Baloes - the throws of Regional

In my quest for capoeira as a fighting art, before getting to Carioca, I studied the original Regional style of Mestre Bimba (as contrasted with modern 'Capoeira Regional', which is a different style!). Therefore, some of my articles will include my notes about Regional, even though we don't train the style anymore.

In one of my texts written in the past, I lamented: "...the place Mestre Bimba occupies in modern capoeira can be seen in the way his most significant technical additions to capoeira - batuque throws and baloes - were handled. They were unceremonially taken out,without respect to Bimba; if they are taught, it is as a curiosity; not as a part of the teaching method as Bimba intended. Thus Bimba is something that you pay a lip service to, but his spirit in not alive in modern capoeira."

It is interesting exercise to try to find out the place of 'baloes' in Capoeira, old and modern.

What are baloes?

First, how can we define baloes? Baloes are throws where the opponent is seized,usually by the head,arm or waist, and then bodily lifted and thrown over the back,hips or body,rotating in the air. Contrast this with the batuque throws (leg throws), where the opponent is not seized, and is rotated and smashed down using the legs; and arrastoes, where the opponent is seized by the legs and turned over.

[Note: strictly speaking, the essential difference is the position of the center of rotation. In baloes, the opponent rotates around a point that is higher than his waist (chest,head); in batuque throws, the center of rotation is his pelvis or below]

Baloes were first introduced to capoeira by Mestre Bimba in his Regional style.

In Regional (the original one), the four basic baloes are:
1)apanhada/"cintura desprezada"
2)balao de lado
3)balao cinturado
4)gravata [cinturada] alta (sometimes called "balao em pe")

(i have not found 'giro sereia' in any of the older sources).

A lot less known are other Regional baloes:
7)gravata baixa

And the 'professor level baloes' (done without the support of the head, so the person thrown can take a nasty fall):

9)arqueado de frente
10)arqueado de costa
11)acoite de braco
12)cruz solta (high throw out of cruz)
13)crucifixo with arm grab/acoite de cruz(?)
14)(unknown name; come from the side, grab under both knees and throw opponent back into a backflip)
15)(unknown name; come like in arrastao, then throw opponent backward over your shoulders)


What are baloes for?

Now, the question we should ask is: What are - or were - baloes intended for?
Some people say they were used to 'teach the student to land on his feet when thrown'. This is a very simplistic explanation; while that is perhaps one of the results of this training, it would be quite absurd if fourteen different throws were used for this very same purpose!

Less known - but demonstrable - fact is that in Regional, baloes were(and still are!) mandatory element of Iuna - a special 'pretty' game for high-level students. This falsifies the above - these students certainly were not trying to learn to land on their feet.

Let us try to enumerate all potential uses of baloes; ie what things baloes can be used for, disregarding for now what they were actually conceived for:

  1. force training - throwing another person is a very good physical exercise of the core muscles used in fighting (pelvis,back,abdomen). The various angles of baloes train them all - the forward hip throws and the backward suplay throws etc.
  2. biomechanics training - the baloes present completely different movement patterns from the ones commonly present in capoeira. Knowing and being able to apply these movement patterns make a fighter more versatile. In fact, I don't know a martial artist that would not benefit from learning how do to a hip throw.
  3. learning actual throwing techniques - why not? capoeirista might actually use that hip throw or shoulder throw in fighting or roda!
  4. defending against grabs - some baloes were created by taking [greco-roman?] throws and 'standing them up'(see below). But in their lower version, the baloes can be used to defend body grabs by throwing the opponent off of you.   There is an interesting story in the book 'Heranca de Mestre Bimba':

    "On the day of our 'graduacao' the Roca do Lobo (Maia and Nilton must remember, especially my colleague Dr. Nilton, who is today in Goiana ). Onca-Tigre, versed in JiuJitsu, asked the Mestre, 'If Ruy Gouveia could escape his headlock.' The Mestre responded, 'Go ahead and try!' The result was that the headlock never found the thin and short neck of Ruy, who was skinny but flexible, agile, and strong, like a serpent! The athletic Dr. Nilton commented, 'I never even saw how he caught me, and gave me so many throws[baloes, in the original]!' Ruy went around applying successive throws[baloes] to the strong and heavy body of Onca-Tigre, using light, quick, successive throws from the waist[baloes cinturados], as if it were child's play!"

    Now, this is an interesting because if it is interpreted correctly, it says that the capoeirista, as Onca-Tigre tried to grab him, grabbed Onca-Tigre instead and threw him with a balao! This would prove that baloes were not trained to teach you to 'land on your feet when thrown'; they were trained so that you could use them to throw somebody who grabs you! Ie not modern 'stunts', but actual fighting techniques!
  5. neutralizing being thrown - it goes without saying that in baloes, capoeirista learns not to panic when thrown and to land safely (ie not on his head or back);this is similar to original judo falls(not the modern ones where you are taught to slap the ground) where judoka were trained to land on their feet when being thrown
  6. new facet of capoeira game - again, why not? Bimba was a great inovator; is it so hard to imagine that he wanted to expand the game itself by giving it another dimension - capoeirista that not only kicked, headbutted and swept; but also threw people around his back and hip? See Iuna!

Is it too farfetched to think that Bimba actually (or at least virtually) planned to use baloes for ALL of these purposes???


Where are baloes from?

Some people say that baloes are from batuque. Now that is impossible, as batuque contains a completely different class of techniques. Perhaps they could have come from some form of African wrestling. But the easiest explanation is that most of them came from Greco-roman wrestling, popular at the time.
For example, balao cinturado and gravata cinturada are typical wrestling throws; not favoured in judo and jujutsu, for example, that prefer hip throws.
Let us say as a working hypothesis that Bimba indeed excerpted greco-roman wrestling.

Now it is easy to see how the throws were modified and why:
First, the grabs are one handed, instead of the proper throws that grip two-handed; appearently Bimba felt that grabbing with both hands was un-capoeiristalike and would lead to (prolonged) wrestling.
Second, some of the throws were obviously 'lifted up'. One example is balao cinturado. In balao cinturado,the opponent is thrown over your chest and lands on his feet; it is hard for people to see how this can be a (combat effective) throw, because there is no way to plant the opponent onto his head or back like that.

A common wrestling throw - a headlock suplay - is done precisely like balao cinturado, with one difference - the thrower falls back and lands onto his shoulder, slamming opponent over his chest onto the ground. Now, this is a good throw; but unsuitable for capoeira roda, as both players end up on the ground. It seems probable that Bimba took the suplay and lifted it up; so that both players can remain standing while doing it. (The standing version is harder to do, actually.)
Yet, for self defence, you can easily shift to the original form; it the opponent tries to tackle you, grab him and throw him over with a 'low' cinturado. This is a common and reliable defense to tackle, and I would think Bimba knew it.

Similarly, a kneeling,low combat form of 'gravata cinturada' is used in a rare defense against vingativa taught by Mestre Bimba (taught to me by a gentlemant who was shown it by Mestre Deputado who learned it from Bimba).

This further corroborates the idea that baloes were supposed to be used offensively by the capoeirista. Yes, in the manner of a judo player or a wrestler!

This is an interesting topic that could be talked about for a long time. Regardless of whether baloes are really from greco(as I believe), they certainly can be used in self-defence. I taught most of the baloes as simple,reliable self-defence techniques against various kinds of body grabs.

There is one 'balao' that is different from the others; and that is 'cintura desprezada'; where the opponent is lifted on your shoulders from an au. I believe this one might be more ancient, and actually a part of capoeira. It certainly has a close relation with 'tombo de ladeira' of Capoeiragem carioca!

Examples of using baloes as self-defence techniques:

1a)Classic balao cinturado (note the proper suplay-like entry and arch)

1b)Opponent tries to tackle me. I go with the energy of the tackle, dropping underneath him into a squat while hugging him around his chest/armpit. Finally, I straighten my legs, throwing myself backward and heaving the opponent over my chest.

2a)Classic gravata cinturada (note I do not bend over at waist).

2b)When grabbed from behind, I turn and seize opponent's head with both hands. (In the combat variant of gravata, both hands are always used). I drop to one knee and throw the opponent over me as in the standing cinturada.

3a)Classic frontal arqueado.

3b)When held in headlock, I straighten my back, dropping low and beneath the opponent, pressing against his knees. Finally, I roll onto my back,pushing up and back with my palms, throwing opponent over me. If he doesn't let go of his headlock, he is in for a hard landing.


Where have baloes gone?

One doesn't have to be a capoeira scholar to notice that baloes are gone from modern capoeira. In most school they don't even know they exist,and if they do,they don't use them. Some schools pay lip-service to them, or teach the simplified version of the first four as 'stunts'. The complete arsenal of baloes seem to be kept only by 'Filhos de Bimba'. But their use as actual combat techniques is practically unheard of.

Similarly, the original Iuna - the game of baloes - is not played anymore. It went away with the baloes; today, 'Iuna' is usually a 'game' of individual acrobatics - which I regard as a huge slap across Mestre Bimba's face.
It is ironic that the same people who praise Mestre Bimba's innovations throw these same innovations out.

Now, what could be the reason baloes were thrown away(pun intended)?

First reason might be simple ignorance. Most modern capoeira schools don't have that strong of a link with actually teachings of Mestre Bimba. (For example I was told that Camisa, found of Abada, only trained with Bimba for about a year.). So it is likely some people never learned the baloes and their proper place.

Second reason is the paradigm shift. Bimba probably introduced baloes because he wanted capoeira to be more complete fighting art(see above). This motivation is not there anymore.
Furthermore, the baloes quite simply look foreign to capoeira; even a layman can see it. Modern capoeirista wants to kicks high and rotate in the air; looking 'brazilian'; he doesn't want to look like a freakin' wrestler or judo-player (the truth that capoeira always was a wrestling style is lost on him). Consequently, baloes are replaced by sommersaults and exagerated postures.
(It was not once that people laughed [at their own ignorance, really] when I gave banda to somebody in the roda; in their ignorance, they though I 'used judo' in roda; because nobody explained them that sweeps and trips are part of capoeira)

Third reason might be the spreading of BJJ among capoeiristas. As BJJ became popular form of grappling, most people want to grapple by using 'baiana' or double leg takedown. Judo-type throws are out of fashion (that doesn't mean they are not effective! Watch Parisian doing judo in MMA).

The future of baloes

It is improbable that baloes will ever (again) become part of general capoeira; not with the direction today's capoeira is heading.

Yet, it would be good for them to return to capoeira; they give an interesting flavor to it. They also expand the horizons of the capoeirista (as a fighter) - a capoeirista should be able to execute all the baloes with somebody his own size.

Last but not least, they are fun! Just look at Filhos de Bimba playing Iuna.

<link to the video of filhos de bimba playing Iuna>

(In fact, watching FDB, especially their Iuna, is one of the very few occassion when I mourn not playing 'modern' capoeira anymore).


Let me conclude this article with a short meditation on baloes I wrote on 24.12.2008:

"I really like Bimba's Regional; that's why I am thankful to Filhos de Bimba for keeping it alive. Unfortunatelly, it seems Bimba's project is not evolving anymore; on the contrary, modern capoeira trashed most of Bimba's inovations.

For example, baloes and Iuna; today, baloes are almost never used in capoeira and about the thing that became of Iuna it is better not to speak.

Baloes are a harshly undervalued and really genial addition to capoeira, as they add into it movement patterns never before seen.
It is possible that Bimba's dream for Iuna was to create a new, never before seen capoeira - not only 'something for formados' or 'to save playfulness', as is sometimes states.

Therefore it is excellent that at least Filhos de Bimba keep Iuna alive:

The truth is, if I trained Regional, I would walk a slightly different path; I would not only try to keep baloes (in Iuna), but to evolve this style of game! By evolving baloes in Regional, a singular style would emerge in which baloes would be totally integrated into the game; so deeply blended you woudln't be able to take them out anymore.

My dream is to evolve Iuna, so that the result will be a game where the movements ARE baloes. This might be, I think, the direction Bimba would follow if he was alive.

Unfortunately, today's capoeira is not practicing this type of evolution...

Similarly, another great part of capoeira is not trained and evolved - batuque.*)"

*)This was before I moved over to Carioca and recovered the Batuque throws























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