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Capoeira Angola Conference in LA (Part 1)

October 12, 2006

Well, I should have probably put something about this up a few days ago, but I’ve been sick and haven’t felt like writing much.

Last weekend Larry, Steve, Henna, and I were out in LA for the Capoeira Angola Conference. It was fantastic. Friday was kind of a fiasco for Larry and me due to arriving in LA and proceeding to wait in line for an hour at the wrong rental car place, then taking a cab over to the correct one and only having a fifty dollar bill for a cabby with no change. We did not, in fact, pay the cabby fifty dollars for that four block trip, we got change from the car rental place, but it was still amusing. Then a hair-raising trip up to Santa Monica to meet up with Steve and Henna. On our way to the evening’s roda we stopped for some pretty good Thai food. I elected not to participate in the roda that night; it was my first roda outside of our group here in Boulder, and I thought I would just spend that one watching and seeing how people played. After the roda we ended up staying up pretty late with Steve’s friend Sena, who was kind enough to let us crash at his enormous place for the weekend.

Saturday we got up bright and early and headed over for Mestre Joao Grande’s workshops. His workshops are always great. You’ve got to pay close attention because he doesn’t speak English and he doesn’t explain very much. Usually the way he runs things is he just calls out a combination, then some of his more senior students demonstrate it for us, then we all stumble through it. There is a lot to be learned from each of these combinations, but you’ve got to find it all on your own. It’s not only good exercise for capoeira, it’s good exercise in paying attention—which is vital to playing capoeira.

All day Saturday was Mestre’s day. In the afternoon we did some music and had planned on having a rodinha. But when it came time for the rodinha there was such little time left between then and the planned dinner break that they decided to let us go early for dinner. When we got back to Sena’s place Steve took a nap, having not slept well the night before, while Larry, Henna, and I hopped in the jacuzzi for a while. We ordered some more Thai, Sena cooked up an omelet, and we sat and ate while watching part of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. After which we went back to the roda.

The roda had already been going on for about an hour when we got there. Not long after I sat down in the roda to get in line for a game, Mestre stops the music and asks if anyone hasn’t played yet. Well, I raise my hand and am ushered to the front of the line to play the next game. My opponent: Mestre Themba. The first game I ever played outside of our group here in Boulder was with a Mestre. What a game; he eviscerated me. He’s actually kind of a bully in the roda, and I was fortunate enough to be his first game that night, so he was still warming up with me. Later on he was knocking people on their heads left and right. Even so, he stole my hat a number of times, poked me in the eyes, snatched my balls from between my legs, and kicked me in the groin on a number of occasions; none of this literally, he didn’t hurt me at all, he was just showing me how very vulnerable I was. Needless to say, I learned a lot from this game. I also had a great time, despite being bullied by someone who is immeasurably better than I. I was laughing the whole time—after all why not, I didn’t stand a chance against the guy, I might as well enjoy getting beat down if there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s not that I gave up and didn’t try, I tried as hard as I could not to get beat down, I just didn’t get upset when my attempts failed.

Anyway, this is running long so I’ll stop here and write about Sunday another time.

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