If there are keys to using capoeira in combat, one of these keys is without any doubt LightLegs mechanics.
While there are techniques in Carioca that do not use LightLegs - mostly cabecadas and bandas - for kicks, LightLegs is always used.
Aside from modifying the shape of some techniques (Pantanas and others), LightLegs makes the kicks really quick and powerful; making them suitable for jab entry (more on this below)
For some reason, this knowledge - that you should use LightLegs for kicking - has not survived in modern capoeira.
Modern kicks are done without LightLegs, and so they are slow and ineffective for a real fight.
Below, we will analyse how LightLegs were used in old Bahian capoeira.
(Note: LightLegs is a special way of using the lower body; where muscles, tendons and ligaments of the legs are pre-stretched, allowing their dynamic loading and explosive unloading. In old martial arts, LightLegs were often used to achieve specific effects; see my work on capoeiragem and my books on kungfu for details).
It is notable that all the original kicks of Bahian capoeira - Mei lua de frente, Armada, Chibata and Meia lua de compasso - lend themselves to be used with LightLegs; therefore, it is very probable that the old Bahian capoeiristas also knew this 'secret' and thus proper Mldf, Armada, Chibata and Mldc should also be done using LightLegs.
It is the new kicks added by Mestre Bimba - Martelo, Queixada - and later the karate-like kicks such as Chapa ("Escorao", sidekick) - that cannot be done using LightLegs. This differentiates them sharply from the original capoeira kicks that can be done using LightLegs.
(In fact, even the Chibata - the Martelo done with hands on the ground - can be used with LightLegs; and not surprisingly, it can be found in the old Bahian capoeira. Unlike the normal Martelo; which cannot be done using LightLegs and thus was not used in old capoeira).
The question is - did not Bimba know this? His fighting prowess certainly hints that he knew how to use LightLegs kicks; and on the few surviving action photos of Bimba, he clearly uses LightLegs for his kicks.
But even thought Bimba himself used LightLegs, it seems he was not able to pass it forth. Certainly, his students - and modern capoeiristas in general - do not know it.
This is why the kicks of modern capoeira are mere shadow of their former glory.
To show that modern capoeira not only lacks the theory; but also practically, its kicks are incompatible with LightLegs, let us look at Armada, a common modern capoeira kick.
Originally, Armada was done from the rear leg in ginga: After stepping back in ginga with your right leg, you equip LightLegs, spin rightward on your left foot and kick Armada with your right leg. This, in fact, is the only way you can do LightLegged armada.
It is unexpected, quick and very powerful. (It is also the way Bimba taught it; you can see it in his original Sequencia and also at Filhos de Bimba).
On the other hand, in modern capoeira, this kind of armada is not used. You are either taught to cross-step with the front leg, then spin:
Or even step forth with the back leg, then cross step with the other leg, and spin.
(Which is, of course, incredibly stupid.)
But the main point is that neither of these ways to do Armada allow the use of LightLegs. If you step into Armada, as modern capoeiristas do, you cannot use LightLegs modificator for the kick.
That means that if you learned Armada in modern capoeira, you cannot use it the way it was originally meant to be used - as a combat kick with LightLegs. Certainly, the people who came up with the modern way to do Armada knew nothing about the importance of LightLegs in original capoeira.
Another exhibit to demonstrate this is Meia lua de compasso.
In the older materials, the kick is always done with both hands on the ground. This is not accidental - this is because the only way to do this kick with LightLegs is to put both hands on the floor; the resulting mechanics is Leopard+LightLegs.
However, the modern version, in an effort to make the kick 'faster', does it either with one hand on the floor, or without hands on the floor. Again, not accidentally, this way of doing MLDC does not allow using LightLegs.
This is why it was never done like that in the old capoeira; because the capoeiras of old understood LightLegs.
Again, to put it simply: If you do MLDC the way it is taught in modern capoeira, with one hand (or no hands) on the floor, you cannot use LightLegs with the kick.
Note that the old MLDC (with LightLegs) is not necessarily faster or more powerful than the modern MLDC; but it accelerates more rapidly; thus it is much harder to predict and evade. This is important in a fight; but useless in a modern capoeira game where people just throw theirs legs up into the air.
To recapitulate it: In Bahian capoeira, the following kicks can be done with LightLegs:
-Mldf (if done from the back leg)
-Armada (if done from the back leg)
-Mldc (if done from the back leg and with both hands on the ground)
-Chibata (martelo with both hands on the floor)
Not accidentally, these kicks formed the arsenal of the original Bahian capoeira.
The later additions (Martelo, Queixada, one handed Mldc); and in general, the kicks done in the modern manner with a forward step into them, cannot be done using LightLegs.
The use of LightLegs for kicking thus forms a chasm between the old, combat oriented capoeira; and then modern, show oriented one.
So we have found out that unlike modern capoeira, old capoeira used kicks with LightLegs. But why use LightLegs at all? Cannot we make do without them (as modern capoeira seems to do)?
First of all, some kicks cannot be done without LightLegs (Pantanas, Calcanheiras, 41s); let us leave them out.
But why is LightLegs modificator important in some of the Bahian kicks, such as Mldf, Mldc or Bencao? Why are LightLegs so important?
There are more reasons; but the main one is that LightLegs gives a kick what I call a Quickstart. It means that the kick accelerates from zero very quickly; it explodes suddenly and unexpectedly from an on-guard stance.
Normal kick (non-LightLegs) needs a step forward and some time to accelerate to maximum speed; the opponent can use this time to detect the kick, evade or block.
On the other hand, a LightLegs kicks accelerates quickly and flashes like a lightning, out of nowhere; without a 'telegraph', as is said in martial arts.
This is why LightLegs kicks are extremely important for combat, because they have minimal telegraph so the opponent has trouble reacting to them; while they are not important in a modern capoeira 'roda' where you just swing your legs up in the air.
Old capoeira used this property of LightLegs kick to be combat effective; its kicking tactics was build around them. Modern kicks without LightLegs cannot be used that way.
It is important to note that this problem of modern capoeira cannot be remedied; because, as shown above, its kicks are trained in such a way you cannot add LightLegs to them in a real fight. If you want to use capoeira in combat; you have to use LightLegs; and if you want to be able to use LightLegs, you must train capoeira in the original way (described above).
Another technique that cripples modern capoeirista - so that he cannot use LightLegs - is the modern ginga.
The original capoeira ginga - Monkey+Seduction1 mechanics - of course allowed to throw LightLegs kicks from the back leg, as described above.
However! The modern ginga - which uses Crane or Tiger mechanics - does not allow to kick from the rear leg! Thus modern capoeirista cannot kick with LightLegs even if he wanted; even if he wanted to use the proper technique - the modern ginga simply cripples him so he cannot do it!
This is just another testament about the utter degeneracy of modern capoeira.
(Only Filhos de Bimba - althought unconsciously - stand against this degeneracy. Even though they use Leopard ginga, not the proper Monkey+Seduction1 one, still, this ginga allows the use of the real capoeira LightLegs kicks (from the back leg).
If you want to see the proper way to do kicks in Bahian capoeira, see Filhos de Bimba using them in the teaching sequence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo-QsntFmqU
Now while they do not use LightLegs for their kicks, they at least would be able to do it if they knew how).
There are even more reasons for using LightLegs kicks in Bahian capoeira; I will talk about them in later articles. What you should take home from this introductory article is:
- old Bahian Capoeira used LightLegs modificator for all its kicks
- this gave the kicks special properties, most notably, Quickstart
- this made old Capoeira kicks very effective in a real combat
- modern capoeira kicks - including the ones added by Mestre Bimba(Queixada, Martelo) - cannot be used with LightLegs
- and so they, strictly speaking, do not belong to real capoeira
- the modern ginga cripples the fighter, because you cannot throw LightLegs kicks from it; so to put it bluntly, modern ginga does not allow you to use capoeira the way it was designed to be
This is a significant part of the degeneration of Bahian capoeira throught 20th century; contemporary kicks look superficially like the old ones; but in the context of fighting, they are a lot less usable; the new capoeira cannot be used the way the old one was. This is not some side issue; this is a change of the very core of Bahian capoeira as a fighting art.
What to do if you want to use Bahian capoeira the way it was meant to?
First, throw away modern ginga; and start using the original short ginga (Monkey+Seduction1 mechanics)
Second, throw away modern kicks; Martelo, Queixada and the way they step into the other ones; use the original kicks of Bahian capoeira (see above).
Third, learn to use LightLegs modificator (which is not completely easy) and use it to make the old-style kicks lightning quick.
Only then you will begin to comprehend how the old Bahian capoeira worked as a fighting art.
If you are unsure how to do it, email me, perhaps I will be able to help you.
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