“Capoeira: My Anti-Drug”

23 12 2007

So, this was an idea that had been sitting around in my head for at least a year or so.  I don’t know how widely this series of public service announcements has been broadcast geographically, so I tried to find one to put here but I could only find parodies and no examples of the actual commercials.  Basically, each advertisement in the campaign focuses on a person doing something they love, basketball for example, and at the end the person or a message on the screen would say, “Basketball: My anti-drug”.  Before you read the following, please keep in mind that I’m no film student (especially if you are one yourself), and that it might sound cheesy/corny when written out here but I really think with the right cinematography, etc., it could be pulled off!

“Capoeira: My Anti-Drug”

Opening: Black.

Scene: Darkened gym room.  Person in capoeira uniform sitting on bench, obviously about to do drugs.  Person pauses, then throws substance into nearby trashcan, gets up and starts walking away from bench.

Cue berimbau toque: Sao bento grande de angola, with variations.

Fade into same darkened gym, panning across sole capoeirista training (same person as before).  Slow ginga, with dramatic cinematography; zoom in on and across arms and face, which wears expression of intense focus, and shows perspiration. 

Capoeirista begins sequence: kicks, escapes, acrobatics, done slowly, smoothly, and expressively, enunciating height and straightness of leg, flexibility and curve of back, length of airtime.  Camera pans from different angles; zooms in and out as best fits.

Sequence ends with mortal, camera follows capoeirista up into air—

Cue singing and additional instruments: Paranaue, paranaue, paranau.

—and back down, as capoeirista lands in the middle of a roda, playing an opponent.

Cue increase of music volume and rhythm speed.

Camera pans, briefly showing full batteria and singing, clapping capoeiristas.   

The game continues, played close and hard.  First capoeirista fells opponent with sudden, cleanly executed take-down.  Both do volta ao mundo, return to feet of the berimbaus, lowered and waiting.  First capoeirista looks up as camera zooms in on face. 

Cue fading of music into background.

Fade to black.

Cue anti-drug message.

Capoeira_my anti-drug


Dentro da Roda: Organize the Game

22 12 2007

Organize the game.

What does this mean, exactly? It’s something I remember hearing once, and I haven’t been able to puzzle it out further than that it probably involves more deliberation in the roda than I’m capable of at present. It struck me because what goes on in a capoeira roda seems like the last thing you’d associate with organization—flow, circle, unrestriction versus boxed, square, and categorized. At the same time, I can definitely see how the concept would apply in terms of strategizing, placement of moves and yourself, maxi-/minimization of space, etc.

The only thing is, those things will work for organizing your game; organizing the game seems to imply a degree of influence over what your opponent does as well, and over the game’s given situation(s). Maybe it just means constantly thinking ahead, predicting what your opponent will do and where they will go, and then organizing yourself or your strategy accordingly. Or it could mean organizing a specific set-up or situation: doing something to make your opponent move one way, predicting their reaction (correctly), and then completing the set-up you planned.

How do you (can you) control the game in the roda?In any case, the bottom line seems to be the need for constant thinking in the roda, whether it’s evaluating the immediate past, analyzing the present, or synthesizing information to use in the immediate future. It’s not enough to just react instinctively to each separate action of your opponent, with knee-jerk reflexes (although being able to do so probably helps), without fitting your (and maybe their) movements into the larger picture of the game…organizing them, I suppose.

Well, that’s my out-loud musing for the day. If you have any thoughts/advice/ideas on this, the floor is wide open!

Picture Source:

Capoeirobics and the Female Chauvinist Pig: When Good Things Go Bad

21 12 2007

Cardio CapoeiraHave you ever seen something happen, take hold, and spread as you helplessly looked on, thinking, “Something has gone very wrong here”?

Capoeira and feminism both began as movements of resistance. Feminism remains one, of course, and arguably capoeira as well in many cases. In her paper Resistance through Movement: Women & Capoeira, Djahariah Katz makes an intriguing connection by pointing out how capoeira and some of the stereotypes that feminism fights against today both grew out of a state of disempowerment:

Seduction and manipulativeness are stereotypical qualities assigned to women. They are qualities that arise out of disempowerment, they become strategies of resistance. There is a discourse that these qualities are innate in women, that we inherently lie and manipulate. These qualities are celebrated in capoeira as malícia, using trickery to beat your opponent. This is a way that capoeira takes a social reality in the present and uses it to its advantage to turn the tables on their position. Most capoeiristas were and are disempowered in society. The philosophy of capoeira is about survival. It teaches you how to walk through the world with your own power.

I found this to be an interesting paradox. Today, women are disempowered because of the existence of such stereotypes, that they are inherently this or naturally that. Yet in the past, women who really used manipulation and whatnot did so because of the same sort of disempowerment, having no other options at hand. What was, in a way, the original feminist movement helped give rise to part of what hinders its modern day successor.

Similarly, capoeira is starting to encounter some backlash from its historical self-preservation. Mestre Bimba moved capoeira off the streets and into training rooms and academies, taking what may have been the single most influential action in the advancement of capoeira’s preservation and popularity. But now, we see such a model making the art vulnerable to things like inferior teachers who are only after money, to the risk of losing roots and traditions as academies and their teachings become more contemporized, and to the ever-hovering net of corporatization—not to mention spin-off “capoeirobics” classes reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster. [Note: I’m not going to post a video here because that’d be roughly four minutes of your life that you’d never get back, but if you’re really curious you can look up “capo-robics” on youtube, “cardio capoeira”, or “capoeira class” by username darksamuraix.]

Katz says that what capoeiristas did was take the “social reality” and manipulate it for their own purposes. When Brazil’s government wanted to promote the national image of Brazil, for example, Mestre Bimba helped to incorporate capoeira into this image, thereby ensuring the protection and continuation of capoeira, as an [Afro-]Brazilian art form. As inspiring as it would be to say that feminism should look to capoeira as an example, however, one thing concerns me.

Capoeira preserved itself not by just taking advantage of “social reality”, but also by conforming to this reality. Fighting outdoors was not okay, fighting indoors was; enter the academies. That’s (partly) why it was allowed to survive, and in the case of capoeira, it worked out. The equivalent of women doing such a thing today, though, might be the phenomenon that writer Ariel Levy terms the “female chauvinist pig”:

Our popular culture, she argues, has embraced a model of female sexuality that comes straight from pornography and strip clubs, in which the woman’s job is to excite and titillate – to perform for men. According to Levy, women have bought into this by altering their bodies surgically and cosmetically, and—more insidiously—by confusing sexual power with power, so that embracing this caricaturish form of sexuality becomes, in their minds, a perverse kind of feminism. (Jennifer Egan, New York Times)

To me, this takes “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” to new and twisted heights. Excerpts from Levy’s book add how these women are also thought of as “post-feminist”, how wearing the Playboy bunny logo is no longer a symbol of degradation and patronization, but of liberation. How can you be post-feminist in a world that has yet to be feminist? Conforming to “social reality” in this case, even if with self-mockery or deliberate irony, is to regress, not progress. No advantage is even gained, beyond what was described as “sexual power confused with power”.

The point of movements of resistance is not to conform to but to break “sociality realities”—because they are social, i.e. man-made, not true, natural, objective “realities”. Just like “capoeirobics” are considered a perverse form of capoeira—if not immediately denounced as not capoeira at all—“female chauvinist pigs”, while they or others may think they are somehow helping the cause of feminism, are only hurting and demeaning it.

Doing Capoeira is like Falling in Love

20 12 2007

(a creative essay)

Diving into the art of capoeira

Doing capoeira is like falling in love.  It starts with a glance, a spark, or nothing obvious at all.  Some call it love at first sight; for others, it is pure serendipity.  At first, you are excited, unsure, nervous, walking in with both eyes wide open.  Then you learn to fall—and fall.

You tumble head over heels, you’re upside-down, beside yourself, and infatuated.  You want to spend every minute in this, every second, every unexpected waking moment.  You can’t stop thinking about it, dreaming about it.  This is the discovery stage; no contours, no leads, no boundaries are safe from your candid, lusting, insatiable curiosity.

You can hardly bear to doubt, it’s all so beautiful.  But in time, doubt you do.  For what happened to the things before?  Your friends, your family, your outside interests.  What outside interests?  Your school is your family, friend means anyone in a white uniform.  What about balance, and diversity?  What about dedication, and loyalty?  There’s more to life than the roda.  The roda is life.  And so, a crack in the flushed pink lens.  You grow distant, detached, and allow drift.

Yet still you think about it, dream about it, only not with the bright intensity of new experience, but with the smouldering acuteness of a thing once known.  Thus—inevitably—reconciliation, and renewal.  Green, unruly passion is tempered by autumn perspective.  You no longer fall, but dive.  And the depth is unlimited.

True Mandingueiras: Warrior Women in Capoeira and Brazil

19 12 2007

Chronicles of Capoeira 

I was lucky enough to find an online capoeira newsletter last week, with a headlining feature on famous and formidable women in the history of capoeira and Brazil!  Instead of reinventing the wheel, I will direct you to the article here, and wish you a good read (which it is)!

Murphy Was a Capoeirista

18 12 2007

These are some capoeira maxims I came up with just for fun a while ago,  inspired by Murphy’s Laws.  I don’t know how widely they apply to capoeiristas in general, but in my training experience, I’ve lived by them! 

Muy Thai's Tony Jaa takes on capoeira's Lateef Crowder in The Protector 

Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

1. The longer and the harder you work at doing something right, the higher the chances are that you’ll be caught out the one time you do it wrong.

2. The degree of certainty with which your teacher states something is directly proportional to the likelihood that they mean the exact opposite or something else entirely. Exceptions to this are when it is equal to the degree of certainty with which another teacher tells you the exact opposite, or something else entirely.

3. The amount of rushing you do to arrive at an event on time directly influences the lateness with which it will begin, increasing the exact amount of rushing you did not have to do. This is also known as the Universal Theory of Brazilian Time Dilation.

4. The class(es) you miss, no matter where, when, or why, will always, categorically, and unconditionally be the class(es) you most wish you had attended

5. A watched student never moves. (Note: This law is only ever concluded by teachers through empirical evidence and inductive reasoning, due to a freak coincidence of constant impeccable timing between the exact moment a student tires out and the exact moment a teacher checks across the room.)

I Got a New Wireless Router!

18 12 2007

That’s another way of saying, I’m sorry for being MIA these past few days due to my internet dying, and it shouldn’t happen again!  Posts to recommence soon!