ANYBODY CAN PRACTICE CAPOEIRA
21st August, 1959
Folha da Tarde, SP
Affirms the oldest master of capoeira, bahian Vicente Ferreira Pastinha: "Only those who suffer from dizziness or have a weak heart are excluded and, when a person has rheumatism, this puts him out" - In the slave times the capoeira game was prohibited - The same way that the negros camuflaged their religion with the one of their masters, they camuflaged capoeira fight with pantomimes and dances - A tradition that came to our days - The stomach-berimbau - The kicks
Anybody (and of any age) can play capoeira, as says the old master of capoeira, bahian Vicente Ferreira Pastinha. He doesn't only say, but also proves. Despite his seventy years, he still fights and makes constant demonstrations, as if he was young, and it was easy for the reporter who came to hear him in this school, on Pelourinho hillside, situated in the old part of Salvador, to perceive that the proper students feared and respected him. Facing the insistent confirmation of mestre Pastinha that capoeira is the most eficient means of self defense and that everybody should get to know it, «even children, so that they could defend themselves when they are attacked [..]», inquired if anybody could learn capoeira and the reponse was this.
- «Only if the person suffers from dizziness or has a week heart. Outside of these cases, everybody can learn capoeira, using their own resources given by nature. If a person has rheumatism, it will cost a little more, but it ends up healing rheumatism, not to say that it treats chronic and incurable rheumatism».
Mestre Pastinha looks to illustrate his words with an example, remembering that, recently, in the company of the director of Tourism of Salvador, mr Vasconcelos Maia, the great stimulator of bahian folklore, took his Capoeira Angola Sport Centre to Rio Grande do Sul, where he gave various demonstrations with his students. He affirms that the awoken interest was huge and that, in one of the demonstrations, a young boy came close to the group of capoeiristas and stayed looking at them with interest.
When the folkloric fight was over, Pastinha called the boy and, to the sound of the berimbaus, showed and taught him little by little some movements, including jumps with hands on the floor. Under the attentive look of the spectators (he tell to the reporter) minutes later the two were playing capoeira and the boy, although without self-confidence, already avoided the kicks taught by Pastinha...
Vicente Ferreira Pastinha, ex-sailor, was born in Salvador and live there until today. He informs that on 5th April he completes 70 years. He likes capoeira - that he considers the best sport and the best self defense - since childhood. He remembers that when he was a student of the Apprentice School of the Sailors, he practised fencing, sword and knife fight. He doesn't however know defence that is more efficient than capoeira. Capoeira that he practises, according to what we gather from his words, is the primitive capoeira, crafty, used by the slaves in Brazil. Diverse types of capoeira are taught today in Bahia. Mestre Bimba is another capoeira teacher, who is sought by the bahian elite and mainly by the university students. Mestre Bimba's capoeira is an ancient fight of the africans with innovations. In it enter, for example, judo kicks, that is not happening with the fight taught by mestre Pastinha. In the first part of this report (FOLHA ILUSTRADA from the 15th of the current month) we already showed that Pastinha doesn't know about other fights. «All are good, but I prefer mine».
THE IMPORTANCE OF CAPOEIRA
There are only few masters in Bahia, specially of traditional capoeira, that came from the slave times. The artist Caribé wrote about it: - «On the ships of the 16th century came to Bahia the first capoeiristas. These were the Angola negros, maybe warriors, players of this fight where the feet and the head have the maximum importance and the hands are left to second level. Most efficient fight against the europeans who almost only used hands in defence and attack». (Pastinha affirms that in his capoeira, the fighter who puts a hands on the other one, is disqualified. At a demonstration of mestre Bimba's students that we watched the use of hands was frequent).
THE ORIGIN OF THE FOLKLORIC CAPOEIRA
Caribé goes on, after reassuring that capoeira the means of most efficient defence of the slave negros: - «This had to be the main reason for the repression capoeira suffered in the times of the sugarmill masters, of imperial and republican police. But the negros found quickly a solution: the same way the camuflaged their religion with the one of their masters, they camuflaged the capoeira fight with pantomimes, mimics and dances, that were accompanied by music».
This is the origin of today's capoeira, that we call for this reason folkloric. Caribé tells that the overseer, the masters and the madams found it even beautiful and applauded. In reality, the slaves trained their defence fight, although the made pantomimes, throwing themselves on the ground, looking from upside down, like they do until today, laughed and danced an exquisite dance of gingas and jumps or rolled on the ground like snakes. Mestre Pastinha and his students are still keeping this tradition alive today.
CAPOEIRA IS DANGEROUS
- «This fight is primitive» - affirms he to the reporter in Salvador. «It is the father and mother of all the fights. I always say to my students to use capoeira only as a self defence and not as an attack. In the attack it is most dangerous. It is so dangerous that even when playing around you can kill without the intention. For this reason I teach my students to spare the close ones. The angolan capoeira is easy and it is only needed that a person be a good observer».
Pastinha, at times, interrupts the talk and illustrates the words with gestures and jumps that he executes with the agility of a cat. As it was told in the previous report, he talks a lot about the craftiness in capoeira. At a certain point, he even says: - «Every mestre doesn't give everything to disciples». He pointed to a student, of the most advanced, and added: - «I haven't given him everything to him. He will make the same. We don't trust in anything, mainly in strange surroundings. This is the norm of the africans».
Pastinha, despite lacking possibilites to study, does paintings and composes verses, always serving the angolan capoeira. Here is one of his verses, that he painted in a picture, by the side of the drawings of some basic kicks that he teaches to his students:
Bahia, my Bahia
Salvador is the capital.
Who doesn't know this capoeira,
Doesn't give it it's value.
All can learn.
The general and also the doctor.
Who wants to learn,
Come to Salvador,
Search Pastinha as a teacher.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS AND THE FIGHT
These notes about capoeira would stay incomplete without a reference to the music that always accompanies this folkloric fight and which instruments evolved with time. In the beginning the sound was made with a mouth-berimbau and hands. Later the stomach-berimbau with steel wire substituted the first and came to our time, same as caxixi, pandeiro and reco-reco, that complete the instruments that accompany the capoeira game. Berimbau is the one that dictates the game.
Lets give Caribé the last words: - «The ones that are going to fight listen to the songs crouching, in front of the berimbaus, maybe praying their "strong prayers" to escape bullets, from ambush or knife. The get to the centre of the roda turning their body on the hands and start to ginga, that is at the same time a defence and a dance step. If the berimbau plays «São Bento Grande», the game is fast, eye-catching. If the rhythm is «Benguela», it's «jogo de dentro», with a knife. If it's «Santa Maria», the game is low, slow, where the comrades wiggle on the ground like worms, without touching, falling gently, as if they were cotton. If it's «São Bento Pequeno», the fight is almost a samba. With the risk of being disqualified, the players can only touch the ground with their hands and feet. The good masters play in white clothes, turn in the air on one hand only, pass through eachother in an incredible entanglement of arms and feet and when they finish to play around, there is not one stain of the whiteness of their Sunday suits.» ABRAM JAGLE.
The Ambassadors of Beauty Came to Explain the Folklore of the Good Land
Diário da Noite
[photo caption: THREE BEAUTIES - Livia, Guelda and Lirinha, are the three youngsters who travel with the mission to spread the Bahian folklore. In addition to [being] beautiful they know all the secrets of candomblé]
Many people in Rio are interested to know who are the girls who stay at the Hotel Glória. They spent the whole yesterday afternoon in the pool. They are not Hollywood artists, but, as a compensation, are being a target of great curiosity. This is because they are very beautiful and have the body lines that in nothing owe to any movie star. When they jumped into water, and gave a few strokes in the illuminated pool, it was almost night. Then men who drank whisky came to set at the tables nearby. A woman, who happened to be closeby, couldn't resist and asked the photographer who they were. The head of the reception only knew to inform that "they are the youngsters of the bahian society". In fact, they are not on an outing in Rio. They came from Rio Grande do Sul, where they carried out an important mission: to spread Bahian folklore. Invited by "Diários e Rádios Associados" of Rio Grande do Sul they showed to the gaúchos what is candomblé.
With a cup of orange juice in the hand and a soft towel over the still wet body, Livia Sá, one of the youngsters, explained to the reporter:
- "We just came back from Rio Grande do Sul accompanied by a folkloric group, consisting of seven people, and which is led by "Mestre Pastinha". Everything refers to the increase of the tourism and to spreading of our folklore" - told with clarity the girl who studies modern dance and who, incredible as it seems, studies also accounting...
- "It's not enough to be a beautiful woman - clarifies Livia calmly - It's always good to know some science, at least this marvel which is called candomblés of Bahia".
Who talks now is Guelda Fraga who has on her side her sister, Lirinha. Both of them are extremely beautiful and intelligent. Guelda says:
- "The "Capoeira Group" presents a picture named "Bahian Party", which is a true lesson of folklore. While they dance, they give rasteiras, in an authentic "jiu-jitsu" which impressed plenty the gaúchos, who also visited in Salvador, presenting their typical folklore. Our visit - clarifies the youngster who is a law student - is a retribution. In Pôrto Alegre we were received marvellously. We stayed in the Hotel Umbu, for four days. We even went to the "clubs"... but accompanied by the head of the delegation, the writer Wasconcelos Maia and his wife. We tried all the types of barbeques and gave some recepies of the genuine bahian cuisine".
When it comes to the Exposition, which possibly will be presented in Rio, it consists of engraving of bahian aspects; utilitarian and decorative folk ceramics; cowboy clothing of Bahia; candomblé gear; votive offerings, which consist of wooden sculptures of faces; capoeira instruments; ? of candomblé; "figureheads" of São Francisco"; and lots of other characteristical gear of the Good Land.
- "The people see the exposition, look at the dance spectacles, adn we explain "the theory" of folklore" - told Livinha Fraga.
Senhoritas Antonieta Nunes and Licia Margarida Maceda de Aguiar, also represent the bahian woman, in this "tour" supported by the "Diários e Rádios Associados" of RGS, "Mundialtur", "Lóide Aéreo" and the Department of Tourism of São Salvador.
Antonieta Nunes told the reporter that knows all the secrets of Bahia. She came to the first place in a contest of the "guide-interpretor". She works at the Salvador airport and sells tickets for an aviation company. Her beauty is something to make any sector of tourism jealous. The department of Tourism and Competition of the Federal District - told the guest of the Hotel Glória - could take similar measures or, at least, to employ this "doll-face" to help the cariocan tourism...