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CAPOEIRA IN LONDON

Posted on 17 February 2008 by chan

MY FIRST CAPOEIRA CLASS IN LONDON 2004

Walking down the street to buy a coffee I was trying to think of how to introduce myself to mestre carlos. I walked up this dirty street of london, filled with run down shops and small delis. It was a beautiful day as the sun was shining few clouds were out and the suns rays glinting off of the street trying to make it seem a little more beautiful. I lifted my head and saw this old guy probably in his fifties walking down the street with a capoeira shirt on carrying a backpack. I asked him whether he was the mestre, and he said he was. I didnt know what to say, it was all happening too fast, I mumbled out some kind of story and he looked at me hesitantly. He stood there momentarily and then started to explain to me that the people in his class today were mostly beginners, so I may not get that much out of the class but I am most welcome in coming for the class if I wanted. I sighed in relief on the inside as i said I will see him soon.

cap

I kept walking up the street looking for a coffee shop. I couldnt find one and thought that it would probably be better for me to get some juice anyway. I walked back towards the academy with juice in hand and not knowing what to expect. As I entered the classroom I saw probably 6 or so people stretching in the room. They all turned around and stared at me, as if a spotlight had spontaneously appeared out of nowhere and decided to make me the subject of attention. They all continued on with stretching, still gazing at me, but no one thinking of coming up to me and introducing themselves. I went and huddled into my little corner and started stretching a bit. We started the class, and I could instantly feel the Sao Paulo style come out. His movements similar to some sao paulo styles mixed with muzenza style. Reminding me of some of the movements that simon in canberra had taught me from some of Burgues’s classes.

MESTRE CARLOS CLASS
Some nice basic movements, as well as some nice thoughtful combinations. He corrected some of my foot positioning, telling me the various reasons for why they put this foot here or that position there which were all very interesting to learn about. We then had a roda and they learnt this song that all of you would have given up on in the first four lines. It was a mega song that I even found daunting. It was funny though, cause about half the class could speak portuguese for some reason. We had a roda and it was fairly awkward for me as all of the beginners were kinda wierd with no timing or coordination, so I had to be extremely careful in what I did as well as for crazy movements flying from every which direction.

The roda ended with a bit of samba de roda which was nice, and then the mestre invited me to go with him and his group to a batizado. I was sort of caught by suprise, and thought well, why not. So we all hopped on this bus and had a good chat to some of the students there. They were all really nice people and really cared deeply about there mestre and there group. I felt a real family thing was going on, and that the mestre was a very caring and gentle man. He had built a small little group that he had come to love and respect as much as they love and respected him.

THE MUZENZA BATIZADO
We got off the bus, and proceeded to walk around the streets of london, trying to find this unknown place. They asked me for a map as they were all lost, and we walked around this huge block, and almost ended up where we originally were when we finally found this academy. I walked into this small studio with about fifty people packed onto terraces watching, and about thirty students sitting down in a roda. The studio lights were on, so it almost looked like a small theatre stage production. There were about 15 instructors and mestres all standing up proud and singing and playing. I couldnt believe that i was here, amongst it all, about to face all of these instructors and mestres by myself!

I walked in, and got a lot of strange looks and turns of heads as I went to sit down. I was weariing the red challenge pants which was funny, as everyone else was pristine white. I put down my things and saw this contra mestre I knew, called contra mestre axe. He welcomed me with a big smile and a hug, and was really pleased to see me. I sat down in the roda for a while and watched the games being played. It was very typical muzenza style, with all of the movements and various combinations that they use. It reminded me of watching countless videos in my apartment over and over again.

I was still feeliing quite left out by this stage, as no one had tried to introduce themselves to me or anything. Axe called over the instructor of the muzenza group and told him to introduce me. He stopped the roda and told everyone who I was and where I had come from. I sort of stood up clumsily, trying to look the part as if I was important, gave my little queen elizabeth wave and smile and went and stood with all of the other instructors. We then went into the roda playing people who were getting there cords.

london

I went in and played with this girl and as soon as I went in I could feel this heavy stare as everyone was watching me intently. I clapped out and felt the pressure ease. I have never felt anything like it before. This unconcious energy I felt pushing me from all sides, it was so wierd. I just played my game and blocked everything else out. We then were all invited into playing in the open roda. I took a deep breath and could just hear budas voice in my head telling me, that I had to get in there and play, and keep playing and keep playing and keep playing no matter what happens. That is how you earn respect.

So I went in and played this guy with a typical muzenza style. The game was quite chilled out, I could see him applying some slight pressure to see what I had, but I lightly brushed it off, as I felt quite secure in my game and what I could do. I could still feel that everyone was watching me, wondering where the hell I had come from and what I was doing here. But I kept going playing my game and keeping my head.

It was all over in a blink of an eye and as everyone was getting up to leave, all of the instructors and mestres hung around to eat and have a chat. I eventually met everyone, and for the first time, I felt as if I was accepted into a capoeira community. It was a wierd feeling, but it was great to finally feel welcome. Everyone invited me to come and visit there classes and later on we all went to a pub and sat down and chatted. As I was walking home I felt a warm fuzzy feeling engulf me, as I hazily wondered home, dazed and amazed at what I had just been through.

muzenza

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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Ramsay Says:

    Great story Chan!

    Do the different colored pants mean different things? Can you explain?

    RT

  2. Mariposa Says:

    Chan, that’s so beautiful! I love how open you are about your feelings, your experience and how positive-minded you are no matter what the circumstances!!!!
    Axeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  3. chan Says:

    Hey ramsay,
    From what I have experienced the traditional pants are white in regional and usually black or black with yellow for angola. Other colours are group preferences generally. The red pants that we wear are to pay homage to our late mestre, mestre vermelho 27 (red 27).
    yellow and black were pastinha’s favorite colours, white was used for when people would go to church on sunday’s. After church they would go and have a roda in their sunday bests.

  4. chan Says:

    thankyou mariposa, I really appreciate your comments and support.
    chan.

  5. Abelha Says:

    Hi Chan. I accidentally found your blog while brousing for abadas!I know I am too years late with my comments. Interesting.. I am in the USA. Played Capo these past 8 years with Mandigueros dos les Palmares and grupo Ondas with Mestre Chvisco. Here , Angola is played in White pants, chino style and white button down shirt or white teeshirt. Our Angola Mestre is Mestre Joao Grande. Our students below graduado rank wear white abadas and school shirts , the white was to show how well a student learned as you know, in capoeira only head hands and feet touch the floor. The abadas must stay clean. LOL.. , these are worn for all classes and events where the school is represented. Colored pants are worn for street capo or open rodas . Next time I am in London, I’d like to come by your academy if I may.

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