Friday, November 22, 2013

California Capoeira

Capoeira is not big in the USA. It has been steadily growing for 30 years. But anyone who is trying to run a Capoeira Akademia will tell you that it is difficult to survive in this business. We don't have the national and international organizations that help other martial arts and sports with promotion and visibility. Crossfit is a good example. Individual gyms profit enormously from the marketing and advertising output of national organizations. Everybody in the States knows what Crossfit is.

Ask someone what Capoeira is. Most people don't know and the ones that try, make us cringe with attempts to classify a martial art as a dance. But it's not them, its us. What it comes down to is that we have many Capoeira small schools fighting to survive in an ocean filled with international Karate, Crossfit and Zumba sharks, who are all out to claim the few fitness dollars a person is willing to spend.

But California is different. Here we have UCA and Batuque. Two of the first Capoeira groups in the USA. Founded by Mestre Acordeon and Mestre Amen. Open Rodas everywhere. 'nuff said. Of course there is also Capoeira Brasil, of Mestre Boneco. But although the group is huge and international it is not of California.

So when we travel down the California coast line, while its not Bahia, we still find a lot of Capoeira. And because we have this crazy group of really good Capoeiristas we play a lot of Capoeira. On the side of the road, in parking lots, on the beach, in akademias, in parks and at Batizados. Its totally amazing and I feel incredibly lucky to be here. And its also extremely frustrating. How can that be? Its Capoeira heaven.

Because I can't play. My hip flexor has been acting like a rusted jackknife, although the biking is fixing it. I injure my wrist and the biking is making it worse. But more importantly, I am a confused Capoeirista. Why? I train with Professor Fenix and Candeias in Seattle. We practice a different capoeira than UCA does. Our Jinga is different. Also with only three years in Capoeira I am, and will be for a long time to come, a big capoeira baby. At some point, rolling down the coast on my ridiculous recumbent, I realize that this is a 24/7 batizado environment. I'm a nerd, I over-function. Bebum tells me to STFU and just play.

You know how when you go to another group's batizado you feel like a beginner? In a workshop you learn a kick and rastera combo but it just doesn't compute for you? This happens to everyone and it is why its so important to travel in Capoeira. I have seen instructors looking like total noobs trying to figure out the timing of a rastera option because they have not practiced that particular one all their lives.

Of course this is great. It shows that we are all human and we are always learning. It shows the willingness of our instructors to be beginners over and over again. It teaches us versatility and improves our games. It enables us to go home to our own group and beat someone's ass with a move they haven't seen before. It keeps us real because we know there is always someone out there who is not necessarily better or faster, but who will still be able to put you on your ass. And finally, it continuously challenges us. An important ingredient for my own personal happiness.

All of this is great at a Batizado, but when it is for a month straight... not so much. I let it make me into a confused Capoeirista. Should I do this jinga all bouncy now, so that I can accelerate off my backfoot better? Should I try that esquiva at a martelo even though I feel like its going to get my head taken off? And how the hell am I supposed to do anything without my wrist? The one and good constant that remained was "Arms up Pirata"! I ended up watching a lot of games. And listening. Which is entirely appropriate and not because I got to watch Mestre Beiramar and Mestre Mago go at it every day. Although that's pretty badass. I learn the first of many things about Capeoira on this journey.

"Learn by watching other people play" - not something we like to do. Not something we are often told to do. We are told to play, play, play, because the Roda is where your game really develops. But there is a lot of value in watching other people play. Good players, bad players, everyone. Watch them with your capoeira eyes and learn. No pride, no envy, no stinginess. Capoeira is one of the most complex things anyone can attempt. It behooves us to learn by watching because that's what babies do. I won't really learn anything by playing Mestre Beiramar, other than that I am able to easily bore the shit out of him. Nothing that he wouldn't rather have someone else teach me. But I sure as hell learn a lot by watching him.

I was still confused until I talked to Mestre about it a couple of weeks ago. He said "Well... you can't be confused". Weirdly, probably more to me than to him, that's all I needed. I'll just STFU and play.


  1. Hey Peter hope your wrist and hip feel better! Sounds like an amazing adventure- Jingle along!!