The Capoeira Blog

The Ginga
January 8, 2008, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Movements

The ginga is one of the most obvious aspects of capoeira that separates it from other martial arts.

Roughly translated into english, gingar means “to swing,” and the ginga allows a capoeirista to be in constant, unpredictable movement. The ginga is the cement that holds the capoeira game together, but unlike cement, the ginga is fluid and always-changing. (paraphrased from Capoeira 100, Taylor, p. 5)

If one is to be a skilled and cunning capoeira, he must master the ginga. But what does it mean to “master” the ginga? Is there such thing as a perfect ginga?

I’m not sure if someone could define the “perfect ginga” but I do know what it wouldn’t look like.

Many novice capoeiristas learn the ginga and try to mimic the exact movements of their instructor, much to the detriment of their overall capoeira game.

The ginga should never be a mechanical, robot-like dance step.

Yes, there are certain steps to the basic ginga that you must learn in order to have the basic idea, but if you constantly stick to one motion and leave no room for improvisation, you’re putting an extreme hindrance on your game.

This is what Nestor Capoeira has to say about the ginga,

As a general rule, the ginga in Capoeira Angola is very free and individualistic. The ginga in Regional, on the other hand, is very structured, and its basic steps can actually be shown in a diagram form. This basic structure, however, does not mean that a Regional player cannot add his own style to these moves as he begins to master them. (The Little Capoeira Book, Nestor Capoeira, p. 62)

Notice that Nestor mentions the structure of the regional ginga, but makes sure to emphasize that the regional player should add his own style to the basic moves.

He goes on to say that there are 5 steps to learning the ginga. These include learning the basic steps and practicing ginga alone, then facing another person, then learning how to improvise movements without using the basic ginga steps, and finally combining the improvisation exercise back in with the basic ginga. (For a more detailed examination of the 5 steps you should read The Little Capoeira Book, I’m not going to copy it all down here), and the goal is to:

[S]tart to articulate your personal way of moving, and blend it in with the basic capoeira ginga. (The Little Capoeira Book, Nestor Capoeira, p. 64)

The most important thing to remember is that the ginga must compliment and enhance your game. Basically, if you don’t understand ginga, you can’t understand the game. The ginga keeps you in constant movement, it sets you up for dodges, and leads you into attacks. Here is another quote from Nestor to emphasize the importance of the “always in motion” aspect of capoeira:

As the late mestre Canjiquinha revealed to us once, “You can block the blow of a very strong man but you can’t block a truck at 100 mph.” (Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game, Nestor Capoeira, p. 240).

So to answer, “Is there a perfect ginga?” I would say no, in the sense that there is one “model” ginga that everyone should strive to copy. The fundamental application of the ginga is to be unpredictable and unique, which inherently means that there should be no definitive, “perfect,” way of doing the ginga.

Everyone’s ginga is (and should be) different.

Someone might say “well Faisca, if someone wants to do a robot ginga impersonation, they should be able to do that. Because it’s unique!” But I would disagree. As I said before, the ginga must be fluid and allow you free range of motion, and the “robot ginga” leaves no room for quick improvisation, which is invariably detrimental to the capoeira game. It’s not easy to be aware of your surroundings if you’re constantly worried if your feet and hands are in the perfectly correct position.

In the end, the perfect ginga is one that allows the capoeirista to be in constant motion, one that is never predictable, and one that allows the capoeira to dodge or attack at an instant’s notice. And, perhaps most importantly, it allows the capoeirista to express his or her individuality in the roda.

What do you think?


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

AWESOME! I put this up a week ago, check it out and let me know what you think!

Comment by Pipoca

Cool video man, I was thinking about making a “how to do ginga” video like the Au Batido one I made, I just haven’t had the time. I probably still will, but yours is a good overview.

Comment by faisca

Thanks. It could have been shorter, but I’ll work on that in subsequent vids. I tend to use “filler” phrases that i don’t need to, even when I plan out a video really well.

Comment by Pipoca

Hey Faisca!

Good post. You might also want to read Downey’s Learning Capoeira. He has entire sections dedicated to the sway and individual ginga.

He talks about the swagger each capoeirista has. It’s very nice.

Comment by Pirulito (D-cal)

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