Archive for capoeira training

3rd Tour of Duty: Brazil

Posted in Capoeira nuggets, Updates! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2009 by testcapo

A few months ago, Mestre Di Mola asked me to join him in Rio in the recording of Omulu Guanabara Capoeira’s 4th album. In all honesty, at first I wasn’t going to go. I have been to Brazil a couple of times and wanted to ideally wait another year before my 3rd return. I spent a lot of 2008 traveling within the US and abroad and I was looking forward to spending a summer of total relaxation. BUT, I checked ticket prices and it happened to be the one week of the Swine Flu scare and airline prices were LOW. Tickets to Rio were $550.

I had no excuses. I was going to Rio. It will be my 3rd tour of duty.

Palhaço was in summer school and he couldn’t miss any classes without getting kicked out so he had to stay home. I called up a couple of my girlfriends (also capoeira students) and in 24 hours we had our tickets.

Angela (Manga Rosa), Vicki (Sabeginha) and Me (Andorinha)

Angela (Manga Rosa), Vicki (Sabeginha) and Me (Andorinha)

So we were on our way to Brazil.

I was given no information about recording times, possible songs I was singing, or training times or locations. I had no information other than Professor Baiano’s phone number. That’s it. Hopefully he picks up…..

We finally got in touch with Baiano and were told to meet him at Cosme Velho to train a little bit with Mestre Preguica and Mestre Di Mola. As we get there we are greeted by all of the capoeira instructors from around Brazil. No students, just Instructors and Professors. And so it begins.

The training was excellent and as a capoeira teacher, it is rare to get to train with a group of fellow capoeira instructors. It was invigorating to challenge and to be challenged.

But I digress, This blog entry is about the music, let’s refocus on recording this CD.

A bunch of capoeira kids that joined us after training.

A bunch of capoeira kids that joined us after training.

After training, we head out to Barra Tijuca which is where the recording studio is located. It took us about an hour to get there. We were sweaty and hungry from training and seeing that we would only get started at about 10pm, it looked like it was going to be a long night.

…….And it was.An awesome night but one that kept us going until 5:30 int he morning. We recorded throughout the evening. Excellent songs, on point bateria, perfect. However, I still didn’t have the song that I was going to sing. Mestre Di Mola spoke of this ‘song’ throughout the evening but I still have yet to see anything. I was getting nervous but I have to have faith so I waited.

Finally around 2am I get the song. Baiano sings the lyrics and melody with me. For those that have heard any of  Omulu Capoeira Guanabara’s CDs you will recognize baiano’s voice immediately. He has a voice that stands apart from the capoeira crowd, it is incredibly operatic. One can easily consider him a prodigy. Simply said, he’s got vocals. As Baiano goes through the melody with me, I start to see that he is a stickler with details. He is a perfectionist and was not going to let me slide for a second. I get nervous. We decided that rehearsing at 3 in the morning was not going to get me anywhere. We finally finish at 5:30 am and it is at this point that I am reminded that I am not as young as I used to be.

Recording the 4th CD

Recording the 4th CD

Next day, I holed myself in my apartment in Ipanema. I practiced the song throughout the day. Later on I met up with Baiano and Indio. We hung out at Ipanema Beach and I, of course, continued to practice and sing. I had very little time to make this song not only sound good but also my own.

We met the next day to record. This time we met a little bit earlier because we needed to be finished in time to get to Lapa for the roda. This means that I cannot mess up because I will NOT be the one making Mestre DiMola late to his Lapa roda. We go through all of the songs and I was the last to go. I was ready.

A shot of cachaça settled some of my nerves and I was felling confident. Let’s do this thing.

BUT then Mestre DiMola flipped the script. He wanted Baiano and I to do a duet. Wait. What?? That is like trying to hang with Mariah Carey. So, ladies and gentlemen, it was time for my ‘A’ game. Take no prisoners. Let’s unleash the dogs.

It it turned into an experience that I will always remember. Signing with Professor Baiano forced me to push myself out of any comfort zone. He has got crazy vocals and an ability turn any melody into something that is absolutley poetic. It was truly a humbling experience but also one where I know that I let there be no boundaries on my own voice. It was then that I realized that I hold back quite a bit when I sing in the roda and I am not sure why. Singing with Baiano gave me license to unleash my own true ability.

The contributors of the 4th CD

The contributors of the 4th CD

And that is priceless.

Sometimes I wonder why I stayed with capoeira for such a long time. Sometimes I fell like capoeira is the boyfriend that I can’t break up with even though he can sometimes give me a huge headache. But then I am reminded. Capoeira brings me gifts. All the time. It brings me training with world classes mestres, recording CD’s, staying up till all hours of the morning with fellows capoeirstas signing capoeira songs and drinking chopp, dancing samba and pagode, and, of course, roda’s in Lapa.

Muito Obrigada, Meus Mestres, Rio, e capoeira!

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Don’t get kicked in the face and other tips for beginners

Posted in Capoeira Etiquette, Capoeira nuggets with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2009 by testcapo

by Trevor Gregg (Trovão)

Trovão, a veteran capoeirista, good friend and excellent writer, has come up with an excellent assortment of tips and advice for beginners. This is a must read for all capoeira beginners (especially with batizado on the horizon).

Batizado season is upon us.  Panicked and eager, beginners are crowding our rodas and academies.  Slightly off-beat clapping and mispronounced, mumbled lyrics ring in the air.  Gearing up for our own batizado, our instructors have been teaching a series of fundamentals workshops just to get the white-belts ready for their big day.  Aww, look at them doing their little cartwheels.  They grow up so fast!

Seeing beginners struggle, train, and play brings back vivid memories of my own long and difficult initiation in capoeira.  Making mistakes, and hopefully learning from them, is every initiate’s burden to bear.  I consider myself somewhat of an authority on beginner mistakes, not because I have any sort of talent or ability but rather because I’ve made nearly every mistake possible.  Many of them several times over.

A few things I’ve been taught, then, to help the next generation survive the coming months.

1)  When in doubt, do what the higher belts do.

Capoeira has few ‘rules’ per se, but makes up for it with a staggering amount of traditions, manners, customs, and obscure points of etiquette.  There are far too many subtle but important tenets to learn early on in one’s capoeira career, and there is certainly no definitive list of them.  What few customs are explicitly told to you as a beginner are but the smallest pile of snowflakes atop the massive iceberg.  The poor man’s solution, then, is to watch how the veteran capoeiristas behave, especially towards their ‘betters’.  Watch the way your instructor enters a roda when playing a mestre.  How do they buy in?  Do they show straight kicks, rasteiras? (Hint: no.)  Do they stop the game?  Throw palmas and elbows?  (Hint: No also.)  Pick a couple of high cords, pay close attention to them, and if they aren’t getting yelled at or kicked by the mestres chances are whatever they’re doing is ‘right’ and can be safely emulated.

2)  Escape, don’t flinch.

There will come a day when your instincts, sharpened by years of intense training and abuse, will serve you so well that a solid escape will be a completely natural response to any assault.  Whether it’s kicks in the roda, fly balls at the baseball game, water balloons, wild pumas, whatever, you’ll be such an excellent capoeirista that you’ll esquiva any and all attacks with grace and dexterity.  That day is probably not today.  Thus, you must make a direct and conscious effort not to just flail away from kicks and takedowns.  When another player comes at you, even if you’re surprised, do not flinch or flop around on the ground.  Swatting the air like you’re battling bees is not proper technique.  Instead, evade carefully and discriminantly, like you’ve been taught.  Choose an esquiva from your repertoire and execute it.  Did you do it perfectly? Maybe.  Probably not.  But any esquiva you can walk away from is a good one.

3)  Make your kicks count.

Every kick you throw opens you up to a variety of counterattacks, sweeps, and takedowns.  To minimize this inherent vulnerability, make your kicks matter.  Many capoeiristas, particularly beginners, have a tendency to kick too often and with too little intent.  Setting aside technique, the two essential considerations in an effective kick are distance and aim.  You can throw a textbook perfect armada, the kind of beautiful movement that brings a tear to your mestre’s eye, but if you do it when you’re fifteen feet away from your opponent it’s completely wasted.  At best it’s a pointless and energy-wasting decoration.  At worst it’s an opportunity for your opponent to pull out your support leg and ruin your evening.  A kick that’s properly distanced, however, forces the recipient to escape before doing anything, including kicking you back.  Whether you’re playing a beginner or a veteran, it’s guaranteed that your opponent’s priorities will be as follows:

1) Get to safety
2) RETALIATE

If they can skip number 1, it leaves them all the more time to work on number 2.

The second factor in an effective kick is intent.  Beginners are often overly sympathetic, which results in various sloppy habits: pulled kicks, ludicrously slow or stalled movements, and awkward roda apologies.  Forget all that.  Aim your kicks.  Strike to hit.  If you throw a clean, effective kick and your opponent doesn’t avoid it, that’s their fault, not yours.  Don’t mistake my meaning: intent is not the same thing as anger.  A kick can have intent and be still be controlled, courteous, even friendly.  I’m not suggesting you dive into the roda with murder in your heart, ready to lay waste to all comers and make a trophy necklace with their ears.  That’s low-class.  Simply make sure your opponent understands that there is a penalty, however slight, associated with not avoiding your attacks.

In the long run, effective kicks are just as important to your safety as good esquivas.  When you’re training, or playing with your friends, often times people will escape from your kicks even when it’s not necessary.  Don’t rely on this; you will come across people who only dodge when necessary, people who will take every advantage of your crappy kicks.  Getting the courtesy dodge from your opponent should be just as embarrassing as getting the courtesy laugh after telling a bland joke.

Don’t be that person that expects the courtesy laugh, or the courtesy esquiva.  He/she has no friends and is shunned at parties.

4)  Whatever happens in the roda, don’t stop.

Every beginner goes deer-in-the-headlights at some point.  Capoeira has a steep learning curve, and beginners lack both the vocabulary of moves and the understanding of the game to deal with every situation.  That being said, it’s always better to do something than nothing.  If you’re not sure how to react to what the other player is doing, just do what you know.  Ginga, au, kick, whatever.  However awkward and silly the thing you’re doing seems, it’s quite a bit better than just standing there.  Holding still gives your opponent an open invitation to force you to move, either by making you escape an attack or by pushing you out of the roda so they can interact with someone less catatonic.  Everyone, regardless of level, will encounter situations in the roda for which they’re not prepared.  It happens to me often: my opponent will be doing some crazy no-handed physics-defying backflippy thing that is entirely impossible to respond to and I’m left completely at a loss.  Still, I force myself to do something, ginga, floreo, handstands, whatever.  Waiting like a bump on a log, however, is not a viable option.

This point is especially applicable after a takedown.  Remember that a successful rasteira or vengativa is not always the end of the game.  If you’re a low cord, it’s best to let your opponent decide when or if to reset the game.  If you’re swept, do not lie prone and expect the other player to give you time to recover.  Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t.  There are players who are as likely to jump on you as give you a hand up.  So get back up, post haste.  Laying flat with a smile on one’s face or giving your opponent a thumb’s up is not a valid defensive posture.  Role away, keep your hands up, and do whatever you have to to regain your composure and continue the game.

5)  Stop looking at the ground.  Seriously.

The ground will not kick you, but the same cannot be said of the person you’re playing.  Watch them instead.  Recognize that your desire to look at the floor is like a toddler’s security blanket; it might make you feel better, but is of no practical use when you’re in danger.  The sooner you learn to live without it the better.  Don’t be that weird kid in fifth grade who still can’t leave the house without his binkie.

6)  Enjoy yourself.

You’ll reach an important milestone, a day when the enjoyment you get out of capoeira finally eclipses the sheer terror you feel when entering the roda.  This more than any other achievement will help you on your way to greatness.  You’ll quickly find yourself more relaxed, more creative, and more inspired to play.  It is a game, after all, and you’ll play better when you’re having a good time.  The more you play, the more comfortable you’ll get in the roda.

So go play.

Olha a pisada de Lampião

Posted in Capoeira nuggets, Capoeira Songs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by testcapo

Lampião

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Olha a pisada de Lampião

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Lampião desceu a serra

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Pra buscar Maria Bonita

É, É, É, Tum, Tum, Tum

Pra ajudar fugir da polícia


Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

See the footsteps of Lampião

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

Lampião descended from the sierra

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

To look for Maria bonita

Eh, Eh, Eh, Toom, Toom, Toom

To help escape from the police


This is maybe one of my most favorite songs to sing. But Mr. Lampião had quite the legend. His activity was far more documented making him less mystical than Besouro. He was an outlaw and a mean one at that. He scoured the countrysides with Maria Bonita raising hell.

Here is an article I found off of http://www.brazilbrazil.com that gives a good explanation of who this man was. I am not sure who authored this piece but the the direct link is http://www.brazilbrazil.com/lampiao.html. (I am not quite sure why they titled the article the way they did. Maybe they were playing around with irony. Anyways, read on….)

Lampião – The greatest hero in Brazilian folklore

Virgulino Ferreira da Silva was born in 1897 in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. This is the hash country described by Euclydes da Cunha in his famous work, The Backlands (Os Sertoes). It is a land of little water, much cactus and scrub vegetation, not unlike that of the American Southwest. Although one of the oldest areas of Brazil, it has traditionally been one of the most backward. Few people received anything beyond a rudimentary education. Local society was ruled by large landholders and political bosses, often one and the same. These bosses and/or landowners had their armed men, just like the big ranchers in Arizona or the Mafia street enforgers. They were called Cangaceiros – men of the Cangaço, as the badlands are called.

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As Virgulino grew up, he and his family got entangled in the ever-present local feuds, the reason being, of course, defense of honor. The family somehow ended up of the bad side of the local police, and in a raid on his home, Virgulino’s father was killed. It was an event that the police would regret. At age 25, Virgulino became Lampião, the scourge of the backlands and killer of police and soldiers, which he always called macacos (monkeys). For the next 15 years he would never be far from the headlines of newspapers throughout Brazil.

Lampião is often said to be the Robin Hood of Brazil. No way! Not unless Robin Hood started his career robbing sick bed-ridden 90 year old ladies. Lampião was a complex man, religious yet brutal. He was also vain, appearing in dozens of photos and giving interviews whenever possible. His band rarely totaled more than 40 men, but he would fight battles against up to 200 militia or special police.

It is hard to imagine that a small band of bandits was able to operate in the open against state police and troopers for a decade and a half. But in the Northeast of Brazil in the 20s and 30s, the roads were cattle trails, water was scarce, the police corrupt, local bosses were fearful, telegraph lines almost non-existent and people didn’t want any more trouble in their already hard lives. Most of the population had nothing that Lampião or his band wanted.

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Hero or bandit?

Captain Virgulino, as Lampião liked to call himself, had no shortage of enemies. The fact that he would shoot any officer or trooper on sight insured that they would be mortal foes. The state and local politicians resented his prestige and power. But catching and killing Lampião was not easy. He knew the country side, he had spies, and he had friends. Most of the police sent against him were not overly enthusiastic about the possibility of getting ambushed in the brush. The cancageiros also had women in their band. The most famous was Maria Bonita (Pretty Mary), Lampião’s companion until death.

Maria Bonita

Maria Bonita

Because the police did nothing against him, most of the people reluctantly helped him. Not many folks joined him, however. Lampião was not a revolutionary, he was a bandit. Those who opposed him could lose everything, including their lives. In the event of betrayal or squealing to the police, the cancageiros were merciless. On the other hand, if Lampião and company came to town, and he had no reason to be mad at you, and you had nothing he wanted, quite often he would arrange a party with music and plenty of cachaça, and everybody would have a grand old time.

lamp_04.jpg

The dark side of Lampião

Not only did Lampião wipe out whole households of enemies at times, he would assault small towns and cities alike, killing police, asking local merchants for “contributions”, seizing any good he could carry off and often distributing those which he could not to the local population. Often women were raped. Mostly, these were women associated with the police and/or any opposing faction. Early in his career, Lampião and over 20 of his band gang raped a young wife of a soldier, while the poor man was forced to watch. Incidents of Lampião digging out a man’s eyeballs with a knife and cutting off a woman’s tongue have also been substantiated.

In 1938, Lampião’s long career ended. In the end, he was betrayed by one of the local supporters, who under threat of torture, told the soldiers were the outlaws were. On a beautiful July morning 50 soldiers armed with machine guns crept up and surprised an equal number of cangaceiros. About forty bandits managed to escape, but the leaders were clearly visible and were targeted in the first shots. Lampião and Maria Bonita were among the dozen bodies left dead after 20 minutes of battle. To insure that the news of Lampião’s often heralded demise would be believed, the soldiers took the heads of the captives to Salvador, were they remained on display for over 30 years.

Lampião's Head

Lampião's Head

Lampiao’s death signaled the end of an era. Maria Bonita and Lampião had a daughter, who is still living last I heard. The cangaceiros still live in popular folklore, cordel literature, comics, TV and movies. Best of all, the band’s favorite song, Mulher Rendera, which they would sing as they went into a town, is a wonderful tune almost every Brazilian knows. For a good (and very romanticized and sanitized) version of Lampião and his merry men, I recommend the movie Lampião, O Rei do Canganço with Leonardo Vilar and Gloria Menezes.

Happy Birthday in the Roda

Posted in Capoeira Songs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2009 by testcapo

Here is the birthday song in Portuguese. We sing this song for all of the birthday rodas so get to know it. I included a pretty awesome video for you to sing along with. (No, really, this video is great!)

Parabéns pra você
Nesta data querida
Muitas felicidades
Muitos anos de vida!

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Posted in Photos, Updates! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2009 by testcapo

That’s right. We just finished up a great weekend of workshops with Prof. Indio. The training was solid and I hope that everyone was able to take a little something from his classes. I felt that the major themes of this workshop were twofold; 1) Staying grounded in all of your movements 2) relax and flow. For those of you in our class that were unable to make workshops not to worry. We will focus on these themes in the weeks to come.

Monday starts up our regular training schedule and I hope that everyone is there.

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Laurette, Sapo, Amos and Angela

Laurette, Sapo, Amos and Angela

Best pic of Sabeginha EVER!

Best pic of Sabedinha EVER!

Prof. Indio on Berimbau

Prof. Indio on Berimbau

Palhaço, Prof. Indio, Mestre Preguiça and Andorinha

Palhaço, Prof. Indio, Mestre Preguiça and Andorinha

Aceituno Arts represent!

Aceituno Arts represent!

Aceituno arts REPRESENT!!

Aceituno arts REPRESENT!!

Batizado 2008! (The party is now over…..)

Posted in Capoeira nuggets, Photos, Updates! with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2008 by testcapo

Congratulations to everybody that got baptized into the group and those who got promoted to the next cord!!!

Palhaço and I both feel that this past week turned out to be really great training and an excellent experience for everyone who participated. The energy was good and everybody represented themselves wonderfully. We are really proud. Below are all of the pics with our class and those who got cords.

Corey and I were talking after the batizado and he said something that was really right on. He said that now he is no longer a white cord, he can no longer skate by. This is the truth for everyone. Now is the time to train harder than you ever had. This is the time where you try to make it to all classes and push the boundaries of your own expectations. If you are a yellow cord you want to already focus on singing in the roda, playing bermimbau, expanding your floreo vocabulary and vision. You want to begin to have presence in the roda. Right now is the time for you to set goals for things you want to accomplish for the next coming year. Your ultimate goal is to have others look at your cord shockingly and say, “that person is a (fill in the cord)?!?”

Now is the time to TRAIN!

For this upcomign year Palhaço and I have also set personal goals and class goals. One of these goals is to expose our students to as much capoeira as possible. We we plan outings to other rodas, collaborate with other instructors in the group and hold workshops with special guests that will highlight different aspects of capoeira.

This is going to be a good year.

Not enough time to train!!! (Upper Body Exercises)

Posted in Capoeira Exercises, Capoeira nuggets with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2008 by testcapo

Nowadays, a lot of capoeirstas can’t afford just to train capoeira and go to the gym everyday and all day long. ( I must admit that I am jealous of those who can afford that luxury but living in San Francisco comes with a lot of bills to pay!). Some of us are lucky if we can even set aside time to train a few times a week! So with such a time crunch, instructors really have to decide what will be the most effective way to train their students in terms of capoeira and in terms of general fitness within only a few hours a week. There are also several things that capoeira students can do on their own time to build strength and practice capoeira movements when they are not in class

Go out and buy a resistance band. Resistance bands are great for building muscle, especially if you are short on time or space. There are several workouts that you can do, even if you can only fit in 10-15 minutes. Capoeiristas really need to have a solid core, strong arms and strong legs. (Okay, we need to be pretty strong all around!) Below are a some videos that offer some really great training ideas for when you have a moment to spare at home. These excercises focus on the upper body.

This guy has a lot of great exercises for all types of martial artists and fighters.

This really works out your obliques, arms and legs!

Here are a bunch of great basic upper body exercises.