Capoeira - Master Itamar

Mon, Wed and Fri from 7:00pm to 8:30pm.

Mestre Itamar (Français) (21) 2547-7513
Carlos Felipe (English) (21) 9431-5914

Master Itamar, is one of the founders of Grupo Senzala, he coordinates a cell of the group in París, France (Prof. Anjinho) and another in Madrid, Spain. His academy in Rio de Janeiro is in Copacabana at Pompeu Loureiro St. 116 at the Clube Olímpico.

Group Senzala

By Master Itamar

In 1963, a group of boys who loved Capoeira started getting together to train the art in the building where two of them, Paulo and Rafael, used to live, in Laranjeiras, a neighborhood in the southern area of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Paulo, who had trained Capoeira in Salvador with Mestre Bimba, used to lead the training sessions. He was not a Capoeira teacher nor did he have much experience, but he taught what he knew.
At that point, I was still not acquainted with this group.
I started Capoeira in Lapa, downtown Rio, where I used to live. I was introduced to the art by a friend of mine called Paulo Brasil, who used to train Capoeira with his judo instructor, Rudholf Hermany, in the School of Physical Education of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, then called Universidade do Brasil.
Hermany was a Judo champion but he also loved Capoeira. The style he practiced was then called Capoeira de Sinhô, from master Sinhozinho.
Paulo Brasil was my friend. He was a bit older than me but we used to hang out together a lot. Once, when we were going to Flamengo beach, we stopped in the middle of the way so he could show me some Capoeira movements, since I had never seen it.
Right after he demonstrated the movements, a slim black guy wearing long sleeve shirts approached us, calling us playboys. He kindly asked if we practiced Capoeira. He introduced himself as a former student of master Maré, from Salvador, and told us that his nickname was Boca (mouth).
After that, I started training hard with Boca right there, on the lawn near the Flamengo beach. With him I learned how to play berimbau and how to sing a few Capoeira songs. Every day I became more interested in that art which very recently was completely unknown to me.
After three months training with Boca, he promised to take me and Paulo Brasil to visit some “playboys” (as he referred to white kids) who trained Capoeira. We arrived at the old Teatro Jovem (Youth Theater), in Botafogo, southern part of Rio.
There we met a group of boys, the same that used to train in the building in Laranjeiras. Five of them stood out, Gato, Gil, Preguiça and the brothers Paulo and Rafael.
We were very well-received, especially because not one of them knew how to play the berimbau and when they saw that I was carrying one they were sure that something was about to change in the group. They used to train to the sound of a record from Mestre Bimba.
That was how I arrived at Grupo Senzala – which at this point still was not called by this name but already existed. I started to come to the Teatro Jovem and from there we moved to Benjamin Constant street, to a small club that used to lend us a studio. We stayed there for a little while and then moved to Associação Maranhense, in Largo do Machado, also in the southern part of Rio.
There we met Maranhão, who became a member of the group. He was a very good singer, with a great voice, and played the berimbau very well.
A few months later, we moved again, this time to Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Getulio Vargas Foundation), where we would teach anyone who wanted to join for a small monthly fee.
In 1964, I went to visit my brother in Brasilia, where he lived. While visiting a Judo school, I was received by an instructor called Miura. He asked me if I was interested in learning Judo. I told him I was not because I already trained Capoeira. That was when he introduced me to his student Claudio Brasilia, who was a green belt at the time. He also was passionate about Capoeira and had also been training it with a group of friends.
We scheduled to meet and train together the next day. That was where I met Helio Tabosa, who later became part of our group and who still represents Grupo Senzala in Brasilia.
When he came to Rio for his year-end vacation, Claudio and I met often and when the time came for him to return to Brasilia, Claudio introduced me to Marcelo (who later became known as Peixinho, the nickname I gave him) and asked me to help him to continue training, since he was very keen on the art.
That was how I earned another training companion. Peixinho started training with Boca as well and he also began to hang out with the group.
Claudio and I were good friends and treated each other like brothers. So the next time he came to Rio, I took him to meet the group. Claudio then became part of the group as well.
At that point, the group had changed location once again, this time to Cosme Velho. There, our training space was a party lounge in the house of a friend called Helinho. We used to visit often the Capoeira schools in the farther neighborhoods, where we earned respect from other capoeiristas and a lot of experience. We learned a lot with these old masters, who always gave us a warm welcome.
Among them, I would like to highlight Master Arthur Emidio.
In 1965, we did our first Capoeira performance at Clube Germania, in Botafogo. Then, the MC asked the name of the group, because he intended to introduce us by that name. That was when the name Senzala appeared.
All the while we were also still training in the building. There, we were joined by Garrincha and Sorriso, who were very young.
In 1967, we were invited to participate in an event that would be held on the 20th of June called Berimbau de Ouro (Golden Berimbau), at Feira da Providência (Providence Market), which at the time was located near Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.
It was a performance of several groups. Each group had to choose a pair who would play Capoeira non-stop for six minutes. The judges were men from the Association of Friends of Folklore. We won this trophy three times in a row so we kept it for good. The trophy, however, was stolen by Preguiça when he went to the United States. There, he used the trophy to introduce himself as a Brazilian Capoeira champion.
In 1968, we met Nestor, who used to study engineering in the same university as Gato. Nestor had been a student of Mestre Leopoldina's.
That same year, five years after the group had been formed, Augusto (Baiano Anzol) arrived. He had been a student of Mestre Bimba, but he did not sing or play the instruments. He wrote a book with several Capoeira pictures using the help of a student of mine, Angelo Gabriel.
In 1971, we moved once more, this time to the Association of Civil Servants, in Botafogo. At this point, Grupo Senzala was already known and respected across the country. We were so, even though we did not have a master, we just learned from each other, taking advantage of trips to Salvador from some members of the group, who would return full of valuable information. We also learned a lot from the occasional visits of masters from Bahia to Rio.
This was especially the case with Master Camisa Roxa, who, from my standpoint, was one of our biggest supporters. In 1973, 11 years after Grupo Senzala had been formed, we received Camisinha (now known as Mestre Camisa) to be part of the group. Camisinha had taken the basic course at Mestre Bimba’s school – which, according to Mestre Itapoan, used to last five months. He was 16 when he joined Grupo Senzala, and he remained a part of the group for 18 years, after which he left and formed his own group, Abada Capoeira.
We have never had a master, a central figure to direct training. As a result, Grupo Senzala ended up creating a new style of Capoeira, which is neither angola nor regional, from what we learned from the masters in the outskirts of Rio and from Bahia.
We call this Capoeira da Senzala. The style is more effective, technical and rigorous and is widely adopted by several other groups in Brazil.
Even though the group has been around for so long, it only has 14 masters with the red cord, the highest degree within Grupo Senzala. Most of Senzala’s masters have gone to university.
Grupo Senzala is among the largest Capoeira groups in the world, especially when taking into account that other of the largest groups in the world, such as Abada and Capoeira Brasil, were formed by former Senzala members.
It is not uncommon to read younger masters saying proudly in interviews that they were part of Grupo Senzala at some point. That is one of the things that makes us think that all the effort over these 50 years were worth our while.
Other masters that were part of Grupo Senzala – some of which stopped Capoeira: Borracha, Mosquito, Paulo, Helio Tabosa. I also would like to highlight that some people such as Claudio Brasilia, Paulo Flores and Rafael Flores are out of Capoeira only physically, since they continue to have Capoeira and Grupo Senzala in their hearts.
Lastly, I have to mention Preguiça, who stole the Berimbau de Ouro trophy to use it to introduce himself falsely as a Capoeira champion from Brazil when he moved to the United States.

Other info:
In 1972, Mestre Itamar, was accepted in the School of Physical Education of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where he taught Capoeira for two years. He taught Capoeira in the Navy School, in the student centre at the Engineering School of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, at the Getulio Vargas Foundation and in several school in the southern part of Rio de Janeiro.

He holds a diploma in French from Alliance Française. He owned an academy in Copacabana in partnership with Mestre Peixinho (Celeiro de Bambas)

Currently, he teaches at Clube Olimpico, Rua Pompeu Loureiro 116 Copacabana. He coordinates eight groups in Paris and one in Curitiba, Southern Brazil.