This Page is divided in 3 parts.
- The first part is about the history of teaching and capoeira.
- The second part is about teaching capoeira to children and my method of it.
- The third part is about teaching capoeira to adults and my method of it.
1. History of teaching capoeira
About a hundred years ago a capoeira academy did not yet exist in Brazil.
Capoeira was actually forbidden by law for several years. It was passed on in secret or with scarce tolerance of local authorities who sometimes showed lenience towards capoeira.
In the 1930s capoeira was presented as Brazilian folklore on folklore events, where it was tolerated during its performance. Also a man from Bahia named Mestre Bimba, created his own adapted version of capoeira which later became known as capoeira Regional. To promote his capoeira in a time where capoeira was looked down upon and seen as something for scoundrels by the majority of the police, politicians and population, he challenged fighters in his town Salvador to fight against him in front of an audience with a judge who kept score. He successfully beat 4 opponents and was able to register his academy officially in 1937 even though he had been teaching already for years.
Till the beginning of the 20th century capoeira was often learned by watching people doing it and people learned by playing with others or practicing by themselves after having observed it a bit. There was no fixed method with a build-up and there was no stretching, no systematic repetition of movements or sequences. The emphasis was observation and imitation and from these processes one was supposed to derive their own interpretation.
Mestre Bimba introduced several aspects: An entry exam when people wanted to start training with him, rather fixed sequences that people were supposed to learn, a graduation system of coloured scarfs, a graduation ceremony (formatura) where his students were able to achieve a new graduation which allowed them access to certain parts of capoeira Mestre Bimba taught. Examples are that more advanced students were allowed to play on a specific rhythm called Iúna and allowed to participate in specializations within capoeira that were presented as courses in the school of Mestre Bimba, which also was a new phenomenon in capoeira.
In the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s the president of Brazil, Getulio Vargas witnessed a few capoeira demonstrations including a version called capoeira Angola and Capoeira Regional of Mestre Bimba’s group in which Mestre Bimba added movements of batuque and also took out some aspects including chamadas, which are movements to call the other person one is playing within the game to commence a ritual. Mestre Bimba had performed before for the gouvenor of Bahia who inturn knew the president. Capoeira from the 1930s on till the 1950s became as such more known by local and national politicians.
In the 1950s capoeira became a bit more tolerated and an academy of Capoeira Angola of Mestre Pastinha was also registered in Salvador. This master did not have 8 fixed sequences like Mestre Bimba but even so started to have a more structured way of teaching than normally took place in the beginning of the 20th century. The president Getulio Vargas, after having seen a capoeira performance in 1953 by Mestre Bimba and his group, saw in capoeira a way to promote nationalism and called it a true Brazilian national sport (eventhough it was created by enslaved Africans and their descendants in Brazil). Although the president called capoeira a sport, capoeira only was registered as such in 1973, 20 years later. From that time on, capoeira federations were made and capoeira grew and spread more throughout Brazil. Also in the 1970s the first capoeira Masters went abroad and taught capoeira. (Before, capoeira practitioners had gone abroad (including Mestre Pastinha in 1966 to Dakar Senegal to represent Capoeira Angola there) but without staying abroad and sometimes only visiting places with a folklore ensemble without giving lessons.)
It is important to realize that, until the 1960s women and children were rare in capoeira. They did exist, but the few women and kids in the beginning of the 20th century practicing capoeira, used it often as street self-defense and perhaps were taught the art due to now (un)known family or friendly ties or due to pure vocation and interest in survival. Around the 1900 till the 1960s people started capoeira mainly for self-defense if they had no family or friendship ties with people already practicing capoeira. Later on people emphasized other aspects of capoeira that could have a positive influence on its practitioner including discipline (typically in the academy of Mestre Bimba where rules were set up asking people not to smoke, not to drink, not to talk too much during lessons etc.) and discovering a life philosophy through African heritage that had landed and was developing in Brazil (typically in the academy of Mestre Pastinha where they sang a song in the 1960s, recorded on an LP with the frase: ”capoeira comes from Africa, it was the Africans who brought it” which differs from the Brazilian nationalistic view advocated by others.).
Even though Capoeira was practiced on several places in Brazil over a hundred years ago, nowadays mainly lineages with roots going back to the state of Bahia exists within capoeira. Even so the current biggest capoeira groups that were founded from the 1960s till the 1990s allthough having roots from Bahia, were not founded in Bahia. Examples are Senzala, Muzenza, Abada, Capoeira Brasil and GCAP in Rio de Janeiro and Cordao de Ouro in Sao Paulo. The latter groups have had and still have a big influence on capoeira worldwide. The group senzala which was created in the 1960 consisted mainly of several white capoeira practitioners who were from a more privileged class. This allowed them to integrate capoeira in the richer white circles where they were often met with less prejudice than other capoeira practitioners of color. In this group a graduation system with white pants and colored belts (cordas) was developed over time (reminiscent of a judo belt system), which was imitated or adapted by many groups within the capoeira world. Also the systematic repetition of movements like eastern martial arts already did, was more developed by this group within capoeira.
Later on Abada, created in 1988 by Mestre Camisa, student of Mestre Bimba who also was part of Capoeira Senzala for several years, included focus on analysis and development of several aspects of capoeira including developing a style for a rhythm called benguela, stimulating the capoeira song writing process, stimulating academic analysis for support of historic context, the anatomy behind movements, the benefits of capoeira including its support in self-esteem and child development. Also to help the further integration of capoeira in Brazilian society the group created big events (broadcasted on television) combining these with campaigns of social awareness that can positively change the view non practitioners from society have of capoeira and its possible benefits.
Only from the 1960s more women entered in capoeira although the majority of the older women nowadays practicing capoeira started in 1970s or 1980s. In the USA and Europe, the percentage of female capoeira practitioners was higher than in Brazil from the 1980s on. Even so in Brazil it was mainly during the 1990s till current days that more specializations emerged aimed at women and children. This included capoeira events aimed at women with female guest teachers, the graduation of a new wave of female masters and professoras, including 2 mestrandas in the group Abadá, women lead singing on capoeira CDs, books about capoeira lessons for children by Piriquito Verde, currently a mestrando of Abadá Capoeira etc. At the same time people from other groups also developed their lessons aimed at children and academic knowledge of pedagogy, psychology, physical education for children was entering the capoeira world on a new level, with more capoeira practitioners combining an academic career with capoeira.
In the Netherlands for example the first three university thesisses were written in 1991,1993 and 1995 by people envolved in capoeira and were all written for cultural anthropology. Over time other thesisses were written for different studies, including educational psychology.
2. Teaching Capoeira to Children
History and Development of Capoeira Lessons for Kids in The Netherlands.
Within the Netherlands several teachers do not teach fixed separate capoeira lessons for children. In some cases children train together with adults and sometimes the teacher has had a student who became a teacher who had an interest and feeling for teaching children and a background supporting this and as such starts these specific lessons.
As explained in the history of teaching methods of capoeira, capoeira lessons aimed specifically at children have been developing mainly from the 1990s on with only a few exceptions. This means that the majority who was already practicing and or teaching capoeira in the 1990s did not specialize in the aspects of teaching lessons for children through means of their own teacher within capoeira as their teachers were also not taught these aspects by their teachers. Therefore within capoeira especially in the period before internet often a personal method for teaching children was created by trial and error using creativity and looking at already existing forms of play for children. The newer generations that are teaching nowadays have several resources to their disposal through internet, videos, books and workshops done specifically for kids on capoeira events by guest teachers or teachers in their vicinity who teach specifically to children from which the new generation can learn a lot. Some teachers in Brazil are nowadays also promoting capoeira methods for children, often with an academic background and offer courses to teachers of different groups. These resources and group of teachers were scarce or non-existent 15 years ago in the Netherlands.
Teaching Method for Kids by Professor Rouxinol
In the end of the 1990s til around 2002 I helped my capoeira teacher during workshops for kids as an assistant. In 2004 I started giving music workshops for adults and also series of capoeira workshops for kids. Since then I have been developing my own method, improving it over time through experience I gained: visiting lessons in Brazil, on events in Europa, during revelations within my lessons, through teaching methods I purchased from Brazil and through the study of educational psychology of which I am finishing a master program.
During my lesson aimed at kids I include game and play elements which stimulate focus, collaboration, balance, listening, strengthening the body etc. As such the children receive during the training a group of exercises that prepare the mind and body for capoeira and also have a positive influence on their development outside of capoeira.
Since early on I limit the number of movements I teach children and I repeat this number of movements through different exercises as such giving a diverse number of combinations but of a limited amount of movements. This makes the children repeat the movements several times but takes their attention span into account. The result is that the technique of the children improves for each of the movements. Limiting the number of movements, especially those more hazardous and withholding these until the children have advanced enough physically and mentally to have control over them, prevents the children placing themselves or others in more dangerous situations.
I also value the music and cultural side of capoeira and therefore I do not only teach children capoeira movements but also songs, playing instruments and Portuguese. Also for teaching children songs and Portuguese I have developed a specific method over time where I take the capacity of children for multitasking and remembering into account and use mnemonics including rhyme and rhythm to facilitate learning.
I also send specific information including movements and their names, songs, Portuguese, documentaries and other info through a newsletter to my students so they can focus on the aspects I deem important for them in their own time as well.
3. Teaching Method for Adults by Professor Rouxinol
In januari of 1998 I started train with my teacher Araminho who was an instructor of Abada Capoeira at the time. and nowadays holds the Mestre title.
In 2001 my teacher founded his own group Aldeia and I went with him. Since my teacher trained in a few schools including Senzala and Abada capoeira, those styles have influenced his way of capoeira and teaching and mine as well as I was part of the last group during the first years of my path of capoeira.
In 2001 I received a blue cord (graduado in Aldeia Capoeira) allowing me to teach if I wanted to. I wanted to improve however before doing so and went to Brazil in the summer of 2002 where I trained capoeira with Mestre Dimola in his teacher level trainings (blue cord and up) for a few months in Rio de Janeiro which helped me grow within capoeira and also showed me how lessons for more advanced people in capoeira were build up in terms of complexity, continuity, speed in countering etc.
After a period just short of 5 years I started teaching for one year in the academy of my teacher from October 2002 till November 2003 when he was out of the country and again in spring of 2004 till the summer of 2004. In 2005 I started my lessons at the sports building of the Erasmus University where I gave lessons for 8 years, until 2013. During this time I leveled up to professor within Aldeia Capoeira and helped organize capoeira events as well. Although my main example in giving lessons is my teacher, I also learned from the many workshops I took with teachers in the Netherlands, Brazil and other countries of Europe and from talking and playing in the roda (circle) with high level capoeiristas.
From these many experiences including visiting Brazil 6 times and teaching capoeira for around 14 years I have developed my own way of teaching derived from my lineage but I am ever developing my methods and game towards higher levels by training and studying capoeira and its history and development in the world over time.
Basic capoeira movements are essential to train each lesson and if possible at home daily. For several basic movements I’ve created sequences that I pass on during the lessons. To my opinion for each movement a capoeira practitioner does, he or she can expect a number of reactions which can be divided in a few groups including a kick against the movement you are doing, a kick following the movement you are doing and a take down. Since in capoeira one does not try to block all attacks but uses the attacks to counter the other within the flow that is generated, counters are to be expected and to avoid those in controlled and secure way, they are essential to have in your repertoire.
My lessons have an important focus on this aspect. Implementing variations in the basic movement of capoeira (the ginga) makes one more difficult to predict and can help one position strategically for an attack while moving out of range on a possible attack that is being planned by the other. This is another important aspect of my lesson. Other typical aspects of my lessons for adults are: Applying feints (fintas) before switching to other attacks, creating a dialogue of counters, training game characteristic of specific rhythms, creating game diversity, body control, floreios (applied acrobatics), the musical aspects of capoeira including playing the instruments and explanations.
Sometimes capoeira lessons are given without explaining applications or accents and sometimes the reasons for a sequence of movements is left out. This causes practitioners to sometimes not know what they are doing and why they are doing what they do. This makes it more difficult to remember the movements and decreases the chance of successfully applying the movement while playing capoeira with another person. Therefore I explain relatively more than teachers of older generations often do, as I believe that with an explanation people are better able to train towards specific goal and as such can focus better on essential accents of movements and sequences. Even though I explain a lot I also stimulate people to think about capoeira themselves and as such I will sometimes ask more advanced students to explain a sequence after I showed it or ask them to create a response to a counter attack which I will then evaluate with them, as such letting them develop thinking patterns to which they can apply their repertoire of movements.