Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Capoeira Roda & Philosophy

The "roda" is the circle of people within which capoeira is played. People who make up the roda's circular shape clap and sing along to the music being played for the two partners engaged in a capoeira match or rather a "game" ("jogo"). In some capoeira schools an individual in the audience can jump in to engage one of the two players and begin another game.

The minimum roda size is usually a circle where the radius is the length of a berimbau, or about 3 metres (10 feet) in diameter. They are often larger, up to 10 metres in diameter (30 feet). The rhythm being played on the berimbau sets the pace of the game being played in the roda. Slow music limits the game to slow yet complex ground moves and handstands.

Hits usually aren't made but feigned or just shown. The players often turn away from each other's hits just to throw their own. Slow games are often seen as finesse games, less impressive for the casual viewer. Faster music allows for more circular momentum which is key to gaining "big air" in the roda.

Capoeiristas can take up a lot of space while playing, so the roda is rarely small, especially if the players are playing quickly. In the fast game, acrobatics and big, circular kicks abound to the delight of onlookers. Sometimes actual hits are registered, but only between higher-level competing capoeiristas.

The roda is a microcosm which reflects the macrocosm of life and the world around us. Most often in the roda, your greatest opponent is yourself. Philosophy plays a large part in capoeira and the best teachers strive to teach Respeito (Respect), Responsabilidade (Responsibility), Segurança (Safety/Security), Malícia (Cleverness/Street-smarts), and Liberdade (Liberty/Freedom).

Modern capoeira is often criticized by more traditional practitioners of capoeira as being in the process of losing its "playfulness" in the sense that many capoeiristas tend to focus more on impressive acrobatics and not so much the playful interaction with the other player in the roda.