Category: Groups

THE SENZALA GROUP AND THE CAPOEIRA SAFEGUARD

By Mestre Gato (Fernando Campelo Cavalcanti de Albuquerque)

The Capoeira Circle and the Capoeira Masters Craft

The Roda de Capoeira and the Capoeira Masters Craft are cultural assets recognized as Cultural Heritage of Brazil since 2008. The Roda de Capoeira was internationally recognized by UNESCO, in 2014, as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Following the guidelines of the publication Safeguards of the Roda de Capoeira and the Capoeira Masters Craft – Support and Promotion (IPHAN, November 2017), the Senzala de Capoeira Group intends to act for the Safeguarding of Capoeira, through an inventory of the characteristics, practices and fundamentals of capoeira that it has practiced, taught and spread in Brazil and around the world over the last 56 years.

Capoeira, as popular art, has its own subjectivity, nuances that its practitioners feel, understand, but often cannot explain due to this subjectivity. On the other hand, it is important to make an inventory of its characteristics and fundamentals, for its own cultural preservation.

Capoeira is a dynamic and popular manifestation that has been changed by its practitioners since its inception, according to the social context. It is fight, play, dance, body expression, and rhythm; all these elements are present in the practice of capoeira, which needs to be exercised collectively, with the Capoeira Circle, which integrates and includes its participants spontaneously.

The Senzala Group

The Senzala Group has its origins in the Bahian capoeira, initially following the method of capoeira regional, where the student learns the basic teaching sequence, the cintura desprezada (balões) sequence, the falls and unbalancing attacks, presenting “sketches” (attack and defence in combined sequences, containing falls, rasteiras or sweeping kicks, balões) and playing to the different rhythms of the regional style.

Capoeira in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s mainly featured capoeira from Bahia, brought by the masters Artur Emídio, Mário Santos, Roque and Paraná, but there was still a remnant of capoeira carioca, capoeira of the rogues, of the pernadas, the samba duro and the jackknives, represented by the capoeira of Sinhô and the roguery of the shantytowns on the hills of Rio. Without the continuous presence of a capoeira master, whilst being influenced by the capoeira that existed in Rio de Janeiro at the time, and needing to teach to larger groups of students, the group developed its own teaching and training methods, characterized by the following main features:

Warm-up and gymnastics, developed from the basic fundamentals of capoeira, using ginga and negaças when training attacks and defences, feints, movements of high, medium and low game, practice of evasive movements and defensive positions, guards, descending and ascending movementss, and steps. Conducting these trainings sessions with the entire group of students performing the ginga at the same time, doing physical and muscular conditioning through capoeira positions and movements, such as the bananeira, corta capim, aú com queda de rins, rolê,and various types of negativas, among others..

Strike and hit training on light targets and hitting bag.

Training two by two, simulating game situations.

Attack, defence and counterattack training.

Using training sequences, such as those of regional capoeira, with variations with the use of dodges and defences, such as front and side dodges. Training of low and medium game sequences, trying to practice different movements such as cabeçadas, rasteiras, bandas and tesouras.

Developing didactics for learning, how to teach possible forms of attacks, for example, making an armada by entring diagonally to the aim or defending and counterattacking diagonally.

Stimulating the student’s creativity and spontaneity, through intuitive teaching methods.

Improving rhythm in movement and play through training to accompany different rhythms, respecting capoeira traditions and rituals, as described below.

    • Jogo de Dentro – a game to work on continuity and proximity, exercising esquivas de coluna, quedas de rins, entradas and saídas de tesouras, trying to stay close to the berimbau throughout the game. Pace – Inside Game.
    • Jogo de Iúna – a game to work on continuity and movement flourishes, using balões from the cintura desprezada of Regional style. The Senzala Group started to allow the practice of the the Iúna game only for blue belt graduates. Rhythm – Iúna.

    • Angola game – Rhythm – Angola or São Bento Pequeno, medium or slow.

    • São Bento Grande game – Rhythm – São Bento Grande of Angola fast or São Bento Grande of Regional.

Uniform and belts

Such training methodology provided rapid development of the capoeiristas from the Senzala Group in technique and efficiency of the blows. In addition, the group adopted a uniform consisting of white mesh pants (which came to be called abadá) and a grading system symbolized by the colours of the students’ belts.

The student, when baptized, received the white belt, moving on successively to yellow, orange, then blue, which was the first advanced level, when the student had to present, during the graduation ceremony, their knowledge of the berimbau rhythms, the songs and play a Iúna game, showing the balões of Cintura Desprezada.

Subsequently, the green, purple and brown belts would follow. After a while on the brown belt, the student was proposed for the red belt, becoming a representative of the Senzala Group. In the 1990s, Mestre Peixinho created the gray belt, for the intermediate level between beginner and advanced, after the orange belt and before the blue belt, which was adopted by the other masters of the Senzala Group.

Group methodology

The Senzala Group has stimulated interactivity between its red belts {masters] since the late 1960s, which allowed the formation of a completely different group from other capoeira academies and associations existing at the time. In the group’s weekly rodas, every capoeirista was welcome, thus creating the opportunity to play / train with someone different every time. During the summer holidays, some members of the group went to Salvador, to train at Mestre Bimba’s academy, to visit the street rodas and the masters of the “old guard”.

Mestre Gato, 2019. Photo: Capoeira History Project.

Back in Rio de Janeiro, the group discussed how to practice those movements, the low game, the high game, the malandragem (roguery) they observed, carrying out real training labs which, together with visits to the rodas of masters Artur Emídio, Zé Pedro, Roque, Celso de Pilares, in Rio de Janeiro, were going to strengthen the training methodology and didactics of the Senzala Group.

Since the late 1960s the Senzala Group has organized the capoeira rodas with 3 berimbaus, Gunga, Médio and Viola, an atabaque, one or two tambourines and sometimes a reco-reco. The classes consisted of 3 parts, a warm-up inspired by capoeira movements (Mestre Gil Velho made great contributions in this regard), training of kicks, sequences and game situations and the capoeira roda. In the late 1970s, due to the large number of students in the classes, Mestre Garrincha started to make several capoeira circles before the final roda, which became a common practice of the Senzala Group.

Group fundamentals

In addition to the characteristics described above, the masters of the Senzala Group seek to practice and teach capoeira according to the following fundamentals and principles:

respect for capoeira traditions and rituals, with the rhythm of the game commanded by the berimbau gunga;

respect for capoeiristas and older masters, building and maintaining an environment of camaraderie which is welcoming to capoeiristas of all origins;

discipline and development of the capoeiristas’ technical level and establishment of a standard of physical conditioning at an athletic level;

cultivation of humility and effort to learn from each game partner;

development of the perception of rhythm and of the other, always looking for a favourable situation in the game and not being surprised, but accepting the steps in a good mood and calmly seeking your rematch;

encouraging good humour and playing in the game.

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