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On not photographing everything.

We were having a discussion after a roda recently, and the topic turned to recording famous people. One of the teachers present told us about how Mestre Acordeon had been playing some Samba after a good day at an event and a few glasses of wine, and got annoyed when people pulled out the video cameras. He said something along the lines of: “This moment is for us, enjoy it yourself, you don’t have to share everything all the time.”

I often wonder about this duality between experiencing everything as fully as you can, and the disconnect that occurs when you record (even watching the live game being played through the tiny digital screen of your camera instead of the full 360 degree reality that surrounds you). Between the one-time experience of living in the moment, or the repeatable satisfaction of being able to watch the recording as many times as you like.

It becomes more complicated when you are famous of course. Mestre Acordeon can’t relax under a video camera as much because he can be sure that the recording – and any mistakes he makes – will be broadcast to many people. The most the rest of us usually have to worry about is a bit of laughter and teasing from our friends. Even here, I’ve just repeated a story about him when he wasn’t being recorded, and it’s a third-hand story now too, so who knows how accurate it is.

Unlike some of my friends most of us are not journalists or professional photographers and don’t have to be (apologies to people who are and do: hi there!). If you get kicks out of taking pictures or video then certainly do so, but remember to live for yourself occasionally too. In the mean time at my wedding I found the perfect combination: when everyone else took pictures and video and then sent them to me! So I got to have the best party of my life, live every minute of it and can still watch the videos and see the pictures.

I was thinking about adding an image for this post, but I think it’s more appropriate not to, don’t you?

Competition

So rather than talking about competition in the roda (which is an entirely different and probably much longer post) I’d like to talk about competition between capoeira groups. When I first said I was going to start teaching capoeira I could see some of the other teachers looking at me warily. There’s a few schools around Perth, but the capoeira scene is not massive and I could practically hear them thinking about another face on the block competing for the limited number of students. As we’ve continued and shown that we’re not out to steal students from other people and that we respect the art they’ve softened to us a bit (but not all of them).

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I think this attitude is a mistake though – capoeiristas are not in competition with each other (outside the roda) except in the most limited, small minded sense. So let me backpedal a bit and say where the suspicious minds are right: when people have already heard about capoeira and come looking for you, whether they’ve done capoeira before in another city or whether they’ve just heard of it and are desperate to try. In that small case capoeira schools are competing fairly directly (although if you’re too far away, on the wrong nights of the week or etc. that person is not likely to stick around). There’s not a lot of these guys though, maybe 10 per year at most through the whole of Perth? (That’s probably an overestimate.) In which case 2 schools instead of 1 is a big hit, but 5 schools instead of 4 isn’t going to make much of a difference.

So where is the competition? In my opinion it’s between capoeira and all the other hobbies and sports out there. Instead of capoeira people are playing football, volleyball, computer games, going to boot camps… there’s literally millions of people out there that we could be trying to get into capoeira. If we could get our message out to 0.1% of those people every capoeira school would be rolling in students. And it’s not a zero-sum game either. If one of us does well we’re all going to benefit.

I was talking about other things with one of the capoeira teachers here recently, and he made a really good point. “When someone does a show, do you think they remember the name of the group? No, if it they like it or they hate it all they will remember is capoeira. Then they’ll go to the group most convenient for them. Or if it’s a bad show they’ll go away thinking they know what capoeira is now, and that it’s crap.” Pretty much any advertising we do is going to be similar. Putting out crap stuff will give a rasteira to us all, but if we build a great community we’ll all benefit.

We’ll benefit even if the students go to another group. If other groups around you are doing well there will be better rodas to visit, better events to go to, but also if you’ve got a good relationship going then there will be more people to come to your rodas and more people to come to your events. I don’t think there’s a capoeira teacher out there that would rather someone didn’t do capoeira at all than start at a different group, but for some reason we never see it like that.

Speaking for myself as well, I don’t want to pinch students from other groups, or undercut them or similar unpleasant “business” practices. As welcome as all the friends I’ve made here through capoeira are in our classes (and I love you guys) I want to get fresh faces and teach them to play capoeira the way I was brought up in it, to teach them the style I love. I don’t want to retrain styles from other groups, I want every capoeira student out there to train in the style they prefer. Whether that’s Cordao De Ouro style, pure Regional, Angola or whatever makes them happy and suits their body the best.

I know this all gets more complicated when people are making their living at it, rather than teaching on the side (which gives you a much more comfortable viewpoint), but these are my thoughts. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions about it. In the mean time, seasons best wishes to everyone and hope you have a fantastic and harmonious new year!

Expanding the group

I said before we needed to grow the group. As part of that we’re opening new capoeira classes in Perth, in the Bayswater suburb. We got very lucky with some contacts and they gave us the first month rent free, which allowed me to run some free capoeira classes to try and build up a bit of a buzz. So I’ve been spamming my facebook (sorry guys), putting up posters all over Bayswater, Yokine and Mount Lawley (I feel like I’ve been putting up posters over the whole of Perth), I made a meetup group…

Actually I discovered something pretty handy. Meetup groups cost money to set up, but if you go all the way through the setup and stop before you have to pay then after a few hours they’ll send you a 50% discount code. Better than a poke in the eye or a big rasteira. Lobo’s top tip for the day. 😉 Two people have signed up through meetup so far, but neither of them has attended yet. We’ll see if it was worth the investment.

The first free class was last Tuesday and we had 5 new people in to train, so that was great. Not a bad start at all. One of them wrote up a really nice report on his blog (here, lots about martial arts too) which made me smile. Everyone tried really hard, despite the often confusing and apparently unintuitive nature of your first capoeira class, and I was really impressed.

If we could get five students like that who came every week then I know our school would be amazing fun (to run and participate in) and the skill level would rocket. There’s one more free class this coming Tuesday and a few more people have promised to try it, so fingers crossed we can get some regulars going.

One last thing, the posters for all of this were a beautiful example of karma in action. I gave a friend a room in our shared house as a student for a few weeks years ago (it was a tiny room too, basically a closet with a window) and he came back and made me an amazing poster without my even asking. What a gent!Image