ABADÁ's Capoeira celebration

  • by Laura Moreno
  • Monday October 17, 2022
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ABADÁ-Capoeira Mestra Cigarra Márcia Treidler<br> (photo Branden Johannesen)
ABADÁ-Capoeira Mestra Cigarra Márcia Treidler
(photo Branden Johannesen)

ABADÁ-Capoeira San Francisco (ACSF) was founded in the Mission District 30 years ago this month by the Bay Area's own Márcia Treidler (a.k.a. "Mestra Cigarra") who serves as Artistic Director.

To celebrate, a free outdoor capoeira performance by top-level artists will be held in the park for the very first time, along with workshops preceding the event, and the annual Batizado graduation and initiation ceremony. Accomplished students will be recognized with a new cord (analogous to a belt in karate) as part of this traditional Capoeira ceremony.

The festivities will be held Sunday, October 23 from 11am to 1pm at Potrero del Sol Park at Potrero Ave and 25th Street in San Francisco. In addition to celebrating their 30th anniversary, they are celebrating having survived the pandemic when many businesses did not. In fact, Mestra Cigarra stated in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter, "The pandemic brought us closer."

ABADÁ-Capoeira Mestra Cigarra Márcia Treidler (photo: Jay Jao)  

a living legend in the Bay Area
Against all odds, by 1990 Mestra Cigarra attained the highest level in capoeira, a level of mastery that she maintains to this day. In 2013, she was the very first woman in ABADÁ to receive the title "Mestra," or master, as one of the top eight capoeiristas in the world (of 60,000 members).

From the moment she first saw a capoeira performance back in Brazil where she grew up, she knew capoeira was going to be her life.

"I felt a magical connection and a deep desire to pursue it at all costs," she said.

Despite already being an accomplished athlete in gymnastics and swimming, it took a year to convince her mother to let her join capoeira. At the time, capoeira was almost exclusively male worldwide. Finally, when she was 17, her mother relented and allowed her to study capoeira, making her one of the first women to enter the sport. She'll never forget the day, November 28, 1982, almost exactly 40 years ago.

Notwithstanding the challenges of being put into a box as a woman and a lesbian when she first started in Brazil, she is grateful that the men she trained with didn't go easy on her because she was a woman, giving her the opportunity to excel and very much prove herself.

When asked what advice Mestra Cigarra would give to her younger self when she was first starting out, she answered, "Play more, jump in there, push yourself more, push yourself."

a fight, a dance, a game
Considered the predecessor of mixed martial arts (MMA), Capoeira is much more than just a sport. It is an art form. Unlike other martial arts, capoeira is performed to music played by traditional Brazilian instruments and sung by all. Mestra Cigarra explained.

"Some songs are very emotional, some have a fast beat or clapping, and some songs are used to make fun of or challenge opponents."

ABADÁ-Capoeira Mestra Cigarra Márcia Treidler  

Notably, the martial art was developed by Afro-Brazilian slaves starting in the 16th century as a clandestine defense system. It has indigenous and Portuguese influences as well. Because of its history, its fighting power is disguised to look like rhythmic dance and perhaps is still underestimated in the martial arts world. The use of strategic deception in capoeira involves many surprises, including acrobatic somersaults, that are difficult to guard against.

Strikingly, capoeira has many similarities to the graceful, flowing movements of Kung-Fu that make full use of momentum, unlike karate's series of attack-and-stop maneuvers done in a fixed stance. Even though sparring in both capoeira and Kung-Fu involves very light or no contact with the opponent, nonetheless powerful swinging kicks and jabs at such close range involve an element of danger; injuries do occasionally occur.

Because of its power as a fighting technique, capoeira was actually outlawed in Brazil soon after slavery was finally made illegal in 1888 remained so until 1920.

Although not attached to any religion at all, capoeira has a spiritual aspect. It was a way of passing down culture, including a respect for the ancestors, and being grounded and in touch with the past and with one's own being. Equality, respect, self-respect, integrity and fairness are core tenets of capoeira because everyone's contribution is integral and irreplaceable. Another core value listed on the website is to "offer help when you can give it, and ask for help when you need it."

Mastering the "game" of capoeira, as it is called, very much puts you in the moment. Mestra Cigarra calls it "a game of mind and body" that gives a real intelligence to the body, and teaches mental and emotional focus. It taught her "how to be herself and validate herself," she said and to "never underestimate anyone, especially ourselves."

Capoeira is very good for young people, and is an experience that will serve them all their lives. First, the core values state that it is "a safe space to express ourselves as unique individuals," that "fosters a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and wonder," dynamics that are too often missing from children's lives.

Everyone is invited, no matter age, physical condition or previous injuries. "All are welcomed with open arms," Mestra Cigarra said. As with yoga, capoeira is flexible and can be adapted to accommodate the situation.

Teenagers aged 13-19 always study for free, and adults are offered one free class per week on Wednesdays. Children aged 5-12 can join low-cost classes and there is financial assistance for families who qualify.


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