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CAPOEIRA HISTORY

The Formation of Capoeira Identity Throughout the Ages

  by Andrew C Eadie, Kings College London, 2003

The Angola/Regional Polemic

Mestre Bimba and Pastinha created a polemic that has not been resolved to this day. The universe of capoeira was split along lines defined by these two remarkable men. The art that existed before this split, is what has come in recent years to be known as Capoeira Tradicional de Bahia (Traditional Bahian Capoeira). This is accepted as being quite different from the pugilistic styles of nineteenth century Rio de Janeiro and Recife. The Bahian variant is widely believed to have much more orientated along the lines of an expressive, playful game, it was most likely closer to Pastinha's style but still containing strong elements of the martial that he may have played down in order to differentiate it from Regional. In Capoeira Angola, Waldeloir Rego attests to an apparent diversity between each and every capoeira master that he knew of. Each lays claim to his own berimbau rhythms and movements, but these are often the same, merely with different names. Styles of capoeira then, always seem to have been defined largely by the individual concerned. In the academy setting, the style of an entire school is defined by the style of the capoeirista in charge, i.e. the master. To what extent he allows his students to develop their own divergent style is a matter of his own, or perhaps the head of the organisations (if he is not the head himself) stated opinion. In the 20th century interpersonal diversity came to be interscholastic and after Mestres Bimba and Pastinha this was politicised along the Angola/Regional polemic. Faster more upright styles came to be known erroneously as Regional and anything played to a slow rhythm or low to the ground was thought of as Angola. Such arbitrary guidelines are false as any direct student of Bimba’s will affirm. Mestre Deputado, who now travels the world giving workshops in Capoeira Regional admits that Bimba’s style was just one in a universe of possibilities. He goes on to say that is not the only, nor necessarily the best (as this measure is relative to a number of factors and furthermore a matter of personal opinion) style. Of course he feels that it is the best style, and the only one he has any interest in learning about or teaching. Many capoeiristas see the Bimba/Pastinha polemic as merely two relative points on a scale spanning the extremes of martial effectiveness and personal creativity. Indeed exponents of either style will generally agree that good capoeira is that which is both effective and beautiful. This must be reflected in the game through the dynamic mixture of combat and co-operation, the area of unpredictability being the extent to which one of these extremes the player will turn to at any given moment.

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