What do you think of capoeira today?
Today’s capoeira is different from the capoeira of the past because of the players’ physical fitness. People are in much better shape than they used to be. For example, in the past a person would run a hundred meters in eleven seconds, and nowadays he runs it in nine. It’s the same thing with capoeira. The people have begun to value physical fitness more, and thus they play faster. If we had had all this training – this speed – in the past, we too would play like today’s capoeiristas.
Do you still use Mestre Bimba’s methodology, or did you modify some things?
Mestre Bimba’s methodology is our main reference. Now, I’ve spent 42 years in capoeira, and during this whole time we developed some changes inside our capoeira. But the base in our academy is Bimba’s methodology: the sequences, the cintura desprezada, the blows, the berimbau rhythms, and also the songs.
Are you proud of having been a student of Mestre Bimba?
I’m extremely proud. Among all the capoeira players in the world, there’s no one who doesn’t know who Mestre Bimba was. This is fundamental. That is, having been a student, having lived with the person who everyone admires because he is respected, not because he is fashionable. Those who knew him were marked by his personality, and respect him until this day.
Is it true that Bimba was an angoleiro?
When Mestre Bimba played capoeira, there only existed one capoeira, with the name of Angola. If you look at the old books and literature, you won’t see the term “Capoeira Angola,” because, in the Brazilian Penal Code of 1890 that prohibited capoeira, only the word “capoeiragem” is written – not Capoeira Angola or Capoeira Regional.
So Mestre Bimba practiced that primitive capoeira that everyone practiced until the 1920s. In 1928 he said that he had completed his Capoeira Regional. He thought that capoeira angola had become very folklorized here in Bahia and had lost its usefulness as a fight. So, as a great fighter, he wanted to develop this side of capoeira, and created his style.
He must have thought that Regional is better for self-defense?
And it is better. It gives you many more resources in a fight. If you look in Mestre Pastinha’s book, he says that Capoeira Angola has nine movements. If you ask João Pequeno, he’ll say there are no more than ten. Now, Bimba’s Regional has fifty-two basic movements, not to mention the variations and combinations. Of course this gives you a bigger advantage.
But we have to make it clear that the capoeirista wasn’t made to fight with other capoeiristas. Capoeira was made to fight with the suckers, the ignorant people who don’t understand. Angola and Regional are like chess and checkers; the board – the roda – is the same, but the games are different, each one with its own philosophy.
Feel free to leave a message for all capoeiristas.
See capoeira as something from Bahia, something that is ours. It’s something that must be defended, be rescued. Don’t distort capoeira. I hope that you follow the tradition of capoeira and listen to the old mestres in order to learn. Do your research, and don’t do random things and put them into capoeira, because this just makes capoeira worse. It leads nowhere. Capoeira will be fine if everyone takes care of it.