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My apelido (nickname) is Feiticeiro, and I have been observing, exploring and training Capoeira for the  last 6 years. As our Mestre Pontape says: »There is no absolute truth in Capoeira. Train, learn and do research about the different meanings and definitions in Capoeira.« I am going to introduce you to my view of Dendê through the eyes of a professor of physical education, TCM (Tradicional Chinese Medicine) Therapist and Zhineng Qigong teacher.

Being a part of Batizados (event organized once per year by Capoeira groups), workshops, rodas and trainings gives you an opportunity to experience special events. Also watching Capoeira rodas and short clips of amazing capoeiristas moves and acrobatics on the internet makes you believe that some of the Mestres, Contra-mestres and Professors, even beginners sometimes, are capable of doing magical things.

Magic has been a part of human society since shamanism was developed more than 10,000 years ago. Therefore in every continent of the world, different cultures evolved their own rituals and passed them on through generations, some of them later became religions, philosophies, others stayed secret. Only some of the wise men and women could enter a state of trance and control and play with energy, use it for healing or predict the future. In Capoeira, the knowledge was passed on through generations of students, just like in other cultures. The students later became Mestres and a lot of old knowledge was lost, hidden or not explained, because people maybe didn’t have a need for an explanation, they just played Capoeira everyday. 

When Capoeira started to develop, many of Africa’s and Brazil’s sects, religions, old secrets and beliefs were incorporated into the lyrics, rhythms and movement of Capoeira. Beside catlicism and protestants we have Candomblé, Umbanda, Spiritism and many others spread all over. Repeated rhythm of drums/atabaque, berimbau, agogô can make your awareness move, and repeating the same refrain like a mantra, affects your consciousness. When you put all these elements together with a good Bateria (orchestra in Capoeira) and a lead singer, you can feel the energy of the circle of Roda getting higher and higher. Axé (energy) starts to move in the circle and two players who are ready to enter and play Capoeira can also feel it. I wish every person could experience this power of group intention, which lifts you up, disconnects you from the outer world or connects you more to it in a different way and all you see is a pair of eyes in front of you, ready to enter and play. Axé or energy of surrounding people is making it even more intense. More people singing, clapping, putting their visual focus on players and Bateria makes Axé even higher. These are some of the possible circumstances that make Dendê happen.

For me Dendê is a moment when an extraordinary moment happens. I will divide it in different aspects:

Dendê of physical movement

You can see Dendê, when the game in Roda comes to the stage of high Axé and a player is consciously or unconsciously using their instinct to move away the last second. For example before Mea lua de compaso (spinning kick) is trying to hit the player in the face, but the player reacts, without knowing why they moved away at the last moment, to avoid a painful experience. This instinctive movement comes from somewhere inside our brain, which is able to foresee a kick – Dendê.

You can see Dendê, when the game is in a Roda and comes to this stage of high Axé. A movement pattern of the player, who makes an incredible move, combining different parts of sequences, acrobatics, which they have been learning for years is defined in a new dimension. Dendê shows in a new move, adjusted to opponent moves. This acrobatic move, kick or defense looks unreal and is unexplainable how it was possible – Dendê.

Dendê of emotional expression

Once, I was watching a game of Mestre involving a beginner player. The Mestre knew every step of the player, where he will go, how low he will go, where the only possible escape for him  is and every time, the Mestre blocked his movement. Then giving him space, and blocking again. Like a cat playing with a mouse. The beginner player started to get more and more nervous. Then Mestre sent him out of Roda, and a couple minutes later he invited him back in. Now the Mestre was just faking the moves of blocking the movement, and the player, more experienced from before, knew better how to escape. But the Mestre didn’t stop and tired the player so much, that he was completely exhausted and fell back into the old pattern of movement. The Mestre gave a signal to stop the music of Bateria. Then Dendê happened. The exhausted player fell on his knees and started to cry. . Phisical and mental tiredness cross the barrier of holding back. All the sadness, anger and fear was manifesting through the tears. All the suppressed emotions came out

Another Dendê of emotional experience happened at Batizado.  The instructor, who just received a Professor title, received the blue Corda (belt). The Blue Corda was first passed hand to hand, to everyone participating in the Batizado to put a blessing into it. It is not about a physical Corda, it is about Axé and emotions surrounding the event. The New Professor practicing for so many years, spending hours of training, organizing, leading the group and coming to the point where she is receiving a new title, it is something special. You can see it in the eyes of a new Professor that something has changed and there is a special spark – Dendê.

Dendê of inner growth

As a therapist I recommend a barefoot workout, to see and feel your motor patterns of the foot, to correct it and make a strong basis for the next joint, the knee. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Capoeira. It uses the most fundamental movement patterns. So once, at my beginnings in Roda I was playing with a wild beginner capoerista and my ego showed up. I was watching his movement first, and determined to give him a lecture and give him some gentle kicks of benso and martelo to the body. He was a fast mover, acting like a wild goat, jumping and rolling around the roda, and it was hard for me to catch the right moment. Of course I fell in his rhythm of the fast game, trying with kicks all the time, my mind was faster than my legs, trying to catch empty spot in the body and right then, during the play I sprained my ankle. I went out of the roda, defeated. I did not understand how this was possible, bare footed, completely in control of my body, this accident happened. Later at home I was analyzing the situation and Dendê happened. Sudden revelation of my actions appeared. I was playing out of my Ego. My Ego wanted the satisfaction of outsmarting another player. Going in the game of Roda with the wrong intentions can make a painful lesson for your life. Since then, I respect every player, no matter how long they have been practising Capoeira for, I am not falling in wild rhythms, but rather preserving the energy and inviting the opponent to enter my rhythm. I have started to control my breathing during the game and save energy. This Dendê, revelation of my Ego and my misunderstanding of the perception of the game made me grow to be a better capoeira player. This Dendê also made me understand that sometimes in different life situations my Ego also appears in that same way, but now I respond to it consciously.

 This is Capoeira. It can lead you to discover your new self, it invites you to build a new self, and get rid of the old baggage of emotions you don’t need anymore. You need to face the fear of entering a roda or playing with experienced  capoeristas, facing the anger of falling on the ground or getting kicked. Good Mestres and Professors will show you how to grow, like a mother cat teaches a young kitty how to climb a tree to survive.

After learning the basic alphabet movements of Capoeira, and starting to sing and play instruments, you start to evolve. Challenging physical movement patterns, vocal expressions, playing instruments – all of these puzzles create changes and new connections in your brain. Consciously and unconsciously we sometimes receive the old secrets of Capoeira’s roots and through Dendê moments we notice them as part of our growth. Our wisdom is expanding. Everybody is capable of magical moves, evolving vocaly and rhythmically, to produce a high vibrating roda atmosphere, it just depends on the amount of time invested in training, diligent training and awareness of transformative moments – Dendê. This Dendê spices up our Capoeira growth.

Next time I will share more about Axé and Roda – place of magic.

 Share the planet,
Tribe Capoeira Balanço da Meia Lua, Ljubljana, Slovenia

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