Looking Out To Sea

Capoeira Training Diary

I’m just making up notation as I go here. For sequences in pairs I’m using forward and back slashes to indicate the question/answer nature of the moves:

Question / Response
Defence  \ Attack

The intuition is that the attacker is leaning over the defender, imposing a situation on them which they have to respond to. Make sense? :-) The two players are named Left and Right regardless of role in that instant.


Add variants to standard Angola/Sao Bento Pequeno, where the regular and variant are played in a two bar loop. The variants for each rhythm are played during the regular phase for the other rhythm.

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 | O=open, C=closed, #=caxixi
O C   # O # C   | Angola: regular then variant
C O OO  C O   # | SBP:    variant then regular

Ginga with “breaks” — giro (spin round one leg, leaning back at finish), pulo (jump, from side to side), chamada (facing off to one side, legs together and arms outstretched, appearing unbalanced).

Bananeira to one side, then the other. Bananeira stepping away first, then entering before the same on the other side. Step away into bananeira, then drop quickly into negativa; then cocorinha and back in to start again on the other side.


Rabo de arraia to force move  / Esquiva
Rabo de arraia opp. direction / Enter leg and esquiva
Duck low under leg            \ Role over leg then rabo de arraia

Left should try to avoid coming up before ducking down again, instead staying down the whole time. Right should be careful not to change direction until Left’s foot has passed, as it is easy for the RdA to turn into a chapa.

Variant 1:

Rabo de arraia to force move  / Esquiva
Rabo de arraia opp. direction / Enter leg, negativa
Over or under as required     \ Tesoura

Variant 2:

Rabo de arraia to force move  / Esquiva
Rabo de arraia opp. direction / Queda de rins, parry kick with leg
Over or under as required     \ Tesoura

Right’s QDR should be strong and might benefit from contracting the legs to protect before spreading for the tesoura.


Practise ginga: with a firm base and a light expressive top half; and with an agile, light base and a solid top half.

Quite an intricate sequence starting from a chapa as a response to a fairly open meia lua. The defender performs an esquiva in the same direction as the kick, followed by a chapa (a) with the following leg, keeping weight where it is, or (b) bringing the following leg in and kicking backwards with the standing leg. (NB that (a) is close to but shouldn’t turn into gancho — be more direct!)

Meia lua               / Esquiva
Jump back to negativa  \ Chapa (either leg)
S-dobrado              / giro or au or ...

Defending the chapa is where it gets tricky. Moving from meia lua to leaping back, shifting the weight and the rotation in the opposite direction. The end position is a half-squat with the former kicking foot flat on the ground and the standing leg outstretched on the ground. Making sure you’re not landing hand-first as you’re quickly going to really hurt your wrist.


Moving round in a circle — walking forwards, backwards, deep lunging steps, on all fours forwards, backwards, forwards but really low (killer).

Fall back on one leg, the other forward, and au on the side of the forward leg. Try to step from one hand to the other with the au.

Queda de tres with the supported side towards your opponent. Push off with both feet and jump to the front, supported on your planted hand. Repeat but the jump becomes a two-footed kick.

Small au stops midway and expands. Drop straight down so you are facing the opposite way and repeat on the other side.

Sequence 1:

Simple sequence moving forward with tesoura and au, moving over the opponent and asking a question — as simple or as difficult as you want to make it.

Tesoura                      / Au, drop into queda de rins
Au, drop into queda de rins  \ Tesoura

Sequence 2:

Another simple sequence. The first rabo de arraia just has to be enough to force the esquiva. With enough skill it can just be a flick of the hips…

Feint rabo de arraia                  / Esquiva
Switch & rabo de arraia opposite side / Esquiva

Variations on Chama eu Angola, citing Pastinha or Besouro instead of Angola.

Chama eu, chama eu
Chama eu Angola, chama eu


Gentle ginga to warm up. With foot in rear position lower down into crouch with rear foot on toe and front foot flat. Should be stable and mobile, ready for esquiva, turn sideways, au etc. Stand and repeat on other side: ginga then drop into crouch, rise again. Alternately, rise into a low base without ginga, then into crouch; really hit those thighs hard.

When in crouch, role round the forward leg, keeping quite small and tight rather than stretching the leg out. Repeat in both directions. In role mid-point push backwards with both hands so you pivot over the anchored leg and use the aerial leg to land in the same crouch position facing the opposite way from your start position. (Can be done with two people sliding past each other and repositioning around the perimeter of a small circle.)

Esquiva with one hand down, bring feet together and spread feet again facing the opposite direction. Protect and keep an eye on your partner through your legs, switch to the other side. The forward leg is the straight(er) leg as you drop into a crouch, side on to partner. From there you can role into into tesoura or rabo de arraia.

A new song:

Sobrado de Mamãe

O sobrado de mamãe é debaixo d’água
O sobrado de mamãe é debaixo d’água
Debaixo d’água por cima da areia

Tem ouro, tem prata
Tem diamante que nos alumeia

2013-04-21 Charity roda

  • Need to work on controlling level of engagment (ie 1,2,3) where 1 is only exploratory and not combative. Work on letting people move rather than always blocking. Encourage the flow of conversation rather than obstructing it. Spend more time having fun, collaborating…?
  • Related to that, work on the interplay between leading and following: learning to notice when I’m following (most of the time) and see if I do something about that.


Some work on low ginga, moving slowly and maintaining a constant distance and connection from each other. I really need to work on this sense of flow and constant movement alongside the connectivity: it seems to be one or another at the moment.

Kicking practice — rabo de arraia, rabo de arraia sem mão and armada. Particular emphasis on minimising telegraph with rabo de arraia by not stepping forward but spinning from the base of the ginga. Also armada followed by bananeira on each side.

Sequence (might have been two mixed together, can’t remember)

Negativa left
Swing foot in front and negativa to the right
Bananeira to the right
Land on right foot, step in with left foot
Rabo de arraia with right foot

2013-05-02 First class in Overnewton

Injured left side so just played pandeiro and sang. Things to concentrate on w.r.t. music:

  • Singing at the right time so the boom-ba matches up with the lyrics which typically contain a da-da rhythm themselves. Or remember at which point the singing is supposed to start. :-
  • Getting the correct pitch for Bahia de todos os santos, particularly for the second line of each verse which goes up.

2013-05-09 Dion’s class in Airdrie

Flexibility work: forward splits, rotation to forward splits facing the other direction. Half ponte and straight-legged stretch (like a half ponte or role but with legs out straight in a wide V, heels on the ground).

Flow work: moving across the ground with role/ginga, stop into bananeira, and back to moving again.

Rabo de arraia then step back into bananeira. Upright alternative: rabo de arraia then bring knee of kicking leg up and through. A knee, or a threatened chapa, or a defence.

Chamada-style head-to-belly stance. Upright person leads and crouched person has to follow while maintaining constant connection.

One person breaks into the other person’s meia lua with a decisive butt to the sternum. Hands up to protect on side of incoming leg.

Meia lua de frente / cabecada

2013-05-11 Dion’s workshop in Drumnadrochit

Lots of mobility work and relaxation emphasis. Ginga, “crocodile” (travelling tesoura move, head and body low to ground), “lizard” (similar but forward, with upward bend every few paces), “elephant” (straight-legged backwards walk with body folded double and short steps).

Tesoura. Tesoura and au with one protecting from cabecada.

2013-05-24 Revision of Dion’s teachings

Piolho away; Nick taking us through some of the work that Dion was doing with us. In no particular order:

  • Ginga work. Two phases: the first ignores the body and concentrates on the legs, keeping things solid and deliberate.

    Exercises included (i) always being open (wide-legged stance, no crossing legs over), (ii) always crossing legs over (much spinning and standing with legs together, (iii) “exploration” of space by maintaining all your weight on the support leg until the last moment and then switching to the other leg.

    Second phase was to concentrate on upper half leaving legs alone to do their thing: sway first from the hips, then moving from the waist and chest, then finally bringing the shoulders and head in, to the point of leading with the head (chin first?).
  • Ponte work. Ponte rotation along a wall, choosing a horizontal line to follow and then return other way. Increase difficulty by choosing a lower line on the wall and placing your feet further from the wall. In essence, moving the body towards horizontal.

    Attempting similar moves from the ground. Lying back bring feet up underneath and take weight onto head/shoulders to get hands onto the ground and holding some weight.

    Otherwise starting from queda de rins take weight on head and try to spin hand on ground to be positioned “backwards”.
  • Progressive cabecada and au, maintaining contact with the head throughout the au. Concentrate on the opponent not the ground during au!

Other thoughts for the lesson: think about decisiveness. Choosing whether to go for a move or not, or to fake a move or not.


As the previous week, revising things that Dion was teaching but from Piolho’s perspective this time.

  • Weight placement. Esquiva to one leg so that all of the weight is directly above it (don’t twist the knee). Sinking on that knee while leaving the toes of the trailing foot on the ground leaves the greatest range of movement open. (If the weight is evenly distributed you have to shift it all in one direction to do anything.)

    Two ways of doing this. Either sink directly on leg while moving the other leg “out” (as if stepping under a kick). Or stepping back with the leg which will hold your weight and letting it collapse down. In both situations one leg takes all the weight, but the difference is whether it is the leg which moves or the leg that remains static.

    The direction of movement is also variable. With the weight on the static leg, moving forward allows you to esquiva under a kick or set up a rasteira. With the weight on the moving leg, moving forward is more like a cabecada while moving backward is a definite esquiva.

    Thinking about these moves had a positive effect on my game I felt and on my reactivity.

  • Cabecada. One exercise leaning head against partner’s stomach, each leaning into the other similar to the chamada. Letting the bending person’s head push the other around, keeping a straight back and neck.

    The other exercise is a meia lua interrupted by a cabecada to the sternum. Things to concentrate on include slighty turning away from the kicking leg for protection, and getting a good solid connection and push on the centre of the chest.


Things brings together a lot of the elements from above. The kick interrupted by the cabecada, but this time Left receives the head with an esquiva, stepping back and down onto the back leg, then switching weight to the front leg to use back leg to kick. Right brings their back leg in so both legs are together then drops their weight to “esquiva through” underneath the rabo de arraia. (It is possible to step out to the side and come back in with the cabecada instead of going inside.)

Meia lua de frente / interrupt kick
Esquiva backwards  \ with cabecada
Rabo de arraia     / Esquiva
                   \ Step inside (or cabecada)

Done well this sequence has a nice sense of distance and elasticity though I always end up too close at the end when stepping inside, which negates the need for the cabecada but isn’t so flexible or elegant.

And the lyrics to a couple of songs. This first one can also be Angoleiro sou eu instead of Capoeira sou eu. I don’t know about the verses.

Quem vem lá? — Sou eu

Quem vem la? Sou eu
Quem vem la? Sou eu
Berimbau bateu
Capoeira sou eu

Second song, again no verse lyrics, sorry…

Balão subiu, balão desceu

Balao subiu
Balao desceu

2013-06-04 First day in The SPACE

Some interesting new techniques from Dion’s recent teaching which I hadn’t learned so presumably it’s from his Sunday class in Drumnadrochit.

Starting with an esquiva — leaning over to the right and placing the left hand next to the right foot. Place the right hand “back” (away from the opponent so that this hand forms a squint triangle on the floor with the feet as the two other vertices. Move the extended leg in so it takes the weight properly and bend so the hips get low to the ground. You want to spin the body along a horizontal axis so the leg that was weight bearing arcs over the top of the body — sort of a rabo de arraia shifted through ninety degrees. If the hips aren’t low enough and the body not flat enough it turns into a rabo de arraia.

Second we did some nice ground work from a base of queda de quatro by shifting through the diagonal: fixing two opposite points (hand and foot) and swapping the other two. This can be combined with esquiva for extra movement and then back or onward to another square position. The nice thing is maintaining the ratio of width/height of the shape on the ground, so that a long thin queda de quattro becomes a short wide crouch when you swing over.

We also did a bit of work on bananeira. Key point here was keep the arms closer together — much easier to maintain balance. The careful pressure on palms and fingers to shift weight has a much better effect when the arms are tight against the ears.


Standing work: meia lua, esquiva and rasteira. Esquiva with the back to the incoming meia lua. If the kick is off-balanced then move in for the rasteira to the standing leg instead.


First half of training focussed on getting upside down. Trying to travel and land in a straight line rather than curving inwards with the landing feet. Need to get body and legs more vertical to achieve this.

  1. From base, gliding hands to one side and another, then pushing off into bananeira.
  2. As above but ginga, esquiva to one side then glide over to the other for the bananeira.
  3. As above but while in bananeira swap the upright and forward legs back and forth forming a one-two kick sequence. Emphasise raising the lowered leg instead of lowering the vertical one in order to maintain balance.

From this foundation move on to a dynamic escorpiao.

  1. Attempt the kick like a rabo de arraia with one leg initially; the other can follow through later if necessary. Keep eye contact on the opponent. Opponent drops backward.
  2. The opponent drops on one foot, with the free leg on the side of the first kicker’s head and aims for their face. The first kicker should try to push off their arms and away.

Second half of training looked at a takedown built on the transition from queda de quatro to esquiva (jujitsu “technical stand”, apparently). As a sequence:

Meia lua de frente            / Esquiva, to queda de quatro
Rabo de arraia same direction / Role outside and re-enter
                              \ Trap standing knee, pull back with ankle

The final step is a queda de quatro with the opponent’s standing leg in between your own. As the weight comes off this leg it becomes free to move easily. With the weight on your inside leg and outside arm, pull the other leg back taking the opponent’s ankle with you. You should end in low esquiva while they drop to the floor held by their other leg.

Important notes: The leg should be unweighted. You are trying to lower the centre of gravity down to the ground rather than topple them. The pull back should be straight, not twisting or trapping the knee. The inner leg should just be there to stop the opponent moving it over your shin when you start to pull through.

This appears to be some variant on a banda (heel sweep).

stick figure takedown

stick figure takedown


Arm plyometrics: from standing drop into a push up position and spring back up to standing again. Also repeat to left and right side instead of forward. Perform carefully.

Flow work with partners keeping up a constant rabo de arraia/esquiva rally without breaking the chain. Trying to keep low throughout the sequence and not bobbing down and up in the pendulum style.

Fast and hard rabo de arraia and back to a stable base. Aiming for the fastest possible kick without compromising the finish.

Feints followed by cabecada. First the fake meia lua — show the kick with the hips then step forward with the “kicking” leg and through with the head. Escape by facing sideways and moving the body weight back and stepping out with the forward leg. Second the fake rab de arraia — step in with the support leg as if going to whip round then step through into your partner. It may be best to just show the kick with the shoulders so that the legs are not too committed to the rabo de arraia you don’t want to do, and can be properly marshalled to stepping into the person.

Repeat sequence from previous week:

Meia lua de frente / step in with back to kick
Esquiva backwards  \ cabecada
Rabo de arraia     / Esquiva with unweighted leg under the kick
                   \ Step forward for cabecada

When the rabo de arraia comes put the leg under the kick but descend on the nearest leg. You can quickly bring the side leg forward if it doesn’t have any body weight on it. The difficulty will be getting your body low enough for a good cabecada.

Pandeiro rhythms! Start with regular shaking emphasised by a thumb hit on the 1 beat. Then replace the 4 beat with a slap to give a nice boom-sheky-sheky-slap! Finally every fourth bar there was a kind of double slap thing that I haven’t really remembered correctly so will need to get clarified.

1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-   t=thumb
t # # # t # # #    s=slap
t # # s t # # s

t # # s t # # s t # # s t # # ss  <-- not sure


Practising variations in the berimbau rhythms from the Angola base. An important detail I hadn’t really picked up on before was the central role of the chi-chi in providing a backbone to the berimbau rhythms and separating the different bars of regular and variant rhythms.

xx O C - xx O C - xx O C - xx O C -   (1. standard)
xx O C - xx O - C xx O C - xx O - C   (2. delayed closed note every 2nd)
xx O C - xx OOOOO xx O C - xx OOOOO   (3. five open notes)
xx O C - xx O - C xx OOOOO xx O C -   (4. combine 2 and 3)


Two new songs which we played to a simple samba-like rhythm on the pandeiro. Essentially just the 3-4 of the standard Angola pandeiro rhythm repeated. Also tried a variant with shakes instead of finger-heel every other bar. I am still totally incapable of stepping at the same time as doing anything else, singing or playing instrument.

t f/h/f t f/h/f t f/h/f t f/h/f (original)
t f/h/f t # # # t f/h/f t # # # (variation)

Quando a maré baixar

Quando a maré baixar
Vou ver Juliana
Vou ver Juliana e
Vou ver Juliana

Quando a maré baixar
Vou ver Juliana
Vou ver Juliana e
Vou ver Juliana

Second one is a bit faster and harder to get all the words out. “cair” seems to rhyme with “Maria”, something like “ka-yee-a”. This version is much longer than the one we were singing but includes all the elements I think we were aiming towards.

Ave Maria, Meu Deus

Ave Maria meu Deus, nunca vi casa nova cair
Nunca vi casa nova cair, nunca vi casa nova cair

Ave Maria meu Deus, nunca vi casa nova cair

Nunca vi angoleiro cair, nunca vi angoleiro cair

Ave Maria meu Deus, nunca vi casa nova cair

Nunca vi casa nova cair, nunca vi casa velha cair

Ave Maria meu Deus, nunca vi casa nova cair

Cair cair, nunca vi casa nova cair

Ave Maria meu Deus, nunca vi casa nova cair

A small one-sided sequence which is slowly added to over the class.

Spin across and away
Cabecada in
Pull away
Role over extended leg
Small au across with double-leg push

2013-06-26 CDO with CM Papa Leguas

Fake a rabo de arraia by stepping across to create a standing leg then immediately spinning around and away on the “kicking” leg. You’re ultimately stepping in and straight out again but describing an ellipse around your trailing leg.

From a small queda de quatro, role over the left leg then continue under the left leg without moving it, stepping the right leg fully through for good balance. You should end up with the body facing right and your left side facing upwards. From this position you can walk the feet around for ponte, au, macaco etc.

When escaping rabo de arraia or other kick, spin round leaving non-supporting leg curved towards the opponent. This gives better positioning for executing a return rabo de arraia or kick from queda de rins.


A new guy called Patrick turned up after googling for capoeira so hopefully he’ll be back in future weeks. Piolho took the class but adjusted slightly to make it more beginner-friendly. There was much less terminology and more following actions by watching. Like the Papa Leguas class I found this quite hard.

The new thing we were doing was a transition from a corta capim into a rabo de arraia. Start in an esquiva to the side with both hands down, like in starting blocks. Swing the extended leg round the front and when it gets past half way place the hands shoulder-width apart in front and kick off with the supporting leg, getting enough air that the extended leg can spin right underneath. Use the spin to shift the body with it, switching legs so the extended leg becomes the base and the jumping leg whips round in a rabo de arraia.

Somehow I was doing something subtly different on my left and right side so one side I was changing legs but the other side I was just following through with the spinning leg as a rabo de arraia. Definitely needs more work! Not to mention it’s a killer on the legs.


Revised a takedown defence which Mestre Marcelo Angola did at the weekend workshop, on Friday.

Rabo de arraia           / Negative
Negativa                 \ Rabo de arraia
                         \ Step over negativa
                         \ Feet together inviting vingitiva
Place foot for vingitiva / Drop down to wrap near foot round back
                         \ Bring other leg into their midriff and twist over

This is escaping the (prompted) vingitiva with a tesoura de costas.

There was also a berimbau rhythm that went something like donch-di donch-di donch, which I think equates to: OxC OxC Ox though I don’t know how the timing works.


Took a week off for injuries received by rear-ending a Skoda. Had a gentle start with lots of basics in this class. Felt a bit rusty and not very strong. Apart from some nice singing the one thing I took away was the easing the transition from a negativa to upright again. If the body is tilted to one side with the hips facing forward there aren’t any leg muscles which can help you get up. Any transition puts a lot of strain on legs and knees. If you first shift your hips so that you are side-on to your partner the underneath leg has a much better chance of pushing you upright.

E de ioio
E de iaia
Capoeira de angola jogada na beira do mar


Pe de lima, pe de limao
O amor e meu ta dizendo que nao
Tao dizendo que nao, tao dizendo que nao
(or: Pe de limao, pe de limao, pe de limao)
Pe de lima, pe de limao


Lots of repetitions up and down the hall, to really kill your legs the next day.

  • From legs together, esquiva by dropping straight down on supporting leg and pushing the other leg out to the side. Legs together and the same on the opposite side. Keep the head looking forward and in the same line as you advance down the hall.
  • As above but slide to the side/back with the supporting leg moving the most and the trailing leg sliding a bit. Move back to centre and esquiva quickly to the other side. (Do both these escapes after a meia lua for a more fluid transition between attack and defence.)


Work on attack and defence with faster rabo de arraia and martelo. Also a song:

Canarinho da Alamanha

Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió
Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió

Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió
Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió

Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió
Eu jogo capoeira, mas meu mestre é melhor

Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió
Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió

Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió
O segredo da Lua quem sabe é o clarão do Sol

Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió
Canarinho da Alamanha, quem matou meu curió


(1) Bei-ra mar, io io
(1) Bei-ra mar, ia ia
(4) Beira mar beira mar
(1) E de io io
(4) Beira mar beira mar
(1) E de ia ia

(3) Angola e e
(1) Angola e angola


Ijexa rhythm which goes something like this on the atabaque:


where X=slap and O=rim

2014-01-26 Two Rodas

First Mão No Chão charity roda of the year, for the Red Cross Syriah appeal. The usual Cutting Room venue.

Senzala also had an event in “Shapes Studio” on Arther Street earlier in the afternoon so I went in there too. I was the only non-Senzala person but they were a friendly bunch and there were a few faces I recognised from the previous Glasgow Senzala event. I didn’t manage to convince anyone to follow me on to the charity roda but there were a few people who were at least interested in the concept and impressed about the fundraising nature of it, so I think there may be scope for outreach there.

I played gunga for a bit at the Senzala roda too — definitely the first time I’d felt confident enough to offer and let someone else play a few games.

2014-01-27 Music session

It’s been a couple months of radio silence but it seemed time to restart this journal after it was mentioned in class.

Got together for a music session in the flat, playing together and rotating through instruments. Sang a few songs which I knew in part but it’s good to concentrate on the details.

Bom Jesus da Lapa

(1) Bom Jesus da Lapa e
(1) Bom Jesus da Lapa a

Bom Jesus da Lapa e
Bom Jesus da Lapa a

(3) E— (1) da Lapa
(3) E— (1) da Lapa

E— da Lapa
E— da Lapa

This next one I’m less sure about the lyrics and timing. I might have to come back to it. I’m sure I’ve done it differently in the past.

Lembra e Lembra

(1) Lembra e lembra
(2) Lembra do barro vermelho
do barro vermelho lembra

Lembra e lembra
Lembra do barro vermelho

Finally a totally new one for me, or at least one I didn’t actually know the lyrics for at all but have mumbled along in the past.

Santo Antonio e Protetor

Santo Antonio e protetor
Da barquinhá de Noel

Santo Antonio e protetor

There were some other lyrics but I don’t have them to hand.

Music wise the main thing I got out was concentrating on a clean entry. Trying to keep the rhythm fixed in my head and letting my hands independently deal with a call, then bringing the two together at the right moment. Not easy but I felt like I made a step up within the last week. No doubt it will disappear next time I try it.


Freezing cold training session in the Overnewton. Recently we’ve been working on stepping in/spinning out and curling round. Part of this I remember being very briefly covered by CM Papa Leguas. It’s still not any easier after all this time.

We moved onto partner work combining bençao and evasions by bending backwards. I still think I’m a long way from being able to instinctively pull this one off in a game but it felt much easier than it has in the past.

Bencao / Back bend and drop to floor, one foot flat
       \ Rasteira opponent's kicking leg from ground

The hardest part was evading underneath the kicking leg rather than away so that I was still in a good position to attempt the rasteira.

2014-03-27 Dion

First class back after skiing holiday and a cold. Felt pretty rusty and as usual felt way out of my depth in Dion’s classes.

There was a lot of emphasis on ginga, expressive movement and having a self-expressive approach to capoeira which I’m always called out for not having.

  • Ginga opposite your partner maintaining a steady position and distance. The guide for this was to have one person hook their hand into the front of the belt of the other person. Also there was some “ginga on broken glass” and “drunken master ginga” metaphors.
  • With the ginga add in a “cheeky rasteira” (probably not a legit technical term) with the outside of the foot on the same side as the foot you’re sweeping. So the outside of your right foot would catch the inside of their left foot to unbalance in the ginga.
  • The person having their foot swept can go with the motion, using the sweep to spin round on the other leg and perform a chapa with the leg that was being rasteira’d.

A slight change of tack next with meia lua de frente and cabeçada, though it still works into the same spin-to-chapa from the previous sequence.

Meia lua de frente / Esquiva, return to centre
Cabe&ccedil;ada / Step back, turn
                \ Chapa

The “step back, turn” step was tricky enough that I don’t think I got it right. It was a kind of half turn and then that intertwining leg thing to bring the weight under the other leg, so the leg furthest away can be used for the kick.

Next were intertwining sequences of meia lua, front and back:

Meia lua de frente, step across /
                                \ meia lua de costas

Other things: fast, solid au, getting through the arc with as little trunk movement as possible. With a solid trunk you’re not only more stable in the case of being pushed but you can come back up quicker. This seems a good one to train. Also some more ponte stuff which I’m still totally terrible at.

2015-02-21 Mestre Fantasma workshop, Edinburgh

First time I’ve been to a workshop with one apparent focus, in this case observation of the other player. The session involved a progressive resistance of analysing the ginga and sweeping the foot at the right moment. At the end of the day was a training roda to put the training in to practice, but not to ignore the training entirely and play a normal game.

It was pretty taxing. One of the hardest parts was getting into the mindset of co-operative resistance, which is common at the BJJ class but quite unusual for capoeira — in fact I think this was the first time I’ve seen it explicitly emphasised. It was clear that many people struggled getting in to this mindset because it is so different. Having Fantasma’s students, Tim and SJ, demonstrate what was meant at the end of the Saturday class made it clear how wrong we had been getting it, even as we were working towards the right thing. As soon as you get into the situation of a roda then the history of everything you’ve learned takes over and over-rides the bit you’re supposed to be working on.

2015-04-07: Querido de Deus class, Edinburgh

Senzala hosted a guest instructor for a few days and we attended his Tuesday class instead of running our own class. It was a really good class though as usual went on for way over the advertised time. Capoeira is just not the activity for people who have day jobs…

Did some musical/vocal exercises, singing the same songs “normally”, rhythmically (no emphasis on melody) and melodically (trying to get as much soul from the song as possible). Much throwing around of the words ‘key’, ‘harmony’, ‘octave’ and so on. Well I had a cold so I couldn’t even sing to my normal low standard.

Next some rabo de arraia switching left and right, with the defender escaping and being followed in the usual fashion. Key detail was the importance of foot placement as setup for what comes after the esquiva. If you put your foot forward then whether it is inside or outside dictates whether you next direction is into (attack) or away from your opponent. The other detail was one of the attacker letting the defender move as quickly as they want: if they esquiva one way then role in the other they can turn and “re-open” themselves to the kick they were trying to escape.

This is one instance of the principle mentioned of the “triangle of vulnerability”: the underbelly of the capoeirista when they have 3 limbs on the floor. Following where this vulnerable area is — and predicting where it will appear — is very valuable.

2015-04-28: Teaching rabo de arraia and esquiva

First attempt at taking a class with an actual plan, no matter how roughly outlined. I didn’t have a chance to read over what I had written so was going on memory and the feel of things.

There were only four students which limited the amount of variety and the mix of levels when people trained with different partners. I wasn’t sure if I had enough to fill out the time and I wasn’t spending much time on explanation so was allowing each part to last longer than it should. I was aiming for 3 minutes but I probably overshot at times — and 3 minutes in each role with two partners is 12 minutes for the same thing, which in hindsight is a bit dull.

In future I would bring that down to 90 seconds but I would have to emphasise the importance of not wasting time. And I would need a way of timekeeping to make sure I’m sticking to the rules.

The progression of resistance worked reasonably well though I suspect there wasn’t enough explanation initially. Since nobody was a beginner then getting people to do something really simple takes work. I should have explained what people were looking for. The first phase was a “blind” ginga from the defender and a simple rabo de arraia and reset from the attacker. What I should have said was to look for the first moment the attacker starts the kick and the best moment in the defender’s ginga to kick which would have encouraged more active mental participation.

This lesson generally went for each step I think. Slightly more purposeful explanation might have got people to focus; and shorter intervals would have reduced the boredom kicking in.

In summary I need to work on keeping people’s attention and giving them a mental task to achieve is the best way to do that. So I will run through everything I’ve written so far and make sure I’ve got “thinking points” or “mental tasks” for everybody.


A ragtag session including a small sequence transitioning from martelo do chao to rabo de arraia. Also a Mestre Camaleao special for defending the rabo de arraia: step into the non-kicking side and reach the hand over to the grab and lift the hip of the kicking side, to flip the person over. It wasn’t greatly successful but we did it full speed for about 5 minutes so there wasn’t much opportunity to improve it.

2015-10-16/17/18: Marrom workshop, Edinburgh

The whole weekend was concentrating on “base” and the enter/exit flow: having a good solid esquiva/negativa (however you want to call it) and effective rooting to the floor in order to move when needed.

The only move that I rarely attempt but which is part of Marrom and Dion’s repertoire and that was used frequently was the escalamente (spelling made up entirely).


After watching a bunch of Camaleao I was keen to try out some tesoura de frente; he seemed to do a lot after faking a martelo do chao which I thought was a great entry because it’s something I do a lot but never have anywhere to go from there.

In the end we did an evening of takedowns: vingativa, tesoura de costas and tesoura de frente. Despite my original intentions the vingative/tesoura de costas pair was more interesting because it seems they are intimately related. They have a symmetry with each other.

The “base” position is the front person perched on the lap of the other, both squatting slightly, like “stacked” figurines. The control of the other person comes from the control of their hips which itself only comes from direct contact. The person in the back makes a minor adjustment and uses their shoulder and upper back to execute the vingativa. The person in the front swings the far leg round the back and rotates backwards for the tesoura.

The fundamental position of the hip connection is what to aim for when stepping in to perform one or other takedown. From there the minor positioning of feet and hands and head will follow. In general, the person performing the takedown wants to control the leg furthest from them in some way. In vingativa trying to stand with your own feet “outside” your opponent’s feet. In tesoura, to reach far enough with the back leg that you can hook their own leg.

The tesoura de frente also has symmetry but with itself. Two opponents facing each other but offset so that one inner thigh touches the same inner thigh of their opponent when in base. Either person could go for the tesoura from here: the touching leg is a clamp to hold the leg in place and the other foot comes in behind (heel to heel) and sweeps backwards. (Alternately the outside leg can stay fixed as the fulcrum in a lever system, with the body weight driving into the thigh to move the opposing leg backwards and down.)

2016-09-02 Mandinga, Closeness

Attacking from Queda de Quatro. Rasteira from the ground. Defender is moving backwards towards attacker, who must make the right distance to get a sweep.

  1. Defender in downward-dog position walks backwards towards attacker. Attacker in QdQ tries to sweep the stepping foot to the side.
  2. Defender tries rabo-de-arraia/passagem around the attacker. Attacker as above, sweeping the stepping foot from queda de quatro.

Clothes peg game. Defender has a clothes peg pinned to the back of their shirt. Attacker’s job is to steal the clothes peg. Two variations:

  1. The defender in queda de quatro, the attacker standing. The defender can move, rasteira and show chapa to interfere with the attacker’s progress. The attacker must “pass the guard”, to get behind the defender and take the peg.
  2. A normal training game, all positions and moves allowed for both defender and attacker.

2016-09-06 Passagem de tesoura

Entries to passagem de tesoura. Go feet first.

  1. With the head up, extend front foot in negativa de frente then role to pass through.
  2. Perform the role first then pass the lead foot through backwards.

2016-09-20 Siobhan’s tesoura-to-vingativa

open meia lua       /= cabecada to face
queda de rins       \
tesoura low-to-high / pass through
                    \ spin into vingativa

2016-10-21–23 Mestre Marrom workshop, Scotland

Friday night, closed session in Edinburgh

Started with the usual sequences from one end of the hall to the other. The warmup was okay but it got quite dull before it finished. Naturally I can tell you nothing now from what we did at that point; none of it stayed in my head, if it was even designed to.

Moved onto a kind of “contact improvisation”–inspired session involving balance and closeness without contact. Slowly adding in interrupting the other person’s direction/intention. Next an object was added on the ground to maintain control of, in a turn-by-turn style, by moving in and out without attacks. Marrom was emphasising having time to think at this point; I thought he had finally changed, everything was looking so bright. The rest of the weekend was a resounding swing in the other direction.

He said something suitably mystical and metaphorical at this point which I’d initially taken to be quite positive: that he was taking shade under his own tree and that we each had to grown our own tree. I assumed this was a positive reflection on learning and experience. Later experience made me change my opinion.

Saturday, Sunday, open sessions in Glasgow

Even longer lines of calisthenics than the Friday, lasting even longer. With the extra bonus that the demonstration for the next sequence was already partially done by the time the first one was complete. It’s pretty clear by this point that these are just for killing time: you don’t demonstrate something to a person when their back is turned if you are interested in them getting it right.

Given the rate at which people were successfully pulling off the sequences I’d say he was teaching to less than 10% of the class. I was not in that lucky fraction. At one point the 90+% who didn’t get it were accused of over-complicating it. Aye right mate! Having to invent it out of whole cloth is more accurate. Any fool could have seen it was a room full of people each trying to get cues off the other and failing. It’s not like we all thought, “nah, this is too simple, I should add an extra corta capim and a bananeira in to make it worth my while”.

It was definitely at this point I started to re-evaluate what the tree metaphor — which he reiterated — actually meant. He has a tree but we have to get our own trees to shade under. He has no interest in sharing his tree. He is in his early fifties so I’d guess has 30 years of capoeira knowledge. We also have to put in those 30 years to get that knowledge too.

At this point on both days there were some pair exercises though because we’d been training for about two hours at this point nobody was in any fit state to take anything in. I can’t remember a single movement from this period on either day. I just remember a series of faces that looked terrible — and every new partner said “sorry what are we doing?” or “I wasn’t paying attention” or “I’m going to pass out”. You can imagine how much effective learning took place under these conditions.

The Saturday training roda was reasonably short but unhelpful in the way that most rodas are: an opportunity to chill off, stiffen up and maybe get kicked in the face. The Sunday roda was even longer and since we had not stopped for a break I was long past the point of being “operational”.

I realised one thing that I have been aware of almost since I started capoeira but was unable to really put into words before now. In a game like football the roles of referee, the opposition and your own coach are performed by three separate entities. In capoeira, particularly learning capoeira, two or even three of these can be performed by one person. Your coach wants you to do the right thing, the opposition wants you to do the wrong thing and the referee is there to adjudicate. It is impossible that these roles can be performed by the same person at the same time without risk of ignoring the referee, taking advice from the opposition or snubbing your coach.

He briefly took questions from the floor, and answered honestly that Joao Grande keeps remembering (“remembering”?) new rules and ways of doing things. Frankly I look around the roda and wonder where the vadiacao went. All I see is ossified formality and anxiety about breaking unexplained rules. Geoff Pullum talks about “nervous cluelessness”. Either there is an extra layer underneath that explains all the oddities, a general unified theory of capoeira, or there is just people making up rules and justifying their own ignorance with authority. I await the GUT of Capoeira.