An Interview with Mestre Preguiça

CHECK IT OUT! This is an interview with Mestre Preguiça. Definitely an important read.

Interview with Mestre Preguiça

Source: Revista Capoeira
Translated into English by Shayna McHugh

Mestre PreguicaWaldenkolk Oliveira, known as mestre Preguiça, was born in Sítio do Mato in Bahia, Brazil. It was June of 1947. His mother died when he was only seven years old, and he was left alone to face the world about which he knew so little. Three years later he was in Salvador, living on the streets, sleeping under bridges along with other street kids. In the constant search for a direction that he could follow in life, he would spend time in the poor neighborhoods of the Bahian capital, like Calçadas and Ribeira. That was where he met Gilson Capoeira of the Periperí neighborhood in 1959, who taught him his first Capoeira moves and brought him to Mestre Bimba’s academy. The powerful mestre then taught him the rules of discipline and respect that Waldenkolk longed for.

How was your first contact with Mestre Bimba? Do you remember much?

When we entered the building, the students were training in a small room on the second floor of the Academy. Mestre Bimba rested on a bed in a side room. He was seated in silence, and his eyes observed each detail. Since that moment when I saw him for the first time, I felt that that man was a great and powerful mentor who didn’t need a weapon to defend himself. I was attracted by the power of the martial art and by the spirituality that I felt in the atmosphere. I knew then that Capoeira would be an important part of my life.

Were you soon accepted as a student?

When I told the mestre that I wanted to train, he mumbled and told me to do a ‘queda de rins.’ Although I fell over, he still invited me to join the class. I trained there until graduating from Mestre Bimba’s Academy.

What was the graduation ceremony like?

The graduates gathered in Mestre Bimba’s house for the ceremony. We all wore white pants and shirts and shoes, as was the tradition. That way, if our bodies touched the ground during the game, the dirt would show. Each graduate received a blue belt and a small silver metal with an engraved figure of a capoeirista. Afterwards there was a big party, with all the capoeiristas and their friends.

And why is your nickname Preguiça (lazy/sloth)?

The control, strength, and flexibility of Bimba’s students scared me a lot and I used hide behind the bench, afraid to participate. I was always one of the last to enter the roda, because of a little bit of fear and also caution. This slowness led the mestre to give me the nickname Preguiça.

Did your participation in Bahia’s folkloric performing groups help you go to Rio de Janeiro?

Yes. After I graduated around 1965, I went to Rio with the group Vem Camará.

Talk a little bit about your experience in Rio.

In 1968 and 1969 I was crowned national champion of the Golden Berimbau competition. Since I was champion in three consecutive years, I won the Golden Berimbau trophy, which was the biggest Capoeira prize at the time. The following year, I prepared two of my best students, Mosquito and Borracha, to go to the same event and I was entitled the Best Coach of Brazil, for my success as a teacher. To further develop my professional skills, I studied physical education at the university. This university was the first to offer a Capoeira course, and I was the professor.

And your experience in Europe?

I went to Europe as part of the Brazilian Ballet Show and I spread the practice of Capoeira in almost all the countries there. When I returned, I continued giving classes with Senzala, while I finished my degree. In 1976 I went to Austria to do a specialized Physical Education course, and I also taught Capoeira. Upon my return, besides my normal classes, I performed Capoeira in shows, theaters, nightclubs, and on TV. I ended up forming two groups: Mucuiu nu Zambi and Ganga Zumba. I also did a performance on Fantástico [a very famous Brazilian TV show], playing the role of Madame Satã.

How was your experience in the United States?

I didn’t speak English, but I liked the challenge of teaching Capoeira in another language. I began by writing the words “right” and “left” on my hands, which helped me give instructions to the students. After a year, I had already developed a strong base of study.


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