The stealth (Nemer) Bençao

Bençao was one of Mestre Bimba's favourite kicks; it is applied as a counterattack in almost all his sequences. However, it seems that Bençao was used in old Bahian capoeira even before Bimba: As in Bimba's iconic jogo against the 'Creole', Creole attacks Bimba with a Bençao; a Bençao that Bimba does not manage to avoid completely, so he gets hit in the chest. "Now his [Bimba's] chest hurts, and also his vanity, as the cheers of the spectators now belong to the Creole".

What was the trick to execute the Bençao of old Bahian capoeira, if even the king of capoeira was not able to evade it completely? That is the question this article wants to answer.

First of all, it certainly was not the modern Bençao; done without LightLegs, just using Tiger archetype (in the best case! Don't get me started on what gets passed as Bençao in today's capoeira). This kick is too visible, too telegraphic.

It could have been LightLegs Bençao - the same technique as Pe de panzina of Carioca (see my article). Bimba certainly used LightLegs to execute his Bençaos. This one is better; but still, a little bit does not rhyme here: Pe de panzina, while fast, is naturally executed to opponent's stomach. It is not natural - and again, telegraphic - to hit opponent's chest with it (as Creole did, according to the article). You have to lift your leg quite high, and that is very visible.

So what remains from my bag of old Capoeiragem trick? Well, there is Nemer mechanics. But Nemer cannot be used to apply Bençao; it simply does not lend itself to the kick.

Or does it? With a little experimentation, I was able to find a compromise: You can use Nemer to lift your leg high; then use LightLegs Bençao to hit opponent's chest.

Nemer hides the wind-up of the kick; and LightLegs then make the kick itself quick. And what is best, this type of Bençao naturally hits the chest (in fact, it is hard to hit lower with it).

The kick is a high-energy point("Ha!"); if it hits his chest full on, this is a knockout technique.

I believe this was the real Bençao of old Bahian capoeira: Nemer wind-up, LightLegs kick.

The kick is very ferocious and hard to evade, as Nemer hides the wind-up. It also hits opponent's chest and throws him down, knocking him out if it connects properly. It is a stealth Bençao.


Note: To execute the kick properly, you must lift your knee and at the same time arch your torso backward and get on the toes of your standing leg; this must be one smooth movement to hide it from the opponent.

This is the proper posture, as shown in Borges Higino(1948):

(Note that his arms are in a different position from the one in your video. That is because he throws the kick from guarda alta ginga; David throws it from guarda media.)


To make this Bençao maximally stealthy; you must apply it from ginga; from the small lift-foot-and-step done with your front foot in the rear position. Lift your left foot, put it back - and then fire up an invisible Nemer Bençao!

Note that the stealth Bençao cannot be done as a counter from Cocorinha; it must be done from ginga.


Excursus: Nemer Bençao vs Pe de panzina

To deepen reader's understanding, let us compare Carioca's Pe de panzina versus Bahian stealth Bençao; as these two kicks are similar:

1) Pe de panzina is done from Peneiracao; which means, you have to first step with the rear leg and then kick with the other leg - ie the kick is done with a step. Of course, it is done with LightLegs. However, you cannot use the above Nemer wind-up trick - it cannot be done with the stepping kick!

So Carioca's Pe de panzina is LightLegs only, done with step from Peneiracao; and it hits opponent's stomach.

2) On the contrary, Bençao of old Bahian capoeira is done from ginga. It kicks with the rear leg; which allows you to use Nemer to hide the wind-up and lift the leg chest-high. Then you use LightLegs to kick opponent's chest.

So Bahian Bençao is Nemer wind-up, LightLegs kick; done with the rear leg from ginga; and it hits opponent's chest("Ha!"). It cannot be done with a step! (This applies to all other Bahian kicks too).


It is hard to say which of these two kicks - Nemer Bençao or Pe de panzina - is better as a combat technique; each conforms to the way of fighting of its respective style. I guess it is best to master both - which you now can!


(Note: It might make some sense to publish this article in the section on Bimba's Nemer style; but strictly speaking, it was probably used in Bahian capoeira before Bimba; see above).


















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