How I learned to become humble

How I learned to become humble

Why falling early and often on your path as a capoeirista is a surefire path to success…

We all have to start somewhere and we all were beginners at one point in our lives. Capoeira is a journey and this journey can take you in many directions. As a beginner everything seems exciting and it is easy to be swept away by the energy, excitement and mystery of this art form.

To the uninitiated, the first game in a roda (circle we play the game of capoeira within) is often the first true lesson you learn. The physical movements of capoeira are like words of a language – you learn how to have a conversation with the other player, questioning and answering each others movements. There are ritualistic moves which have only a few accepted answers, and there are many others where you can answer in many ways. The more you practice or play capoeira the more words get added to your vocabulary. As a beginner one of the first words that is often taught is meia lua (half moon), an upright, half moon kick executed from ginga (the swaying base movement of capoeira). This kick is mainly used (like most in capoeira) to force your opponent to move in a certain direction. But you need to be careful – if you kick too high you leave yourself vulnerable to a rasteira (leg sweep/trip) one of two main takedowns in capoeira used to put your opponent on the ground.

I remember the first game I ever played. We had done our first class and learned ginga, meia lua and negativa (a defensive movement). We had a small roda at the end of the class and with all the excitement I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to play. I entered the circle with my teacher and after clasping hands to show respect, we started to dance and move to the music. The skill of the teacher was obviously years ahead of a one class wonder like myself at that time so when I tried to execute my first meia lua in the game I should have realised what was going to happen. Before I knew it and completely unaware of what had happened I was thrown to the floor as my teacher effortly swept away my supporting leg as I tried this kick. A little embarrassed and sore, I looked up to see my teacher smiling down at me with a look that said “that was your first true lesson, you have now taken your first step to becoming a capoeirista.”

He held out his hand and helped me back to my feet. From that very first game I have always been very careful of doing a meia lua – but that was the point, you only need to fall once to learn the lesson that you should watch when and how you use a kick otherwise you can leave yourself open for a counter attack. If you get caught out again you either didn’t learn the lesson the first time, or the person you are playing has tremendous skill.

You will fall many times and often on your path in capoeira, this is an important aspect of the art form and game, where you are trying to trap and catch out your opponent, but in a beautiful and artistically executed way. And falling is a lesson everyone should learn in life – we all fall down at some point and being able to pick yourself back up and brush yourself off is an important skill to learn. Life is not easy and you will always find conflict, good times and bad and difficulties you must face in your day-to-day life. Humility is also often taught this way in capoeira.