Think Global, Play Local: Broadening Your Capoeira Horizons

1 03 2008

Capoeira is international.  Are you?  

Something that has periodically amazed me is that from time to time, when I’ve tried capoeira in other places (such as at last week’s batizado in Amsterdam), it seems as if I’d never left home, and was still in a class with my own group, my own teachers. These feelings usually swell, like bubbles, during lectures or talks about various aspects of capoeira.

Think global, play local; capoeira can be found all around the globeIt doesn’t matter if you’re at a British, German, or Japanese roda; you still have to sing like a Tenor, gauge your battles like a Spartan, and converse (joga-wise) like characters in a 19th century murder mystery. Likewise, it matters not whether it’s boomed out (like a death sentence) in French, English, or Portuguese: the phrase “deux par deux” (dois par dois, two by two, whatever) will always increase my blood pressure, exact a groan, and have me looking for a good nearby rock to hide under.

My point is, incredible as it is, I’d never thought of capoeira being literally international in this way before. Obviously, I knew it came from Brazil and had spread all over the world, and my own group has many international branches, but it wasn’t until I’d heard words from my first teachers’ mouths repeated in the same way, but in a different language, that it really hit me.

It amazed me because just like how I felt capoeira changes but fundamentally stays the same throughout time, it seems this applies for capoeira throughout space as well—that is, geography. Capoeira in Brazil is capoeira in Turkey is capoeira in Australia. This is lucky for us, since there is still much to be gained by trying some of each, which brings me to the post’s title.

In the world of environmental action, “think global, eat local” is a movement to encourage people to consume more locally grown/produced food, in order to save on resources that would otherwise be spent transporting consumer products, such as gas and other fuels. More specifically, it is much more resource-conscious, thus environmentally and so thus globally conscious to eat steak from a cow raised on a farm just outside your city, than it is to chow down on ribs that were imported from, say, Mexico, based on the amount of energy and resources it took to get that particular food from its starting place onto your table.

This may be a bit of a stretch, but in a way I think that concept can apply to capoeiristas as well, while travelling or having to relocate to other places for any reason. Say you’ve just moved to a new city, or country, and you have two choices for continuing your capoeira training: drive or take a train four hours out to another city once a week or less to train with the “local” branch of your own group, or start taking truly local classes, from another group. By trying the latter, you are not only truly immersing yourself in your new locale (while saving time, money, and resources), but afterwards you will become more globally conscious capoeira-wise, as well. You will see how different grupos and different cultures do and view things, and in the end it can only contribute to your experience and growth as a capoeirista.

Please note, though, that in no way am I advocating group-jumping here. If there is a local branch of your group in your new city, then you’re really lucky and definitely stick with them; you will still experience a new culture, if not a new group’s philosophy and way of doing things. “Think global, play local” for me doesn’t mean jumping groups for the sake of it, but just not shying away from exposing yourself to different groups when circumstances and opportunity intersect in the right way. The idea isn’t to replace or mix up your “group roots” and style/foundations, but to supplement or garnish them with new ideas and perspectives.

In a way, being in a capoeira group could be compared to being the citizen of a country. You grow up in your own culture and learn all its ways, and patriotism is usually expected, though in varying degrees. However, your worldview as a person would be deeply stunted if you never travelled or saw anything or interacted with anyone outside of your own country, or even state/province or city/town/village. (Think deep south USA.)

Sure, there are books and newspapers, but just like while someone in North America or Europe might know what’s going on in the Middle East but doesn’t know the Middle East, a capoeirista can hear or read about other capoeira techniques and philosophies, but it is only by actually encountering and experiencing them that you gain the value of truly broadening your horizons. And, just like in the real world, travelling to other nations doesn’t always necessarily mean you intend to become an ex-pat!