Battle of the Titans: The Internal Struggle between Capoeira and…Everything Else

10 02 2008

When it comes to capoeira, there is no doubt that the more you train, the better.  In a perfect world, we would all get to train capoeira as much as we wanted to (or needed to), as often as we could, and simultaneously stay on top of everything else going on in our lives—school, career, relationships, etc. (and get full nights’ worth of sleep while we were at it!).  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.  So, what happens when these two giants in your life (“capoeira” and “everything else”) clash for your time and energy?

Capoeiristas play capoeira.  And everything else?

On the one hand, it seems there’s just no help for it.  As crazy as I am about capoeira, I’m not about to blow a great career opportunity or cut an important class for one session of training (manipulating my course timetable to work around training, however, is a different matter 😉 ).  I know of at least one or two people who have a really hard time training not even nearly as much as they would like, due to exacting careers or studies, and I always wonder, what will happen for me in the future?  At one point in time I was considering going to medical school after graduating, and upon hearing this someone said to me, not without reason: “You won’t be doing capoeira then!” 

The thing is, I always thought it had to be one or the other.  My grupo in particular has a very hardcore take on training and commitment, which I appreciate and wouldn’t want any other way, but which also really forces you to decide what the priorities in your life are.  Training time increases with corda rank, naturally, but by my second belt I was already training 5x/week, and anything less than daily for my teachers, not even graduados themselves (but still more than skilled/competent, of course), was rare.  To get even anywhere near becoming a mestra or mestre, it seemed, took not only a lifetime but quite indiscriminately a life, leaving no room for anything else.

This impression only strengthened when I read biographies of mestres, my grupo’s mestre, guest mestres, branched-off mestres, all of which related how pretty much the entire lives of all of these men were devoted to capoeira, leading to them becoming mestres, and as far as I know, their lives are still 100% devoted to purely capoeira, their academies, the growth of their schools, etc.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; that’s not my point here, and capoeira can always use that kind of dedication, which merits admiration.

My point is: A short while ago, I experienced yet another “revelation”, connected to this and again mostly to do with capoeira angola.  I know it seriously seems like I’m about to defect to an angola group any day now (to those who might, don’t worry; I’m not!), but I had to share it.  This was the revelation:

  • Rosangêla de Araújo Costa: Mestra Janja of Grupo Nzinga and historian and university professor
  • Paula Cristina da Silva Barreto: Mestra Paulinha of Grupo Nzinga and sociologist and university professor
  • Paulo Barreto: Mestre Poloca of Grupo Nzinga and geographer
  • Pedro Moraes Trindade: Mestre Moraes of GCAP and public school teacher
  • Nestor Capoeira: Mestre and author and PhD alumnus
  • Marcia Treidler: Mestranda Cigarra of Abada Capoeira and founder/Artistic Director of ACSF (non-profit NGO)

As you can see, every one of these illustrious individuals is a superlative capoeirista, at the top of the corda ranks and at the top of their game, yet there is much more to their lives and careers than capoeira alone.  For them, it seems, substantial progress in capoeira (to say the least—they’re mestres!) and major non-capoeira commitments (e.g. post-grad degrees, career development) were not mutually exclusive concepts. 

So, firstly, where did my bedrock belief in the contrary come from?  My grupo’s “philosophy”?  My own insecurities?  (Speaking of which, I should make it clear here that I have no plans, intentions, hopes or expectations of becoming a mestra, ever, but everything I said still applies to the idea of advancing through belt levels in capoeira in general, which is the part that applies to me!)

And secondly, what currents cause growing capoeiristas, potential mestras/mestres-to-be, to sail one way or the other?  Regarding the people listed above, I want to know: How did they do it?  Or how were they “allowed” to do it, to take the time they must have needed to accomplish their other goals, yet have trained enough and been recognized as dedicated enough to be deemed mestras?  Perhaps, as I think is in some cases, their other achievements were accomplished after the fact, when they had already earned the mestre/a corda and was then released from the training pressure of a normal student (although I can imagine a whole new set of pressures coming in to replace that!).  Perhaps, as is also likely, their grupos had different “philosophies”, more conducive to the simultaneous success of non-capoeira pursuits just as considerable as the capoeira one.  Or maybe they really did go “capoeira-lite” for a while, reached the moon, then came back, caught up, and re-donned the capoeira horse-blinders.

In any case, I found this particular “revelation” to be very heartening and encouraging (even inspiring), and I have so much admiration for capoeiristas like Mestra Janja and Mestranda Marcia.  Perhaps there’s room in the world for a martelo-throwing rasteira-sneaking newsbreaking world-changing difference-making writer-publisher-journalist-capoeirista after all. 😛

Picture source:
http://www.capoeira.org.nz/index.php/item/258

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4 responses

11 02 2008
Mariposa

Nice posting, Joaninha! 🙂

I did not have to choose between the titans – I just let it go and apparently everything has alligned in a perfect and suitable order of things 🙂

Well, I train now 3 times a week and I am very grateful to my ex-husband who has respected my committment to classes and is taking care of them while I train (funny though – this never happened when we were together!..)

Capoeira training helps me deal with stress at my workplace – working in a growing company with soo many changes in such a little time is not easy… But I love coming to work and singing some Capoeira songs in the morning, alternating with gospel songs 🙂 it makes my day!

My job is challenging and interesting and I love it!!! I have the opportunity to grow and study (ISO, SIx Sigma). Ohh!!! Did it not help to do some ginga and quexadas when I had my brains frying of too much statistics?!?!!!!

Also I interact with a lot with people from senior managers to part-time employees. It is amazing how the observations and explanations on Capoeira classes and games help me get a different perspective on things so I could generate the premises for new and better solutions and ideas at work! That’s really awsome!!!!

Gatherings with Capoeiristas is just honey to my soul: I am very proud and happy to have found great friends! Love the debates on Capoeira topics, singing, just talking and finding out about different cultures and life experiences – it’s just amazing! I find a lot of moral support and just good time…

So it’s all good for me 😉

Axeeee!

11 02 2008
xixarro

Maybe you need to change your perspective Joani

I’ve always been fond of training a lot, especially because I liked training a lot. Not because I really wanted to become some high belt. In fact when I started playing capoeira I never expected to get a higher belt than the one I have now.

My problem rose when I unexpectedly got this last corda. Mentally I wasn’t ready for it. So suddenly I started training as much as I could not because I loved it, but because I wanted to get better.

There’s a saying that a corda can lift you up, but it can also pull down your pants. The latter was my problem. My *imagined* problem that is. A few months ago it suddenly turned against me. I didn’t enjoy capoeira as much as I used to as it al became about getting better, which of course didn’t happen fast enough. It took me some time to realise what was going on.

Now I’m trying to relax again and just enjoy capoeira – the reason why I started with it to begin with. It’s hard to make that switch now, but I’m sure within time I will enjoy the game again like I used to.

My message to you?
What does it matter if you have things to do that come in place of capoeira? Just enjoy the game when you’re able to. Don’t make getting higher belts a goal. Having so much fun is what makes capoeira special.

PS: I learned more when I enjoyed capoeira than when I focused on learning…

12 02 2008
Joaninha

Hey Mariposa!

Thank you, I really enjoyed reading about all the great things you love about capoeira, and what capoeira does for you! And it’s funny you mentioned Six Sigma; at my job last summer all the managers were going through training for it! I know exactly what you mean about capoeira helping you in other parts of your life…and you know what, thank you for giving me a new post idea! 😀 I’m glad everything’s gelling so well for you; that’s how it should be! Muito axé (especially for work, it sounds like you could use some extra)!!

P.S. I just realized every sentence in that whole paragraph ended in an exclamation mark. Mariposa, your energy/enthusiasm is contagious!

12 02 2008
Joaninha

Hey Xixarro,

Hehe, when I started capoeira I didn’t even expect to get the belt I have now! I think I should clarify myself though, since your comment made me realize I must have seemed very corda-centric in my post, which isn’t really the case!

I did start training more after I was promoted, but all of my training has always been because I loved capoeira. I was actually excited about being able to train so much, and it made me feel more fully a part of my capoeira academy. I’ve never resented being in a class, nor ever truly felt like I “had” to be there whether I wanted to or not. Even if pressure had been put on us to attend a certain class or roda, ultimately I always would’ve still gone for the love of it, not because I was commanded to! And so you’re right, every class has been a trove of newfound or lost-and-found knowledge for me. 🙂

Having said that, of course it’s true I hoped so much training would help me improve. I also believe that—well, not that there’s no point, but that something is much more worthwhile if you have goals and progress while doing it, rather than just doing it with nothing changing or coming out of it.

For me, then, I suppose, the dilemma was/is/will be not so much not being able to get higher belts, but not being able to devote as much time as I’d like to equal passions (because I imagine I would value my professional career, whatever that ends up being, as much as if not more than I value doing capoeira). Since the mestraes I talked about were the ultimate examples of having achieved both meaningful, fulfilling careers AND obviously were able to devote necessarily-only-passion-fueled amounts of time to capoeira, I based what I wanted to say on that, which I guess translated easily enough into the post being about rising through ranks rather than just not having enough time for everything!

Which brings me back to your comment, or more specifically, your message to me! Maybe you’re right that it doesn’t matter if other things come in place of capoeira, and that I just enjoy it while I’m actually doing it, and not worry about it when I’m not. Except I know it definitely *does* matter to me…so does that translate into me caring too much about improvement and belts after all? Well, I also know belts definitely *don’t* matter to me…so let’s say just improvement. Maybe it’s just a psychological matter of me wanting to be good at things I love, or vice versa—that’s usually how it works, right?

Maybe the bottom line is I just need to chill (like you said). Or at least, not actually worry about it until the time really comes!

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