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

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