Fabio Fuá Nascimento
April 18, 2016
During the last twenty-eight years I have practiced the art of capoeira in its entirety. I have mastered the martial art, the tricks, and the dances. I have also mastered capoeira’s percussion instruments as well as the singing techniques and rituals. During the last fifteen years I have taught and performed for people in Brazil, Germany, and currently in the United States. I have lived in Vermont since 2009, and during this time I have introduced capoeira to over three thousand people. I have also founded a capoeira group, Jagube Capoeira. We’ve hosted two international events with two days of workshops, rituals, and dinners and the participation of more than three hundred people from Brazil, United States, Canada, Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, and Israel.
Jagube Capoeira Method: Develop cultural competence through capoeira at all levels of education in Vermont.
The learning experiences I offer are designed to physically immerse students in the techniques, culture, language, and traditions of Capoeira, as well as Forró (Brazilian partner dance), Samba (Brazilian dance), and Maculelê (dance with sticks). As students develop strength, flexibility, stamina, coordination, mind/body awareness, rhythm, and social skills through fighting, singing, dancing, and performing within the Brazilian cultural norms, they will grasp how Brazilians, as a group, act towards life. Consequently, they will form a connection between their own behavior, culture, and ethnicity and how it informs, many times unconsciously, their daily behavior. The classes I teach incorporate history, as well as, anthropological, scientific, philosophical, religious and gender studies as methods for analysis of one’s reflexive cultural behavior.
Invented by Brazilian slaves, the art of capoeira is a complex amalgamation of fight, dance, and ritual. Considered one of the largest black resistance movements, capoeira was outlawed from 1890 to 1940 in what was the first constitution of the Brazilian Republic. As a forbidden movement, capoeira was practiced in secret until one capoeira master was able to bring it out of its fugitive status. The legendary Mestre Bimba (1900 -1974) invented a new style of capoeira, Capoeira Regional. As its savior, Bimba modernized capoeira and Brazilian President Getulio Vargas recognized him as an educator.
Capoeira today is played in 150 countries throughout the world. The art was added to UNESCO's list of cultural manifestations respected as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on November 26, 2014.
Hanley (2011) defined Cultural Competence as “the ability to work across cultures in a way that acknowledges and respects the culture of the person or organization being served” (p.1). In developed countries, minority groups are expected to acquire cultural competence in order to serve the dominant culture respectfully. In the United States, adapting to the Standard American Culture is the only way of keeping a professional job or simply performing well in the school system.
If it is an obligation for minorities to acknowledge and respect the dominant culture, it is my belief that people raised in the Standard American culture should also acknowledge and respect all minorities. According to Chaves & Guido-Dibrito (1999) “especially white Americans, manifest ethnic and racial identity in mostly unconscious ways through their behaviors, values, beliefs, and assumptions” (p.39). Capoeira classes in New England offer opportunities for the locals to physically gain awareness of Brazilian culture. As a consequence, they become conscious that the Standard American Culture is their ethnic identity, which was hidden until they physically experienced another culture.
In the book Teaching and Learning Through Multiple Intelligences Campbell, Campbell, & Dickinson (1999) affirmed that “through movement we can both perceive and express the meaning in our experiences” (p.75). As my capoeira pupils experience singing out loud in Portuguese, learning sensual Brazilian dancing with opposite sex partners, playing, hitting, grabbing, and fooling a partner as they practice capoeira, they feel in their bodies the weight of their own culture. Once the whole group works together in communion to overcome these cultural patterns – comfort-zones - they see themselves as comrades fighting the physical results of cultural oppression. Two phenomena start here, one is the understanding that institutions (school, family, and community) in the United States, regardless of the region, encourage some behaviors and disapprove of others. Students that had seen themselves as different from each other, begin to feel part of a larger group that share the same physical difficulties shaped by American organizations and communities. The meaning of community becomes larger than one’s ethnicity, race, religion, age, or sexual orientation. The second is that as students begin to deepen these relationships they need to deal with the former differences.
Based in educational theorists, scientists, and anthropologists such as Freire, Montessori, Hall, Slingerland, Harris, Erikson, and Gardner; 28 year of capoeira practice, 20 years of teaching and performing capoeira in Brazil, Germany, and United States, I created a capoeira curriculum to physically and emotionally develop cultural competence. This curriculum is specially tailored to Vermont’s educational system. Following is my capoeira curriculum, which only differs in depth and duration from elementary to college level:
Jagube Capoeira Curriculum
· Physical awareness and development
· Awareness of cultural norms
· What is culture? How does it affect personal and social behavior?
· What does it take to sing, to fight, to dance, and to drum? How do different cultures approach these activities?
· What is respect? What are cooperation, individualism, and group norms? What is faith?
· What does it mean to work hard?
· How do different aspects of life require different skills?
· The difference of how Brazilians act towards life. Consequently, the connection between one’s own behavior and one’s own culture and ethnicity.
· One’s current flexibility, endurance, strength, social skills, rhythm, physical space, aggressiveness, and concept of faith. Also one’s current acceptance of frustration and pain.
· The existence of musical, kinesthetic, spatial, intra-personal, and inter-personal intelligences and their importance in the social interactions.
· The improvement of the effort, positivity, or willpower while performing.
· Gaining on self-esteem and social skills, consequently, higher production of axé.
· Improvement in the execution of the movements
· The development of axé through drumming, clapping hands, and singing in chorus the basic rhythms.
· Performing the basic elements of ginga and its variations, attacks and defenses.
· Performing aesthetic movements, samba, maculelê, and forró.
· Reflect upon the traditions behind the art form - Brazilian culture, behavior, and history - as well as the local culture, behavior, and history.
· Gaining of control of own voice and body as well as the social context
· Improvement of singing, drumming, dancing, fighting, and social skills
· Improvement of the ability to work across cultures, acknowledging and respecting the culture of the person or institution being served.
Redefinition of key terms to set the class culture:
· Faith - the belief that I will succeed before I try. I will succeed because I believe I am capable or because I believe something greater than me will help me. Believe before doubt.
· Positivity - conscious physical effort to do or to be your very best, and bring out the best self of the people or situation around you.
· Respect - conscious physical effort to individually and socially show attention, admiration, fear, partnership, or belonging towards people, institutions, nature, and things.
· I can’t do it- it means I am hurt or I am physically unable of learning, but if one does not know how to perform something, saying I can’t do it is only an excuse not to try. The expression should be “I don’t know it,” in this way the possibility of learning is open.
· Brave instead of “make a fool of yourself”- The person that went out of her comfort-zone to learn a new skill is brave or courageous not a fool. The use a negative expression to describe a positive behavior discourages positive actions.
· Cowardly instead of perfectionist- Perfectionist is the one that try doing everything perfectly, but the one that do not try because is afraid of failure is cowardly. The use of a positive term to describe a negative behavior empowers the negative actions.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. 80 Maiden Lane.
Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences: New horizons in theory and practice. Jackson, TN United States: Basic Books.
Hall, E. T. (1959). The silent language ([1st ed.). Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
Montessori, M. (1995). The Absorbent Mind. New York City, US: Henry-Holt Paperbacks.
Slingerland, E. (2014). Trying not to Try. New York: Crown Publisher.
Hanley, J. (1999). Beyond the tip of the iceberg: Five stages toward cultural competence. Reaching Today’s Youth.
Campbell L., Campbell B., Dickinson D. (1999). Teaching and Learning Through Multiple Intelligences. Allyn & Bacon. A Viacom Company
Chaves, A. F., Guido-Dibrito, F. (1999). Racial and Ethnic Identity and Development. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. Jossey-Bass Publishers.