«CAPOEIRA: A Good Player Doesn't Muddy his White Clothes»
Mestre Pastinha reveals some secrets of the famous fight
Jornal do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, 5th March 1961
FROM THE DICTIONARIES
CAPOEIRA: - A large cage or little house where domestic birds are raised or kept; a type of basket to protect the heads of the defenders of a fort; an excavation garrisoned with rivers;cut down or destroyed forest; thin and stalk forest; a bird from the family of new world guails; an athletic game where the individual, armed with a razor blade or knives, and with fast and characteristical manners, practises criminal acts.
TO start the talk, lets present to you right away: Vicente Ferreira Patinha, mulatto, with slender body, agile as a cat. The age, pay attention, 71 years.
Mixture of portuguese with an equal dose of african blood in his veins [..] Pastinha is bahian, likes to visit the "shrines", respects the "saints" and likes to eat a chicken ragout, not for obligation, but as a tribute to the master of the feast, be it Oxóssi, Ogum or Xangô. He believes in Iêmanjá's powers and knows that one shouldn't play around with Exu, nor should belittle "mr" Road-locker, or any other master of crossroads, whom there are plenty in this old town [..], some with extravagant nicknames, others bringing poetry in their names.
Capoeira mestre, Pastinha has his style and defines it to be the instinct of defense of a persecuted race. From Angola, which is his, or any other practised in Bahia, the origin is African and not, as [..] they think, from the Recôncavo, from the mills and sugar cane plantations of Santo Amaro, or from the Big Houses, who then spreaded around the immense area of this city still a girl.
And in these times, the capoeira player who had rank, fought dressed in white and when he finised, there was no stain whatsoever on his clothing.
In the Beginning There Was Rhythm
Capoeira had been born out of suffering. In the beginning there was a rhythm hiding the sorrows. Later, it gained characteristics of a sport to immediately grow in intensity, in the coloring of cunning and of astuteness that transformed it to the self defense of negros who didn't have rights to use weapons of any kind.
It was while kneading the clay, trampling on mortat, turning the body when the overseer passed by, or evading the pat on the shoulder of a working companion, that capoeira developed in Bahia. In these moments, cuttig sugar cane or
For PASTINHA, Capoeira Was Born Simply out of Hatred
filling with firewood the mouths of furnaces, the slaves were aquiring agility and instinctive defense movements. It was capoeira that was born here as a strange dance, marking on the ground the beat of the slave huts, the affiliation and the anxiety for freedom of the negros who still dreamed. Of the negros who worked naked from the waist up or using a loincloth, under the whip of corporals of groups or soulless overseers. Of the negros punished when chained to logs or with unclothed back, cutting the vine.
Mestre Pastinha doesn't conform that the origin of capoeira is painted of poetry. For him she was born purely and simply out of hatred. And there are three styles in Bahia: the one of Angola, the regional that is the creation or the stilization of mestre Bimba, and the stylized one of prof. Sena.
All, in the end, from the Gêge lineage, which is dragging, monotonous, lazy. The one of Angola is the most agile and permits defense, at the same time being a sitting partner.
Whichever is the position of an attack, capoeira de Angola offers conditions of response. Who learned its crafts, does not fear a thing, nor is he haunted by the ugly face of a gang member. For people who know how to fight, the size does not matter, the same way that strength doesn't cause fear. Everything depends of the agility, of attention and cold blood. For an individual armed with the knife, capoeirista with a rank doesn't waste time on: an adequate step and the weapon is on the ground. A simple gesture of pulling out a weapon, is invitation for the capoeirista to cut, with the foot in the direction of the face of the adversary, a curve in the air. Or then again, with the agility of a feline,
another kick with the leg, crawling, blocking and dragging to the front, with the leg forming a lock, the leg of the enemy who loses balance and will fall face down on the ground.
Each capoeirista has his habits and his tricks. Nobody, however, escapes the rules of the game. It's even good ethics, when being provocated the capoeirista doesn't respond immediately. Before he should fake humility, should even look like a covard. And it's even good to try to kick while retreating, provoking, in this way, the "appetite" of the adversary who, supposing to be facing a simple ordeal, in the first attack will hit the rocks.
With effect, this is what they call ethics, while this is not a cat playing with the rat, against whom the bully has lost the fame.
When the fight is between capoeiristas who show sportmanhip, some kicks are given lightly and the mestre who doesn't want to be demoralized in front of the disciples, rarely teaches his personal kick, and is using it only in extremely serious cases, which exceptionally happen when a capoeirista is being embarrassed by another of the same rank.
Conditions of Apprenticeship
- Each and any person - says mestre Pastinha - who's not sick of heart, who doesn't feel pain dizziness or agony, is ready to learn the sport. Who knows capoeira doesn't fear a thing. A "rabo-de-arraia", given
in any way, is worth more that a revolver in the hands of "some" coward.
- Why a coward?
- Look, the one who shoots the fastest is the one who the quickest becomes a hitman, is a cowardly man. The fear hides the individual, he's going to tremble and there goes the finger to the trigger, which when oiled is sweet, and pressed without want, will spit bullets and make wholes into people. But, I wanted to say that every brazilian should know how to fight capoeira, a thing that you learn since childhood or even when having advanced age. It's a cunning game, crafty and full of surprises. Different from judo which is scientific, and for this with disciplined movements, which doesn't happen with capoeira, which is more instinctive. And it's encountered only by who has business with her. It's defense and it's art at the same time and the more you learn the more there is always to learn. For who only wantst to evade an agression, there is nothing that would supersede capoeira, since a player defends himself without needing to put the hands of the adversary. Moreover, a capoeirista doesn't lose his calm, he acts on the right moment.
President Wilson Lins
Pastinha was the disciple, at 10 years of age, of mestre Benedito, an african negro who lived on the Laranjeiras street. He teaches since 1910, from the Álvaro Cova's times. He is the director of the Sport School of Capoeira de Angola, founded in 1941 and it's current president is the Sport secretary Wilson Lins.
Vicente Pastinha doesn't clarify is mr. Wilson Lins was his student, which doesn't stop us of attributing to Rubião Braz, with his manner of walking from the banks of São Francisco, the qualities of a good capoeirista, always with his crafty look waiting for the enemies' assault.
Women and Berimbau
In the old days many women knew how to fight capoeira. And they were fearsome. Who for example, until a few years ago walked in the vicinity of the Modêlo Market, should have known Palmeirão, a tall mulatta woman, troublemaker who didn't respect even police patrols. Nobody like her, after fixing her skirt on her waist, between the legs, gave headbutts and kicked soldiers and guards on their backs to the pavement of the Market ramp. When Palmeirão drank, she gave capoeira "shows", without accompaniment of berimbau and reco-reco, an instrument made of bamboo, which purpose is to maintain the rhythm of the fight, indicating the sequence of movements of the game.
During many years, capoeira was prohibited by the police, under the allegation that it was a dangerous fight. The truth, however, was different, if we take to the fact that it wasn't good for the police to confess that their guards and soldiers, were sometimes demoralized and thrashed by excellent capoeiristas, using rabos-de-arraia and headbutts to the jaw.
Today, besides mestre Bimba with his school and Pastinha with his Center in Pelourinho, capoeira is dying and soon will only be a folkloric record among the traditions that the civilization is making disappear.