Instructor Tanque takes us inside the Capoeira Brasil Los Angeles Batizado.
At the Batizado, Capoeira Masters and students from all over the world come together for an intense
week of capoeira workshops, competition, and camaraderie.
The lights dimmed with a dramatic blue and yellow glow that spotlighted the roda. The gunga started and the viola cried, Mestre Toni Vargas's voice rang out into the room. Outside the cars were crammed into nearby streets and the hot Indian summer night air was buzzing. Two capoeiristas knelt down in reverence of this gathering amidst swelling voices and hands clapping together. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge and the moment was gone, some of the best capoeiristas in the world had come to do what they love doing best. This is the 18th Capoeira Brasil Los Angeles Batizado.
This is Mestre Boneco's (Beto Simas) house, one that is managed by Pavão Jessica Carla, and continually constructed and renewed by Sean Anthony Moran. These are people I have known as family since the day I stepped into the roda 16 years ago. They say nothing can try you like family, and this is all the more true with people you choose to be part of your clan. If nothing else, the last year or so has been a difficult time, from starting school, ending a relationship, and trying to pursue life. Capoeira is my release, my escape into the a sea of joy and movement, yet for the first time ever, here was my Mestre, a second father, scolding me for not coming in on time and questioning my heart as to whether I am really committed. I have seen it a thousand times but have never been on the receiving end of his storm. It tilted my balance and threw me deep into questioning the very core of my being, and by the time Mestre Mindinho Capoeira Brasil had given the cabeçada mid role, it had gotten to be too much. The look on my mestre's face after that game said it all. Disgust. It was then that I had ever even considered stepping away from capoeira, and it was ripping me to shreds. Thank you Chitra Chandran for being my life preserver.
Being falsely accused and feeling like I am letting a father figure in my life down are things I cannot accept, it would much sooner choke me to death than sit inside my person. I spoke with him and he accepted my words, there is no doubting my commitment to capoeira and nosso grupo, life has been hard and I don't want to let another person down. Since I left Shanghai, I have been unmoored and adrift in the winds of foreign lands, of expectations, of solitude. My casa of capoeira in Los Angeles is where I seek refuge and it would destroy me if this piece of paradise were to be lost as well. The man who had filled me with energy and inspiration then opened a channel, no, I don't need to worry about letting him down, he had never questioned my heart and understands that I have been ravaged by life as he knows life had ravaged him. But it is up to me to make that switch, to fight for that silver lining and breathe, knowing that there is a different approach, and that I just needed to find it. He is hard on me because he believes in me, that through the fire of work and dedication, I will become more. Time to go to work.
The day of the batizado had an atmosphere of life and anticipation, with a hint of spirits, both ephemeral and from the party the night before. Nervous eyes and timid gingas all wrapped up in batizado shirts, abadas, and dangling cordoes. The first sweat breaks with ease as I let go of my pounding head, and I embraced my brothers and sisters I have longed to play with. Fominha, Bo Tiziu Seriki, Joy San Agustin, put my hat back on my sweaty head and buy the next game. Armada, compasso, macaco, not done out of routine, but with love and eye contact with my partner. The sun was beating down this morning with a ferocity of the desert, maybe the sahara, or probably the sertao. But even that was tempered, softened, tamed, by a beautiful rendition of Mandei caiar meu sobrado led by none other than Kristin Ouro Scheimer. The kids quieted down, the people held their breath, and the voices of people transformed transmitted love and emotion to everyone present, regardless if you understand Portuguese or not. Love is universal.
The voice in my head that criticize my every movement, questioned every song I had ever sung was calmed, but never for long. The past few days were a blur of messy emotions and rhythmic rituals. It was time to decide my path in capoeira, and only I knew what it was I wanted from it, just needed to listen. As my legs crossed into the half lotus in the room that has been the place of my salvation, I breathed, listening, loving kindness, and I knew my answer (thanks Johnny Blu Pants) . A serenity had enveloped my being, how many years have I been at this event? How many times did I see my siblings, my fellow capoeiristas, cry, laugh, and need me, as I needed them? Ouro got her blue cord and the roof exploded. She, who has been a perennial presence was being recognized and celebrated, as she is deserved to be. The energy had grown and it felt as though we were not there as individuals, but one being, awesome and glorious.
I am grateful
Corda roxa! Boomed Mestre Boneco, and the room somehow managed to contain itself. At that moment my choice was crystal clear, I will work and dedicate myself to becoming a better person, not for anyone there but myself, I will commit myself to work to earn that cord one day, but not today. But first, let me congratulate my brothers Tethpelyah Reed (Alongado) and Oba Vita (Relampago), both of whom were letting their emotions show through tears, laughter, and trembling bodies. TANQUE!! It was a bolt of lightning that sealed my feet to the ground. That is not me, surely, had my thoughts betrayed me and Mestre knew where my tumultuous journey would end? I was transported over to receive a blessing that I could only describe as love and light in the truest sense. My body is laid down at your feet because I am transformed because of this house. The person who I am today is as much a product of this house as anything else. The tears flowed painlessly from my eyes in the middle of a sea of smiles, laughter and shouts. Tiziu, Relampago, and Alongado, we represent four different paths in how we pursue capoeira, bestowed by a community of capoeiristas that we would not otherwise know if not for Mestre Boneco, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I love you
Those games were hardly memorable, but the roda was unforgettable. Axe permeated every corner of 5557 Washington Blvd and the celebration was in everyone's hearts as evident by the smiles and laughter. Yet in that very moment, in that concentrated ball of love and energy, misfortune struck like the sound of breaking glass. Our heartbeat, Festa Capoeira had just lost her father to an unspeakable tragedy, and I understand now why we had created so much love and light, it was so that we could send that to one that would be drowning. Her soft wails rippled through our moment of silence as we try to console her with every fiber of our being.
As the day came to a close and we looked to each other for comfort or some level of understanding of what we had been through, many of my idols (Pinga Fogo, Mindinho Capoeira Brasil) looked me in the eye, congratulated me and told me I was within their hearts and could count on them for anything. One of them told me that I had once trained capoeira, now I am becoming capoeira (Thank you Mestre Itabora Ferreira).
Bo “Tanque” Chung is a Masters Degree student in Environmental Design at the University of California at Berkeley. He has dedicated 16 years of his life to capoeira, and is the founder of Capoeira Brasil Shanghai.
You can read his full account on our website at: www.capoeirabrasilcn.com
Photo Credits: Ai Feneco, Jackamo Harvey