Na Casa Com Baba Jan

Martial Arts:  Capoeira Angola


By Njoli Brown *Entrevista em Português

Conheço o Mestre Mestre Baba há muitos anos e fiquei honrado pela disposição de me dar essa entrevista e de compartilhar um pouco de sua jornada na capoeira, nas artes culturais e na vida, juntamente com algumas das idéias ele ganhava. Agradeço a todos por abordar este primeiro dos meus artigos em português e estou ansioso por mais oportunidades para apresentar trabalhos multilíngues.

 

Njoli: Você pode falar um pouco sobre a primeira vez que você foi exposto à capoeira?

Baba Jan:  Primeira vez quando conhecia a capoeira, na realidade ja existia varias capoeiristas na rua no bairro de Massaranduba que eu cresci. Então minha Mae e meu pai conhecia a coordenadora Ana Rosa responsável pelo Grupo de União e Consciência Negra – nesse grupo tinha varias tipo de atividades que envolvia manifestações de matriz africana. Era teatro, capoeira, samba, maculelê, poesia, musica e mas. Eu entrei a participar e tomar aula com esse grupo com 8 a 10 anos de idades, e eu ia juntos com 2 irmão meu. Ai eu comecei a capoeira com Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho, núcleo Mangueira projeto Ginga Moleque com Mestre Moraes. Depois Mestre Moraes manda Mestre Valmir, Mestre Poloca e Mestra Paulinha para dar aulas no projeto. 27066904_953079004849403_1343316284227275005_n

Njoli:  Como a capoeira e a cultura “negra” foram vistas e recebidas em sua família e comunidade?

Baba Jan:  A capoeira sempre existia a perseguição e descriminação. Muitos pais não queria seus filhos dentro da capoeira que pensava que capoeira era coisa de marginal ou vandalos. Mas eu começo capoeira e muitos amigos também começava que nosso pais sabia que nos estavam nas boas Maos dentro do Grupo de União e Consciência Negra e de mestres que queria ver nosso bem da parte do GCAP.

Njoli:  Você pode falar um pouco sobre suas primeiras experiências de treinamento? Quem foram alguns de seus colegas? Quais foram as coisas que você achou desafiadoras? Quais foram as coisas que te inspiraram a continuar?12963883_599312533559387_1173904661260471141_n

Baba Jan:  Meus amigos de capoeira que sempre andava juntos da escola, no bairro e na capoeira pra treinar, tocar berimbau e tudo. Ricardinho, Moises, Lourival, Virgilio, Marquinho, Ricardo, Jeane, George, Iverson, Marcelo, e mas. Hoje em dia a única que continuou na capoeira sou eu. Quando comecei no treinamento começou quando mestre falava ‘Ginga’ e ninguém sabia oque era. Nos tinha visto mas capoeira regional na rua então começava tentar movimentar nosso corpo assim. Desafiadora era tentar entrar na roda de capoeira. Nossos pais levava pra roda de GCAP no dia de domingo no Forte do Santo Antonio. Na roda la tinha muitos referencias para nos criança de querer ser que nem Mestre Moraes, ou Valmir, Poloca, Cobra Mansa, Paulinha, Cizinho, Pepeu e dai quando a roda começa tinha que estar pronto no uniforme, no horário certo, e quando tinha momento de entrar na roda com adulto, e vc criança, pequena. Ai era o desafio de jogar com adulto, entra na vida de capoeira, tomar rasteira de qualquer jeito. A inspiração de continuar era e ainda ate hoje são as referencias de pessoas boa, dos mestres levando a tradição da capoeira a seria.

Njoli:  Como sua experiência com a capoeira tem dado conta de sua perspectiva social e política?

Baba Jan:  Capoeira me ajudou na perspectiva social de viver no meio da sociedade misturar com varias tipos de pessoa, de saber entrar e sair em qualquer lugar, fazer trabalho com crianças, incentivar a fazer capoeira e atividades pra tirar da rua e mal caminho.

Njoli:  De que maneira você fez a capoeira por conta própria? Quer dizer, como você inclui sua identidade pessoal na arte?

Baba Jan:  Ninguém começa capoeira por conta própria, eu penso que sempre tem o incentivo de alguém. O aprendizado da vida ajuda a pessoa pega coragem pra se expressar com povo, os alunos, em dia dia pra saber oque falar e como orientar os alunos do jeito que eu aprendi com os mestres.

Njoli:  Qual o papel da sua família no seu desenvolvimento como capoeirista e como artista?

Baba Jan:  A minha familia que me botou na capoeira e ate hoje me apoia.

Njoli:  Quais são alguns dos benefícios que você vê ao usar as artes afro-brasileiras como uma ferramenta para a construção de comunidades?

10929931_10153821319298902_663864320635008944_nBaba Jan:  O que eu vejo e que as artes afro-brasileiras não existem sem comunidade. E essas comunidades são importante para fortalecer qualquer pessoa, participante nessas artes de ter um apoio de amizade e ate un tipo de familia maior para poder apoiar e depender na vida. Eu penso numa sociedade como aqui nos Estados Unidos, pessoas tem visao muitas individualistas e precisam mas desses tipos de comunidade e apoio na vida de cada um.

Njoli:  Quais são alguns dos desafios que você enfrentou na construção da comunidade?

Baba Jan:  Desafio na construção de uma comunidade e voce começar com um trabalho e aparecer pra compartilhar sua sabedoria, e ninguém aparece o dar valor daquilo que vc sabe nem o tempo que você estar la. De chegar todos os dias no seu espaço e nao tem ninguém pra querer aprender. Ai voce volta pra sua casa triste. Mas ai que precisa a forca de continuidade que aos poucos aparece alunos. Com 20 alunos ou 1 aluno o professor precisa esta presente e resistente pra nao desistir da comunidade.

Njoli:  Quais são algumas das aspirações que você tem para o seu projeto atual?

Baba Jan:  As minhas aspirações e manter o grupo firme e forte, de samba e de capoeira. Tentar conseguir que o povo veja meu objetivo e trabalho, e que as pessoas reconheço o esforço que dou pra estar presente cada dia pra ver os alunos progredir. Quero ver o Espaço Cultural Samba Trovao crescer cada vez mas, com projetos com crianças ate os adultos. Quero também que os meus mestres reconhece o meu trabalho de manter a tradição com dignidade fora do Brazil.

Njoli:  Quais são algumas maneiras pelas quais você chamaria sua comunidade para ajudar e apoiar?

Baba Jan:  E a comunidade sempre comunicando e participando. E eu convidando e sendo presente de sempre abri o espaço pra qualquer um chegar e sentir respeitado.

Adicionando:

 

 

Babajan-da-Cruz-225x300Livaldi “BabaJan” da Cruz was born and raised in Massarunduba, in the Lower City of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.  He has been training Capoeira Angola for over 30 years and has been a practicing and performing musician for more than 20 years.

 In 2003 Baba was invited to come from Brazil to Washington DC to be the director of a residency program at Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA) public charter school.  There, using Capoeira and Afro-Brazilian music, he developed a unique program of physical education and music studies for high school and middle school students.  At this time Baba also became one of the teachers at FICA DC and founded the samba reggae group Samba Trovao.  In 2013 Baba started his own chapter of FICA in Maryland.  In 2015 Baba Jan received the title of Contra Mestre in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil at the 20th conference of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation (ICAF or FICA) and soon after began his own project Capoeira Angola No Mato.

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The Practicality of the Classical

I hear a lot of commentary that some of the classical elements of PTK don’t have the same amount of relevance as the more contemporary iterations. I look at elements like “seguidas” as vocabulary which enhance my “Tri-V” practice. The difference between “I want water” and ” I want a glass of cold water.” The more familiar I am the greater capacity I have (with practice) to integrate it into my applications, both sparring and otherwise. The 3rd set of “seguidas” focuses primarily on stick grappling. Not as a work unto itself, but to familiarize us with positions and opportunities so they are more recognizable when they arise or when we are able to tactically maneuver ourselves into that range. #msmb #kalimundo #ptta #ptkwf #webelieveinlife #ptk #kali #fma #grappling #silat #capoeiraangola #health #wellness #fitness #mixedmartialarts #selfdefense #martialarts #fighttraining #sparring

10 Joyous Moments

Recalling 10 forgotten joyous moments

I sometimes challenge myself to recall 10 joyous childhood moments

…in sequence

Without the interruption of shadows

or fears

or shame

or distress

Or any of the other feelings which trap my adulthood

in that moment

in those moments

and sully the rest

I imagine my relationship to those 10 moments as the key to my relationship to my manhood, to my vision and power and humanity

Engineering Change: Youth Create

By Njoli Brown

One of the most powerful things we can give to our youth is IMG_20171025_140618the realization that they have an actual capacity to effect change.  In my autumn projects in Brooklyn and the Bronx I decided to utilize concepts from civil engineering to develop 

a sense of the importance of design in the nature and timbre of a community.  But even more importantly, the objective was to mature the capacity to critically evaluate our environment to recognize ways in which it could be changed and/or supported.

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The process was collaborative and grounded in the work of establishing leadership skills, common values and collective empathy.   Through discussion, writing, movement and art we dove deep into the most difficult work of putting language to our ideas, debating and, at times, compromising.

We concluded the project by creating an interactive public gallery wherein participants could post questions as a pathway to research and activism.

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Grading Up: Ranks Without Ranking

By Njoli Brown

This present continuous practice is nothing other than just that, just committing oneself to continuous practice for no other reason than to practice continuously.”

Dogen in “Continuous Practice” –
(Translation by Francis Dojun Cook in the book “How To Raise an Ox”)

Most recently MSMB had the opportunity to promote students through the Pekiti Tirsia Kali ranking curriculum in association with PTK Elite.  It has been a pleasure to see their growth as students and to see them undertake and overcome increasing challenges both in training and in life.  Through this process, it had me truly reflecting on the value of rank testing and the importance of doing it well, justly and academically.

24313066_1815938585083611_5796395572561629866_oNow, truth be told, I do hold a lot of more seemingly abstruse elements to be equally as important in the progression of studentship — empathy, mindfulness, dedication, compassion, fortitude, humility, etc.  But here, I’d like to talk about the importance of the skills element of the pedagogy.

This year there was a decision among Elite Family instructors to really drill down and go layer by layer through the rank requirements, specific skills, language, historical knowledge, deemed essential both by our teachers and by us, collectively.  In making these determinations we were looking to do a better job of making sure that , not only were we developing skilled practitioners or doing our part to protect the legacy of our predecessors but that we were giving our students access to mater24302166_10155929671212520_5244908863842982036_oial which, perhaps, none of us have fully deciphered.  Material which could then truly be theirs to explore and investigate.  In the martial practice everyone brings their own personhood and thus unlocks elements only accessible to them, elements revealed through work and diligence.  These are all the spaces between wherein students often teach their instructors.

By utilizing a clear platform for ranking, it also calls on me to continually develop myself and work on my own weaknesses.  It requires me to regularly test myself and delve deeper.  In part because of my own curiosity but, as well, because It would be my greatest fault to leave a student short-changed because of my own incapacity to reconcile with challenges I face in my own study.

Ranking is a funny thing.  It is both objective and subjective simultaneously.  The more esoteric aspects of a teacher’s pedagogy, I’ve put aside for the sake of this exploration but they are easily as essential, particularly if your institution is also concerned with developing teachers, leaders, comrades.  People age, the body becomes ravaged, illness, injuries, we know them all.  But, in this world of martial craft, nothing sabotages the weight of a leader’s presence in the field more then demonstrative ignorance of his/her craft, and nothing empowers a student more than to have strong foundations from which to build investigative inquiry into self and the world.

Questions:

  • How can I judge someone else’s journey?
  • As an instructor, what is the honest status of my “student mind?” 
  • Am I clear about my expectations as an instructor and/or as a student?
  • Do I ask discerning questions for the sake of learning or for proving?
  • How do I evaluate the connection between my internal and external practice?

The Art of Risky STEM

When I reflect back on my experience as a student during my middle and high school years I don’t have a lot of instances when I can recall real joy or excitement happening during most of my academic classes.  I do recall though, being driven to succeed in those courses because I felt like they were a pathway to participation and accomplishment in my artistic endeavors.

This is not to say that I always thrived and/or exceled in those academic spaces but that I recognized them as tied directly to my aspirations, for better or for worse.  I’ve been thinking about this tremendously during an era where it seems that the arts are continually excluded from the scope of educational development in schools.  Yes, there are co-curricular programs, many of them funded through state and federal grants. But, in truth, when these programs are included as “add-ons” they are relegated to a space of secondary importance.  Simultaneously, we forget that at the core of mathematical and scientific discovery is the capacity for abstract thought and the creative translation of this into its physical being.

So, if school systems will continue to devalue artistic pursuits, how will educators develop the practice of creativity in their young people? Risk.

One of the most vital aspects of creating something new is the recognition that, perhaps, it might somehow fail.  Perhaps, you might change and so your perspective on your design might change as well.  I am prepared to see my design as a reflection of myself.  I am prepared to have others examine and find fault.  I am prepared to excel and prepared to feel defeated at times.

Inspiration is tied directly to risk and the success or failure of STEM programming is tied inextricably to these both.  Are we, as educators, feeling inspired by our STEM objectives?  Are we invested in inspiring our students?  Do we recognize that this feeling is the drive that carries students to look “beyond the numbers?” Along with all of this, are we willing to take the risk of exploring our own creative humanity in the context of the classroom?

I’m leaving this with a lot of questions which I should continually ask myself.