About Mestre Bimba : According to Wikipedia, Manuel dos Reis Machado, commonly called Mestre Bimba (born November 23, 1899, Salvador, Brazil – February 15, 1974) was a mestre (a master practitioner) of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira.
Machado is said to have had two birth certificates, dated 1899 and 1900, respectively. 1900 is the date most commonly used.
The son of Luiz Cândido Machado and Maria Martinha do Bonfim, Manuel was born at the Bairro do Engenho Velho, Salvador. The nickname “Bimba” came up due to a bet between his mother and the midwife during his birth; his mother bet that he was going to be a girl and the midwife bet he would be a boy. After he was delivered, the midwife said… it’s a boy, look at his bimba (male sexual organ).
He started learning capoeira when he was 12 years old, with a Capitão da Companhia Baiana de Navegação (Navigation Captain) from Estrada das Boiadas (present day Bairro da Liberdade) in Salvador, called Bentinho, even though in those days capoeira was still being persecuted by the authorities. He would later be known as one of the legendary founding fathers of contemporary capoeira, the other being Vicente Ferreira Pastinha (“Mestre Pastinha”), the father of capoeira angola.
Birth of the Regional Style
At 18, Bimba felt that capoeira had lost all its efficacy as a martial art and an instrument of resistance, becoming a folkloric activity reduced to nine movements. It was then that Bimba started to restore movements from the traditional capoeira fights and added movements from another African fighting style called Batuque – a vicious grappling type of martial art that he learned from his father (of which his father was a champion), as well as introducing movements created by himself. This was the beginning of the development of capoeira regional.
In 1928, a new chapter in the history of capoeira began, as well as a change in the way black people (of African descent, brought to Brazil as slaves) were looked upon by the Brazilian society. After a performance at the palace of Bahia’s Governor, Juracy Magalhães, Bimba was finally successful in convincing the authorities of the cultural value of capoeira, thus in the 1930s ending its official ban, in effect since 1890.
Machado founded the first capoeira school in 1932, the Academia-escola de Cultura Regional, at the Engenho de Brotas in Salvador, Bahia. Previously, capoeira was only practiced and played on the streets. However, capoeira was still heavily discriminated against by upper-class Brazilian society. In order to change the pejorative reputation of capoeira and its practitioners as devious, stealthy and malicious, Bimba set new standards to the art.
His students had to wear a clean, white uniform, show proof of grade proficiency from school, exercise discipline, show good posture and many other standards. As a result, doctors, lawyers, politicians, upper-middle-class people, and women (until then excluded) started to join his school, providing Bimba with legitimacy and support.
Capoeira Regional is Established
In 1936, Bimba challenged fighters of any martial art style to test his regional style. He had four matches, fighting against Vítor Benedito Lopes, Henrique Bahia, José Custódio dos Santos (“Zé I”) and Américo Ciência. Bimba won all matches.
In 1937, he earned the state board of education certificate after he was invited to demonstrate capoeira to the then president of Brazil, Getúlio Dorneles Vargas.
In 1942, Machado opened his second school at the Terreiro de Jesus on Rua das Laranjeiras. The school is still open today and was supervised by his former student, “Vermelho” until the early 1980s. The school then came under the brief supervision of Mestre Almiro, before being transferred to Mestre Bamba; the man who leads the school today. He also taught capoeira to the army and at the police academy. He was then considered “the father of modern capoeira”.
Important names to Brazilian society at that time such as Dr. Joaquim de Araújo Lima (former governor of Guaporé), Jaime Tavares, Rui Gouveia, Alberto Barreto, Jaime Machado, Delsimar Cavalvanti, César Sá, Decio Seabra, José Sisnando and many others were Bimba’s students.
Unhappy with false promises and lack of support from local authorities in Bahia, he moved to Goiânia in 1973 at the invitation of a former student. He died a year later, on February 15, 1974 at the Hospital das Clínicas de Goiânia, due to a stroke.
Bimba managed to recover the original values within capoeira, which were used amongst the black slaves centuries before him. For Bimba, capoeira was a fight but “competition” should be permanently avoided since he believed it was a “cooperation” fight, where the stronger player was always responsible for the weaker player and helped him to excel in his own fighting techniques.
Machado fought all his life for what he strongly believed was best for capoeira and succeeded. After he died in 1974 one of his sons, “Nenel” (Manoel Nascimento Machado), at 14, took over his father’s capoeira legacy. Nenel is still responsible for the remarkable cultural and historical legacy his father left him and is president of Filhos de Bimba School of Capoeira.
Bimba’s Academy Rules
Bimba strongly believed capoeira had an extraordinary value as a self-defense martial art, hence his efforts to develop its learning in a structured and methodical way.
Bimba developed a capoeira teaching method with commandments, principles and traditions, which are still part of the capoeira regional up to this day. Some of his commandments are:
- To stop smoking and drinking since it interferes with the players’ performance;
- To avoid demonstrating one’s progression as a capoeira player outside the academy (the “surprise” factor is crucial);
- Avoid conversation during training, instead observe and learn from watching.
- Practice daily the basic fundamentals.
- Do not be afraid to come close to your opponent – the closer that you get, the more you will learn.
- Keep your body relaxed.
- It is better to get beat up in the roda than on the streets.
- Students must maintain good grades in school
Bimba also established his own capoeira principles as the basis for his capoeira teaching method:
- Gingar sempre (to keep oneself in constant movement when fighting); ginga is the capoeira basic movement;
- Esquivar sempre (to dodge away from the opponent’s attacks);
- All movements must have a purpose (attack and corresponding defense movement);
- Preserve a constant fixed position on the ground (acrobatic jumps makes one vulnerable);
- Play according to the rhythm determined by the berimbau (capoeira musical instrument):
- Respect a player when he/she can no longer defend an attack movement;
- Protect the opponent’s physical and moral integrity (during the practice, the stronger will protect the weaker player).
Consequently, Bimba created several traditions and rituals to support his methodology:
- A chair was used in order to train beginner students/players;
- The charanga is the capoeira orchestra, composed by a berimbau and two pandeiros;
- The singing (quadras e corridos), songs composed by Bimba to accompany the game;
- The batizado (baptism), the first time the student plays capoeira at the sound of berimbau.
The aspects that still makes capoeira regional unique is its method:
- Admission exam (physical test made with capoeira movements to identify students’ abilities);
- The sequência (sequence) of the basic 17 capoeira attack and defence movements;
- Practice of the different rhythms of the game;
- Specific movements: traumatizing, projection, connected and unbalancing;
- Practice of cintura desprezada (second sequence practice by advanced students);
- Formatura (capoeira teacher graduation);
- Especialização and emboscada (specific advanced exams).