Mandingueira’s 1-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

30 11 2008

Dear reader,

You are cordially invited to the celebration of the
first anniversary of Mandingueira blog
.

It will take place
at the locale of http://www.mandingueira.com
on November 30, 2008
at the hour of—NOW!

***

Today is Mandingueira’s One-Year Anniversary.  What with all the well-wishes and facebook posts, I almost felt as if it were my actual birthday! Thank you guys so, so much. 😀

Actually, thank you for EVERYTHING!  This blog would never have kept going if it weren’t for your constant support, encouragement, helpfulness, contributions, and downright awesome participation, comments, and discussions. I think I’ve said this before, but I’ve always felt extremely lucky to have a set of readers like you guys, who add so much to the Mandingueira reading and writing experience.

So, what have we built up together over the past twelve months? As of today, Mandingueira is:

  • 57,400 page views
  • 144 posts (including 4 series)
  • 1 guest post on The Capoeira Blog
  • 4 guest posts on Blue Snake Books Blog
  • 1060 comments(!!!)
  • 16 oz. of goodwill, 1 quart of intelligence, 2 pints of heart, and a whole lot of wicked capoeiristas

In celebration of this blog and everyone on it and everything we’ve accomplished through it, I’ve been working on a secret project that was to be released today in honour of the occasion.  Soooo…I have some good news and bad news.

The good news: a 16-page retrospective magazine commemorating one year of Mandingueira!!!

The bad news: …that will be available later tonight if not tomorrow…or in several days. (UPDATE: Or…in three weeks.  I know you guys are going to hate me, and I’m really sorry!!  The thing is, I’ve STILL been working on this non-stop with a significant way to go (let’s just say formatting and I have some issues to work out in the roda) and it just hit me how much it was actually eating into my study time, which is slightly a concern as my final exams start this week and I have more exams and yet-to-be-started papers due next week!!  Please accept my apologies for the delay…and enjoy the cheerful thought that you’ll receive a great publication just in time to leisurely peruse over the holidays!)

I still have a few things to complete on it as I’ve been working feverishly to get it done since Friday, only some parts have taken WAAAYYY longer than I expected them to.  However, I can’t wait until you guys get to see it!!  It will contain a collection of select posts from the blog as well several pages of all-new content.

To make up for the actual publication not being available yet, here’s a sneak preview of the new articles in it 😀 :

  • 5 Lessons from Writing a Feminist Capoeira Blog
  • If You Only Learn One Thing (“Mandingueira’s Ultimate Post”)
  • Anatomy of a Capoeirista
  • “Open Love Letter to Commenters”

Aaaaaand…here’s the cover! As you can see, I’ve titled the retrospect Mais Uma Volta (the symbolic interpretation is up to you, this time!): Mais Uma Volta

So, I hope that that’s enough proof that this thing DOES exist and WILL come out very soon!  I stayed up all night last night trying to get it done—resulting in 2 hours of sleep and consequently catching a martelo to the head in today’s roda for my efforts. 😄

Once again, thank you so much, and congratulations from Mandingueira on making it through a whole year—to all of us!

Muito axé e um abraço,
Joaninha





Oi/Hallo/こんにちは/Ciao/Ni hao/привет? “Capoeira Cultures” Around the World

23 11 2008

We know that capoeira is part of a culture and has begun working its way into the hearts of many other cultures around the world. But have you ever looked at all the different cultures within capoeira itself?

What kind of capoeira cultures do different geographical cultures create?

A long time ago, I wrote a post about how it hit me that capoeira is truly an international sport. While I trained with a capoeira group in France, for instance, I would hear in French some of the exact same lessons and ideas I’d been taught in Canada, in English (which, of course, were all first conceived in Portuguese).

At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice a world of differences, as well. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it’s safe to say I experienced more culture shock within French capoeira than within France in general for a lot of other things on my exchange!

I was thinking about this recently, and it made me wonder: just putting aside for a minute the bottom line that capoeira is capoeira, no matter who, what, or where…how does (or might) being nested in a particular culture affect the capoeira that capoeiristas there practice?  Does “Capoeira” mean the same thing to people in Russia as it does to people in Spain?  If we all had a turn on Freud’s couch, would hearing “capoeira” trigger the same words and associations in a Swede’s mind as in that of a New Zealander’s?

I know my mental tag cloud for (my experience of) Canadian capoeira, infused with North American culture and mentality, would definitely hold a different set of words than the one for (my experience of) French capoeira.

The first would be something like “training, dedication, quality, tough love, relentless, standards”. Although capoeira still involves fun and games and playing around, at the end of the day, training, we’re told, is serious business. Being late is definitely not a smart thing to do (unless you enjoy push-ups, squats, and/or sprawls), and, except for total beginners, anything less than pushing yourself to the limits is not good enough.

The second tag cloud would feature words like “training, relaxed, laid-back, playful, casual”. People thought I was crazy when I trained with a frequency normal to my Canadian group, and I thought they were crazy for closing on weekends and school holidays! If someone was late, nobody batted an eye.

While in North America I’d always associated capoeira batizados with “training harder, goals, being ready”, in France (and Italy) I learned their new meaning as heralds of “road trips, partying, hooking up”.  Just last week, one of my teachers and some students laughed uproariously at the ridiculous and unheard-of idea of “going for drinks with Mestre”. In France, that’s totally what we did; the mestres bought the drinks!

Then, there’s this slightly amusing quote I found on Capoeira Connection, citing Mestre Val Boa Morte on capoeira in Australia:

“The only difference is that Australians are less spontaneous, they have a little less energy, and take a bit longer to fall in love with the art. In the roda, they’re slightly less competitive and they don’t have evil intent.”

(Chan, any comments? 😛 ) Finally, at a batizado in England I met a capoeira teacher from Poland whose students basically constitute his crew of friends, only nobody drinks or smokes because—he doesn’t allow them to.  Not that I necessarily condone drinking or smoking, but can you imagine that level of…integration…between you being a capoeirista and the other parts of your life, so much that someone who is essentially “one of the guys/girls”, by virtue of also happening to be your capoeira teacher, has that kind of “authority” over you? To me, at any rate, that’s mind-boggling—but to them, that’s capoeira.

At the same time, I absolutely realize that such comparisons/observations are to be taken with a grain of salt.  Leaving aside grupo-rooted (not country-rooted) differences, the very fact that they constituted a “culture shock” to me might have made such differences more pronounced than they actually were, and of course, that works both ways, between everyone. For instance, in France I saw my Canadian capoeira academy turn into a military regiment run by a brainwashing dictator, and back in Canada my French capoeira friends were revealed to be drunkards stumbling high around a roda. Neither, needless to say, is the truth!!

At any rate, that’s what I mean by capoeira being a different sort of activity depending on where you find it. And it’s not like the French capoeiristas I met cared or liked capoeira less, or that capoeira is more important to people in my Canadian group than in my French group.  In fact, I met a lot more students there who had already been to Brazil or knew some Portuguese, than I’d met in Canada.  It’s just that practicing capoeira, or being a capoeirista, connotes different things for each—and really, isn’t that just like capoeira?

——

REMINDER: November 30 is Mandingueira‘s ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY! I will be releasing my secret project on that day to celebrate, so be sure to drop by and check it out! I’m also hoping to have a second MAJOR surprise for you guys, but as it’s not yet a sure thing I’m waiting to announce it. One more week!!





Mandingueira’s ONE-YEAR Anniversary Coming Up!!!

16 11 2008

Mandingueiras one-year anniversary coming up!

So, after two design themes, countless debates, several hiatuses, many interesting viewpoints, several pages added, awesome people met, dissents, compliments, arguments, and sentiments, and more all-nighters than I care to count up…we’ve made it!

November 30, 2008, will mark Mandingueira‘s

ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!!!!

I am super excited about this, because to celebrate, I am releasing something BIG.  It’s a huge project that I just thought of two days ago and I can already tell it’s going to take over my life for the next two weeks, but it will be worth it, and I hope you will think so, too!!  So, I’m giving you early warning:

November 30!  Mandingueira’s one-year anniversary!  Special surprise!
Be there! 🙂

-Joaninha





007: Quantum of Progress (A Vignette)

14 11 2008

Quantum of Progress

Computer: target proper?  Negative.

Her eyes narrow as she scans the crowds.

I know they’re here somewhere.

She furtively flits to a better vantage point, unnoticed by the individuals around her.  Let the commotion distract them; she has an appointment to keep.

Computer—no, she already sees it is wrong.

This is harder than I thought it would be.

Her first assignment back.  Already she feels each wasted, unforgiving second dropping away, like bullets on steel.

In, execute, out.  What more is there to it? OH SH—

She leaps into the air, cursing herself for losing focus.  Away, down, regroup, now! There are foreign parties here, with the same assignment, she is harshly reminded.  If she does not find her target soon…

Safe now, she resets.  Warily reapproaches the epicentre; the target is here, she was told.  But where?

Computer: profile: global-scan:

Too old. Too loud. Too short.  Wait—no, too troubled.  Damnit!

Her ammunition begins to self-activate.  A warning sign: she should have begun her next assignment by now.  No panic, but thinking fast.  What’s missing?  One more try.

Computer: Recalibrate assignment parameters: Profile: Global-scan:

What?!  What’s going on?!!

Target proper: positive.  Target proper: positive.  Target proper: positive.  Target proper: positive.

Her eyes furiously sweep the scene.  Unlike before, no matter where they land, her orders mandate it is appropriate to take action.

They’re ALL targets?!!  Every one?!!

Then, she realizes. Not every one.  Anyone.

The data…it was corrupt.

She circumvents the crowds, darts straight towards the centre of the ring, where her assignment had been all along.

Who was it who just bought in, again?

It doesn’t matter at all.  She begins to play.





Feminism and Other “-isms” in Capoeira: Explanations, Not Excuses

9 11 2008

Believing in an ism may not mean it works for EVERYTHING...

Last year, I randomly came across a blog that said something along the lines of, “Feminism is a crutch that self-indulgent people use as an excuse to keep themselves and other women in a state of perpetual, self-exonerating victimhood.”

(I tried to find an exact quote that summed up the argument, but had to stop after an unsuccessful and depressing hour and a half of trawling through antifeminism blogs and articles.)

Basically, the statement says that feminism is just an excuse for people who haven’t achieved more to go, “It’s not that I’m lazy; the system is working against me!”

While I firmly disagree with the overly reductive and pretty offensive idea that that’s all feminism is (the system and society DOES in one way or another work against practically anybody who isn’t all of white, heterosexual, and male), I have to say that I can see how becoming invested in an “ism” can cause somebody to inadvertently end up using it the way antifeminists mean it. Interestingly enough, I came to this conclusion through capoeira—more specifically, through a maturing of my ideas in last-last week’s post about floreios, strength, and image in capoeira.

When Explanations Go Wild

First off, let me make one thing clear: ISMS (feminism, sexism, racism, homophobia, agism, etc.) are meant to be explanations, not excuses.  If a woman who has earned and deserves a promotion does not get it because of sexism, that is an explanation, rightly used to point out social injustices in the world and how they work, in hopes of fixing the system. If, however, the woman has not earned nor deserves a promotion but cites sexism as the reason for not getting promoted, then she is using sexism as an excuse, in order to exonerate herself from the fact she didn’t work hard enough or needs to work harder in the future.

What I think is that while everybody starts off with -isms as explanations, the more they become immersed in the world of their particular -ism and the more they learn about it and see just how prevalent it is, eventually, there may emerge a potential danger of unconsciously using that -ism as a personal excuse in addition to a legitimate explanation for “failure” or lack of achievement.

As I mentioned, this thought came to me while further thinking through my views on the “floreio effect”. (If you have not yet read the post I wrote on that, it might be a good idea to do so before continuing, so you don’t get lost.  Click here to read it. Don’t worry; we’ll still be here when you return!)

One Thing Needful

In the floreios post, I pinpointed two things that I believe contribute to a capoeira training system that allows certain capoeira students to derive additional benefits from their capoeira training, as compared to less athletically-gifted capoeira students.  These were (1) having or looking as if you have much physical strength and (2) an academy-wide strength-oriented, floreio-centric attitude regarding capoeira training that I termed “weight-class mentality”.

In truth, there’s a third major factor involved, which I left out because I didn’t think of it until after having formed the full theory as I presented it, and because I was saving it for today’s post.  The third factor is the mentality of the “bigger/stronger” capoeira students themselves.

What I realized is that even though capoeira students do benefit hugely if the first two conditions of the “floreio effect” apply to them, it’s not as if they just sit back and do nothing all the while.  Part of how the floreio effect works is that not only are premature impressions of the student’s “advancedness” reinforced in other capoeira students’ and teachers’ minds, they are reinforced in said student themself. So then it becomes a case of them not just attracting “enriched” training, but one where they also gain the confidence to put themselves in positions that enriches their capoeira training.

For instance, sure big/strong capoeira students are challenged more often (and thus have their skills developed at an accelerated pace) by advanced belts in the roda, because some advanced belts assume that because they’re big and strong, of course they can take it, nevermind how long they’ve actually been training for.  But part of the reason that happens is that the students themselves have the confidence to, and do, regularly buy in to play with the advanced capoeiristas!

Are you turning your -ism into an excuse?

“Anything You Can Do…”

Here’s the important thing: That third factor?  It’s not an external circumstance. It’s completely in the person’s control how much confidence they exude and whether they behave like they’re a beginner (shying away) or a more advanced capoeirista (taking chances and putting yourself out there), triggering further impressions in others that affect their perceptions of you as a capoeirista, despite whether or not you actually are beginner or advanced.

Once I realized that, I felt that my floreio theory had begun to show a slight tear between the stitches.  In a way, it was another -ism. For the purposes of this post, let’s call it “strengthism”. So while I still believe “strengthism” provides a legitimate explanation, without recognizing that third factor it was also possibly functioning as an excuse.  Full disclosure: I never bought in with solidly more advanced capoeiristas in the roda, in my own group, before the “floreio effect” theory and everything I just wrote about occurred to me. I do now!!!

Returning to feminism, or sexism/misogyny, in the context of capoeira there is also a danger of falling back into that as an “excuse” for not advancing.  First, in no way am I discounting the sexism and misogyny that exists; it does, in all the forms and with all the effects on people that feminism describes. At the same time, the point where you take an -ism beyond what it can explain is when it turns into an excuse.  Thus, sexism affects women in capoeira, but since there are still many women succeeding and advancing in capoeira, if you are a woman who isn’t, then it’s probably (for the most part) not completely fair to blame non-success totally on sexism.  Does that make sense?

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know

To make it really clear, I’ll use another “strengthism” example from my own experience.  Over the past couple months, for one reason or another, I’ve started to hear a refrain that goes, “technique’s fine, just need more strength [to do the move properly]”, or “good game, you would’ve killed if you were bigger”, and other similar comments that eventually did make me feel strength[ism] was the ONE thing holding me back from actually being good (or, to follow Angoleiro’s prudent example: “good” 😉 ). To be honest, I’m pretty sure my frustration over that was what brought the “floreio effect” to my attention in the first place.

What made me realize the danger of stretching an explanation into an excuse was just another normal instance of the above during a capoeira class: I couldn’t quite get a certain move, and sure enough…”your technique’s fine; it’s just strength”.  By then, I think I’d heard this message often enough that my mind reached a certain point and almost got sucked into some sort of ironic backwards somersault: “Okay, you would be good if you were stronger.  So basically, you are good, since the only thing missing is strength, and you can’t help that so it’s not your fault, especially with the floreio effect in play.” (The unsaid implication: “So now you can rest on your system-is-against-me laurels and become a complacent capoeira student.”)

So obviously, a few problems with that. Firstly, lack of strength is definitely not “the one thing missing”; it’s the weakest point, but that doesn’t automatically mean I’m particularly good at all the other stuff.  Secondly, not having more strength is my fault if I know that’s the problem but still do nothing about fixing it when I have the means to. (Just so you know, I started working out regularly for the first time in my life this past summer, precisely to get stronger for capoeira, and that was before all this came up. And yes, I am proud of myself for actually having kept it up, thank you very much. 😛 )

Finally, what?! “Would be” to “is” represents a somewhat large mental leap there.  It’s like that comic strip with a huge scientific equation on the chalkboard, and halfway through there’s step labelled “then a miracle happens”!  This is complacency: if I really did believe I was already “good” in all the non-strength aspects of capoeira (which I’m not, assuming good means “above average”), then it would be easy to blame all future non-success on lack of strength alone and not on possible weaknesses in those other areas. So then, I’d end up dismissive of moves I can’t get, stop paying attention to non-strength abilities, and ultimately become weakened in everything.  Complacency is sneaky like that.

Of course, that hasn’t really happened.  But it did make me realize the potential “trap” one could inadvertently slide into by investing too deeply in or drawing too deeply on the explanatory powers of a particular -ism.  It’s becoming complacent in the face of discrimination or extenuating circumstances, precisely because you’re so aware it exists. The ultimate irony is that if that happens, you will have kept yourself down even further than discrimination alone might have, completely defeating the purpose we have and learn about -isms in the first place.





Congratulations, America

4 11 2008

Obama makes history

I am SO HAPPY for you!!!!!!!

Update:

Yay Obama!  YEAH he did!!!

Yay Obama! YEAH he did!!! (Warms your heart, doesn't it? Click on photo for more...)

Update 2:

Reactions from around the world (Click)

PHOTOS (Huffington Post): Reactions from around the world (Click to go to slideshow)