Monday, February 9, 2009

Capoeira beyond the moves.

I do not write on this blog much. So this is going to be a long post.

I think most of us who have played enough Capoeira know that Capoeira is more than just the moves and the physical aspect. There is also the musical aspect to list another. But Capoeira is much more than what you can see, and what you can hear. It is very much what you can feel.

Capoeira requires personal feel, intuition, foresight, and also your own personality, more than some other martial arts, I feel. It is not just about landing your kick into the intended target. A myriad of other things goes into that single queixada.

First you have the lead-up. You have to execute some pre-requisite moves before the actual kick. You watch your opponent, looking for the chance to execute the queixada so that it is most effective. You decide that this is the prime chance for it and you start to execute it. You twist your body enough so that your queixada becomes potent. And that is not the end. Your mind is constantly calculating what would be the next best option after the kick is executed. Even while the kick is in progress, you eyes are looking for the little nuances in your opponent that betray him and tell you what he is going to do to you next.

I digress a little. Many of us have this habit of throwing our kicks. Yes, it does make your kick a little faster, but that is beside the point. While a game of Capoeira requires speed in some circumstances, placement of your kicks matter more. You can kick at the speed of light but yet never hit your opponent. You can kick at a turtle's speed and still get your opponent, that exemplifies skill and control. I once read something in an article, something which I kind of "live by" whenever I play Capoeira. It basically says that in Capoeira, you do not need to make contact to "score a point". There is no need for one to complete the kick i.e. make contact, because when you place your kick correctly, at where your intended target is, your opponent already knows that you got him. You martelo and stop your kick right beside his cheek. Why bother making contact, you have already won.

That brings me to my next digression. Capoeira is not about active blocking. I do not believe I did any good if I happen to block a kick with my hands. I esquiva. What is unique about Capoeira defences is that they are offensive defences - an esquiva allows you to escape plus leads you and places you in a position for an offence straight away. Placement, placement. Why do you esquiva when you can just block? Capoeira is a martial art form. Read, "art form". Capoeira is flowing. That is why your basic move in Capoeira, the ginga, is not a static stance, it is what its name suggests, a move! So in Capoeira, our defence is also an art form in its own right. There are many ways to esquiva from a particular kick, but to choose the one which best allows you escape, yet continue to engage the opponent, that, is an art form.

Capoeira also does not rely solely on physical strength; as what I said above, it's not about making contact and not about K.O.-ing the opponent. It's about exposing the flaws and limitations of your opponent and capitalising on that little window of opportunity when you see it. And in doing so, you discover your own potential too. You may not be able to kick high or have a huge repertoire of kicks, but you make do with what you can and you can still prevail. When I was with my old school, we had to master a few moves before we are allowed to enter the roda. I believe that for any beginner, you must at least master (and note I said master, not just know) the ginga, one kick, and one esquiva, before you are able to engage any opponent in the roda. The other things you need: confidence, and skill in placement, cannot be learnt outside the roda, only when you are playing inside one.

I digress again about confidence. As much as you are afraid of that opponent who has more experience than you, he has equal reason to be afraid of you too. If he kicks you, you esquiva, if you land your kick in the correct place, you will force him to esquiva too! That said, do not go into a kicking frenzy thinking that as long as you are kicking, he will stay away from you. First, you will get tired. Second, if he is good, he can still get you. Third, art form! Some of you like to extend your leg from every imaginable position, hoping to rasteira or kick your opponent. What's worse, you are looking at the opposite direction when you are doing that. You are just showing that you are not in control of things, just wishing you will get the person, like trying to strike it big in lottery. There is no art in lottery, just chance. What I am trying to say is, I'd rather bring into the roda my ginga, one kick and one esquiva, which I mastered, and still be able to engage my opponent and give him a good fight, then leave the game to chance. Your opponent might have a whole slew of kicks up his sleeves that he unleashes upon you. But all you need is your simple ginga, the perfect lead-up to your queixada, and place your kick where he has nothing else to say but concede defeat.

I cannot remember how many digressions I got into. Capoeira beyond the moves. Basically, what I wanted to say is that it is easy to define Capoeira as every Tuesdays and Thursdays, learning some new moves and then having a roda. But put some thought into what you are doing. Capoeira is the delicate blending of the speed and shrewdness of the fight, the grace and agility of the dance and the rhythmic guidance of the music. If any of these elements were isolated, the heart of Capoeira is lost.

Costeleta/ Joshua


Bambu said...

Can we have pictures tooo...all words will make me dizzy lol

phasit said...

wow, what a post and insight, Josh. had a good time reading it.

mvken said...

Very nice and thought provoking post. Somehow I knew it was Joshua after just reading the first 2 paragraphs haha.

Bryan said...

I felt as if i was reading a R.A. Salvatore novel man! I could actually "see" ur words.... u've got a talent bro :)

ps: the word verification for this comment was "pinis" LOL