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VIDEO: Capoeira Festival comes to Saudi Arabia

Part martial art, part acrobatics and dance, the Brazilian activity is unlike all others.

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The first Capoeira Festival in Saudi Arabia took place on the weekend of Nov. 26 and 27, thanks to Vermelho, alias Matthieu Deville de Periere, who brought this fascinating martial art to the Aramco compound, which was when most people in the community caught their first sight of it.


This event, sponsored by Community Education, and called Batizado, is part of the life of each capoeira group or school: basically, it is the “graduation” ceremony in which students receive their first cord (belt), as in any other martial art, and a capoeira name. 


When capoeira was illegal in Brazil, players used to have nicknames (appelidos), used among themselves so they would not get arrested by the police. This continued through the modern traditions of capoeira. The name is given by the teacher and can relate to a physical aptitude or physical detail, a way of being, and so on. 


For these students it was their first Batizado, so they received a new name, which from that moment on, is how they will be recognized by their new “capoeira family.” For example, one of the ladies received the name “Dedicada” (Dedicated), as from her first lesson she followed with consistency and commitment the characteristics that emerged during the lockdown for COVID-19 and the need for remote classes.


Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art form, combining self-defense, acrobatics, dance, music, and song. It was developed by slaves who used it to disguise the fact that they were practicing fight moves. Evidence, studies, and oral tradition leave little doubt about its Brazilian roots, but it is impossible to precisely identify the exact Brazilian region or time it began to take form.


Capoeira is “played” (it’s known as the “game,” or jogo) in a circle called a roda, accompanied by music and singing. Only the hands and feet touch the floor. Everyone forms a circle, clapping hands, singing songs while the music is playing, and two players are playing/fighting in the center of the roda.


The roda was the most exciting moment of the ceremony. As the music increased in rhythm, the singing began, the participants in a roda clapped their hands, and the two players knelt down and listened to focus themselves. 


They got up, and the fight began. They observed each other, they tried to guess the opponent’s move and dodge it, through sometimes fast and acrobatic moves. Even for an inexperienced observer it is engaging to participate in this incredible hybrid of martial arts and dance.


This was the moment when the special guest of the event, Mestre Caxias, intervened in an authoritative manner to underline important aspects of the discipline. Caxias is originally from Brazil and was among the first capoeira teachers in New York more than 25 years ago. The Master personally fought with each of the students, inviting them to correct small details, but above all, motivating them to continue training. 


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