The first weekend of December saw our Batizado – our annual Capoeira event where the various chapters of our group Abolicao in the UK (Oxford – London – Taunton) come together, masters visit and give us special workshops, we play lots of roda, and new students are baptised and receive their first belt, and older students will get new belts.
This year was an extra special event for us, for as well as being a Batizado, it was a Formatura, as three member of our group got their Professor belts – transforming them from very advanced students into teachers. To be fair, all three have been teaching for many years, one starting our London chapter and the other two the chapter of our group in Hamburg, South Africa, setting up the Abolicao Trust to enable young members of community to participate. In our group we have never focussed on belts – they help keep our abada up and you understand what level people are from their actions, both inside the roda and out – but the title is important when we go and spend time with other groups to define their level of experience as a teacher. They are of course still students, now one ever stops learning, but they are now learning different things.
Batizado is always one of my favourite times of year. Four days of intensive Capoeira with lots of roda – awesome! Interesting mestres visit and show us new things and give us new perspectives – awesome! Everyone in the various chapters of our group getting together as a family and just supporting each other – awesome!
Along with our own Mestre Luis Negao, and regular teacher Professor Dourado, this year we had mestres visiting from across Europe: Contra-Mestre Capacete, Grupo Mutumbe, Rome; Contra Mestre Careca, Grupo Capoeira Baiana, Porto; Professor Baiano, Cadencia e Bimba, Rome; Contra Mestre Cobra, Grupo Nago, Reading; Contra Mestre Anjo, Capoeira Natural do Brasil, Coventry. We also had our regular teacher Professor Dourado, and our three new Professores Pato, Mosqueteiro and Charuto. The visiting mestres were all amazing characters, generous with their time and their knowledge, and have given me a lot to think about (and challenged me to use my Portuguese which I have neglected since Brasil!).
The key ‘themes’ of their teachings that I have taken away with me and will try and integrate into my Capoeira are:
- The need to be always ready to respond and adjust, transform your plans and your movements to react as the situation changes. Focus on the conversation and be adaptable.
- Finish your moves! If you are going to kick finish it properly by pulling the leg back in. If you are going to escape into negativa, hit the floor properly and then move out of the way.
- Do it with style! There is something about watching mestres, even when they are doing the simplest moves, they just look amazing, because they have style.
- Also, just because moves are simple does not mean that they are unimportant. Basic kicks and esquivas are the core of the game. They are how you interact with your partner, how you set a trap, and how you make space to throw in some of the fancier moves that we do.
- Have fun! Never forget that you do Capoeira because you love it, you love the movement, the freedom, the expression, the energy. Yes, train hard and improve yourself, but always enjoy yourself. The metres always looked like they were having a good time.
I already can’t wait for next year’s batizado. The countdown begins!