by Giorgia (’14)
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts that was created by African slaves during the colonial era. It ties together dance, music, and martial arts, as well as containing a strong life philosophy. Individual capoeira practices vary from school to school. I’ve been playing capoeira since I was six years old, at summer camp, and began training at ABADÁ with Instrutores Estrela Vesper, Sereia, and Corrente, and Mestranda Marcia Cigarra. Capoeira has been important to me since I was small, and has had a massive influence on my life, and in the last year I have entered the adult system and it has become one of my strongest passions (Find out more about ABADÁ Capoeira here).
The sudden rush of hot air, muffled voices, and the smell of hardwood and sweat hits me as I climb the last step of the flight leading up to the studio. It’s Thursday night, T – 3 days until the Batizado and the studio is flooded with white pants; at least eighty people are gathered on the floor, all in the uniform, a wider array of cord levels than I have seen in my entire life at ABADÁ, natural to orange, a full spectrum of graduados, instrutores, professores, and at the top of it all, Mestre Camisa himself, the founder of our school, based in Rio de Janeiro.
I could give a play by play of our three days of workshops, a description of our menu each day, bogged down with Portuguese vocabulary and technical descriptions that would mean nothing to you, the reader, and leave you confused and weary of ever trying capoeira or much less reading my contributions to this blog.
So I won’t.
Rather, I will talk about my feelings, or my experience, or what I have learned, because that’s what blogs are for, right? Feelings?
Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for capoeira, for ABADÁ. As much as my temporary departure from 2010-2011 pains me, I needed to leave for that time to be where I am now, to truly understand and be aware of how much it matters to me, and the role it is meant to take in my life—fellow CDubs I am sure would laughingly respond to this with “You mean all of it!” —but that wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Capoeira is my life, and many times I am made to feel irrational or insane for saying that, or thinking it, and that is what our four days of workshops and Batizado taught me the most, I think, more than benguela techniques, or entradas, or new songs. It taught me, truly, from the catch in Marcia’s voice when she introduced the Batizado and Mestre Camisa, “This is my life”; to the way we all say the word “family” effortlessly to and about one another; the abundance of food and smiles and overabundance of warmth the entire weekend; the meaning of the phrase “Capoeira is life,” because it is.
On Thursday night, when the first workshop was over, Mestre Camisa beckoned us with the berimbau, and we sat, all almost-hundred of us, in a cluster at his feet, and for a moment I could feel the legacy tangible in the air, in the rasp of his voice shaping around the rolling consonants and vowels of Portuguese, in Professor Furaçao’s NYC-thick translation. He spoke about life and capoeira interchangeably, his answers to questions about capoeira were about his own life, and his answers to questions about life were about capoeira, his and that of others. We all sat, steeped in awe, and listened to his words, and took them with us, back to our own cities and homes and lives, when the weekend came to an end with a night of songs and candlelit dinner.
His words, already resonant in the brimming caverns of my chest, became real to me on Sunday afternoon, prickling at the corners of my eyes before being wiped away as Mestranda called out my name, “Amendoim,” a freshly dyed blue-yellow cord in her hand. I got to my feet and did my del mundos, palm to palm around the circle, meeting the smiles of the people I call my family with my own, the special grin I reserve for them, for the bright, sparking light of the roda, for my home, my life, my always. I could write infinitely about this, and never say anything close to what I mean, so I will stop now, while the length is bearable, and keep going, full of questions and of hope, of capoeira and of life, all one and the same, because its motion is my articulation of what I mean.
The RAY Project Teen and Youth Students with ABADÁ Capoeira founder, Mestre Camisa
photos courtesy of Samambaya of ABADÁ Capoeira