There’s a fine line between a beautiful game and a brawl…
In the game of capoeira, there are many things you need to be aware of, from the etiquette of the roda to the acceptable ways you can/should try to catch your opponent out. We all love to watch an exciting game with the thrills and theatrics of the players, but at what point does what usually started as a beautiful game of capoeira, turn in to a brawl or fight?
This can be hard to distinguish, especially if your group is known for playing hard or rough with each other – this can lead to confusion amongst students because if this is all that they see and experience when they watch or play in a roda then this will be how they always play, it becomes their acceptable persona when they play & they’ll never really develop past trying to “prove themselves” through toughness, strength and ego.
Capoeira is much more than solely a fight, and should never be allowed to turn into a brawl, if the roda is being led by an experienced player/teacher/mestre. But it does happen, people get either carried away with their emotions – pride, fear, anger and try to lash out or humiliate their opponent; or someone’s personality – ego, etc get’s in the way and that day they decide they want to play hard with you. Many Brazilian capoeiristas I know, often resolve their differences or quarrels in a roda, but these types of rodas are usually kept private and behind closed doors, and they play differently in the public rodas where capoeira is enjoyed and celebrated for its beauty, rich culture and the vibrancy and energy of its ritual.
In the roda you are ultimately trying to catch your opponent out with either a trip or a head butt, but these should be infrequent, well placed and only done at the most opportune moment, when there can be no debate by any of the spectators or waiting players – that you caught them out perfectly. In the roda it is all about the timing. You play to the tempo of the music, you improvise and interact with your opponent reacting and questioning each other with your game, and you strike with purpose when the opportunity presents itself. If a game is constantly being played like a duel – “I hit you, and you hit me back” it gets boring and will always eventually turn in to a brawl. On the other hand, if you really try to react & play ‘nicely’ with your opponent your game will develop into a much more interesting conversation and it will also make the times when you do go for that perfect strike/takedown stand out and give a real dynamic to the game. This for me is the beauty of the game of capoeira. When you do get to see two players who can do this well, who understand the peaks and troughs of the dynamics in the physical game & the music, you’ll get to see an amazing game.