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This week's Capoeira Wiki-Word is:


Formatura

 

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From "The Saga of Mestre Bimba" by Raimundo Cesar Alves de Almeida - Mestre Itpoan


Mestre Itapoan is a life long student of Mestre Bimba and good friend of Mestre Acordeon


Learn more about Mestre Itapoan

 

The Formatura Exam

  Although no one ever reached the Formatura level in less than six months, Bimba felt that a normal student, taking class three times a week, should be ready to graduate in six months. He said that after a student had reached Formatura, he was ready to really start earning Capoeira. "Anybody who thinks he's good by the time he graduates is really a lost cause," he said.

  The Formatura exam took place aat Mestre's academy in Nordeste de Amaralina ofer four Sundays in a row. Bimba personally prepared the students for graduation. Over the course of the four testing days, the students had to be able to perform all the Capoeira movements they were asked to do. Mestre said that in the past, students were required to use the benção to knock down a very heavy tree stump , which had a circular base, after Mestre demonstrated how to do it. "kids would spend all morning trying to knock it down," he said, with a laugh. "Some of them would end up with badly swollen feet."

  Mestre created many simple, but effective, training methods. He said that when he was young , he would ask his students to stand some distance away and throw stones at him, which he would dodge, using esquivas and negaças. "Every so often a rock would hit me," he said, "which was a good thing. If you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs.". Mestre said that this particular ex erode was good for developing the reflexes.

  Another training exercise he used was to tie a razor blade or a knife blade to one end of a string and tie the other end to the branch of a tree. Then Mestre would set the blade swinging back and forth and defend himself, using Capoeira. "Sometimes the blade won," he told us.

  On the last Sunday of the exam period , the students would be very nervous. At the end of the session, Mestre would announce the names of those who had passed. On graduation day, he taught them twenty-three new blows.

  Mestre showed no sympathy for those who failed. Nor did they ask for it.


The Formatura Ritual

  Another even that Mestre Bimba created for his academy was the Formatura, or graduation ceremony, which was one of the most important moments for a student of Capoeira Regional. The formados, as the graduated students at the Centro de Cultura Física Regional (CCFR) were called, formed an elite group which every student hoped to eventually to join. The Formatura was a especial day for Mestre and his students, and even more so for the formandos - the students undergoing the process of graduation.

  It was always exciting to see Mestre on the afternoon of Formatura day, dressed all in white, and wearing a whistle around his neck. He was happy, joking with everyone and handing out fines to the students who arrived late or whose godmothers had not yet arrived. A student who was "fined" was required to buy drinks for the students who had already reached the formado level. The drink could be a beer or it might be a Mulher Barbada - a drink that only Mestre Bimba knew how to prepare. The size of the fine depended on the degree of the error or offense committed.

  When the formandos were all there, they were seated next to their respective godmothers in a row of chairs placed by the roda. They were dressed in white - the color of Oxalá and of capoeiristas. When all the formandos were seated, Mestre blew his whistle and the ritual would begin. "This is the moment od truth. Let's get on with it," he would say.

  The event would begin with a demonstration of Capoeira Regional by some of the graduated students. Mestre remained at the side of the roda, singing to the accompaniment of one Geri Bauer and two pandeiros, the only instruments permitted in the Regional roda. Every few minutes Mestre would shout out: "Two more formados," and two more capoeiristas would take the places of those who had just played.

  After several pairs of capoeiristas had played and the right "atmosphere" had been created, Mestre would stop the music and say, "Now for a few words from the Orador."

  The Orador and the Paraninfo were two figures that we're always present at the formatura. The role of the Orador was given to one of the older formados, who wou ld provide the audience with a brief history of Capoeira Regioinal and of Mestre Bimba's life, along with an explanation of Capoeira and the Formatura ritual.

  When the Orador finished his presentation, Mestre would call on the Paraninfo, whi wou,d distribute the medals and the blue scarves to the madrinhas. (The graduates received the medals instead of diplomas.). The formados were not allowed to touch the medals or the scarves during the ceremony, and anyone who did so was immediately fined. The Paraninfo pinned a medal on the left side of each formado's chest and each madrinha placed a scarf around the neck of the student she accompanied. The scarf was Mestre's way of paying homage to the capoeiristas of the past, who wore silk scarves to protect themselves from knife and razor attacks by their enemies. According to Mestre Bimba, a razor will not cut through silk.

  The Mestre called the new formados, one by one, and asked them to demonstrate various blows. The students were not supposed to make any mistakes, and their skill at executing the blows was a source of satisfaction to the audience and to the older formados because it showed their level of competence at Capoeira. If one of the students did make a mistake (which did not happen very often) he would receive a fine of between six and twelve beers or Mulher Barbadas, which he would have to buy for the other formados after the ceremony, in addition to having to repeat the blow until he got it right.

  After demonstrating their ability with the blows, the students would have to perform cintura desprezada without making any mistakes, showing that they knew how to fall properly.

  After the demonstrations, Mestre would call tepee new formados two by two to play a jogo de floreio, which they had to play without getting their clothes dirty. They had to finish the gme with their clothes completely spotless, in homage to the capoeiristas of the past who played at festivals all over the Bahia dressed in white clothing, which they never got dirty because it was their Sunday best and they needed to wear it to church. After that, came escrete, a choreographed game in which we were required to throw each other in the air.

  After the games, Mestre would give advice to the new formados:

Never turn a corner suddenly. A malandro might be waiting for you there. When you walk at night, walk in the middle of the street. When you are away from the roda don't show your friends what you are learning in Capoeira. Remember that your best ally in a fight is the element of surprise. Whenever you sleep in somebody else's house, sleep face up and with one eye open. In other words, stay awake and alert. It's better to get beaten up in the roda than in the street. A student who trains gularly is more dangerous than an excellent capoeiristas who's out of shape.

  This was the kind of advice Mestre Bimba gave his students. He had an endless supply of wisdom, which he had gained through a life of malícia and malandragem. He had acquired a lot of knowledge during his more than seventy years on earth, and he shared it with his students for free. Mestre Bimba taught us more than Capoeira; he taught us how to live, and to live well.

  Then came the Tira-Medalha, in which each new formado played a game with an older formado that was really a baptism by fire for the recent graduate. The older formado's goal was to kick the medal off the new formado's chest. If he succeeded, the new formado would be publicly shamed and his newly-acquired status would essentially be negated. The new formado would do everything he could to defend his medal, which was difficult to do, because the older formado was usually very technically skilled and knew a lot of tricks. The new formado would get kicked and knocked down and get up and kick his opponent. Eventually Mestre Wiuld blow the whistle and check to see that the medal was still on the new formado's chest. It was satisfying for the new formado to successfully defend his honor as a capoeiristas for the first time. From then on, he would be recognized by the other formados as one of them, and as a student of Mestre Bimba, he would be respected in any roda in Bahia or anywhere else in Brazil. To complete the ritual, the new formado had to wait until the next time there was class at one of Mestre's academies, which were located in Terreiro de Jesus on Maciel de Cima, and at rua Gregório de Matos, No. 1. There, for the first time, he would play Iuna, which was a game reserved exclusively for formados.

  The Formatura would end with an open roda to the music of berimbau and pander, followed by Samba de Roda, which the women danced. Finally, there was a samba duro, which was only for men, in which capoeiristas gave each other tasteless, and treated the audience to soe sensational takedowns. During the samba duro, Mestre would sing the following song:

Lê, lê, ô, Lê, lê, ô a turma de Bumba chegou

Lê, lê, ô, Lê, lê, ô a turma de Bumba chegou

A turma de Bumba chegou, pela mão do seu criadô

Lê, lê, ô, Lê, lê, ô a turma de Bumba chegou

A turma de Bumba chegou, trazendo o seu criadô

Lê, lê, ô, Lê, lê, ô a turma de Bumba chegou

The audience applauded for a long time. People left the Formatura happy, with lasting memories of Mestre Bimba's charismatic presence and the good time they had had. Capoeiristas could hardly wait for the next Formatura, and every student hoped to be chosen for next time.

~

  Mestre Bimba's academy lost some very good athletes whi could have become excellent capoeiristas. What happened Wasserstein the majority of capoeisristas thought that once they had reached the level of formado, they had nothing left to learn, so they stopped coming to class and stopped training. That was a big mistake! Once a person became a formado, he began to understand and feel the mystical elements surrounding Capoeira. From then on, he would really starry to acquire technique and malícia. He would start to become a capoeirista.

 

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