The story behind Ardent Heart, written to illustrate the inner workings of a Capoeirista. A completely fictional piece of my own imagination, with several creative liberties taken.
Note – Capoeira is one of the more unique martial arts due to its close ties to Brazilian culture, and its strong focus on qualities you normally don’t find in Eastern martial arts. Cunning, slyness and charisma are held in high regard. The Capoeirista (Capoeira practitioner) has a tendency to be flamboyant, cocky, charming and will find it hard to resist a worthy challenge. In the world of fighters, the Capoeirista is the ultimate rogue. A crooked smile, a glint in the eye, a chuckle and a solid belief in one’s own worth.
Blue skies and afternoon sun, waves lazily caressing the golden sand of a hideaway beach. The Capoeirista approaches, one eye on the horizon as he hums the notes of his favourite song. All is not gold that glitters, and all that sways do not fall. Too true, that. But the sunlight glittering against the clear blue of the ocean has often felt like true gold to him. The thought occurred to him to be a sailor again, to take the seas once more. Alas, the thought of taking orders from some merda supervisor for weeks on end held little appeal. Also, there were precious few women on those ships. Then again, if one had his own ship… now there was a thought. He chuckled wryly. Little use of daydreaming like that. ‘Work while awake, and dream when asleep’ his father had often said. His father said a lot of things, few of them pleasant. Most revolved around the virtue of hard work, how it was a reward in itself. But ‘hard work’ had not saved his family from ending up in the favela district, and so Lobo put little stock in the endless toil his father had held so dear. He looked around. A bit further up, towards the tree line he spotted what looked like a campsite. How convenient. A glance at the sun told him nightfall was yet some time in the coming. Still, this was a good spot, and one should not hurry without great need. A swim and nap would do him good.
Dropping his satchel on the sand, he took off his cap and kicked off his shoes as he started to make his way down to where the waves were rolling in. The air was chillier by the water, giving him pause. The crashing of the waves felt like a gentle roar, creating a calming rhythm, like the heartbeats of a loving mother. He curled his toes in the sand. It gave way softly, and he smiled. Solid enough for sure footing, yet soft on the landing. The rocking of the waves reminded him of the ginga, the swaying motion of Capoeira. It had been some time since last he played around at the beach. Ah, the waves, the sun, the sand… The temptation was too much. Not that he’d ever had much practise at resisting temptations. What was the use? He chuckled as he took the first sideways step of the ginga. It had been a hot day, keeping his heart light and his body supple. He cartwheeled slowly, this way, then that. The old balance was still there, and his muscles readily remembered. He played around for a while, trying out every kind of cartwheel he could recall. His old teacher had once joked that Capoeira had more cartwheels than Rio had whores. He frowned. Surely it had been a joke. Jump, spin into handstand, holding himself there. His body was warming up, seemingly as a reflection to the rising passion in his heart. He moved faster. A kick turned into an arching step, which fell into a sweep across the sand, spinning into a cartwheel without hands. The sand was delivering on its promise, its wet caress urging him on. The tide had made a slight slope in the beach, making him lean forward as he faced the ocean. The angle tugged at him, ever pulling him towards the water like the seductive song of the sirens. Sweat was beginning to cover him, running down his face and between the muscles on his back.
He moved up against the sand banks, the waters on his left. His teacher had never encouraged him to learn the floreios, the flamboyant moves that skilled Capoeira players would add to their game. There had never been any need as Lobo had simply learnt it the traditional way, by watching others play. His favourite move had always been the Mariposa, a move as beautiful as its namesake butterfly. He made his ginga stronger to prepare. The swaying, swaggering motion was found at the beginning and end of every choice you made in the Capoeira game. Turning as he stepped, he dipped low in a sweeping motion and pushed off as he rose into the air. For a split second he hung there, like a swallow riding the wind, before gathering in his arms for a full spin. The world blurred for a moment, but it did not matter. Instinct told him when to exit the spin and his foot hit sand again. He smiled as the momentum carried him onwards. Might as well finish strong. He cartwheeled again, landing with his feet together and threw himself backwards into backflip. Wet hands told him he was now in shallow water. With a final leap he somersaulted backwards through the air before landing waist-deep in the waves. No longer trying to keep his balance, he allowed himself to fall back into the ocean’s cool embrace.
The well-trodden grass around the fireplace told of the campsite’s popularity. Even in the sunset’s fading light he could see several footpaths leading into the woods. A ring of torches, as tall as his head, surrounded the campsite. He dropped his satchel and wet sarong on a patch of dry grass, and lay down to rest. It occurred to him that, at that moment, all the elements were part of him – the ground underneath him, the air making the water feel cold against his skin, the fire in his heart. He let out a relieved sigh. There was a certain sensation in letting the wind dry you. All too soothing…
Darkness. He must’ve fallen asleep. He controlled the impulse to look around, schooling himself to stillness. No sounds apart from the ocean and what you would normally hear from the forest. No unwanted company. Good. Still, he looked around before going down on one knee by the fireplace. He sensed no one nearby, but he still made sure his back was to the woods. His teacher had showed him the way of Mandinga, dark magic from the heart of Africa. Some secrets were not meant to be shared. He used the traditional ginga to gather the axé, the ever-present energy of the elements. He rose to full height and fell to a deep squat, paying respect to the heavens and the earth, as he quietly recited a prayer to Xango, god of thunder and fire. The axé responded, gathering at his fingertips. He raised his hand in the traditional chamada summon and rising flames covered the firewood.
Standing up, he looked around. The flames were illuminating the campsite, but not much else. Uninvited guests would not be seen until they were too close for comfort. Suddenly the additional ring of torches around the campsite made much more sense. He realised he was humming again. Cool head, hot feet. His teacher had always scolded him for showing off his skills, saying that surprise was always the best attack. In particular, the Mandinga ways should always be kept hidden. Lobo sniffed. Too many damn rules. As his little brother used to say, “it’s only illegal if you’re caught”. He looked at the fireplace. He could do it, but he would need to be quick. Fire was the element of passion, and the longer you controlled it, the stronger it would break free. A quick step into the fire was followed by a quick spin to tie the flames to his feet and lower legs. As he came out of the fire, he immediately took to the ginga as he stepped to the closest torch. A crescent kick was followed by a spinning kick, and the torch was aflame. Moving onto the next torch, he spun into a heel kick. Following the momentum, he immediately launched another heel kick. Once more, and the second torch was lit. His feet were indeed getting hot. Cartwheeling to the next torch, he took a feinting step to get the distance right before going up one hand and bringing one leg down into a split kick. Beija-flor, the hummingbird, lit the third torch. The next two torches stood pretty close to each other, so linking two tornado kicks together made sense. Second torch flickered slightly, so he went to the ground to gather strength, then rose with a sweeping roundhouse kick. A scent on the wind told him his shoes were about to catch fire. The fire was resisting his control. One torch left, on the other side of the campsite. He leapt across the fire, sharply leaning back so both legs could be brought up. The double jumping side kick hit true, and the final torch was set ablaze as he release the flames from his feet.
He looked around again, heart pumping from the rush. All torches were lit, basking the ground in their soft light. Some patches on the ground were giving off smoke, but the fire hadn’t spread. He kicked off his shoes. They would probably need to be replaced, but how much did shoes matter at the beach? Sitting down, he put on his cap and pulled out a cigarette from his satchel. A snap of his fingers brought a small flame to his thumb, just enough to light the cigarette. He came to rest on his elbow as he regarded the campfire. It had been a good day, and the next city was not far off now. Who knew what it would bring? Probably jealous husbands, loaded dice and ladies who would steal your heart for sport. The game was not for the faint of heart. He smiled through the smoke. His father had been right. Sometimes hard work did bring its own reward.