One of the hardest things in a (Benguela) roda for beginning and intermediate students is to keep moving. A lot of people don’t know what to do, don’t have inspiration or feel like they are constantly repeating the same movements. As a result, they only ginga with a few movements here and there.
It often takes a long time to gather enough experience and confidence to keep flowing in a game without having black-outs. Most of our students going through this phase have between 1 and 5 years of experience, but this obviously depends from person to person.
A while ago I worked on some classes to help my students overcome this very problem. I also gave a workshop during a local event on this topic. Since I got a lot of positive feedback, I want to share my ideas with more people, hence this post!
TLDR; Scroll all the way down for a short summary.
Disclaimer: These ideas are based on the style my group. I come from a contemporânea background (with a style similar to ABADÁ, Capoeira Brasil, Capoeira Luanda), where we play both modern Benguela and Regional. Some tips or exercises might not apply to your style. Furthermore, I focused these classes on Benguela but you could apply them to other styles as well.
The rule of three
Let’s start with the most important rule. And I don’t mean the rule of three from mathematics or writing. When playing in the roda, don’t try to think in big sequences. Don’t even try to memorize those long sequences with 12 steps from class. Think in steps of three. Or four.
So when you play, do 3 or 4 moves then go back to a ginga or balança. If you react to an attack from your partner, again use only about 3 moves (esquiva, aú, counterattack for example) and fall back to ginga. If you break your game down in small parts, it becomes a lot more manageable and you won’t get the feeling you have to keep thinking of movements for the whole game. It’s perfectly okay to ginga a bit from time to time (just not constantly).
Below you can find some exercises to stimulate thinking in steps of 3.
Step 1: the sequence generator
Write all basics movements you know down in three columns: golpes, esquivas, floreios/movimentos. Each category probably has about ten lines. Now try to create a sequence by choosing one action from each category and putting one after another (the order doesn’t matter). In fact, you don’t have to use each category, two kicks and an esquiva work as well. This paper is your sequence generator and it can provide you with a lot of options.
Build a single sequence using the columns (take no more than 1 minute, don’t overthink it) and show it to the group, then practice it together.
Alternatively you can pair up with someone and each build a sequence, then teach your sequences to eachother.
Some examples are:
- Meia Lua de Compasso
- Terceira Esquiva
- Aú de Cabeça
- Aú Pequeno
Step 2: a single sequence
Let’s work in pairs now. Start to ginga together, person A gives a (round) kick, to which person B has to react. B will probably react with an esquiva or basic movement, from there he performs two more actions to create a mini sequence. After the kick, A keeps doing his ginga and B falls back into ginga when his sequence is complete.
|Person A||Person B|
|meia lua de frente||(1) primeira esquiva|
|ginga (, esquiva)||(3) meia lua de compasso|
A initiates the short conversation, B responds with a 3 step sequence. Try to always use a different sequence. Again, the order of actions doesn’t matter. It can be esquiva-golpe-floreio, esquiva-movimento-golpe, floreio-movimento-movimento, …
Step 3: action and reaction
Now let’s expand our conversation. A again starts with just a kick, B reacts and initiaties his sequence. This time, B has to include some form of attack to which A has to respond by starting his own sequence. When B is finished, he falls back to ginga. When A is finished, he also goes back to ginga.
The structure is like this:
|Person A||Person B|
|kick||sequence 1/3 (e.g. esquiva)|
|ginga||sequence 2/3 (e.g. floreio)|
|ginga||sequence 3/3 (e.g. golpe)|
Step 4: keeping it going, with breaks
Okay so we already have a short game with interaction. As you can see in the previous exercise, you can keep going if you respond to every attack with a sequence. Repeat the previous exercise, but after you’re both done, do a balança and immediately initiate a new sequence (now B starts instead of A).
Try to do at least 3 sets with balanças in between and try to constantly use different movements. Don’t view this as one long conversation, but rather as 3 short talks so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
We’ll talk more about the use of balança later.
Step 5: a full conversation
The final step is to eliminate the breaks and build a full conversation. Keep the rule of 3 in the back of your head. React to every “question” with a sequence, and let your partner respond to your “questions”. Don’t play too fast, give yourself time to react properly. Right now you are flowing like a pro!
Inbetweening or tweening is a key process in all types of animation […]. It is the process of generating intermediate frames between two images, called key frames, to give the appearance that the first image evolves smoothly into the second image. Inbetweens are the drawings which create the illusion of motion.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbetweening
When combining movements, you’ll sometimes get stuck because it seems like you can’t connect move A to B. For example, how do you go from an aú de cabeça to a meia lua de frente? Well, you’ll need an inbetween. In capoeira, this means moving your body to the right position to start the next movement in you mini sequence. Changing your foot from a ginga position to cadeira is not a movement in your sequence, it is an inbetween to connect your actions and to “create the illusion of motion”.
This can prove somewhat tricky but once you get it, you’ll really be able to connect about every move. When becoming a more experienced player, your tweens will become subtler and transforming from one move to another will feel like a second nature.
Negativa is your connector
Now you know how to build lots of mini sequences, you have to connect them to create an infinite flow. Since you’re mainly playing low to the ground, there is one movement which facilitates this: negativa. Negativa (often followed by a rolê) is great to transform from one position to another while staying low, because it is an easy position to get into. For example:
- aú pequeno
- primeira esquiva
- rasteira de costas
- boca de lobo
- meia lua de compasso
As you can see above, I’ve combined 2 small sequences with a negativa, creating a longer sequence. For the people watching you play it will look like your are continuously flowing, but in your head it should be 2 separate parts linked together by a negativa. This thought is important to once again make sure you’re not overwhelmed by the infinity of the game.
An additional tip I have is to use rolê to get back up from the ground. Some of my students seemed stuck to the ground with their flows, sometimes with their partner hovering above them. A simple way to get up is to use a (negativa) rolê, finishing in the position of ginga or cadeira.
Step 1: two defined flows, one connection
Start by using your sequence generator from earlier and build two short flows. Practice them separately. Then, execute the first sequence, transform to a negativa, and continue with your second flow. This is where tweens will come in handy.
Step 2: two undefined flows, one connection
Instead of defining your sequences beforehand, improvise them. Start with a ginga, do three moves, follow up with a negativa and immediately start another sequence. When you’re done, fall back to ginga and start over.
Step 3: multiple undefined flows, multiple connections
When you no longer have any difficulty with the previous exercises, try to keep flowing using multiple sequences and thus multiple negativas. It doesn’t always have to be exactly 3 actions, you’ll often find it more practical to implement a negativa after 2, 4 or 5 actions as well. Just keep your sequences manageable.
Balança is your break
Of course you can’t keep flowing infinitely, from time to time you need to add a break in your game. A break is necessary to:
- get back in the rhythm if you’ve been speeding up
- observe your partner or connect with him again (call him to get closer)
- take in the situation, the vibe, the music, …
A break can either be some gingas, a set of balanças or a volta ao mundo. Volta ao mundo literally resets the game, since we want to keep playing I won’t discuss this option. I prefer using balanças over a ginga because it’s a great way to call your partner and briefly “restart” your conversation while maintaining interaction. I personally view balanças as a game inside the game, just like a chamada is a game inside an angola game. When doing a balança, get close to your partner, if he’s paying attention, he will respond and probably also start a balança. A balança is more than just going from left to right with your arms 3 times, it is an expressive move using your arms, hands and upper body. For example, you can force your opponent in a certain direction, just to attack him when he doesn’t expect it.
Going back to building our flow, while you use negativas to connect your mini flows, balanças are used to divide the longer flows. Newer students can use more balanças as they often can’t keep a long flow goign yet. A complete flow might look something like this:
- 3x action (from our sequence generator)
- 2x action
- 4x action
- 3x action
- 4x action
These are still all separate flows, but thanks to combining them, it makes for one big sequence.
Step 1: practice balança
Pair up with someone and just practice your balança. When doing a balança, you stay in a cadeira position and move your arms (and torso) from left to right three times. Stand in front of your partner and both do a balança simultaneously. This is all about expression. Look your partner in the eyes and guide him with your arms while he does the same. You can change directions, go from low to high and stretch or bend your arms.
Create a mini conversation with just balanças, so don’t limit yourself to just 3 horizontal moves.
Step 2: single sequence and balança
Next, ginga with your partner. Person A initiates a mini sequence and B responds with his own flow. After you’ve each done about three actions, balança together and go back to ginga. You’ve just reset your conversation.
Step 3: flow, balança, reset
Repeat step 2, but after the balança you both immediately start a new flow. After each flow you do a balança and start again.
If this is going well, replace your mini flows with longer sequences (which contain negativa connectors) and initiate a balança only when you need a break. Remember, a break is not to rest.
In short I have four tips to keep your flow going in a Benguela game:
- Think in boxes of 3 to 4 movements which you combine, no more.
- Connect these mini sequences using negativas (and optionally rolês).
- Use a balança to break apart flows when necessary.
With these tips you’ll flow like a pro in no time. If you are interested to learn more, leave a comment!