From Minas Gerais to the World, Capoeira has taken Mestre Chicote to every corner of the planet.
Though constantly on the move, he has called Paris his home for the last 10 years.
Hopefully you can get to know Mestre Chicote a little via this interview. If you’re reading this in Europe, Paris is only a stone’s throw away so you should definitely go and visit him and his group to get to know him better!
Original Interview was recorded in Portuguese at the Coruña de Ouro event in Galicia, Spain, May 2019. You can listen to it here:
Below is an English translation of a lightly edited transcript of the interview:
How did you get started in Capoeira?
I’ll keep it short. I started in 1984 in the city where I was born, Couvelo, Mina Gerais with master Matias who was from Berimbau de Ouro. He was a student of Mestre Marreta.
When did you change to CDO?
The move to CDO came in need of progress. At that time I was no longer with Berimbau de Ouro, I’d already changed in Patos de Minas and had my own students.
My group was growing and I felt the need to change, to grow, to progress, something new that would allow me to move forward and also help my students advance and grow.
There was an event happening in Couvelo and there I met Pantera, Fuinha, Cisco and Chico.
These were the 4 I met who inspired me to join the group. That was CDO Belo Horizonte in the Raizes Academy. In them I saw what I was looking for, the next step. I exchanged ideas with them and they agreed to come to my city to know my work, we became friends, and we are still friends to this day.
It was through them and with them that I came to CDO, which was with Mestre Zé Paulo’s Cordão de Ouro in the Academia Raízes.
Was it difficult to move from one group to another?
II think at some point in your life if you are not satisfied, most changes happen through a lack of support or abuse. There are many capoeiristas who think they are superior to everything, and then the student when he begins to grow, to evolve, he no longer wants to be part of a slave thing, right?
I think we are all looking for some equality. Regardless of what it is, then, as we talk a lot and hear a lot that Capoeira is the art of life, a lot of what we do in capoeira is reflected in our life and vice versa.
It is the pursuit of equality. When you arrive at a time when you feel overwhelmed, with a lack of support, then you look for alternatives. We have to always and first seek support where we are. And if you don’t have that support, that agreement, then yes, it’s time for a change. We are free, we are all free.
Who do you consider your Mestre now?
My Mestre today is Master Suassuna, right?
As I started with Mestre Matias, he was my first Capoeira teacher for whom I have a lot of respect. He taught me a lot of life. Not so much of capoeira, but of life, he’s a Mestre who I mirrored, and still mirror myself a lot, in the way of living.
Over time we learn that we do not have only one Mestre, right? We have several Mestres because nobody is perfect and nobody is complete.
Your Mestre, my Mestre, has an 80 – 70%, but there is this 30% that we disagree with, we don’t want for our lives. That% you will find in another.
How has travelling so widely affected your world view and that of Capoeira?
Capoeira outside Brazil is very evolved. Nowadays we cannot talk about Capoeira from Brazil and foreign Capoeira, Capoeira is all one. So much so that this evolution outside Brazil made many Brazilian Capoeiristas wake up and start to pay attention.
What I always say, the only difference in Capoeira and between Capoeiristas is the feeling. The feeling comes from the necessity, what you need in your life.
Capoeira outside Brazil, Capoeiristas, the students don’t enter the same way as happens in Brazil, you know? To begin with it’s just a hobby, something to try. But over time this passion develops, which keeps people in Capoeira, but it just takes longer.
One country that really moves me is India. Because every time I come I see, because of my project, I see that sparkle in the eye, that emptiness that needs to be filled. It gives great satisfaction to see them growing and developing as Capoeiristas, and the meaning and joy it gives them. So India is a place that touches me a lot.
Could you talk a little more about the project you have in India?
It’s wonderful, though I don’t always like to talk about it so much. I’m a non-social media person, I don’t like to be exposing my life or my work like that.
Nowadays this use of social media is huge, and it I think it blocks feeling and connection. I prefer real life conversations, face to face, like we’re having now.
Because of this, I avoid exposing much about my life, my work, my students in the media. Anyone who wants to see, or learn more, the door is always open, to all of my projects – In Europe, India, the US.
We have a new project in the US called “Tres Berimbaus” that works with disadvantaged children and teens, it’s independent, with no help from the US Government. It is growing in parallel with the project in India. I made a video for them here yesterday and sent it to them.
Are there things you’ve seen in India that have changed how you think or work back home?
I wouldn’t say changed, more confirmed.
You guys have known me for a while. I’m an open person, charismatic, I get on with everyone. I don’t like problems, and if there are any, I like to resolve them quickly.
This is how most people are in India, and it really helps me confirm that this is the best way to be.
You’ve written lots of Capoeira songs, do you have a specific creative process?
I can’t explain, because when I want to make a song I can’t. It comes in the moment, it’s amazing but most of the time in the hardest times, a family problem, some disagreement with students, with the group in general. And here comes something, you know? This is when the whole song comes. I can’t explain.
I don’t know if it’s talent, I don’t know if it’s given… It just comes and then I have to sing and sometimes the music catches. But, I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. I already tried to sit down to write a song but couldn’t. Every time I tried to do that nothing came out.
Did your exposure to music and singing come through Capoeira, or did you have other influences?
I had no prior influences, I started in capoeira and always enjoyed listening to the music and learning and singing the songs that I heard.
I remember there was a championship in Patos de Minas of the Afro group with a song competition. I participated and I came in second place, and this aroused more desire.
Capoeira arrived first, I never intended to be a musician. Being a Capoeirista, nobody is complete but I try to know and learn a little of everything.
In dances, in teaching, in learning, in musicality, in instruments, in the voice. A little of everything.
What do you think about Capoeira championships?
Look, our life is a competition, we are always competing with something at work, to arrive before the bus leaves, or the train or the plane. If you are late you lose. It is best to try to arrive first, ahead not to lose.
This is our life. So why not include the championships in Capoeira. I was against them for a long time, but my views changed over time. I even participated and won a Capoeira championship in Brazil. I see a lot of the championships that are happening, they’re improving. Something is still missing but I don’t know what it is.
It is like cooking, if you are hungry you eat, sometimes you eat food that is not good but you eat it because you are hungry. That’s what is missing in the championships, the right seasoning for the competition to stay, to value Capoeira more.
Why Mestre Chicote (Whip)?
Look, over time I learned to understand why Chicote. It’s my way of being. When I am going to teach I am very straightforward, I don’t mince words, if it’s wrong it’s wrong, let’s do it again. I will explain to you how to do it, I will try to find the right way until you understand.
If I want to learn something I will go into the smallest detail to get what I want. Also in music, when I am learning a song, I want to learn the music as the person is singing. Then I learn how she sings, perfect and then I start putting a little something to make it my own. Always whipping to grow.
You have a very good teaching methodology, where does it come from? Did you study outside of Capoeira?
No, it was in Capoeira, seeing a lot of people teaching and watching them. I think this will not work, I’ll try it like this, I will try to do what I can to help the student progress. The teacher has to find the best method for each student to learn.
If I want to pass a movement, I have to know at least four ways to pass it to you, as we all learn differently. Everyone is different, but each movement is just one. We can all learn the same movement, in your own way, because your body accepts it that way, another body accepts it another way. It is the long road I’ve travelled as a teacher that has enabled me to develop my didactic skills.
What advice would you give to a novice Capoeirista?
People who are just starting out, be curious, question, don’t be shy because shyness makes you accept things you shouldn’t accept. Ask, be curious, be present, seek to understand Capoeira, to understand and study the person who is teaching you.
Do not close your eyes and go, no, open your eyes, open your eyes open your ears wide so as not to accept things that should not be accepted. No one is required to accept things they should not. It’s not a slave world, slavery is over, so don’t be slaves. Being a student is not being a slave, being a student is not being stupid or ignorant.
Being a student is being smart.
The student is the one paying, aren’t they? So, in quotes, the student is “the boss”. So ask, question, look, observe, ask again.
Thank-you Mestre Chicote!
You can visit Mestre Chicote any time at his academy in Paris: CDO Paris
He also organises one of the biggest and best Capoeira events in Europe every year: Passo a Frente, definitely worth the trip from wherever you are in the world!