I first came to Canto verde back in January 2002 with Amazonas Capoeira, the school with whom I trained in London. Rilene and Rejane the founders of the school and their brother Boneco wanted their students to experience capoeira in the land of its origin, a marvelous, and for me life changing experience. I moved here in 2004 and many of my fellow capoeira students were very envious, believing that I would be getting a daily diet of capoeira on the beach, sadly that was not to be the case and I have hardly played capoeira in the last seven years.
Mestre Zangado, another brother of my capoeira teachers who now lives in France, frequently comes to visit Canto Verde and on his last visit in 2010 he brought a number of his own students. He held regular open classes in the village and Mestre Olho de Gato from Canande also came to teach, someone I very much hope we will be able to tempt back again.
Inspired by Mestre Zangado, Mestre Olho de Gato and the other professors invited here by Mestre Zangado during his visit, a small group has got together and three times a week boys and young men (at the moment it is a mostly male activity but a few girls have shown an interest) crowd into the community centre and enjoy Brazil’s national martial art. One local man has taken on the role of instructor and Neu assists. The group is a little ragged at the moment but very keen, and with time they will improve.
I only train with the group once a week, partly because the sessions finish quite late at night and I like to have our son in bed at an earlier hour, but also because the group train and play Regional capoeira which is a fast and acrobatic style. I love to watch Regional when played well, it is skillful and exciting demanding fast reactions from the players but I prefer to play Angola, a slower style which requires the player to outwit his opponent through deliberate moves, rather like a game of chess.
While both styles of capoeira are dangerous neither style should be violent, those who are aggressive in the roda are displaying their own weaknesses and a lack of understanding of the game.
I have just celebrated my 49th birthday and thanks in part to my (almost) daily training regime in Angola capoeira I am relatively fit. As I said to a friend the other day, I am pleased that I can still turn a cartwheel, not much practical use day to day but it feels good. And, as in the words of a card another friend sent me, “Who needs a wonder bra when you can stand on your head!”
©Claire Pattison Valente 2011