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One of the amazing things about living in Brasil is the amount of capoeira there is to play! To be fair, in London you can probably find a capoeira class every day and an event every week as well, but here the events here in Bahia are frequented by some of the famous mestres that we talk a lot about in the UK, Mestre Itapua, Mestre Bamba, Mestre Nenel, and at the Cordao de Ouro event in Inhambupe, Mestre Suassuna.

Mestre Suassuna is the founder of the Cordao de Ouro group, which he created in Sao Paulo and is very popular in Europe with branches in most countries. It is less prolific in Bahia, where there are many small groups and less space for a big ‘franchise’ group like CDO or Abada, but there is a strong CDO group in the interior town of Inhambupe led by Mestre Papel.

In Europe CDO capoeiraistas have a very distinctive style, and this was clearly present in the Inhampube group. It is a more ‘flamboyant’ style of capoeira than some of the other regional groups, and always seemed to me to be quite joyous. This style is called ‘Miudinho’ and involves a close ‘jogo de dentro’ game but using a lot of floreios. I’ve always been a fan of the style, and the Russian Centre for Capoeira, a CDO group, always posts some of my favourite YouTube videos. Having now met Mestre Suassuna, I can now see why this is. He has a sense of joy about him, a lightness. Also, he didn’t spend a lot of time talking – ‘papoeira’ – every time he was called on to talk, he would pick an appropriate song to share, and then the room would break into a roda, perfect.

We arrived on Friday night at the academy in Inhambupe. After a short warm up, we dove straight into roda. The energy was fantastic, and the only challenge was getting into the roda with so many keen capoeiristas wanting to play. I was fortunate enough to have the first game with Professora India from group Sao Bento.

The following days were held in a bigger venue and included eight back to back workshops with mestres including Mestre China (Sao Bento), Mestre Macaco (Acarbo), Mestra Jo (Capeoria Brasil), and Mestre Suassuna himself. It was amazing to experience the different styles and approaches of the different mestres, the main challenge being keeping all the new thoughts produced in my head!

I say thoughts produced as you rarely learn new movements at events. Usually workshops are too quick to master a movement sufficiently to incorporate it into your game immediately. If there is a movement, a floreio or a sequence, that inspires you, you may choose to train it after the event, and then incorporate it into your game, but it is rare to walk away from an event with a new movement in your pocket. Rather than movements, for me it is usually more thoughts about capoeira that you will walk away with. Good mestres will build their short workshop around a theme. For example, a workshop may focus on using the space within the roda, and for example not just moving around your partner, but also going under or over them. Another workshop might focus on how you can use floreios to escape an attack, rather than always using esquiva. These are thoughts about things you can do in your game that you can later train and think about incorporating, rather than specific movements. This means it is often very hard when you come back from event and other people will say ‘show us what you learnt’, because it is never straight forward.

Another thing which many mestres say at capoeira events is that you don’t learn capoeira at events, you learn it in your academy where you train day in day out. What you do at events is challenge yourself to apply your capoeira in different circumstances. When we train in our academy, with our friends, we play together, we make rodas, but this is a very comfortable situation. We know how our friends play, their movements become relatively predictable after a while. Also, in general we trust the friends we play with regularly not to hurt us, they are more likely to show us that they could have kicked us in the face with a light touch, rather than connect with force. At events we have the opportunity to play with people whose games we aren’t familiar with, and who we often don’t know, so we aren’t sure how agressive they are going to be. Also, for newer students who aren’t accustomed to playing with people outside their group, it is well and truly outside their comfort zone. I have seen capoeiristas who seem amazing in their own academies, but can’t play outside their space. It is at these kinds of events and in these kinds of rodas that we learn what kind of capoeirista we are.

Fortunately, the Saturday and Sunday of the event, as well as having lots of classes, had lots or rodas, and lots of capoeiristas! As well as having single rodas with everyone pushing their energy in one direction to create a level of energy and axe which helps you do things you didn’t know you could, at other times there were also multiple rodas, so that you had the opportunity to play a lot, and play with a lot of different people.

The Sunday also saw the batizado (baptism) for new alunos (students) from the local group in which they receive their first cordao (belt), and more advanced students changed their belts. It is always a privilège to participate in this important time in a capoeirista’s life, whether that be playing with new students of just giving my energy to the roda to help make the experience special for them. It was clear that the students in Inhambupe trained hard! Not just from their amazing games (see below) but also in the evenings after long days of capeoira, we would find them still training in the park. This is the making of some amazing capoeiristas!

Just as a final thought, one piece of advice given to me by a mestre that I will always remember, and I think is good advice for anyone playing at an event, is to play your own game. Groups can have very different styles, and you do need to adapt to the style of the roda that you are playing in: if it is an Angola roda you can’t be throwing flying kicks every few seconds; if it is a Regional roda, you can’t spend all of your time on the ground; if it is a ‘fight’ based roda where people play a very closed game with straight kicks and take downs, you shouldn’t open yourself up and throw a lot of floreios leaving yourself vulnerable. However, you should never try and imitate the style of the house you are visiting. The people who train that style are going to be good at that style because they train it day in day out. When you are in the classes, yes try their movement and style as something new to expand your game, but when you are in the roda play your game, play the game that you train day in day out, your game adapted as the situation requires.

What an amazing event, and an amazing opportunity to meet so many amazing capoeiristas here. Thank you!

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2018 by in Capoeira.
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