Sunday, October 12, 2008

Capoeira Fundamentos

A 'fundamento' is a foundation, principle or basic tenet. So as you can see, that is quite a cocky title, no? Them's fightin' words! Hah! Well, capoeira was never about humility anyway. The following is a hodge-podge of excerpts from books which I personally find unburdening. We have a few of them in our NUS Capoeira Sub-club library (bet 'cha didn't know we had one, did 'cha?). Ting Kuang will post in the comments section which ones we have. You can also get limited previews on Google Books. Perhaps you might even read them during the holidays when you're not so busy.

This is another one of those posts where someone tells you what they think Capoeira is. And you know my opinion on that matter.

1) Control Space
Almeida, Bira. Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form. History, Philosophy and Practice .Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1993. pp:174-5
"One must create space with a give and take attitude, never suffocating the game with constant pressure, but attacking and defending, jumping forward and backwards, biting and soothing, coming and going, trapping and faking, moving up and down, and always trying to encircle the opponent. ... This sphere [the movements of a capoeirista] envelops the energy of the fighters and the best capoeirista controls the inner space [of the roda]. His or her opponent must be handled carefully, as if inside a bubble of gelatin that needs to be moved around intact. An abrupt movement of attack that is mistimed will shatter the harmony of the jôgo. A centrifugal movement made too fast or a startled defense could break that surface tension of the sphere, making control of the game difficult. Experienced capoeiristas will make the jôgo flow smoothly event at a fast speed while attempting to control the action."
2) Esquiva, pôrra!
Capoeira, Nestor. Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2002. pp. 240:
As the late mestre Canjiquinha revealed to us once, “You can block the blow of a very strong man but you can’t block a truck at 100 mph.”
3) Life is tough, Groove with it
__. ibidem. pp.20
Life is a struggle?
Life is a battle?
The player sees that capoeira is teaching him to dance within and during this fight.
And the grooving of this 'dancing while fighting' has a lot to do with malícia.
4) Get over oops
__. ibidem. pp.26
If by chance you hurt somebody or get hurt by somebody, this must not bring you guilt or remorse. Capoeira, similar to life, has its danger. In order to die you simply need to be alive.
Almeida, Bira. Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form. History, Philosophy and Practice. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1993. pp: (I can't find the page number. Let me know if you find it)
... If you get hit, it's your fault. If you hit someone, it's your fault."

5) The fearless do not exist.
Capoeira, Nestor. The Little Capoeira Book (revised edition). Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books, 2003. p. 56:
Of all the proverbs, though, perhaps the best one for the beginner to keep in mind is that "valente não existe,' which can be translated as 'There's no such thing as a tough guy' or 'the fearless do not exist.' It is important for the beginner not to be fooled by the outward appearance of 'tough guys,' and to realise that we all feel fear, and that we are all--to greater and lesser extents--insecure: "The fearless do not exist."
6) Keep your cool.
Lewis, J. Lowell. Ring of Liberation: Deceptive Discourse in Brazilian Capoeira. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992. pp 129:
During one bout, one player had snuck a kick in through the guard of his opponent, stinging him, and the offended player became angry, attempting to retaliate. The more he tried to hit the first player back, and could not, the angrier and more frustrated he became. The sneaky kicker responded with a series of mock cringes, each of which served to emphasize the other player's emotional state and telegraph to the audience the fact that he had landed a blow, which most had not seen. These cringes angered the attacking player even more, since they highlighted both the fact that he had been hit (which he could have covered up if he hadn't lost his temper) and that he was impotent to counterattack. I suddenly realised that I was witnessing the cringe being used as a weapon!
7) This is a game, make-believe.
Downey, Greg. Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. pp. 112:
Mestre Squisito, (quoted in Downey):
"Capoeiristas put their lives in a game and stage death in a playful theatrical form. "Here is a mortal attack," smiles one of the players; to which the other responds: "You struck me fatally..." negating the attack. And the game recommences. It is the game of life. It is life and not death that is interesting, that the capoeiristas seek." ... [H]owever ... the play 'bites' in capoeira can grow in intensity until they shatter the game's restraint. Playing at fighting may turn abruptly into just fighting, capoeira teachers often warn. But that danger is one reason why 'cunning' or malícia is the most admired trait in capoeira.
8) People are full of shit.
Capoeira, Nestor. A Street-Smart Song: Capoeira Philosophy and Inner Life. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books, 2005. pp. 104:
"Humans are medicre, mean, limited, false, full of prejudice, and full of shit. The society we live in isn't much better ... Capoeira's fundamento is the knowledge of all these things, the knowledge of this panoramic and global picture, seasoned with a strong dose of "good humour" (for lack of a better word) and "dressed" in the colours of Brazilian Afro and underground culture."
9) You have to live with them anyway
__. ibidem. pp.105:
"... Have you ever seen very young kids playing by the seashore on a beautiful day? The run. They jump. They dance as if they were crazy. They wet their feet in the breaking waves and run away from them yelling. This energy is what I call being in a "good humour".

Happy reading,


mvken said...

"... If you get hit, it's your fault. If you hit someone, it's your fault."

Doesn't this also mean both ppl are at fault? I feel this is a bit difficult to get over since we're still rooted to our morals whereby we'll say sorry for doing something accidentally.

"People are full of shit."

Wow can it be more blunt?

EW said...

Yes, you are correct, Ken. Get over it. :)

(Emily and other CNM majors could tell you a thing or two about force-fed TV morals.)

Bryan said...

Enlightening....Axe meu camarada

Yihao said...

Wow, reflections on what Capoeira is.

I first joined Capoeira with a very firm image of what Capoeira is, and what makes it beautiful. But as I play on, my limitations and interactions with other people constantly disrupts this image.

I wonder if I should train towards this 'image' I have, or if should I constantly modify this image as I train and grow.

Of cos, it is not hard to see that the former will stifle my growth. But it is hard to let go of that image, difficult to redefine the meaning of beauty.

Train. Change. Grow.

Let's play!

TT said...

"...Capoeira, similar to life, has its danger..."
i like this verse.

In the beginning when I first joined Capoeira, my knowlegde about it is limited. but everyday in capoeira I learn something new. Capoeira is slowly becoming part of my life...

Let's enjoy and treasure all the times we share in Capoeira!!!

lala said...

TT!! i totally know wat u mean gal! tt's wat so fabulous abt this, u learn smthg new everytime. And i don mean just moves(of course its great to learn those fancy moves, so tt u can show it off to ur frens) but also, how the game reflects life so beautifully!

but my personal fav was Almeida's analogy of how playin in e roda is like playin in a "bubble of gelatin". This is so profoundly apt. Smthg i shall keep in my mind when i get into e roda next time.
thanks ew!

Bambu said...

We have these books!

a) Capoeira - A Brazilian Art Form: History, Philosophy, and Practice.
by Bira Almeida (Mestrer Acordeon)


b) The Little Capoeira Book by Nestor Capoeira