Catching up workshop – Come along to Brazil

Last weekend we had a special workshop with me as a way to catch up with friends and students. At the opening we all had a nice chat and I shared my concerns, ideas and experience working with progressive capoeiras abroad. We also talked about training methods and how I have been working with Capoeira over these last years. Mestres Carcará, Urso e Bom Sorriso came to support the event and share their views too. What follows is a summarised version of this last weekend.

At the opening everyone seemed to be mesmerized with my account of what have been going on with Social Capoeira abroad. I mentioned Mestre Fantasma and the Urban Ritual (in England), the youngsters from MAC Centre (in East Timor) who put together an NGO and run it by themselves with a strong anti-violence and professionalizing agenda. I also talked about the Volta ao Mundo NGO (in Lebanon) and their work with refugee and street kids. And finally about how incoherent some groups are when they use social programs as a marketing tool and/or as grassroots pool to recruit young talents for their schools. For those working with this kind of programs the hegemonic agenda of groups and styles must be put aside, and the welfare of the students put above everything else.

Mestre Urso, Mestre Bimba’s grandson in Capoeira, reminded us of his Roda da Paz. A monthly Roda he used to organize quite a few years ago in front of the TV Tower in Brasília. It was open to all and for as long as he was able to keep it under fair-play principles he kept it alive. The increasing violence among groups in Brasília, however, forced him to stop it. But it was there that I met him, sometimes handling brainless and coward players (pursuing fame through violence) in games, other times getting rid of them using only his berimbau. After that he began another movement: as Rodas Itinerantes (the Itinerant Rodas): monthly Rodas that took place in different places and advertized to selected people only. This one worked for a few years more, until Mestre Urso took a break to look after his newborn daughter. Mestre Urso is back and willing to organize these Rodas again. His presence in my workshop honored all of us.

Most of my students, or rather those who are still training, are training too much and playing too little. This trend is all over our community and lots of young instructors and teachers are training hard, too hard maybe. Some are seeking fame, some recognition, and a few are simply addicted in training and the sense of self-improvement it brings us. High-performance athletes and artists train over 3 hours a day, but they have support strength and flexibility training, physiotherapy and proper rest. Yet, these highly trained folks usually perform or compete only for about 10 to 16 years (3 Olympic cycles), after what they retire. Now, who among us don’t wish to play until the day we die?! That should give us a better perspective.

Of course we must train hard in order to master our bodies, expresses ourselves, and play a decent Capoeira. But to train hard having in mind both these purposes, and the perspective of growing older fit enough to play our kind of game using our moves is one thing; to train too hard and risk body-limiting injuries for a crap money, hundreds of hits over YouTube videos and short-lived fame is not worth it. For these reasons I have reinforced in my classes strength, stretching and balance exercises. I also emphasized playfulness, expression, circularity, interactivity, and fluidity.

To work out these concepts we played a few games, did some workout and above all drilled movements just enough to learn how to use them in paired sequences and mock games. I used variations of sequences created by Mestre Bimba and Mestre Suassuna to stress fluidity, circularity and cooperation as most people attending the workshop knew these sequences already. After a while it was time to spice it up with variations that demanded improvisation, focus and the ability to replace movements for similar ones more suitable to the varying rhythms, pair’s sizes, and distances. I was happy to see the result and we have been working with these sequences and the variations I created over this week too.

Saturday we had a Roda at the SOS Children’s Village, the shelter we began the Learning from Brazilian Culture program in 2003. Ely, and old friend and a skilled capoeira and kids’ teacher used Berimbau rhythms, kids’ songs with short choreographies (or improvisational tasks) to lead the children’s class. The kids loved it so much that we had some last moment additions of newcomers to the class. The adults’ training started with exercises already in the Roda and with the kids’ Axé we had an awesome Roda!

For the next post I’m planing to visit Mestre Cláudio Danadinho and comment over his takes and training methods.

Até lá e um forte abraço para todos!

3 thoughts on “Catching up workshop – Come along to Brazil”

  1. “Training too much, playing too little.”

    Indeed. I only came to capoeira in my 30s, and now that I am 41, I’m afraid that I simply can’t train with the intensity of a 21 year old. These days, I need to think hard about the best way to use the physical capacity that I still have.

    Ball drill and interval training are not football. Playing is capoeira, training is not capoeira, I think. Training is something I need because I’m not a 19th century dock worker and I need extra work to stay strong. I agree with you that we need to have proper perspective about what training is for.

    1. Oi Stephen,
      To hone our games while we play is something we all should pay more attention to. The game requires skills and adaptability that are not required in training… Training strength and flexibility aside can lower injury risks increased by the repetition of too many specific movements with unfit bodies. If one has already performed a movement safely once, it’s time to look for different people to play with as a way to make it sink into your game. Jogar is THE standard we all should be looking at when putting things in perspective.
      Nice to see you around! How is the Chorinho group going?

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