Reflections on a Mestre from a Young Student

Each of us has our own unique experience and relationship with Capoeira Angola, yet oftentimes our learning trajectories, struggles, successes, and even thoughts about Capoeira Angola mirror those of our fellow Angoleir@s. A student from FICA-Seattle shares with us his thoughts on his growth in capoeira and his relationship with his mestre. Perhaps some of the same thoughts have crossed your mind. Enjoy.

i’ve been encouraged to write a little something about FICA activities in Seattle. My original intention was to write about Mestre Jurandir’s most recent visit to Seattle. However, as it unfolded, it turned out to be more of a personal reflection of my association with Mestre. i have done my best, at least at the moment of this writing, to convey to you sincerely through the limitation of words my thoughts and feelings. It is my hope that it inspires you to think about your connection with your fellow human beings not limited to Mestres, Parents, Gurus, Mentors etc. Enjoy if you so choose.

About a month before the international conference in Chicago, C.M. Silvinho informed us that Mestre Jurandir would be coming to town after the conference for a week or so. (As an aside, many thanks to Trenel Beto, Queen Mamma Huu and FICA-Chicago for their efforts in organizing a sacred space for many of us to share, play and dance.) So, when C.M. Silvinho mentioned that Mestre was coming to town i did not know what to think. i always enjoy his presence and yet i was somewhat apprehensive. i can’t truly say why, but the following play of words convey a semblance of my feelings, however limited words may be.

i am a young student of Capoeira and easily fall into the abyss of intimidation created from a mind full of social ‘baggage’, which encourages excessive self-indulgence. A clear example of such is getting mentally wrapped up in insecurities around authority while simultaneously dealing with cross-cultural differences. So, allow me to give you a little history of my relationship to M. Jurandir. i first met M. Jurandir in 2004, after which i had only taken a couple of classes at a FICA-Seattle Roda/celebration, of which i do not recall the occasion.(It must have been something pretty important. They were all in white!) M Jurandir, CM Silvinho and CM Urubu among other students were in attendance at the old space in Capital Hill. i enjoyed the games that were played, particularly those between CM Silvinho and CM Urubu. When I saw Mestre play, i must admit a sense of fear and awe. It was so relaxed and yet powerful! i also recall a telling moment, for me at least, at the end of the Roda when Mestre wept as he embraced Silvinho in appreciation for his efforts in sharing Capoeira with his son and maintaining affairs in Belo Horizonte. i was moved by the incident and recognized a sensitivity along with the power expressed in play.

That day was one of those inspiring and defining moments early in my path of Capoeira. It encouraged me to look beyond my ego and fear and continue to train with this group. Little did i know at the time, FICA-Seattle was in a time of, let’s say, transition. Many students had departed for one reason or the other. Mestre Jurandir had returned to Brasil and CM Silvinho began to lead the group. CM Silvinho introduced me to Capoeira and has shared much wisdom with me. For that, i am thankful beyond words.(By the way, CM Silvinho continues to guide me on this journey of life play.) Along with transition there was much talk, of course, and i will not go into whether those words were positive or negative. i will say this though, many words were emotionally charged, contradictory and for me outright confusing. Nonetheless, i listened with an opened heart not only to the message of the word but also to the message inherent in the deliverer. i listened with scrutiny, took heed to admonishments, made mental notes and for the most part asked very few questions. From there, i naturally began to shape an idea of Mestre Jurandir, neither good or bad, for i know all too well how easy it is to project assumptions on to that which you do not know. So, I truly knew of him nothing at all.

Mestre Jurandir became a figure of mystery to me and i must admit in the early days i avoided interaction with him as best i could. Not out of like or dislike, but out of avoiding my own internal struggles with authority figures. As i began to interact with him more during class, i kept quiet and did all i could to be a cooperative student of Capoeira. i just wanted to observe and keep listening and wait to formulate an opinion based on my own experiences. When Mestre came to teach, i was mesmerized by his stern looks and frustrations in class as well as his portugo-english words of wisdom about Capoeira and life.

As i grow in Capoeira, i realize that Mestre is not just a figure isolated in this beautiful art form, but a mentor in life. A mentor, who in his position as my teacher and guide, shares his thoughts and feelings about the life of Capoeira. i’ve come to my own ideas about this mysterious person. i have come to love and appreciate him through experience and not by way of hearsay. So, with Mestre coming to town i knew my ego would be challenged. How much, i wondered, would i fall prey to excessive inner dialogue and lose sight of presence that is so essential in Capoeira.

About Mestres most recent visit to Seattle…

On September 15, 2008 this figure walked into the FICA-Seattle training ground about 1 hour late! (Well, he’s off the hook, he was spending some quality time with his two daughters.) Mestre gave an amazing class with lots of intense energy, emotion and, of course, the fine details. It was good to see him do the movements even though he was not physically 100% due to his health concerns. However, Mestre’s mind is sharp and he sees everything and doesn’t have any qualms about letting you know that he sees. Seeing as such are characteristics of one who is experienced in, and knowledgeable of, the art of Capoeira. At the end of class, he gave little glimps of his endeavors, such as his work in Mozambique. After class we went to CM Silvinho and family’s home to share further over moqueca.

On Tuesday, the following day, we had a meeting focusing mainly on the upcoming celebration of Mestre Pasthina and African and Brasilian culture. We also spoke of the recent successful kids camp we organized at the community center where we train. A class for kids grew out of the endeavor, which we talked about continuing. The meeting was great and reminded me of how we have grown as a family and cooperative whole here at FICA-Seattle. Mestre sat back and interjected with suggestions and words of encouragement. For us, it is indeed encouraging to have the confidence and support of our Mestre.

The class on Wednesday was just out right ‘deep’. i will not even attempt to give the details of the class. I’ll just say, when you think you know something, you realize you know so little, and that is so humbling. Our respect and openness of heart as students facilitated a powerful space for learning. With that open space the amount of learning, even in basic movements, are profound as this person with almost 40 years of experience shares his love of the art of Capoeira in his own interesting way.

Thursday we had ‘da bomb’ music class and of course many words of wisdom.

Having our Mestre here in Seattle and showing him our best efforts was immensely gratifying. i won’t speculate too much on how he felt, but i will say that it feels like he is proud of our efforts.

To close, cause this done got kinda long, Mestre Jurandir has taught me much more than the eloquent utterances of words and demonstration of movements. Through him and his associations, i have learned the importance of presence, importance of the egoless mind and community. i am proud to be his student. As i learn more of and from him, i learn of myself. i am beginning to appreciate the inexplicable relationship between teacher and student.

As the dance proceeds and the illusion of self and other subside, the mysterious lesson of Mandinga unfolds. In how one relates and observes one’s relations, there lies his or her Mandinga. Life is but a dance and each encounter that we have is a moment of self-realization. Capoeira is a powerful tradition to engage in and practice the dance of life. As i dance with my Mestre, i dance with myself. Thank you Mestre Jurandir for being who you are: a mystery, a master of Mandinga. I look forward to opening my heart even more to you and revealing not only to you, but also to myself, who i truly am.

A Student of Mestre Jurandir

Very nice. Thank you, anonymous student.

Do you have something you would like to share with the international capoeira community? Send it along and we will post it (we can handle the translations English <-> Portuguese): ficadcarchives (at) gmail (dot) com.

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