Luciano da Silva on why the Brazilian martial art is big in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
As the island’s capoeiristas prepare for their biggest annual event, we caught up with instructor Luciano da Silva to find out more about the Brazilian martial art.
What is capoeira?
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art created by African slaves in Brazil. It involves self defence, combat, dance-like expression, acrobatics, and music. Forbidden to practice martial arts, the slaves disguised it from their masters as a dance. It became a source of freedom from slavery and mental oppression. Today it is practised worldwide by men, women, and children.
The game of capoeira is played, rather than fought, in a roda (pronounced ‘ho-da’), the Portuguese word for a circle. At the foot of the roda stands the bateria, or percussion ensemble, which accompanies the call and response songs sung in Portuguese. The players, called capoeiristas, take turns entering the circle two at a time to engage in a physical dialogue of attack and defence.
Players move according to the rhythm of the berimbau, the main instrument, which directs how fast, slow, expressive, playful or intense the game will be. Players attack and defend, combining round and straight kicks, ducks, sweeps, take-downs and acrobatics, all the while maintaining flow and rhythm. Players aim to show the potential harm of movements, exercising control rather than following through. The ultimate goal is to trick or deceive, catching the opponent in a position that he/she cannot get out of.
The ginga (rocking back and forth – to swing) is the fundamental movement in capoeira, important both for attack and defence purposes. It has two main objectives. One is to keep the capoeirista in a state of constant motion, preventing him or her from being a still and easy target. The other, using also fakes and feints, is to mislead, fool, trick the opponent, leaving them open for an attack or a counter-attack.
Attacks in capoeira should be done when the opportunity arises and must be decisive, like a direct kick in the face or a vital body part, or a strong takedown. Most capoeira attacks are made with the legs, like direct or swirling kicks, rasteiras (leg sweeps) or knee strikes. The head strike is a very important counter-attack move. Elbow strikes, punches and other forms of takedowns complete the main list.
The defence is based on the principle of non-resistance, meaning avoiding an attack using evasive moves instead of blocking it. Avoids are called esquivas (escapes), which depend on the direction of the attack and intention of the defender, and can be done standing or with a hand leaning on the floor. A block should only be made when the esquiva is not possible. This fighting strategy allows quick and unpredictable counterattacks, the ability to focus on more than one adversary and to face empty-handed an armed adversary.
A series of rolls and acrobatics, like cartwheels, allows the capoeirista to quickly overcome a takedown or a loss of balance, and to position themselves around the aggressor in order to lay up for an attack. It is this combination of attacks, defence and mobility which gives capoeira its perceived ‘fluidity’ and choreography-like style.
How long has the sport or game been available in Bahrain? I’ve been teaching capoeira in Bahrain since October 2009.
Does capoeira have a big following here, around how many people take part and what’s the age group? I am currently teaching around 80 students (children and adults) in three different age groups. There are children aged three to seven, seven to 13s and then the adult classes are for those aged 14 and above. I’ve also started a ladies only capoeira fitness class.
Do you need to be fit to start with or can anyone have a go? You don’t need to be fit to start capoeira. Capoeira will make you fit! It works so many different muscle groups building strength, awareness, speed, agility, flexibility, balance, co-ordination, concentration and rhythm.
How long does it take to become proficient? Proficient in what? In teaching or becoming a good player? to be proficient in my mind is to know how to teach, be a good player/fighter and at the same time have the ability to be a good educator. Capoeira is not an easy martial art. It takes a lot of time, patience and hard work to become a good capoeirista.
What is the event you will be having in June? We have the ‘Batizado’ coming up on June 14 being held at the Batelco Club in Hamala. Batizado is a big event in capoeira where new students get their ‘nicknames’ fixed (apparently everyone gets a nickname!) and students who have trained hard change the colour of their ropes (like belts) according to their level. We have eight colours for the ropes and seven half-colour ropes in our group. Colours are white (beginner), yellow, orange, blue (instructor), green (teacher), purple (teacher), brown (contramestre) and red (master).
Where and when are classes? We are currently holding classes are World Beat Fitness Centre for children and adults, St Christopher’s School for children, as an after-school activity, and at Oxygen Gym for ladies but this will all be changing from July when we will move to a new location.
Anything else our readers should know? In addition to learning the art of capoeira, capoeiristas learn to play capoeira instruments and sing songs in Portuguese! New students are welcome to come for a free trial class. Call (32 226 855)