THE FOUNDATION OF CAPOEIRA
There is a 99% chance that during your first Capoeira class, your teacher showed you how to perform The Ginga. The Ginga is the first thing to learn in Capoeira because it is the foundation for all other movements.
“Ginga” in Portuguese means swing. The Ginga therefore is the way you swing your body while doing Capoeira. For a beginner, the Ginga has 3 steps: (1) one leg back and the opposite hand covering your face, (2) legs parallel, (3) other leg back with opposite hand covering your face. Repeat.
Although it’s not clear where the Ginga originates from, the movement is meant to be constant an unpredictable. This is the main ingredient that gives Capoeira the appearance of a dance and makes it as unpredictable as it is. The Ginga should allow the capoeirista to attack, esquiva(dodge), and counterattack at any moment. Launching a kick from an unexpected angle is not only tricky to deal with, but it challenges who you are playing with to respond with an equal amount of creativity.
The Ginga isn’t just a way to move around the roda, but also a way to express yourself. Your arms, shoulders, feet, head, and hips all work together to communicate or mask your intentions. Jumping, spinning, even getting down and doing a push-up on the ground can all be part of your Ginga. What matters is your intention and how you communicate it through your movement.
On a basic level, a person’s Ginga can tell you two things. The first is a general sense of a person’s experience/ability to play capoeira. The second is their intention. A new person’s Ginga is more often timid, small, and less coordinated. It is common to see someone half-heatedly through a kick or esquiva (dodge) without a complete understanding of where the kick is coming from – they just notice the danger. This is, of course, part of the learning processes and similarities can be drawn to many fields. By contrast, someone more advanced usually Gingas with confidence and clear intentions. These intentions, however, can be masked. Feinting a kick to create pressure and provoke a response is a common example. (E.g. Person A feints an armada to provoke a Banda from person B, person A see that B takes the bait and swoops in with a vingativa. Person B lands butt first on the floor).
Best Way to Perform the Ginga?
Most mestres have an idea of how they want their students to Ginga. Guidance can include placement of the arm, how large a step to take, how low to the ground you should be, etc. Despite this, no two people have the same ginga, so how can we determine how to perform the best possible Ginga? This discussion I will continue with insights from mestres, texts, and other resources to see if there is such a thing as a “best” Ginga.