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The Rasteira in Capoeira



Lúcia Palmares – Paris, France

Translation by Shayna McHugh



Lately, in capoeira in São Paulo and still more in Europe, I lament the almost-disappearance of the rasteira. The rasteira used to be a symbol of a capoeirista’s expertise. It was the cause for hours of training in the academy. To manage the success of doing a correct rasteira, the capoeiristas worked in partners; there existed the floreio, the ginga, the “deceptions” that make part of capoeira. We must not allow such an important thing in capoeira to vanish.


I remember one case that demonstrates how the rasteira was considered, in the still recent time that I trained in the academy of Mestre Nô. A certain student, graduated after years of learning, thought that he, with his physical shape and his experience, was superior to his mestre. He challenged Mestre Nô on a Saturday in front of all the students and various visitors. Nô went to the roda, saying that if he lost, he would go away, leaving the student the director of the academy.


The game began in a medium beat, without songs, and lasted a long time. There was much tension; whoever played instruments, played, and everyone else stayed silent. There were moments of superiority of one over the other, and later the advantage turned. Nô prepared the student until giving a fantastic rasteira that caught in both the student’s legs and sent him to the ground on his buttocks. The student in anger tried to start with punches, but others stopped him. He, in the end, became so unhappy that he abandoned capoeira.


It is one case, among many that I saw, that makes it possible to confirm the symbolic importance of the rasteira in capoeira. Who does not remember of the talent of Mestre Canjiquinha, of Um-por-Um (of Massaranduba), of Marcos “Alabama,” in the rasteira?


In batizados, the conclusion of the novice’s game is done with the takedown by rasteira, besides other forms of takedowns. Today we see capoeiristas that are said to be exceptional who cannot manage to give a rasteira on the students who are being baptized. We see capoeiristas intimidating the novices, and carrying out traumatic blows and throws without technique to knock them down. It is lamentable to see that the new generation of capoeiristas is not proud of their technique, and has become so insecure in their art that they do not open their game (even if it was with the aim of a takedown) when playing novices of a few months of training. Those watching from a distance see the opportunities that those capoeiristas have to make, but the capoeiristas do not take them, preferring violent movements, to the sadness of those present, whether students, relatives, or spectators that know the art.

It seems, then, that the rasteira left the repertoire of many capoeiristas.




Could it be that new training methods excluded the rasteira? Could it be that the rasteira does not make up a part of modern capoeira? Could it be that the rasteira requires too much of these new capoeira masters? The rasteira requires much awareness of the other player. As I already noted, it is necessary to work, to prepare the opponent enough so that he makes a decisive blow… that ends in his own takedown. It is the ability of a mestre; but it requires a good head, and time. The games that we watch have the main objective of showing movements. It doesn’t matter whether they are aggressive or acrobatic; in the minds of the players the movements themselves surpass the tactic, the skill in the art of manipulating the other.


In general, we agree with those who think, like Mestre Decânio, that the overly fast beat and the desire to assert oneself in a “vale tudo” prejudice the game of capoeira, removing the ginga, the rasteira, everything that makes the beauty of our art. If, as I think, the capoeira of Bahia has something to teach the world (in practice for our European students), is exactly this original thing. Because of this, we cannot accept seeing a basic element like the rasteira ignored.


Thus, let’s develop a basic project with our students, whether men or women, weak or strong, new or old, in the sense of a capoeira that is concerned with the other player, partner and adversary at the same time.


Lúcia Palmares is a nurse, Bahian, born in Salvador on May 15, 1955. She was a capoeira student of Norival Moreira de Oliveira, Mestre Nô, in the Academia Orixás da Bahia in Maçaranduba/Salvador/Bahia, since 1971. She received the cordão of professora in 1979. She taught in the academy Centro Suburbano de Capoeira (rua 2 de Julho, 19, Alto de Coutos) of Mestre Dinelson, from 1980 to 1990. In 1987 she received the cord of Contra-Mestre granted by Mestre Nô. In 1992 she left Salvador, went to Santos (SP) and continued teaching capoeira working in an ONG. In 1995 she moved to France. Today she is starting a new group in Paris and researching the cultural aspects of capoeira. She can be contacted by e-mail: