“Nobody Can Say!”: The “Roda” That Is Capoeira Arguments

7 07 2008

“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers.”

Capoeira is like philosophy. And I don’t mean it’s like a philosophy, as in “the philosophy of capoeira”. Capoeira is like the entire field of philosophy—at least when it comes to the discussions.

Who can say?  Maybe somewhere in the stars...

It struck me shortly after I came back home and finally broke it to my capoeira group (read: teachers) that I’d been training with another group in France. (I’d kept it a secret during all of last year…slightly long story there. But I digress.) What I then found amusing (as well as not so amusing) about the whole thing was how each side of the pond so readily disdained the other, even though I love and esteem both. And they all have their not-unreasonable explanations, including for why they’re each superior to a separate third group—who, I have no doubt, considers itself better than my two!

As one of my teachers pointed out, “…and it’s all opinion anyway! Maybe you think this capoeira group is better, but I think that capoeira group is better. Everyone has their own preference.” Most capoeiristas recognize this, yet many capoeira groups still claim, for one reason or another, to be the best (or at least pretty darn up there). It’s funny because with every capoeira group touting their own superiority, their claims kind of all cancel each other out, and so in the end it comes right back down to personal opinion anyway. After all, at least when it comes to capoeira style and capoeira philosophy, nobody can say!

Similarly, about a week later, I got into a conversation about fights breaking out in capoeira, and capoeiristas who “play” really to fight other group’s capoeiristas, and ended up saying something like, “It’s not capoeira!” (Since “just dancing” isn’t capoeira, so it’s okay to say “just fighting” isn’t capoeira either, right?) After I said that though, another one of my capoeira teachers ended it with the inevitable line: “But what is capoeira? Nobody can say.”

And therein lies the crux of the whole thing. Capoeira reminds me of philosophy because no matter how much capoeiristas—like philosophers—talk and discuss and debate and rationalize their respective arguments, you can almost never come to any ultimate conclusion because—who can say?! What can be proven?? No one capoeirista has enough authority or knowledge to decide for all, and for better or worse, Newton concentrated his efforts on gravity rather than capoeira when making his laws.

I think one of my friends from first-year put it best (paraphrased from memory): “The thing about philosophy [or in our case, capoeira] is that you can spend hours and hours talking and going through arguments and making your points, but in the end none of it matters because nobody can prove any of it anyway!”

Although that doesn’t quite work, either (clearly it matters some, or this blog wouldn’t exist!), I just found the irony or circularness (hence “roda”) of it all amusing. So sue me! 😛

Picture source (modified):

Capoeira Without Borders: A Thought Experiment

2 03 2008

Doctors Without Borders = freedom of health care.  Reporters Without Borders = freedom of speech.  Engineers Without Borders = freedom of technological development.  Capoeira Without Borders = ???

What would a world of capoeira without borders be like? 

Yesterday’s post got me thinking more about the comparison I made between countries and capoeira groups, and then I remembered the title I was going to give the post originally: “Capoeira Without Borders”.  To expand on this idea, what would it be like if there were no borders between capoeira groups, and capoeiristas could come and go as they pleased?  Let’s imagine…

First of all, capoeira students would have an amazing number of opportunities open to them.  They would learn more and different techniques and styles of play, even without leaving the categories of regional, angola, benguela, or contemporânea.  Each capoeirista’s personal game and style would be completely unique, based on their particular combination of with whom they trained, how often, for how long, and what they in particular gained from each group.  They would have more flexibility schedule-wise, if classes from every local group were open to them, or during holidays if some academies closed while others remained open.

The potential for “bad blood” between groups might be reduced, and groups as a whole would grow closer to one another as their respective students would mix, mingle, and bond, more often and to a greater extent than they would otherwise (or at all).  On the other hand, more interaction between more people might also increase the potential for drama and more of the same.  Although, this would also depend on how much of a “my group your group” mentality students retained after the eradication of “borders”.

Similarly, the amount of politics between mestres of different groups might decrease, as their students could openly and legitimately train with one, the other, or both simultaneously, at any time.  Then again, politics might rise to a more feverish pitch if mestres decided they had to work, coerce, or manipulate harder to retain students/students’ loyalties due to the complete freedom they now have to come and go as they please.

From a growth and expansion point of view, this would actually be a nightmare for grupos as they would have much more difficulty establishing cores of students and knowing who they could rely on, to show up for training, for rodas, and for events.  On the flip side, they could also have bigger events—seeing as each event would be open to every capoeirista in the world who’s interested—and they would have larger labour/volunteer pools to help with the event or other things, since people outside of their immediate groups would also be included.

Finally, in terms of the actual capoeira, group styles would evolve at much higher rates, seeing as everyone from other groups or who was training with other groups would bring what they had learned to class and into every roda.  At the same time, group styles could be “corrupted” by unwanted methods or techniques from other groups brought in by their or other students.

These are all the possible effects I can think of so far; feel free to add more scenarios in the Comments!  Even if this isn’t going to happen anytime soon (or, okay, ever), it never hurts to exercise your imagination once in a while. 😉

Picture source: http://www.cafepress.com/pcpremium.11583050

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