Ginga and the Rhythm of the Fight

We found the object of our search in Morro de Sao Paulo. Blue skies, and warm beaches spotted with acai shakes and beautiful people. You know that cliche about beautiful Brazilians? It’s not a cliche. It’s ridiculously true. Canada, open the floodgates and let the Brazilians in because everything will just look better. Just look at the guy above, and tell me he’s not beautiful.

The warm sand engulfed me while the distinctly intense sun of Bahia darkened my skin - and I saw this man doing Capoeira on the beach, and he was killing it. 

Bahia is a region of Brazil which has a large influence from its indigenous and African roots. From these roots, grew the rhythmic martial arts of Capoeira. Capoeira is physically dynamic because it utilizes acrobatics, cleverness, and cunning. Participants form a “roda”, or circle, and take turns either playing musical instruments (such as the Berimbau), singing, or sparring in pairs in the center of the roda. The sparring is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of sweeps, kicks, and head butts. During the era of African slavery, coffee and sugar plantations, Brazil’s population of oppressed people sought to challenge their captors through organized and rebellious movements. Runaway slaves organized into networks called Quilombos, that served as the beating heart of the slavery resistance movement. For decades, the warriors of the Quilombos waged guerilla warfare against the powers that be, leading to incremental wins and incremental losses, culminating in the ban of Capoeira in 1890.

 So this guy on the beach tells me that behind the church, the community gets together and practices Capoeira … so naturally, we went to check it out.

This tall, scruffy man wearing white, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face welcomes us in Portuguese and we sit and wait. We slowly learned that he is a Capoeira god. It was incredible to watch a group of people gather to do such high intensity work. It seems at first glance that Capoeira is something that you must do to practice - you have to throw your body around, it requires you to risk your safety to some extent. I think that’s what makes it so powerful. 

Two hours pass, sweat has thoroughly drenched the room and a sense of satisfaction emanates from the rhythmic fighters. I am reminded of the power of the human body, the strength and tenacity of our muscles and tendons and the possibility of focus, repetition and training. Capoeira fits somewhere in this giant puzzle we call the human project, and it is a piece of the work and ingenuity people have been building for generations that deserves to be illuminated.

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Peace and Love

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