Last weekend we cut wire from a discarded car tyre (there was a huge pile of random trash in our street, again) to make arame (wire string) for my berimbau – my old wire snapped a few weeks ago while stringing.
Tools/materials: Carpet knife (not the best choice, a decent serrated knife would have been more effective), cut protection glove, gardening gloves, pliers, sanding paper, trash bag.
Might sound like a weird way to spend a Sunday afternoon while nursing a headache, but it made me extremely happy and also a little proud. As a friend told me, there are many capoeiristas who have yet to make their own arame. I might not be a very good capoeirista (saw a video of me playing for the first time last week, looked horrible), but I’m pretty motivated right now. A little too motivated, maybe, my body is not happy right now. I’ll elaborate on that in one of my next posts.
The arame is not perfect – too thick wire – but good enough for practising at home.
Ding dong dong.
On Monday I finally made some progress with stringing my berimbau! The bottom third of the verga is very thick, so for the last week I had been struggling with it, despite trying different angles and techniques. But after practising for a while, using the method a friend had shown me, I was able to bend the verga far enough to string it so tight that there was some space between biriba and arame to move a small stone back and forth a little.
I think it should be a little tighter still, because the cabaça sits a bit too high (not visible in this picture, as it was taking at an angle from slightly above) and I would like a little bit more space to move the stone. But it made some nice ding-dong-dong sounds already :)
It’s been a while since my last capoeira update, sorry for that. In late autumn I was sick for a few weeks and lost a lot of the muscles in my back and my arms and a bit of the flexibility for which I had worked so hard during the summer. As I stated a few months ago, one of my goals for 2016 is the ponte walkover. It’s still on my list, but I still have to work on regaining said muscles and the flexibility of my spine (and straighten my arms more) before I can think of starting to work on the actual walkover part. I’d love to be able to do at least an assisted walkover by summer, so I could do it in the park on the green grass where I started working on this move. Before Christmas break we practised the aú de frente (mix of a cartwheel and a front walkover; some people in our group call it aú amazonas, which I think is confusing, considering it is also another name for the aú batido) in one class. I tried it a couple of times after that and today we practised it again. It’s a really pretty movement and takes more courage and flexibility/balance than raw strength, so this is on my “learn before summer is over” list as well, especially since I’m already half way there. So 2016 is going to be my walkover year ;) This includes trying to get to a free standing handstand, which would make many movements a lot easier and more balanced. And as I’ll finally, finally get my very own berimbau in just a few days if all goes well (when I asked him today, contra mestre said he’d try to prepare a médio for me by Friday or Monday from the materials he brought back from Brazil recently!), another goal would be learning at least one new toque.
I didn’t make a lot of further progress concerning the basic techniques – apart from a faster and more precise martelo maybe -, but I started to learn and/or use a few new movements. The aú de frente I already mentioned above, but I also did my first few rather miserable attempts of an au cabeça no chão (sort of a cartwheel with the head on the ground). Additionally I’m working on including more ground movements in general, e.g. different rolês and fintas of low kicks. I can hold a handstand for a few seconds after pushing away from the wall sometimes, or hold it for a longer time while touching the wall for support with only the toes of one foot. And my last macaco today seemed to be good enough for the contra mestre to nod and walk away instead of giving tons of instructions. I’m still not able to do one starting with my left hand, though.
My newest inspiration are the videos by Andrea Cazotti. He combines capoeira, acro dance, tricking, and a lot of heart and soul to create beautiful movement art. These are two of my favourite videos by him (narrations in French, but with English subtitles):
I’ve also started to read Tao of Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee). While it isn’t about capoeira at all I can relate a lot to the ideas and the mindset described in this book. Sadly the book on Capoeira Conditioning (bodyweight training with capoeira movements) hasn’t arrived yet. It should have been here by end of December.
How have you been, capoeiristas? What are your goals for the next few months? What is your inspiration?
So today was the second time I had the chance to practise playing the berimbau, after I was allowed to hold one for the first time two weeks ago. I have a lot of trouble holding even a very light one due to problems with my finger joints (mostly the metacarpophalangeal joints), but today I managed to play at least for a few moments without any cheating. Last time I had supported the berimbau by leaning it against my forehead, which worked for me but weirded out some people, so today I heeded the advice of a friend and just kept the cabaça against my body most of the time instead of moving it back and forth, producing only muted sounds but not having to worry about the verga wobbling around in my hand all the time.
I was also very happy when I discovered I have already internalised São Bento Grande de Angola far enough to sing along the chorus of a few easy familiar songs.
I like capoeira music, though at times it can be very monotonous (especially without any singing); so finding these two musicians on YouTube was really nice. They play berimbau duos that consist of more than the usual few notes used to play out the rhythm for the jogo. So much more. It’s music, it’s rhythm, and some experimental stuff in between.
You should check out their channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC19PbXE-oqRmKPZZsZz5eQw – there you’ll find not only duos but also trios and quartets! (And even a quintet and a sextet, though the latter sounds a little too chaotic for my taste.)
Attracted by the powerful pull only a single string can summon by,
walking the line of notes, exhaling all the burdens of the day
– and it calls me, calls me
Inhaling dusty rhythms of old drumhead leather,
moving with its tidal waves, a rhythm so familiar my body would know to follow it in the dark
– and it carries me, it carries me
A guiding turn of the head, a tiny nod and a glance to the heart of the circle,
I’m following the lead into the sun, the warmth of joyful song and laughter
– and it frees me, and it frees me.
One thing I enjoy about going to Capoeira class is the berimbau music, which is rhythmic and somewhat monotonic. After some months of weekly training to the same CD with music running over and over again, my body started to react to the music itself by beginning to move. Even now, as I sit at home with my laptop and decided to listen to some toques on YouTube, my head and shoulders started swinging from one side to the other, mimicking their movement during the ginga.
I like the feeling of being carried by the rhythm. It’s also helpful for learning new combinations of movements, because if your body does the ginga, the basic movement, on it’s own accord, your head is free for the complicated parts. And after practising the same combination over and over for a while it becomes part of the rhythm and you just do it without thinking about what to do next – at least on a good day.
When I go home, still the sound of the berimbau echoes in my head. It’s kind of comforting, and makes me look forward to the next time I can go to class. I love falling asleep to the sound of the berimbau in my head.