Baloes in Capoeira Angola, version 2

(Note from 2019: I have rewritten this article a bit in the light of my recent research)

In my article on baloes of Regional, I described in detail how baloes are done in this style; that they are body-throws, quite foreign to the rest of the capoeira repertoire; that they are the genial creation of Bimba, pride of his Regional style.

However, there is a question - were there baloes in the original Bahian capoeira(Angola)? Sources tell us that there were. What were they like? To what extent are baloes really Bimba's invention, his contribution to Capoeira?

It is impossible to tell for sure; however, let me present several sources that might make the answer more clear.

Exhibit A:

Our most important exhibit; an article from 1936 where Mestre Bimba describes the techniques he learned from his Mestre (the original Bahian capoeira), versus techniques he added himself.

For our purpose, let us concentrate on the techniques that are (or could be) baloes:

Techniques he learned: Balao (that's a name)
Techniques he added: Balao em pé, Balao arqueado, Balao “colar” de força, Cintura desprezada, Cintura de rins, Gravata cinturada,  Salta pescoço, Dentinho.

I call your attention to the fact that out of 14 original techniques, there is one "Balao". Yet from the 15 techniques Bimba says he added, about a half are baloes! This should speak about the importance he attached to them; and also about the difference of the place baloes took in "Angola" versus Regional.

To sum it up: The techniques that defined the original Regional were the baloes!

However, let us move to next exhibit.


Exhibit B:

Video from 1954. Do not let the caption fool you; this is not Mestre Bimba, it is an Angola roda.

Around 5:50, one Angoleiro takes the other upon his shoulder from (slanted) au, and puts him down on the other side. This technique is called 'Tombo de Ladeira' in capoeira; in Filhos de Bimba, it is still used today.


Exhibit C:

A booklet accompanying the album of Angola Music, by Dias Gomes(1962).

Here, the author describes significant techniques of Capoeira Angola. Among rasteira,rabo de arraia and au, he lists
"balao" - "the capoeirista embraces the opponent's body with both arms, and throws him backwards over his head."

Note that this is compatible with the balao from Exhibit B, Tombo de Ladeira.

Also note that the author despises Regional as a hybrid, "rightly rejected by the purists of the art."


Exhibit D:

This is an article about Capoeira Angola from 1948:

What is described in the article is 'chamada de Balao'; where the player has the other behind his back and pull his over him body, holding him by his hands.


Exhibit E:

Mestre Pastinha playing in 1950's.

Points to note:

3:46 - Pastinha grabs opponents hands behind his back and plants him over his head into a handstand. This is very probably the 'chamada de Balao' from exhibit D.
4:45 - this is 'Tombo de Ladeira' from exhibit B and 'balao' from exhibit C.




It is clear that in the old Bahian Capoeira (Angola) there existed two kinds of Balao: the Tombo de Ladeira; and  the carry-over from behind the back into a handstand(Volta-por-cima?).

These two 'baloes' were certainly done as chamadas in the later Angola


It is more probable that the 'Balao' Mestre Bimba says to have learned from his mestre was the Tombo de Ladeira; as there is nothing in modern Regional that resembles 'Volta-por-cima'; however, there is the (oficially named) 'Tombo de Ladeira'.


Regardless, it is also clear that the baloes of Mestre Bimba were something completely new and different(he even says so himself in the article from 1936).

They worked upon the scheme of the original Angolan Balao (chamadas); but the mechanics was different, using headlocks and bodylocks; probably inspired by the throws from greco-roman wrestling (as says Mestre Decanio in his book).

This was not looked upon favorably by the other Mestres in that time; it probably were these baloes that made them call Regional 'a hybrid'.

Also, as I note in other articles, these Baloes were essential part of Bimba's Regional style; the game of Iuna was even specially made to showcase baloes.


Bimba borrowed the scheme of the Balao chamada of Angola; however, built a completely different thing around it.

Not only his baloes are made to teach the capoeira to free himself from holds; but it also created a completely new style of game - the game of Baloes (Iuna). (This wouldn't be possible in Angola with only one Balao).


It is important to realize that before Bimba, in capoeira did not exist baloes in the modern sense - done by grabbing the opponent by the neck or by the torso. Capoeiras always avoided grappling with the opponent.
Even in other related arts - Carioca, Batuque, Pernada etc. - there is no technique similar to the Regional baloes.

So while built upon the concept of Angolan 'chamada de balao', Regional baloes were, indeed, a completely new addition to capoeira; something that characterized the Regional style more than anything else. (The reason we do not hear this today is that modern capoeiristas rejected Bimba's innovation and threw it away (double pun intended); so they have to keep quiet on this. Otherwise, we should be hearing things such as 'Oh, Regional, that's the style with Baloes?').

Balaos were so important to Regional that a new game was created around them - Iuna. (Again, which was rejected by modern capoeira).


As noted, balao-type throws need grappling/wrestling to be set up; Bimba cleverly bypassed this need by basing his baloes on the scheme of Angolan chamadas - in baloes, the opponent cooperates in setting up the throw; thus you completely avoid grappling with him. People seem not to realize how clever Bimba was; that he was able to have wrestling throws - without wrestling.


For some reason, the balao (and Tombo de Ladeira) dissapeared from modern Angola; at least I have not seen it today.

Probably it was a part of the 'simplification' of Angola that Mestre Brazilia talks about:

"I also saw Joao Grande and Joao Pequeno playing on the ground, and it was not the Angola that today people say: "this here is Angola"; no, the Joaos did everything: bananeira, [...], ponte, queda de rins, even the chamada volta-por-cima.
...and today, no: the people stick with meia-lua de compaso here and there, passing the leg above the other, only in the meia-lua de compasso, and saying that they are playing Angola..."


For some reason, baloes dissapeared from the modern version of Regional style; they are ignored by contemporary capoeiristas.

This is insulting, because, as I say above, they used to characterize Regional; so much that about half of this 'propagation video' from the 60's

is dedicated to two black guys throwing each other with baloes.

The Regional guys sure loved their baloes! So it is really sad that modern capoeira thrown them out like some trash.


Why have baloes dissaperated?

One reason among others might be that being similar to Angolan chamadas, they require /cooperation/ between the players; something which is in short supply today.

Instead, modern capoeiristas try to stay as isolated as possible, so they can kick air and do their flips. When they do come in contact, it is to launch a violent kick or takedown.



Notes and curiosities:

1) In Joao de Rio's "A alma encantadora das ruas" (1908?), the word "balao" is used in the context of capoeira game.

The speaker(capoeirista) is said to 'grab the author by the legs and turn him over; while the author turns into balao, and the speaker entered lower'.

The only interpretation that makes sense is that the capoeirista uses Boca de calca, which the author was supposed to defend by 'balao de boca de calca'; see our technique arsenal.

So here, balao means an escape from Boca de calca; so it does not concern us in this article.


2)Curiosity (1:10)

Contemporary Angola; an interesting kind of balao, reminiscent of the "gangster throw" from Michael Jackson's clip "Smooth Criminal".


 3) As noted, before Bimba introduced baloes (the 1936 article), there were no hip throws and similar type of throws in capoeira, neither in Bahia nor in Rio (and probably not even in Batuque). These throws need grappling/wrestling to be set up, which was generally not done in capoeira (and similar arts).

Some researchers cite the José Alexandre Melo Morais Filho: Festas e tradiçoes Populares do Brasil(1901):

"It seems like a prelude to bullfighting. The opponents come close to each other, the eyes scintillate, the lips murmur curses and threats. They both start waving the body in serpentine movements, the arms ballancing, head and neck held immobile.

Suddenly one of the fighters enlaces with his right arm unexpectedly both arms and chest of the other, and with the speed of a ray, of lightning, joins with him flank against flank; then blocks and sweeps his legs out and high up, throwing him backwards,leaving him on the ground cold and motionless as a corpse.""

to claim that old capoeira 'had baloes'. But it is not so; the throw that is described is most probably a Banda de lado; that, while having the dramatic effect described, is still a type of banda, not a hip throw or similar.

















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