Monday, September 08, 2008

Angola vs. Regional

In spite of being quite busy lately with various random tasks, including some annoying last minute details on my latest excursion (to Vietnam - this makes country #7!!), I did make time to get out to the Brazilian Festival going on this past weekend in my favorite park in Tokyo, Yoyogi! For anyone coming out to Tokyo, Yoyogi Park is a definite don't miss: all in one afternoon you can get your classical culture fix visiting Meiji Shrine, then get your modern culture fix in Harajuku whilst shopping and oogling random weird people and stuff. You see the most random of stuff on the bridge from Harajuku station to Meiji Shrine, including the famous cosplay girls, as well as all kinds of weird street performers. That, and you can find just about anything in the park, from the Fonzie-wannabe 50's dancers and drum circles to soccer and frisbee to... those weird guys that practice their choreographed sword fights under the trees, and the guys I saw with quite deliberately placed trash can lids and signs on their bodies as they were themselves sprawled across the lawn - whatever your interests it's a great way to spend an afternoon, especially in the summer when the weirdos are out in full effect.

So anyhoo, most every weekend in the summer has a different festival, and this weekend was the Brazilian Festival, with my capoeira group was doing a performance right off the bat on the first day. Of course I couldn't miss it, but just for cathartic disclosure I did sleep in and miss the first 10 minutes or so (shhhh!!!). After that there was a free roda (pronounced "ho-da". It’s easy to remember: just think “hoedown”, but way cooler. Heh, capoeira hoedown, yee-haw.) in which people from all around the country and a few in from abroad even played capoeira for a good 2-3 hours. That was one of the most interesting gatherings I've been to in a while!

One theme which reared its head a few times over the course of the day though was a slight bad vibe between the two main schools of capoeira: Angola and Regional. In general, Regional (pronounced "hey-joe-nal") is the newer style and probably the one that most people are familiar with. If you saw someone flipping around and stuff, more than likely it was Regional. They came up with a sort of belt system to mirror other martial arts... it's more about form and show than it is about really being effective as a fighting style though if you ask me, but then the flips and stuff are most definitely fun in their own right. Here's people having fun flipping around, spinning on their lips.

Angola on the other hand is the original capoeira, just as it has been since the slaves in Brazil developed it way back when. It tends to be slower and closer to the ground, which takes more strength and balance. It's much more closed so you don't leave yourself open to attacks as much, and while there's still a bunch of whole lot of inverted stuff going on, it doesn't have as much of that acrobatic element that is so definitive of Regional... Angolistas are also much more likely to take the opening and knock you back on your ass if you let them too. Here's a vid of Angola style.

I started out doing the former and am now practicing the latter, so I'm sort of in the middle and can't really see why the two wouldn't get along, but apparently some don't agree. When I talked to some Regional friends, they would say how they thought Angola was boring, which I can understand since it isn't as flashy (the basics are harder though if you ask me). If you listen to the people in my current Angola group, they sort of talked down at some of the Regional people, saying they were out of control and wild... to their credit, at least twice some Regional player fell into the berimbau while trying some move, which is a big no-no. Still, the mumbling behind backs and all sorta irked me. If you watch them play together you'll definitely notice a difference in styles, but at the same time you can tell they're just two different styles of the same sport.

In the end, the maestres (teachers) all get along and understand how to look at the big picture and keep the capoeira love going... I think when people get to that level they can appreciate each other's respective strengths and skills more. I just wish everyone saw it like that... it's just another in the series of artificial barriers that human nature seems to love to create for no other apparent reason than to make unnecessary friction. Why can’t we all just get along???

Reminds me of a famous Doug's lyrics:
"So why does there only have to be one correct philosophy?
I don't want to go and follow you just to end up like one of them.
And why are you always telling me what you want me to believe?
I'd like to think that I can go my own way and meet you in the end.
Go my own way and meet you in the end."
-Doug Robb, Hoobastank (a.k.a.: the Mountain Dew Band)

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