stuck without capoeira classes, chances are there are others in your exact position.  If your academy is closed, gather with friends or other capoeiristas from your school for impromptu rodas or informal training sessions.  If you’re stranded in a foreign city and groupless, you could make like the wandering nomads of old and form a group (the general noun, not in the sense of a capoeira grupo, although the first may lead to the second!) with other stranded, groupless capoeiristas, so that you can all help each other keep your skills up, whether through rodas or meeting regularly to train together.  (This actually worked out very well for a friend of mine.)

Well, I’d done my best–left no clue unturned, no print undusted, no suspect unshadowed.  My thinking cap was running on its very last legs, and the coffee at the bottom of the pot was harder than an anvil on a duck.  I wished the pretty lady luck, and she left with a small, optimistic smile on her Chanel No. 7 reddened lips.  All in all, I hadn’t done a bad day’s work.  Case closed.

8 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Capoeirista in Your Life

24 12 2007

Christmastime capoeiraHappy Holidays!  With the season now upon us, have you found something for everyone on your list?  Yes, you say?  Oh, except for one person, you say?  That one person for whom you have no idea what to get, except maybe something to do with that crazy Brazilian capo-whatsit they do because it’s all they ever talk about?  Well, look no further!  Even if they already have copious amounts of abadas, t-shirts, street wear, and DVDs, by the end of this post, you’ll have a handy list of ideas for what to get for the capoeirista in your life (or, as a treat, for the capoeirista in you)!

1. A Book about Capoeira

If a capoeirista isn’t thirsting for water after a hard day’s workout, they’re probably thirsting for more knowledge about capoeira. Believe me, learning about it beyond moves and techniques adds infinitely to your experience of practicing capoeira. A good place to start would be Nestor Capoeira’s The Little Capoeira Book, or Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game (Newsflash! –> A second edition of Little Capoeira Book comes out this Boxing Day!). For those already with some base in the knowledge, history, or philosophy of capoeira, consider A Street-Smart Song: Capoeira Philosophy and Inner Life, by the same author. Note that these books are about capoeira-its history, philosophy, relevance, social implications, role in society, growth, development, key figures, ideals-and not principally written in order to teach the reader how to do capoeira. Although there are books out there that focus on the latter, I would say books such as Nestor Capoeira’s are a better choice, as presumably the capoeirista is already learning moves from their academy classes, and the style of movements in a particular book may not match the style of the student’s grupo, so it might not be very practical for everyday training. Of course, an exception to this is when the technique book has been authored by your grupo, as recently became the case for anyone in Capoeira Brasil.  Still, a book like this would mostly be ideal for someone dedicated enough to use it in addition to the training they already get within class.

2. This Book about Capoeira

I highly recommend Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form, by Bira Almeida (Mestre Acordeon), and don’t think the recipient already owning one of the books recommended above should bar you from getting them this one, which is why I listed it as a separate item. As someone put it to me, this book is a “friendlier read” than Nestor Capoeira’s work (though I have only read Roots and a bit of Street-Smart Song to date, so I’m basing my opinion off that), more unassuming and with less of a bias/agenda showing throughout the writing. There are some beautiful stories in here, as well as good writing and a generous helping of song lyrics and their (English) translations, which helps with the Portuguese!

3. Capoeira Music

Nothing helps with learning a song more than being able to listen to it over and over (and over and over and over) again in one’s own home or car. (And if the CD comes with a booklet of lyrics, even better!) If the person you are thinking of already owns all your grupo’s CDs, help to expand their horizons and get them a CD recorded by another mestre or grupo. Or if you’re in a regional group, you could get them a CD from an angola group, and vice versa. Alternatively, the person might enjoy some Brazilian dance (e.g. samba, xaxado, coco de roda) or general Brazilian music (e.g. Sergio Mendes, Caetano Veloso) instead!

4. Capoeira Artwork

On a list floating around the Internet titled “You know you’re capoeira-crazy when…”, one of the listed criteria was “…when all your hard drive space is used up because all of the capoeira pics and videos.”  Well, there’s a reason for that! Whether it’s printed onto our clothes, sketched inside our notebooks, inked into our skin, or floating across our computer monitors, we just seem to want to soak up capoeira wherever we go! With that, a nice painting or drawing of an image or scene to do with capoeira would be ideal for anyone who is into the sport. (Warning: You may want to hold off of any life-sized portraits of people unless you know the person is that devoted to a particular figure…)

5. Make It Personal

If you want to make someone really happy, give them something to do with their apelido. It can be as loud and clear as a stuffed animal for Gato, or as subtle as a charm-embellished notebook for Mariposa. Artwork would be a hit in this case, too. We all fail what my friend christened the “capoeira nerd test” at some level, and getting a thrill out of anything that highlights our personal capoeira identities is just one great way to do it!

6. Teach Them Something You Can Do

Offer to spend a day or several sessions solely helping someone learn or perfect one of their goals that you’ve achieved and would be able to help them with. A cool floreio movement might be ideal for this. Alternatively, you could help them with learning songs, or music. Offer to teach them how to play the pandeiro or atabaque, how to arm and play a toque on the berimbau, or teach them more advanced rhythms and variations on any of the instruments. This gift is useful, long-lasting, hopefully will be paid forward, and would definitely be greatly appreciated (I know I’ve been dying to learn how to play maculele on the atabaque since forever, and the first person to successfully guide me into a correct au amazonas will be my god[dess]).

7. Portuguese for Dummies

This one is pretty self-explanatory! Any Portuguese-learning book, even a good Portuguese-English/English-Portuguese dictionary, will eventually become useful for anyone who wants to seriously pursue capoeira into higher and higher levels-or anyone who just wants to know exactly what it is they’re belting out loud in front of 30 people every roda!

8. A Holiday Rasteira (alternatively, a Festive Vingativa or Yuletide Tesouro)

Because that’s the greatest gift of all-learning from experience!

Picture Source:

Learn Portuguese in Six Lines

11 12 2007

Portuguese, the beautiful language of beautiful Brazil's capoeira!So, you’ve got the game, you’ve got the acrobatics, you’ve got the music (or even if you haven’t and are a keen capoeirista)…what’s next? O linguagem, camara!  Alright, so it’s not exactly completely learning Portuguese, and it’s not in exactly six lines, but while we’re on the topic of language (well, tangentially!), I thought I’d throw this little find out there.  My friend bookmarked it on her page, and though I haven’t had time to try it out myself yet, it seems promising!

These are the six lines:

The apple is red.
It is John’s apple.
I give John the apple.
We give him the apple.
He gives it to John.
She gives it to him.

or if you prefer something more capoeira-oriented:

The berimbau is brown.
It is John’s berimbau.
I give John the berimbau.
We give him the berimbau.
He gives it to John.
She gives it to him.

The point of the page she posted was that you can give yourself a headstart in learning any language by deconstructing it before you actually start to learn it.  After you have translated the above sentences into Portuguese, or asked someone to do it for you, you will have an instant snapshot of many of the basic grammatical rules of the language!  That is to say, you will know things like how they arrange subject/verb/object in a sentence, how to use the possessive, plural and singular pronouns, basic verb conjugation, and how to treat direct and indirect objects.  After that, you can do the same with negative sentences, and with auxiliary verbs (e.g. “should kick”, “want to play”, “must buy in”), and see how those are put together.

It’s far from perfect, but it’s an interesting way to start, and might make some things easier to catch on to after you start learning for real!  If you’re interested, I recommend reading the full post, which has a more thorough explanation and additional tips on learning any language: Click here to go to post