Capoeira Ettiquette (Part 1)

Have you ever been in a roda where everything appears to be going well. The energy seems good, everyone is having a good time, and then……BAM! someone is getting slapped up. What just happened? Why is that poor guy getting worked out there? Well, chances are that guy probably broke some sort of capoeira code.

The code that I talk about is the code that we caporeirstas use when we go to open rodas or visit another school’s roda. There are a lot of unspoken rules to the game. Sometimes mestres/instructors are so kind to share those rules with their students, but there are a lot of rules and many of these rules go untaught. To make things more complicated, these rules tend to vary depending on what region you are in. So with that said, this will be part 1 of a multiple part series on capoeira ettiquette. These are the things we have been taught by our mestres and what we have observed over the many years of playing in different rodas in Brazil, Europe and throughout the US.

Andorinha visiting a roda in NYC

Tip #1

How to visit an open roda….

Visiting rodas is a simple thing however we have witnessed so many students get themselves in trouble because they were oblivious to the ettiqutte. When visiting the roda you MUST ALWAYS identify the mestre or instructor leading the roda and find a way to awkknowlege them and ask permission to enter the roda. If you can’t figure out who this person is, ask. Once this person is identified, find a way to get permission to play. If they are playing the berimbau, often times this comes in the form of the visiting student giving them a nod and the leader will give them a nod of approval.

OK. You got the go ahead to play. Cool, but not so fast. There are a couple more rules that you need to follow before you get too comfortable.
Now that you got the in it is time for you to observe what is happening in the roda! What is the energy like, who is playing and what is the atmosphere of this roda? Is it really aggressive with only the big dogs playing or does it seem more relaxed with a mixed group of levels. If you are a beginner or even an intermediate student think twice about entering the roda if only really advanced students are playing. Even if you think you can hang, chances are you will kill the energy and folks will be thinking that you may be a little too confident.

Despite the energy, your next step is to offer to jump on the instruments. If you are not so good with the berimbau, stay away but offer to play the other instruments. Often times than not, the students will tell you to go play in the roda. Don’t take offense, you are the visitor and they want to see you play. You are merely offering to play instruments to show that you want to add to the energy of the roda and that your intentions are not to take advantage.

So you got permission to play, you checked out the energy and have decided that this roda is appropriate for you and you offer up your assistance to play instruments. You are now ready to play a little capoeira. I will leave you with the final rule, if they are buying the roda be careful where you buy from. Some schools buy at the berimbau and some buy from anywhere within the roda. Make sure to do whatever that school does. If they buy at the berimbau, then so are you. I have witnessed mestres stopping rodas because a visiting student bought wrong. You definitely don’t want that person to be you.

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One Response to “Capoeira Ettiquette (Part 1)”

  1. Hi! I just found your blog, and this is a great post! One of the most frequent sources of tension for me in capoeira is that pull between spoken and unspoken rules, and how far you can take or break them. That situation you described matches my own experiences *perfectly*…even though by now I know to watch out and be aware of what can happen, sometimes I’ll simply get distracted by a song or the instruments, and then I look up and it’ll still be the same people but a completely different game! I look forward to reading the rest of this series. =)

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