WHAT DOES CAPOEIRA HAVE TO DO WITH SELF DEFENSE?
And so you’d all know, by SELF DEFENSE, I mean the ability to keep a trained killer from harming you.
Well the answer to that is simple: Capoeira has NOTHING to do with self defense… And EVERYTHING to do with it.
By nothing, I mean that capoeira is a MARTIAL ART, and the sad truth is just because you’re learning a martial art, doesn’t mean you’re learning self defense.
And by everything, I mean that if you learn the movements, strategies, and techniques of capoeira, and PROPERLY APPLY them, you WILL be able to defend yourself.
In fact, I think you’ll become a very dangerous fighter.
This is an article about MY take on the subject of self-defense, and how Capoeira, or more specifically Capoeira Angola, fits into it.
But first, I want you to watch this video.
Now the reason I wrote this article is that every couple of months or so, on any and every Capoeira discussion forum out there in the internet, this subject comes up.
And, it is a valid subject. I mean, anyone who’s been learning capoeira for a while knows that there’s much more to Capoeira than just the martial side.
However, I strongly believe that if you’re learning Capoeira, or any other Martial Art, you should be learning how to defend yourself, along with any other benefit you get out of it.
Now there are some people out there who are all PEACE AND LOVE, who don’t want to see, play, or even talk about this side of Capoeira.
THIS is what they want to see:
Now, I think this is AMAZING. It’s beautiful, it’s flowing, it’s dynamic, and yes, IT IS CAPOEIRA.
THIS IS ALSO CAPOEIRA!!!
Yes, Capoeira is art, dance, philosophy, education, culture, spirituality, everything the mouth eats (to quote Mestre Pastinha)
However, NEVER FORGET that Capoeira is FUNDAMENTALLY A EXTREMELY DANGEROUS MARTIAL ART!!!
One of the primary reasons, if not THE primary reason to learn and play Capoeira should be for self-defense. If you’re not training for SELF-DEFENSE, then YOU’RE NOT PRACTICING CAPOEIRA, PERIOD!!!
Now note that I typed SELF DEFENSE, NOT FIGHTING. And that’s because there’s a HUGE DIFFERENCE between SELF DEFENSE, and FIGHTING.
And speaking of FIGHTING, for you MMA sport fans out there who think Capoeira is useless in THAT arena, here’s two brothers from AXE CAPOEIRA proving y’all WRONG…
…But we’ll get more into MMA on another PAGE.
Hey, I know where you’re coming from. I GET IT. When you play capoeira in the roda, or watch it, you feel the Axe, the comradeship you have with your fellow players, and you feel joy, compassion, and LOVE. Capoeira is everything the mouth eats (there’s that quote again), it’s a beautiful celebration of ALL THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE!
Yes, I GET THAT. But, if you believe that capoeira is a reflection of the fullness of life like I do, then you must accept the fact that just like in life, you can’t have joy, compassion, love, and friendship, without fear, violence, treachery, hate, and revenge. And not to mention, pride, self-respect, forgiveness, and humor. All of these things are part of living, part of LIFE.
If you’re learning a Martial Art and you can’t defend yourself with it, then, HOW MUCH OF THE REST OF YOUR TRAINING IS A LIE?
Well, this is MY take on this complex and controversial subject.
Remember, this is my own opinion.
Many people on YouTube these days, when they want to show that their Martial Art is effective, search out or create videos showcasing it’s “effectiveness”, like the one you see below…
Now personally, I don’t care whether people think Capoeira is effective in a real fight or not. In fact, I like it more if people DON’T THINK IT’S EFFECTIVE in a fight, because it’s that more shocking to them when I end up beating the crap out of them with it.
(And by the way, “beating the crap out of them” in this sense doesn’t always mean physically dominating, or injuring a person).
I believe that anyone and everyone who is serious about learning to defend themselves with Capoeira, or any other martial art, have to ask themselves this simple question.
“What are my reasons for learning Self Defense?”
Well, for the brave warriors who created and innovated what became capoeira, the reasons were simple. They didn’t want themselves, or their children, to live their lives like this:
You see, Capoeira emerged in brazil in a very dangerous time for the people who developed it, men and women enslaved in africa, and brought to brazil.
If they wanted to survive, then these enslaved warriors had to develop these skills LITERALLY “under the sword” of their oppressors. They were often outnumbered, and had to deal with soldiers and bounty hunters armed with whips, bats, knives, swords, guns, chains, dogs, and horses…
and for those who did escape and joined a QUILOMBO (free community usually created by runaways), they had to repel constant attacks by slavers, soldiers, militiamen etc. looking to put them back in bondage, or COMPLETELY wipe them out.
And despite this, there’s STILL many Quilombos in existence today in brazil…
Now towards the end of slavery in brazil, and after, It was further developed by their descendants, men (and a few women) who were pushed to the margins of Brazilian society, and became GANGSTERS, BANDITS, THEIVES, and even part of the Military from the late 18th till the early 20th centuries. Some of these figures became very famous, like MANDUCA DA PRAIA, NASCIMENTO GRANDE, MADAME SATA, LAMPIAO and BESOURO.
Their needs for Self-Defense were a bit different for these men and women from the slaves who had to use it. These guys were gangsters and criminals who had to deal with gang warfare, often against people with the same skills as they had. In fact, a lot of these capoeiristas even allied themselves with groups in power, and became a part of what kept them in power.
It was ONLY in the 1930’s when Capoeira was permitted, and even then, only under certain conditions, and with the understanding that it would be taught AS A SPORT AND AS A FUN, ATHLETIC CULTURAL DANCE. In fact, when MESTRE BIMBA (The 1st capoeira mestre to start a academy) started his academy, he couldn’t actually say that he was teaching Capoeira. On the advice of a student of his (Sinsanado, I believe), He named his school the CENTRO DE CULTURA FISICA REGIONAL BAIANA (Bahian Regional Physical Culture Center), and he called his style LUTA REGIONAL BAIANA (Bahian Fighting Style).
Now these 2 men, and their 1st generation students, were the very LAST generation of what was called the VALENTAOS, or tough guys, an era which produced guys like Manduca da Praia, Besouro Manganga, and Madame Sata. In fact, Mestres Bimba and Pastinha were both Contemporaries of Besouro and Sata, and the reasons for learning Capoeira for these men would have been slightly different than the gangsters from 20-60 years before their time, and also different than the later generation of students they taught.
And, they’re certainly different from the millions of Capoeira Practitioners all over the World in the present day.
So, the main question you should consider is,
“What are your reasons for learning Self Defense?”
This is a very important question, because if you can’t answer that, then You’ll probably waste years learning something not suited for you.
Including Capoeira Angola.
You see, a soldier’s needs will be different from a professional fighter’s needs, which will be different than a policeman’s needs,which is different from a waitress’s needs, which will be different from a fireman’s, which is VERY different from a housewife’s which is different from a College student’s, which is TOTALLY different from Construction Worker’s, etc.
So I ask YOU, the reader, what are your reasons for learning self defense?
I’m going to assume here that you’re a reasonable, law-abiding, fun-loving person who wants to be able to protect yourself from those who would want to harm you, or your family, for whatever reason.
I’m also gonna assume that you’re already learning Capoeira, or have done so in the past. If you haven’t…
Now, I’m gonna list a few steps to get you going in the right direction. Now of course, this is more directed to Capoeiristas, Angoleiros specifically, but I believe these strategies would work with any Martial Art.
But first, I have something I wanna get off my chest.
Most Martial art schools out there, Capoeira included (Especially Capoeira, some would say), are poorly preparing their students to be able to truly defend themselves.
Because they only teach the During part (The training , techniques and practice for the FIGHT ITSELF), or they’re focusing on it.
IT IS MY SINCERE hope that in the future, Martial Art schools start putting more emphasis on the “Before”(Awareness, to prevention to preemptive actions) and also the “After” (Dealing with the Law, how to treat Injuries, and how to report after action reports of incident, dealing with a person, or people who may now have a grudge against you).
Well, whether your school covers that or not, You’re gonna be learning a bit about these subjects in this article.
And also, a little bit about this…
O.K., here we go.
1.) DEVELOPING YOUR AWARENESS
“The capoeirista walks thinking in evil, not because he is a bully. It is a question of self defense because a person can be assaulted at any moment. Life is difficult for those who work, while for a scoundrel it is easy. When the scoundrel encounters a sucker, he comes out well; but when he encounters a capoeirista, he gets a razor across his face… it is for this reason and not because he is a ruffian. All capoeiristas are workers and not vagabonds. (Coutinho 1993:42)
- from Learning Capoeira, lessons in cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art by Greg Downey.
So, what is Situational Awareness?
Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend information about how to survive in an emergency situation. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you…
Be on alert at all times. Take note of the people around you (such as someone watching / following you), look for things out of the ordinary (like a suspicious vehicle parked near your home), listen for unusual sounds (shouting, running, other noises), notice smells in the air (smoke, gasoline, etc.), know your exits in case you have to escape.
So, how does a capoeirista learn to develop this ability?
Well, Capoeira instructors tell their students where to look, how to walk, places to stay away from, and how to deal with certain situations over and over, until they develop strategies and tactics to deal with those situations in everyday life.
For example, Here’s an excerpt from the book, “THE HERITAGE OF MESTRE BIMBA, AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY AND LOGIC OF CAPOEIRA BY A. A. DECÂNIO FILHO, and translated by SHAYNA MCHUGH
DANGER IN CORNERS, DOORWAYS, AND HIDDEN PLACES
And, click HERE if you want to learn about a slightly different, yet every bit as important skill.
And also, LEARN TO READ A PERSON’S BODY LANGUAGE!!!
Achieving a heightened level of awareness takes practice. It may sound like paranoia to you, but in some cases, a bit of paranoia could save your life.
Now some of you may be thinking…
Why all this talk about avoiding fights? I don’t want to run away, I wanna kick ASS! Where’s the kicks, the headbutts, the BACKFLIPS???
Well, we’ll get to that.
On another PAGE.
2.) DON’T LET YOUR MOUTH WRITE CHECKS THAT YOUR BUTT CAN’T CASH…
Now to my knowledge, there’s no such thing as “verbal jujitsu”, but there is a book called VERBAL JUDO, which describes many strategies for deescalating conflict, like in the above video. You can find it on amazon, just click HERE.
There’s also a very good book called “HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE” by Dan Carnegie, which not only deals with conflict resolution, but is a guidebook on how you can take ANY situation, and make it work for you. You can click HERE and buy it on amazon.com, or click HERE to read this PDF of the book.
Now once again, you might be thinking…
HEY, why all this de-escalation crap? Where’s the kicks, the headbutts, the BACKFLIPS???
We’ll get to that.
O.K., we covered Awareness, Avoidance, and De-escalation tactics. But what if none of those methods work?
3.) VIOLENCE IS RARELY THE ANSWER, BUT IF IT IS… MAKE SURE IT’S THE ONLY ANSWER.
The realm, of CAPOEIRAGEM.
And we’re gonna get all up into that, and so much more… on ANOTHER PAGE.
But right now, I have a couple of things to say about what I believe is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the encounter.
4.) THE AFTERMATH
O.K., so let’s say you got into a confrontation with someone who for whatever reason, wanted to kick your ass, rob you, etc. Your de-escalation skills didn’t work, so You had to use your devastating kicking-ass Capoeira Angola skills on him.
And it devastated HIM. You “won” that fight.
So…. what happens next?
Well, I’m about to talk about that. There are potential legal, psychological, and medical effects of engaging in violence no matter how justified.
First of all, you might win your fight, you might even save a few lives in the process, but you might get really hurt yourself. And, don’t always count on the cops to save you if that happens…
O.K., now we got that out of the way, let’s get into this.
RESPECT AND OBEY THE LAWS OF YOUR LAND!!!
Ladies and Gentlemen, when it comes to self-defense, there’s some things you have to understand.
First of all, when talking about self-defense, you have to understand that self-defense is a LEGAL TERM, which means that LEGALLY, there are certain things you can’t do to your attacker, and then claim it was self-defense.
Self-defense (self-defence in some varieties of English) is a countermeasure that involves defending the health and well-being of oneself from harm. The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many jurisdictions.
You see, a lot of people, especially students and followers of so-called, “REALITY BASED MARTIAL ARTS”, like to say things like, “WE DEAL WITH REALITY. IN THE REAL WORLD, IN THE STREETS, WHERE THERE ARE NO RULES, YOU HEAR ME, NO RULES!!!”
“NO F*CKING RULES!!!!!!!”
Well, that’s complete bullsh*t. The fact is, THERE ARE RULES IN THE STREET.
It’s just that those rules have almost NOTHING to do with the tactics you may have to employ to get yourself out of a certain situation at that particular time.
The rules (called LAWS) come into play a little later, when the legal system gets involved. And if they decide you broke the rules significantly, not only will your attacker be able to sue the PANTS off of you, but you can also end up doing some serious jail time.
Yeah that’s right, YOU.
Please understand that when it comes to self defense, YOU HAVE to hold yourself accountable for what you learn and what you do with it. Our world has become a pointing finger where no one wants to take ownership or responsibility for their own actions and no thought of other people that they have to account for.
Don’t blame other people for your actions, be prepared with what you do, but also, be RESPONSIBLE, and make sure that what you do are within the legal definitions of self defense in your country.
The reason you have to ensure that your actions operate within the legal definitions of self-defense is because most likely, you will be dealing with the police and legal ramifications of the incident, which means that what you said and did before, during, and after the incident are ALL going to be reviewed by police, lawyers, etc. for indications of misconduct. If there is misconduct on your part, no matter how justified you thought you were at the time, you WILL be in trouble.
Possibly, you’ll be in DEEP SH*T, depending on what you did during the encounter.
The real problem is that , once all the emotions have died down — you may have to face the fact that your actions and words were part of the creation and escalation of the situation. And, they just might have been an overreaction on your part.
Take this scene from Catwoman…
Yes, I know that we all would like to be able to do something like that form time to time. But let’s face it: We all know that Catwoman broke a few laws in that scene, and if this was real life, she would be in in DEEP SH*T if the law got involved.
In the martial arts universe, poeple like to quote that famous saying, “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6”, meaning, it’s better to face a trial by your peers, than carried to your grave by your relatives,
And that’s all well and good.
But I guarantee you, that if you stick only to that philosophy, there WILL be another 6 in your future, and those will be the 6 guys waiting for you IN THE PRISON SHOWER …
But hey, if you’re fine with spending the next 10+ years of your life BEHIND BARS…
Then what I’m about to say here will be of no use to you anyway, so by all means,
However, if you’re NOT, well then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE think about what you just read above.
(If any of you out there are offended by what I just typed, then I’m truly sorry. In fact, I’m offended by it, and I typed it. It’s just that it seemed the strongest way for me to get my message across).
Now, having typed that, I need to tell you that there are far bigger potential problems than dealing with the legal system. And that’s the concept of revenge.
the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.“other spurned wives have taken public revenge on their husbands”verbLITERARY
inflict hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong done to (someone else).“it’s a pity he chose that way to revenge his sister”
While it is possible that there will be a guy who comes back to get revenge on you for hurting him, there is just as good a chance that it will be someone else. And they will be coming strapped (ARMED), and most likely at a time when you’re the least prepared.
Look: Criminals and violent people do not like to lose. Pride, face and street cred are life-and-death issues for them. In their little world, if they lose these things they themselves will become the victims of other criminals.
What that means is, if the police are not involved (i.e., you beat him and leave) there is a pretty good chance he/she is going to try to seek revenge.
This can complicate your life, especially because violence often occurs in places you normally frequent. Putting that in simple terms: He (or she) probably knows where to find you, or they can find out. And he (Or she) is going to be the one who decides when to come looking. So if you think the first attack was bad, wait until he comes at you the second time.
O.K., Now you don’t have to believe me, or anything I wrote here. I’m not a self-defense expert. I’m just a capoeirista, sharing MY thoughts on this very complex subject.
Now having said that, I hope you liked this pretty long article, and I also hope that it inspired you, if NOTHING ELSE, to take your well-being seriously.