Quotes from Mestre Pastinha – 1967

Translated by Shayna McHugh from the article It’s a fight, it’s a dance, it’s capoeira by Roberto Freire in Revista Liberdade – February 1967. Here are some quotes attributed to Mestre Pastinha:

“One day, I wrote everything that I think about capoeira on that plaque on the door of my Academy. On top, only three words: Angola, capoeira, mother. And underneath, the thought: ‘Sorcery of slaves longing for liberty, its beginning has no method and its end is inconceivable to the wisest capoeirista.'”

“There are so many stories about the beginning of capoeira that no one knows what is true and what is not. The story of the ‘zebra game’ is one of them. It is said that long ago – centuries even – in Angola, they would have a yearly celebration to honor the girls who were entering adolescence. First they were operated on by the priests, thus becoming equal to the married women. Then, while the people sang, the men fought like zebras, giving kicks and headbutts. The winners were rewarded with being able to choose the most beautiful women.”

“Well, there is one thing that no one doubts: it was the Africans from Angola who taught us capoeira. It’s possible that it used to be very different from the capoeira of today. They tell me that there are written records proving this. I believe it. Everything changes. But that which we call Capoeira de Angola, that which I learned, I didn’t allow it to change here in my Academy. This capoeira is at least 78 years old. And it will live past 100, because my students pull for me. Their eyes are now mine. They know that they must continue. They know that this art is good for self-defense.”

“When I was ten years old – I was skinny and weak – another boy who was bigger than me became my rival. All I had to do was go out on the street – to go to the store, for example – and we would get caught up in a fight. I just know that I always got beaten up by him. So I would cry in secret from shame and sadness.”

“One day, an old African watched our fight from the window of his house. ‘Come here, my son,’ he told me, seeing that I cried from rage after getting beaten up. ‘You can’t beat him, you know, because he’s bigger and older. In your spare time, come to my house and I will teach you something of great value.’ This is what he told me, and I went.”

“He would always say: ‘Don’t provoke, boy, make him aware of what you know very slowly.’ The last time the kid attacked me, I made him aware of the only blow that I could do. And he stopped being my rival, and even became my friend from admiration and respect.”

“When I was 12 years old, I went to Sailors’ School. There, I taught capoeira to my peers. Everyone called me 110. I left the Navy when I was 20 years old. It was a hard life. Because I was young and poor, I sometimes had the Police after me for street fights and whatnot. When they tried to catch me, I would remember Mestre Benedito and defend myself. They knew that I played capoeira, so they wanted to humiliate me in public. So there were times when I beat up rude policemen, but it was to defend my body and my morale. In that era, from 1910 to 1920, the game was free.”

“I started to work at a gambling house. To maintain order. But even though I was a capoeirista, I was never without a 12-inch, double-bladed knife. Professional capoeira players in those days were always armed. Whoever was among them without any weapons was a damned fool. I saw a lot of commotion, some blood, but I don’t like to tell about fights that I was involved in. Anyway, I only worked when I couldn’t earn a living from my art. Besides the gambling house, I worked as a shoe shiner, I sold newspapers, I was a gold prospector, I helped build the port of Salvador. All temporary jobs; I always wanted to live from my art. My art was being a painter.”

“There were only mestres in the roda. The most experienced of the mestres was Amorzinho, a civil guard. When he shook my hand, he offered to put me in charge of an academy. I declined, but all the mestres insisted. They said that I was the best one to lead the Academy and preserve Capoeira Angola over time.”

“Leave from the Academy here knowing everything. Knowing that the martial art is very cunning and full of cleverness, that we have to be calm. Capoeira is not an attacking martial art, it waits. The good capoeirista is obligated to cry at the foot of his attacker. He is crying, but his eyes and spirit are active. Capoeiristas don’t like hugs or handshakes; it’s always better to distrust polite gestures. Capoeiristas don’t turn a corner with their body open and unprotected. You have to take two or three steps to the right or the left to observe your enemy. Don’t enter through the door of a house where the hallway is dark. Either have some way to light up the darkness or don’t go in. If you are in the street and you see that you are being watched, disguise it, turn around quickly and look at the guy again. Well, if he’s still looking, he is an enemy and the capoeirista prepares himself for whatever comes.”

“Capoeira de Angola can only be taught without forcing the person’s natural expression. The important thing is to take advantage of the free and individual movements of each person. No one fights like me, but in my students’ games is all the knowledge that I learned. Each one is an individual. The berimbau cannot be forgotten. Berimbau is the primitive mestre. It teaches by its sound. It gives vibration and swing to our bodies. The percussive orchestra with the berimbau isn’t a modern thing; it’s fundamental. The good capoeirista, besides playing capoeira, must know how to play berimbau and sing. And to play without dirtying his clothes, without touching your body to the ground. When I play, people think ‘the old guy is drunk,’ because I make my body all my body all floppy and rickety, looking like I’m going to fall. But no one has put me on the ground yet, and no one will.”

Source: Capoeira-Infos.org