What has capoeira done for your life
Capoeira: Get to know the fascination between combat and art.
Capoeira is a Brazilian World Heritage Site. But what exactly is Capoeira and how do you learn it? We want to get to the bottom of this question and understand the fascination of Capoeira. Therefore we spoke to Mestre Índio, Capoeira master from Santos in Brazil.
Mestre Índio did capoeira for the first time when she was 11 years old. Since then he has directed his life towards Capoeira. For him, Capoeira is a way of life that is by his side in good times and bad. He wants to share this way of life with others. He wants to spread the Brazilian culture in Germany and give everyone access to Capoeira. Mestre Índio has been leading the training of the Grupo Equilíbrio in Bonn for 19 years and regularly organizes international meetings with artists.
Bom Dia Mestre Índio. We are happy that you found the time! Let's just start: what exactly is capoeira?
Easy? That is the hardest question: Capoeira is not that easy to define. Sometimes when someone asks me what Capoeira is, I answer: It is a martial art hidden in dance. But it's not just about fighting or dancing. It's about the connection between fight, dance, movement, music, defense and aesthetics.
You realize that Capoeira is not just a sport: sport is a part, but it is much more: it is life, culture and togetherness. What exactly that means is difficult to understand if you've never tried it yourself. But already in your first few hours you will feel the feeling of lightness and freedom. This is capoeira!
And how exactly do you do Capoeira?
That often sounds strange to outsiders, but in Capoeira we don't fight, we play together. To play, we gather in a circle called a roda. Outside in the circle we make music, clap and sing songs. In the middle of the circle, two capoeirista play together, that's what we call people who do capoeira.
The game is just that: a game. You are not trying to defeat the other or hit the other with a kick. On the contrary, you communicate and interact with your counterpart. That is, if one makes a movement, such as kicking, evading, or faking an attack, the other responds with another movement. The result is a game of questions and answers, a real dialogue.
How exactly the game ultimately looks varies greatly depending on the group, style or situation. Some are faster, some are more dancers, some are nastier and others are completely different: Every game is unique and every group does it a little differently.
Can you tell us something about the history of Capoeira?
Capoeira comes from the time of slavery in Brazil. When the Portuguese came to Brazil, they wanted to enslave the indigenous people in order to exploit the riches of Brazil. However, the Indians would rather die than be enslaved. When the Dutch came to Brazil in 1624 and fought with the Portuguese, many slaves were able to flee. They were housed together in ghettos, so-called quilombos.
The slaves knew, of course, that the Portuguese would come back. So they prepared: They looked at fighting and defense mechanisms in the natural movements of animals and imitated them. When the Portuguese came, the slaves hid in about three feet of grass and defended themselves. In the Tupi-Guaran Indian dialect this grass is called 'Capoeira'.
And how did things go after the slave era?
After the abolition of slavery, capoeira was illegal for a long time. The slaves were free, but only on paper. After the liberation they had neither work nor anything to eat. Her only way out was capoeira. That is why it has long been illegal and has taken place underground.
Capoeira was legalized in 1937. But it took forever before all parts of society really accepted it. Even in my childhood I saw how capoeirista were discriminated against.
We Brazilians are now really proud of Capoeira. For us it expresses resistance, struggle and liberation. But Capoeira is also very common outside of Brazil. There are schools all over the world, even in Siberia or western China. That makes me really proud. :)
What styles of Capoeira are there?
The legalization of capoeira had a lot to do with Mestre Bimba (Manoel dos Reis Machado) and his school. With his regional style, he relied less on dance elements and instead brought in a stronger idea of competition and a belt system.
As a result of these changes, Mestre Pastinha created the Angola style. He wanted to preserve the idea of capoeira as a philosophy of life. Therefore, Capoeira Angola is based more on the original traditions and the connection to the old slave religion Candomblé.
Many more styles have since developed. Many groups, like our group, Grupo Equilíbrio, are a mixture of Angola and regional. Collectively we call these styles Contemporânea.
How did you get into Capoeira?
I started capoeira when I was eleven. In the beginning I trained with my first master's cousin. I couldn't afford to train in a real Capoeira school. After a while my papa was able to pay and so I came to my first master, Contra Mestre Tuca. That's awesome: Back then it was a real privilege to be able to do Capoeira.
I later tried various other martial arts including Karate, Kung Fu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai. I found it exciting, but none of these sports was comparable to Capoeira. Capoeira is so many things in one, it's unbelievable. In the meantime I don't even know what I would do without Capoeira. Mestre Pastinha once said: Eu como e eu bebo capoeira - I eat and drink capoeira. That's true for me: Capoeira is my everyday life.
What is the best thing about capoeira for you?
Clearly: the community! For some it may not be that important: They come to training and leave again. For me, the social is at the top.
I always say to my students: We are a family. And that's what I mean. With us everyone gets an apellido, a capoeira name. And we don't just train together: We go away together, go out to party and help each other when someone has a problem. Honestly, I feel a bit like a dad: When I see a new student starting out and developing over time, I feel pure pride.
What movements are there in Capoeira?
Capoeira does not consist of individual movements or set sequences. Capoeira means combining, experimenting and discovering.
The basic step and the most important movement in Capoeira is the ginga. If you know ginga, that's enough to play capoeira. Too often the ginga is underestimated. You cannot read with any other movement as well as the other person is moving.
In addition to the ginga, there are many other movements: kicks and evasive movements, punches that you of course only rarely use, actually only when you want to be angry ;-). Finally, there are movements with which you knock over the other capoeirista, for example the rasteira, where you pull a leg away from the other.
Especially with beginners, we do not make any movement. This is important so that nobody gets hurt. But also later the principle always applies: We play together and not against each other. So if we notice that the other capoeirista is not reacting, we only hint at the movement or we withdraw it completely. That shows our understanding, our mandinga.
Three golden rules apply to all movements:
Always look ahead.
Always look at your teammate. Otherwise you won't see what the other capoeirista is doing and you won't be able to answer it.
The elbow always comes first.
With and after every movement, you always come up with your elbow first. In this way you protect your face and body and can react quickly.
Always smile - inside and out.
Capoeira is about fun. You don't have to struggle or tense up trying to create movement. Let your movements flow to the rhythm and smile at the same time: both to your counterpart and to yourself
You spoke earlier about acrobatics as part of Capoeira. What's it all about?
Every capoeirista is an artist. And every artist wants to inspire the people around them. You can do just that with acrobatic movements. Therefore, the acrobatic side plays an important role, especially with young capoeirista who want to show off a bit ;-).
However, that doesn't mean you have to be particularly acrobatic. For young capoeirista this has a lot to do with self-confidence. But you can just as easily play capoeira without acrobatic movements. Therefore, the acrobatics are no longer so important for you, the older you get in the Capoiera.
And why does music play such an important role in Capoeira?
This special energy comes into Capoeira through music. Everyone who stands in a circle and sings along becomes part of the whole through their voice and for the two capoeirista in the middle of the circle there is an indescribable feeling through the different voices and instruments: You forget everything around you and leave yourself to the others wear.
Some don't care that much about music. I can't understand that: when you make good music, you inspire the capoeirista around you and pass on your good energy. I often feel this: when I sing, my students often close their eyes. You get into a kind of trance and unconsciously rock back and forth. Or they move to the rhythm and are totally happy. Without the energy of music, Capoeira is just movement.
How does a Capoeira course typically work for you?
Every workout is different. I don't have a standard program and I don't think about what I want to do with my students in the next lesson. I watch the mood among the students and make the movement that suits the moment.
The movements in Capoeira look extremely cool, but also anything but easy. Can everyone do capoeira?
Yes, in any case! Everyone has a talent for Capoeira: No matter how heavy, tall or slim you are. Capoeira is so versatile, you will find your strengths. For example, some of my students cannot do some movements because of their knees. For that they can do others all the better. I even know a blind capoeirista. Watching him is real art.
The same applies to music: many of my students tell me at the beginning that they have no talent for music. They never tried it. Then how do you know that you have no talent? And even if you have no talent, maybe you just enjoy it. The only thing that really matters in Capoeira is that you are there.
What do you want to give people who want to start with Capoeira?
Capoeira has many advantages for your body: You become more flexible and agile, build muscles, strengthen your stamina and improve your coordination. But that's not all. The fascination comes from the combination of sport with music, communication, dance and rhythm.
Just try it out and always stay relaxed. We put too much pressure on ourselves in life and think that we can do everything directly and that we have to be the best. You don't have to put that pressure on yourself. You learn Capoeira best with feeling: When you feel free and your movements become one with the rhythm.
Are you curious and feel like trying out Capoeira? We will find the right course for you in your area. Just write us a short message and we will get in touch with you:
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