Mandinga and Mandingueira: What’s in a Name?

21 03 2008

mandingueira (noun, feminine): capoeira player who is skilled, experienced, intelligent, powerful, dangerous, and not to be underestimated

Malicia and Mandinga” formed the fourth FICA Women’s Conference discussion topic, and since I’ve talked a bit about malicia already on this blog, this time I’ll focus on mandinga.

What is mandinga in capoeira?

What is it? According to the conference discussion group,

mandinga relate[s] to something more abstract [than malicia], an energy transmitted, something magical, spiritual, and related to an individual’s personality.

That sounds about right; and since mandinga is so abstract and versatile, and pervasive in one who’s learned it, it makes sense that how it’s expressed would depend on the individual capoeirista who has or uses it.

There’s also an article about mandinga on Capoeira Connection, in which Mestre Curió says:

There’s the mandinga of black magic and there’s the mandinga of the capoeirista’s cleverness, when he reaches the point where he can really be called a capoeirista. And especially when he’s an angoleiro. It’s not that there don’t exist elements of mandinga in Regional. But there are people who enter the roda, exchange beatings, and claim that they’re good. But they’re not good. That’s what mandinga is: It’s wisdom, it’s being able to hit your adversary but not doing so; you show that you didn’t hit him because you didn’t want to.

I like this one, too. It puts emphasis on the subtlety and “underlying-ness” of mandinga; it’s not brute force, but the threat or potential of force; not overt fighting, but mental manipulation (in all senses of the word) and psychological prowess.

Next, I think the explanation on—appropriately enough—Grupo Mandinga‘s website does a really good job describing just what this mysterious, floating spectre is. You should definitely check out the whole thing, but in a nutshell:

Mandinga in the capoeira environment means, amongst many things, the hidden power that one has to disguise their real intention and to trick the opponent. It is a way to invoke some forces to blur the opponent’s vision of reality almost like hypnotizing him/her into a trance-like state so that they can’t see what is coming. It can also be magic like a trick that confuses and distracts the opponent. However, it is much more than any of the above meanings.

This angle hits on one of the most common notions of mandinga, as a spell one capoeirista puts over the other while playing inside the roda. And of course, it makes the point that ultimately, something like mandinga is beyond description or definition.

Finally, we return to the FICA conference, where Mestre Paulinha split mandinga into four main elements:

  • attitude
  • improvisation
  • deception
  • interruption

If someone who was at the conference could elaborate on her ideas regarding these, that would be awesome! For myself, I could see attitude being the comportment of a capoeirista as they play, their relaxed yet hyper-alert mental state and ability to take the jogo as it comes, turning anything that happens to their own advantage. That covers improvisation as well, and deception would be the capoeirista’s powers of concealment, hiding their every intention and movement until the very last nanosecond, toying with their opponent in the form of dangled feints and barely-there (until you fall into one!) traps.

Lastly, interruption is an interesting one, and I’d interpret that to mean how you interrupt the other player’s game, countering their attacks and moving too quickly for them to even be able to complete a single movement. It could also mean interrupting your own game and mindset, if the situation in the roda suddenly shifts or changes on you.

Now, what does all this have to do with Mandingueira? I thought since we’re already on the topic, I’d take the opportunity to explain the thinking behind this blog’s name. Again from Grupo Mandinga:

When a capoeirista is referred to as being a “mandingueira” it can be considered as one of the highest compliments that could be given. It implies that one is experienced and mature with a good sense of humor and yet dangerous and not to be fooled by the appearances. Sometimes the word mandinga is also used to imply that someone put a spell on a player and for that he/she can’t play well or is not doing well in some senses.

Basically, what better way for a blog to advocate for women in capoeira than to name it after the ultimate capoeirista? Not the “ultimate female capoeirista”, but the ultimate capoeirista, who—guess what?—is female! As for the rest, you could maybe call it wishful thinking or dire optimism, but I’d hope that in the long run, Mandingueira will affect and change society (or at least the capoeira world) the same way a mandingueira or mandingueiro would affect and change another capoeirista in the roda; not exactly by tricking them in my case, but through their interaction making the other aware of their own faults and mistakes, and thus causing them to improve and change for the better…and moreover causing such a complete and amazing change that it’d be like a spell was cast over them (in this case, society—or the capoeira world).

Update: See Comments to download a 40-page research paper on malicía in capoeira angola and capoeira regional!

Picture source: http://web.monroecc.edu/manila/webfiles/capoeira/capologo1.gif





Videos: Mestra Paulinha

29 02 2008

A while ago I wrote about Mestra Paulinha, co-founder and sociologist of Grupo Nzinga, but somehow left out videos of her playing.  The following angola videos feature her, and thank you to Steven for the links!

This is a really old video of Mestra Paulinha playing João Pequeno!  If you don’t want to wait through the introductory music, the actual playing starts at about 1:50.

This next video takes place in Costa Rica, with Mestra Paulinha playing capoeira in a roda with a FICA student.

Click here to see other posts in Ie viva meu Mestra





Battle of the Titans: The Internal Struggle between Capoeira and…Everything Else

10 02 2008

When it comes to capoeira, there is no doubt that the more you train, the better.  In a perfect world, we would all get to train capoeira as much as we wanted to (or needed to), as often as we could, and simultaneously stay on top of everything else going on in our lives—school, career, relationships, etc. (and get full nights’ worth of sleep while we were at it!).  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.  So, what happens when these two giants in your life (“capoeira” and “everything else”) clash for your time and energy?

Capoeiristas play capoeira.  And everything else?

On the one hand, it seems there’s just no help for it.  As crazy as I am about capoeira, I’m not about to blow a great career opportunity or cut an important class for one session of training (manipulating my course timetable to work around training, however, is a different matter 😉 ).  I know of at least one or two people who have a really hard time training not even nearly as much as they would like, due to exacting careers or studies, and I always wonder, what will happen for me in the future?  At one point in time I was considering going to medical school after graduating, and upon hearing this someone said to me, not without reason: “You won’t be doing capoeira then!” 

The thing is, I always thought it had to be one or the other.  My grupo in particular has a very hardcore take on training and commitment, which I appreciate and wouldn’t want any other way, but which also really forces you to decide what the priorities in your life are.  Training time increases with corda rank, naturally, but by my second belt I was already training 5x/week, and anything less than daily for my teachers, not even graduados themselves (but still more than skilled/competent, of course), was rare.  To get even anywhere near becoming a mestra or mestre, it seemed, took not only a lifetime but quite indiscriminately a life, leaving no room for anything else.

This impression only strengthened when I read biographies of mestres, my grupo’s mestre, guest mestres, branched-off mestres, all of which related how pretty much the entire lives of all of these men were devoted to capoeira, leading to them becoming mestres, and as far as I know, their lives are still 100% devoted to purely capoeira, their academies, the growth of their schools, etc.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; that’s not my point here, and capoeira can always use that kind of dedication, which merits admiration.

My point is: A short while ago, I experienced yet another “revelation”, connected to this and again mostly to do with capoeira angola.  I know it seriously seems like I’m about to defect to an angola group any day now (to those who might, don’t worry; I’m not!), but I had to share it.  This was the revelation:

  • Rosangêla de Araújo Costa: Mestra Janja of Grupo Nzinga and historian and university professor
  • Paula Cristina da Silva Barreto: Mestra Paulinha of Grupo Nzinga and sociologist and university professor
  • Paulo Barreto: Mestre Poloca of Grupo Nzinga and geographer
  • Pedro Moraes Trindade: Mestre Moraes of GCAP and public school teacher
  • Nestor Capoeira: Mestre and author and PhD alumnus
  • Marcia Treidler: Mestranda Cigarra of Abada Capoeira and founder/Artistic Director of ACSF (non-profit NGO)

As you can see, every one of these illustrious individuals is a superlative capoeirista, at the top of the corda ranks and at the top of their game, yet there is much more to their lives and careers than capoeira alone.  For them, it seems, substantial progress in capoeira (to say the least—they’re mestres!) and major non-capoeira commitments (e.g. post-grad degrees, career development) were not mutually exclusive concepts. 

So, firstly, where did my bedrock belief in the contrary come from?  My grupo’s “philosophy”?  My own insecurities?  (Speaking of which, I should make it clear here that I have no plans, intentions, hopes or expectations of becoming a mestra, ever, but everything I said still applies to the idea of advancing through belt levels in capoeira in general, which is the part that applies to me!)

And secondly, what currents cause growing capoeiristas, potential mestras/mestres-to-be, to sail one way or the other?  Regarding the people listed above, I want to know: How did they do it?  Or how were they “allowed” to do it, to take the time they must have needed to accomplish their other goals, yet have trained enough and been recognized as dedicated enough to be deemed mestras?  Perhaps, as I think is in some cases, their other achievements were accomplished after the fact, when they had already earned the mestre/a corda and was then released from the training pressure of a normal student (although I can imagine a whole new set of pressures coming in to replace that!).  Perhaps, as is also likely, their grupos had different “philosophies”, more conducive to the simultaneous success of non-capoeira pursuits just as considerable as the capoeira one.  Or maybe they really did go “capoeira-lite” for a while, reached the moon, then came back, caught up, and re-donned the capoeira horse-blinders.

In any case, I found this particular “revelation” to be very heartening and encouraging (even inspiring), and I have so much admiration for capoeiristas like Mestra Janja and Mestranda Marcia.  Perhaps there’s room in the world for a martelo-throwing rasteira-sneaking newsbreaking world-changing difference-making writer-publisher-journalist-capoeirista after all. 😛

Picture source:
http://www.capoeira.org.nz/index.php/item/258

————————————————————————————
If you found this post useful or interesting, please
click to subscribe to my blog, by
RSS feed or email!
————————————————————————————