BEAUTY MATTERS. IT IS NOT JUST A SUBJECTIVE THING, BUT A UNIVERSAL NEED OF HUMAN BEINGS. IF WE IGNORE THIS NEED, WE FIND OURSELVES IN A SPIRITUAL DESERT.
When so called “Capoeira Angola Haters” out there want to criticize and disparage this art, one of the main things they focus on is the “dance” aspect of the art, saying that we don’t fight, we just dance.
I admit, it’s not just a critique. I mean, look at any traditional Roda de Capoeira, and that’s what most people see. People flipping, dancing, having fun…
And yes, the dance aspect is very important in capoeira Angola. On this page, I want us to explore WHY we dance, do inversions and acrobatics, etc.
Now what I’m about to type didn’t come from me, but from several people, not all of whom are Capoeiristas.
Okay, Let’s get started.
Now people say that the dance and music aspect exists in capoeira because it was a form of disguise to hide the fact that they were practicing a Martial Art.
Well, I think that explanation is complete bu*&^hit, for a couple of reasons.
Personally, I think it’s a common-sense type of way to explain away certain aspects of the game.
And who knows, it COULD be the main reason there is Dance and music in the game.
However, I also think that there are also other VERY IMPORTANT factors to consider.
Things that I’m
about to explain to you RIGHT NOW.
One reason I believe the dance aspect is there, is because in ancient times, and also in the present day, dance was one of the main ways that West African warriors trained because the ARTISTIC aspects of the West African Martial Arts was, and still is, VERY important.
One thing people don’t seem to understand is the fact that the west africans who were brought to brazil came from cultures that were very different than our own.
You see, where I live here in the west, we have times and days set aside for say, the secular aspect of our lives, and times and days set aside for the spiritual, i.e., religious aspect of our lives.
And in our secular lives, there are days and times set aside for work, play, time with family, time with your friends, etc.
Well, the West African mind doesn’t work that way. In many traditional west african societies, everything is one. Work, play, spirituality, etc. are all woven together, and all have equal importance in their everyday lives.
This is why I believe that it’s so difficult to define Capoeira, or to put it in a category. Dance, Combat, Healing, Musicality, Philosophy, Spirituality, Capoeira has it all, equally woven together in this unique way of life that we capoeiristas are a part of.
So… WHY ELSE is dance important to Capoeira?
Well, in Capoeira, Capoeira Angola in particular, you can say that the artistic aspects of Capoeira (Music and Dance) can lead the player into the spiritual aspects of life. Some capoeiristas will tell you how sometimes, when they’re playing, they get to a point when time seems to slow down, or when their body just seems to sort of, “take over”, and they just become more of an “observer”, etc.
Dancing in itself has a HUGE amount of benefits, Physical, Mental, Spiritual, etc. and Warriors all over the world have known that since ancient times.
But we’re not gonna get into that. Well, not too much…
And, there is the fact that for many years, the dance and acrobatic aspect of capoeira has been performed in Brazil, and all over the world.
Whether it’s in a street performance, where sometimes, they would perform for money, or specifically to present the art to the public, like in this video…
Or, on FILM or Television…
Now, I’d like to change up a little bit and tell you guys a little story. On another PAGE, I mentioned Capoeira and Break Dancing…
Well, in case you didn’t know, capoeira has an… interesting relationship with breakdancing.
You see, capoeira and breakdancing contain similarities in their footwork, groundwork, and upside-down movements, leading many to come to the conclusion that breakdancing may have came from capoeira. This theory makes sense, because capoeira formally arrived in New York City with Mestres Jelon Viera and Loremil Machado in the 1970s, around the time breakdancing originated.
However, the earliest bboys had little to no contact with capoeira. Instead, according to them, they took inspiration from kung-fu films and put their own personal flair into the movements. In fact, some of the kind of movements you see in breakdancing have been performed by performers like the NICHOLAS BROTHERS in the 1940’s.
Okay, maybe not exactly like breakdancing, but I think you get my point. And, any Capoeira Angola player can look at the old man in this clip and swear that he was an angoleiro…
But Anyway, I believe that breakdancing developed on its own rather than coming from capoeira, although I also believe that capoeira and breakdancing may have influenced each other when practitioners of the arts met and exchanged movements in the 1990’s. However, the two art forms are similar in that both are African rooted, and both represent a way that people living on the margins of society have used movement, music, and creativity to deal with their situation.
Now, if there’s any fighting art that DOES have any connection with breakdancing, it would be Jailhouse Rock, aka 52 blocks.
Jailhouse rock or JHR is a name used to describe a collection of different fighting styles that have been practiced and/or developed within US penal institutions. The different regional “styles” of JHR vary but share a common emphasis on improvisation governed by a specific set of underlying principles.
Some examples of the many styles of JHR are 52 Hand Blocks, Comstock Style, Stato. Many of these styles of JHR are thought to have evolved regionally in different penal institutions.
52 blocks has been referenced in journalist Douglas Century‘s Street Kingdom: Five Years Inside the Franklin Avenue Posse, as well as numerous Wu-Tang Clan songs and Ted Conover‘s book Newjack. Recently, celebrities including actor Larenz Tate and rapper Ludacris have taken up the fighting system for film roles and self-defense, shining a brighter light on this previously unknown martial art.
I posted this video below of a breakdancer performing his uprock with hand moves inspired by jailhouse/52 blocks.
Now, back to the subject at hand.
In the world of the Martial arts, we have two factors, that are often co-existent, although at first thought, seem mutually incompatible.
These two aspects are ARTISTRY…
Now in the past, where developing a person’s sense of spirituality was more important, the Artistic aspects of the M.A. were highly valued and studied. I mean, look at most of the traditional M.A. styles practiced today. Nearly ALL of them have an “ARTISTIC” side to them (Karate has it’s KATAS, Kung Fu has it’s choreographed FORMS, Silat has it’s KEMBANGAN, Kali/Escrima/Arnis has it’s SAYAWS… The list goes on and on.
And, these arts tend to focus on developing the inner person, as much if not more than developing their combat ability.
Now, as we come forward to the present day, we sadly see the Martial Arts more and more concentrating on the savage aspects.
Make no mistake. the savage aspects work, to a degree, the rush of a bull, the ground and pound, etc. will ALWAYS be potent.
It’s also easy to understand and watch for the common man.
However, nowadays artistic aspects of the Martial arts fell into some disrepute . Why? Lets look at say, AIKIDO as one example.
The principle of blending with an attack and use the opponents force against him is a great principle. The trouble is, in an attempt to demonstrate this principle, the art spends lots of time teaching the training partner not just HOW to attack but worse , HOW to react to the defense . The attacker winds up becoming a great stuntman as he almost throws himself, to help the defender, but in an actual fight or contest, against a uncooperative opponent, it just doesn’t work.
This tendency to do JUST the art, in many cases created a following so imbued with the art, they LOST the savagery, which they didn’t realize is one VITAL side of the coin in combat. In the present day, with MMA, Krav Maga, and so-called, “Reality Based Self-Defense”, we see a culture of mostly savagery.
Yes, there is art involved in what they do, but MOSTLY its savage rushing in with a barrage of kicks and punches and chokes and yes, that is what the audience want to see, it’s easy to understand.
But what many don’t get is that this really stands in contrast to what martial arts should be. Violence for the sake of ego will always be ugly, and leave us spiritually impoverished.
And that’s where the artistic aspect of the Martial Arts come in.
Now some have a very hard time seeing the value of one or the other. You can show a beautiful artistic fighter like this…
And some people will say, I can not see how that can work . That is because they are looking through the eye of a savage fighter.
Likewise, a purely artistic fighter may not appreciate the raw power and rush of the savage fighter. In fact, they often times ridicule the So-called “savage” side of the martial arts, while trying to act like they themselves are somehow more “spiritual”.
Now what makes Capoeira special is, WE USE BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.
In Capoeira, Capoeira Angola in particular, we fight and practice in such a way the art HIDES the savagery , that sneaks out , does its damage and melts at once back to the art of the fight.
But make NO mistake, once through skillful moves the blows are launched at the opponents body parts, its with full savagery as long as needed.
BUT we live in BOTH worlds at once so the moment we can not or do not need to keep up the SAVAGERY, that part of us hides in the background, and the ARTISTIC side takes the lead. The dancing, the acrobatics, etc. are utilized so the art sets the stage to open the door to our savage dark passenger who awaits the signal to save us with what ever it takes…
We need to realize each side of the coin in each move, whether in practice or combat. Slide in and out of each aspect. A good teacher can show you how, but you also need all the tools we have , Ginga, Negativa, Au, Rabo-De-Arraia, etc.
Combat which is also art is something very noble and rare, especially these days. Nobility and rarity are for those who wish to become noble and rare. Unrefined brutality is for those who wish to become animalistic brutes.
Now like I typed before, capoeira isn’t the only martial art out there that trains this way. For example…
The martial art in the above video is called TAE KYON, and as you can see, dancing is a major component, just like capoeira.
The Hawaiian martial art of Lua doesn’t have dancing as a part of their martial art like capoeira or tae kyon, but as you’ll see in this video playlist, The Traditional Hawaiian Hula dance and the martial art of Lua both have a very close relationship.
Now, what you’re looking at below, is an Indonesian version plate dance, done in many different regions all over Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, etc. Later on in this playlist, you’ll see a silat practitioner doing this dance as a warm-up. My first Silat teacher, the late Guru Ernie Puga, showed me quite a few combat applications, Strikes, blocks, joint locks, etc. from this one dance. And after that, you’ll see some of the traditional Kembangan, the flower dance of silat.
And here, you’ll see some of the traditional dances and games played in the philippines, all of which you see here, have a martial component to them.
So in conclusion…
If you wanna make fun of my “Dancing” that’s fine because,
I consider it a huge compliment that you acknowledge the fact that I CAN DANCE!!!
Of course I’m not as good as these guys…
But… I will keep trying to better myself.