After training long and hard under the thick cover of the Amazon, the capoeira master handed over some guayábana to his student. “Comer isso e relaxar. Vamos para casa em breve.” With these words, he laid the fruits on his student’s laps and faced the thickets. There was a calmness in the commotion nature provided ahead: the birds chirping, different colors of lizards crawling down and up trees, monkeys swinging in-between trees, the random obstruction of the only sun beam which lit up the canopy. This calmness brought the illusion of order. Everything working on their own, surviving to the best of their capabilities, not worried about the neighboring creature… yet somehow managing to strike a balance with the world itself. “Que assim perfeito”, he thought to himself silently as he submerged himself in the balance, the same he had been observing for what seemed an eternity to him.
“Obrigado, mestre!”, the student yelled with unparalled enthusiasm. It is this enthusiasm, this childishness in his eyes which the master saw and decided to take him under his wing. No master in town could understand the reason for this. His demeanor as a master was very rash, outspoken and brandishing; he never took any student because his style process included rigorous training meant for elites. Among his peers, his many accolades: “mestre senhor”, “mestre supremo”—just to name a few—goes a long way to show caliber. However, this student of his remains a conundrum which still disturbs town …one of the many reasons why he trains in the Amazon.
“Olha Névoa”, the master’s attention unbroken from his observation. The student felt the usual perplexing mix of emotions. Yet again, it was just like he was not around… no attention was given that day. With his grumpy face, he slides to his master’s side, “Que mestre?”. The master looked to him with an unusual smile on his face. This smile did not befit his rigor, his method, nothing. Slowly, a smile also creeps onto the lips of his student. He turns his face back to the orderly chaos.
“A ginga de mundo.”
Névoa looked puzzled at his master. What in the name of confusing possibilities is he yapping on about now. This was one of his tricks: some wishy-washy fancy-mancy wacko nonsense which may just mean “this is it”. Nothing ever makes sense to Névoa the first time he is told. The smile that came on Névoa’s face quickly disappears as he is plunged deep into thought.
The capoeira master erupted with a good laugh as the confusion grew on his student’s face. “Vamos, Névoa.”
They started on their way back to town. The path is long and narrow, trees marshaled the sides, their canopy providing shade from the sun’s rays. The forest had changed from when Névoa’s master was a young capoerista learning from his own master. The Horse Woman—as the goddess was known back in the day, goddess of the forest—was more welcoming. Névoa had heard the stories his master had to tell about the Amazon; he could recite his favorite story.
Following the path, they come to the cliff hanging over a fast flowing river. This river leads to a waterfall. “Nao morrem”, Névoa looks up in caution. His master has said this over and again at this point of the journey back home but… frankly, he could be nicer. They weave their way through trees and rocks trying to avoid a fall. To an onlooker, this dangerous terrain poses an impossible task. But these two have been doing this for years, they could do it with their eyes closed. The master led, Névoa followed.
After about half an hour of walking, they come to the toughest aspect of the track: a bend around a tree which meets the cliff at its edge. There is barely enough room for half a man to pass comfortably. To the capoeira mestre, every difficulty is an opportunity to train.
“Névoa! Aú giratorio. Vai!”
They had gone through this path many times on their way back home. This, however, was the first time this bend was used in practicing such a high-level trick. Névoa felt like his master had finally begun accepting his skills and jumps into the technique without thinking. With a flawless whip, his hips are in the air, his head now the closest thing to the ground, hands tucked neatly by his sides, his legs are spread wide open; and with the magic of a firefly trained in Moroccan belly dancing, Névoa rotates his hips, using his legs to generate and maintain momentum. Halfway through his second rotation, He bends his knees and tucks his head to flip his feet back to the ground; the rotation does not stop. He spins a couple rotations on the ground with his arms open wide for momentum and a big grin on his face; his eyes spotting his mestre at every turn. If his master was beginning to accept his prowess, he had no reason to let him down—it might as well be a show! This was usually how trainings went. The technique is taught on a flat ground and repeated to perfection. Then a real life practice is done where Névoa shows how he can apply his skill; if he makes any mistakes, his master performs the same skill—most times better than Névoa did. Seeing how Névoa flourished with ease in and out of this technique, his master allowed a little smirk creep onto his lips before proceeding to cross the bend with the same technique. In no time, the master was in the air and upside-down, approaching the bend with his legs generating momentum. Around a bend, the left foot of the caposira mestre slams onto the tree trunk with a vehemence which sought to chop the tree in two; his rotation is broken, his momentum reduced to almost nothing. Unable to keep himself in the air, he tried to salvage his situation by pivoting on his left arm; but the slippery path would not allow this. He falls, crashing his shoulder to the ground, and slips off the cliff. Névoa stands shocked and clueless.
“Mestre! MESTRE!! Meu Deus, que foi agora?”, Névoa thought to himself as he rushed towards the bottom of the cliff to the bank of the river. That fall was not only catastrophic, but for an old man traveling such a distance down a cliff head-first, this may just prove lethal. Also, falling into a turbulence capable of carrying two dead horses to their funeral, his master’s chance of survival kept reducing. Thoughts streaming through Névoa’s mind faster than he can assimilate served his feet with extra speed. He tries to catch one of these thoughts—any… “este teste real?” was the only one he could catch. “Não não!” He quickly pushes that out his mind. His master could be dead and this is all what he could think about? In no time, Névoa reaches the bottom of the cliff, followed by a chunky cloud of debris led by his heels. “Mestre!! Por favor, MESTRE!!!”
“Acalme-se, menino. O chorão.” his master replied him in a calm, assuring, but teasing tone. Névoa is more than pleased to hear his master’s voice. But what he would see, neither his eyes nor his mind were ready. His master sat on a nearby tree stump eating his guayábana—from the same lot he had given Névoa just after training. His skin, unscathed; no cuts, no bruises. His master’s breathing remained stable; no stress, neither fear nor its epiphenomena. His body, dry; like he had been there for a while.
Névoa and his curiosity—everyone at this point would be curious to know what in the world was going on—asks, “Como?”
“Que é ‘Névoa’, o chorão?” Mestre puts down his guayábana with a serious look on his face. His student was at the brink of yet another discovery, he could feel Névoa’s curious mind yearning but lacking the necessary nudge. “Sabemos como vai ser mas, que ela vem?”
Slowly, it all started coming together. The mist of a misters misunderstanding comes and goes as it pleases. However, in its going, it does not go away—but goes ahead. “O ginga de mundo”, the thought flashed through his mind… Névoa giggles. The giggling slowly builds into laughter, “Jajaja, claro mestre. Jaja!” It all made sense at that moment. Everything from the training, through their journey back, the impromptu test, the fall, down to the real lesson. It all led to this. Life did leave and return the instant mestre fell off the cliff. At that point, motion was no longer his to control. Holding on to anything thhen would mean holding onto lack of control, and opposing control itself. On impact, mestre must have swam along with the current—flow, and the world’s motions. Finally, Névoa gets the meaning of that initial gibberish. Out of his train of thought, Névoa notices his master is upstanding and ready to go. His vests and trousers remained white—in the muddy river? Névoa is once more perplexed but the smile remains on his face.
“Como o seu abada permanecem branco, mestre?” The muddy river must have left a mark somewhere.
“Pergunta para Orixas”.