Planet Capoeira: … Who did you initially study with?
Contra-Mestre Preto Velho: … Years would went by and I met and was mentored by Johnny Moore a very talented martial artist in Jiu jitsu, Tibetan Kung-Fu, boxing, Jail House Rock (CA. style). Mr. Moore was a first generation Capoeira under the famous pioneer of Capoeira on the West coast Mestre Bira. We became good friends and he treated me like a brother. He sadly died a strange death years ago from an aneurysm while eating amongst friends. …
Planet Capoeira: You have experience in a wide range of other martial art forms. Did you come to capoeira before or after learning the other arts?
Contra- Metsre Preto Velho: I came to Capoeira after learning the fights of my ancestors. In fact my first rabo de arraia, rasteira, bencao and martelo em pe was not from Capoeira but from an Ethiopian art similar in nature. My first encounter with martial arts was from my father. He taught me the fight of my grand daddy George Newsome who learned the fight on the railroad in the south. It is an African wrestling system of up right wrestling sometimes called “Trip and Flip or Leg Wrestling”. Then African Americans of his generation and geographical location did it as a pastime. The object is to trip or flip your opponent to the ground and remain standing.
The men would do this on the railroad when they got paid and gamble their money on who could put whom down. It was not until I was an adult that I thought of this fight as martial art. I fought like this for many years against what ever. I have seen many strange kinds of fighting in the Black community that I don’t see anymore. This new generation of Black youth are very week when it comes to hand to hand combat.
They only know how to get down with guns. No more straight razors, knives, crowbars, tire irons, brass knuckles or bats and fists. In the past you might have been jacked up in a fight but at least you could fight another day. In the sixties and seventies black folks would go straight hand to hand and with above weapons less often depending on where you lived.
I hung out in different circles of folks who were into different things and depending on what circle it was I had different street names. I was called Pitt Bull, Rock Troll, Black Satan, Dr. D, Bionic Man and Scooby. Its still funny to me that I would hear people in one circle talking about me and not know it was me that they were talking about because they did not know in that way and by that name.
For example folks who knew me in the Hip Hop circles, knew me as Scooby would never connect me to Black Satan and a straight razor (my first razors name was “Daddy’s Helper” and had beautiful pearl handles) or that head butting Pitt Bull. I would do a little thing and by the time I heard it, it was blown way out of proportion to what really happened.
I used to think as a very little kid that as much as Black folks fight that we must have an organized method of fighting like the Asians. From that time to now I have run across quite few African methods and became adept some of them.
I met this beautiful sister one day and we have been hanging tuff every since. She is very loyal. She never abandons me when my money is gone and times are hard as Friday the Thirteenth. When push comes to shove this extraordinary woman has got my back and as long as I remain loyal to her she will be there to death do us part. Her name is Capoeira!
On top of it all, I was ignorant to the existence of an African population in Mexico at that time. By the way I discovered that Lonnie (if that really was his name) practiced a martial art in Mexico that he explained was from his African ancestors. He was adept at foot and Knife fighting. The name they called the fight sounded to me like Padito or Pathadio.
Planet Capoeira: Can you tell us of the other martial and cultural arts you are involved with, and how they reflect your understanding of capoeira? What do the arts all share? How are they different?
Contra- Metsre Preto Velho: These are to me fascinating questions with fascinating answers! Once upon a time I was writing a book on these things, my experiences with different African martial arts and the interesting characters associated with them and the history of their inceptions. These other fights of African people reflect nothing of my understanding of Capoeira. Each one of these fights function independent of each other but they do influence how I do Capoeira. For a quick example if I were to slap a person in a fight with my right hand I would simultaneously raise my left hand to defense the potential right hook of my adversary in the United States of America, Ghetto U.S.A. I would never leave my left hand down because most African Americans Box when they fight.
All the African fights I know share freedom of expression, improvisation, creativity and fancy executions of attacks and counter attacks to them. These are like threads, which ties them together. Lets take the Navalha (Straight Razor) for example. In Capoeira depending who’s methodology you observe it will be utilized in the hand only or in the hands and feet or in the hands, feet and mouth. In the United States, African Americans have a method developed by Pimps and Hoes (prostitutes).
We only use it in the hands and of course there are no Au’s, negativas, Bencao’s, meia lua’s etc. as in Capoeira. We however use it more like a malandro in Rio de Janeiro would utilize it, if he did not do Capoeira. Both African American and African Brazilian methods are quite fascinating to me.
Jail House Rock is another item of marvel for me. In particular I am going to speak about the “52 style” and the dance derivative of “Up Rockin”. I was curious in my younger days as to the origin of this African American prison fight. I have come across quite a few forms of it and I wanted to know what was the mother form.
Through oral traditions, the Bantus are credited with the mother form of whatever that was. One reason that I mention it is because in the South there is a Prison that came into existence that was named after the large number of Africans inmates of Angolan origin in it, Angola prison. I know the fight originally came from the blacks from the south before they migrated to the north and the west of the U.S. When the fight entered these different penal systems it mutated based on the special set ups of various prisons and the creativity of the artist. When someone came up with some specialty patented technique that work against a lot of folk’s people imitated it and eventually it becomes a standard movement in that style.
One particular Jail House Rock style worthy of mention is the 52 style. Named after a card game in which you throw up a deck of cards and where ever they land, they land. This is symbolic of the freedom of response in 52 to attacks and the fancy tricknology in delivering outlandish, deceptive attacks. Throwing Bo’s (elbows) anywhere from the top of your head to your feet. I see a great deal of the same thought processes of Capoeira’s malicia in 52. They however don’t look anything like each other.
There is a curious dance that developed from Jail House Rock called Up Rockin. Jail house Rock is very rhythmic, pretty and dance like in execution, so it was a natural transition for the youth to transform elements of it into a mock dance fight. Up Rockin has a Ginga if you will that is in reverse of Capoeiras true Ginga in her words the feet Ginga in front of you to the right and left versus in Back of you. Primarily the arms swing offensively at the adversary. Now days when I see the youth doing Up Rockin they don’t have a clue as to what some of the movements they are doing are.
The “Trip N’ Flip” style of wrestling contains these movements of Capoeira: Banda de costa, Banda de frente, Passa Pe, Tesoura, Balao cinturado, Tesoura Voudora. It has these movements but does not enter into them in the way of Capoeira.
There is a Kalenda style (stick fight/dance found in the U.S. and Caribbean South America under the same or different names) that resembles the Maculele in Brazil imagine Maculele done much more fight like. I know a little of this style of Kalenda and I practice the Maculele that is in Brazil and in my opinion they are the same thing except that this two stick Kalenda method has retained more of the fight than Maculele. There is also a Kalenda that is done with two sticks except that the sticks are clasped in the middle of the sticks. Just like the defense stick is held in Zulu Impi (Zulu Stick fight) or like the way of some Ethiopian stick fighters.
The old Capoeira method that relied heavily on head butting and utilized kicking is very similar to the methods in the deep south of the United States, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Grenada. In modern Capoeira the feet are far and beyond the main weapon. The Cabecada is on the back burner in today’s jogo. I do Reisy or Testa, which is Eritrean Head butting and to me in comparing the butting of Capoeira and the butting of Reisy I consider Reisy inside butting and Capoeira outside butting which probably wont make any sense except to another butter.
The martial arts of the world differ in their vocabulary of movements and the strategic use of even commonly shared movements. They differ in philosophy and or religious content. They differ in efficacy in different environments.
They differ in origins.
Stickgrappler's MMA page - 52 Hand Blocks/Jailhouse Rock - Dennis Newsome interview excerpts from www.planetcapoeira.com page
Peace be upon you