The Spirit of Capoeira
Capoeira provides a precise and complete athletic preparation which allows the capoerista to use all the various movements during the game - basic, offensive, defensive and acrobatic movements. The comparison with other martial arts emerges from the common use of certain movements in such a manner as to confront the opponent, but the originality consists in following the rhythm of the instruments and transforming the encounter into a moment of true creativity.
The spirit of a Capoeira confrontation lies in the study of the opponent, in the observation of the rival using “malandragem” (astuteness, shrewdness), and in using one movement to spark off a whole succession of further movements.
The moment of confrontation is a moment of play.
Each person can experience Capoeira in a different manner: as dance, as combat, as a game. The Roda becomes a place of confrontation, of ability, of communication. It is a moment of experiences gained, a moment of exchange.
A complete form of art, Capoeira can be practiced at any age. A complete discipline because, aside the athletic opportunity, it holds within itself a high potential for a creative development of the personality and of the capacity to socialize. Respect for the Maestro as holder of a precious knowledge (which the pupil in turn will have to know how to pass on), respect for the opponent, the capacity to respond to a more or less critical situation using skill and within the boundaries of a correct and fair game - these are the foundations of this art.
Each situation within a confrontation represents a unique moment, distinctive and unrepeatable. Each personal performance adds ability and experience, enriching each capoerista’s growth.
The Roda is a world - or better, the World - which needs to be faced with some kind of philosophy. That philosophy, that way of life, is Capoeira.
There is a very important moment in this ancient art, a ceremony organized by each Maestro. This encounter is called Batizado.
A capoerista’s formation is not only directed towards attaining a certain physical / technical level of achievement. Indeed, once again the peculiar nature of this art must be stressed - aside from the physical preparation, there is also the musical, theoretical and singing preparation.
A capoerista must have knowledge of the technical side of a game, and of the history and rules of behaviour which characterize the Roda. A capoerista must also know “ladainhas” and “xula”, “quadras” and “corridos” - that is, the traditional types of songs (in Portuguese) which accompany the game within the Roda - and must further know how to play each of the instruments which form the Roda: Pandeiro, Atabaque and Berimbau. Only in this way is it possible to consider the pupil a true and complete capoerista capable of continuing on the path of learning and, in time, capable of passing on the principles and techniques of this ancient and fascinating Martial Art.
Capoeira is an imaginary line which joins reality and fantasy, music and poetry, body and harmony, falseness and betrayal, sadness and cheerfulness so that each Capoerista has his own strange and personal philosophy.
Music and Singing
The peculiarity of Capoeira consists in the use of music and singing. In fact, since its very origins, such elements were used to disorientate the slave-owners: the succession of rhythmic movements, the agility and the creativity all gave Capoeira an appearance more similar to a dance, thus helping to distract attention away from the aggressive and defensive qualities and bringing to the foreground only the ludic and playful aspects.
Capoeira is practiced inside a circle of people, “Roda”, who create and maintain the energy necessary to stimulate the two fighters, with singing and the clapping of hands. The rhythm given to the body and to the movements of a capoerista are produced by an instrument called Berimbau (the name comes from the type of wood used, Biriba), accompanied by the Pandeiro (tambourine) and the Atabaque (conga).
The Berimbau is a long piece of wood upon which a steel wire is stretched and tensed. A small, hollowed-out pumpkin is added, serving as a soundbox and used also to modify the sound. A small stone, a caxixi and a thin wooden stick are used to produce combinations of different types of sounds. Each of these rhythmic combinations on the Berimbau are characteristic of different types of Capoeira games..
There are three kinds of Berimbau, the difference being the size of the pumpkin serving as soundbox. Going from largest to smallest, these are:
- Berimbau gunga (grave)
- Berimbau medio
- Berimbau viola (acuto).
Each Berimbau has its own function in the Roda.
The Gunga creates the base and gives the rhythm to the two players inside the Roda. The Medio plays variations upon the rhythm given by the Gunga. The smallest, Viola, plays endless variations on the Gunga and Medio, without ever losing the rhythm and always maintaining its acute tone.