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Playing in the Light


What does it take to be a Mestre? A Mestre is what people in the Capoeira community call the senior or Master teachers. To earn the title of Mestre, it often requires a minimum of 20 years of training in the self-defense, music, acrobatic, philosophical, dance, and ritual components of Capoeira. It also mandates the woman or man live a full life.

I gained plenty from the United Capoeira Association Hayward’s 2019 Batizado. My three previous blog entries discussed some of the physical and mental benefits that came with attending the event. I also managed to buy a book that provided me with deep insight into the process of becoming a Mestre.

On my last day in California, I bought Patrick “Mestre Galego” Hilligan’s book, “Playing in the Light: My Journey with the Art of Capoeira.” I began reading it on my flights from the US to Antigua. By the time I arrived home, I had completed half of the 212 pages of text.

Mestre Galego’s book is an incredible resource for people with interests in learning more about Capoeira. It is especially important for students of the United Capoeira Association (UCA) founded by Mestre Acordeon, Mestre Ra, and Mestra Suelly. The book tells the story of one of the few students to earn the title Mestre under the leadership guidance of UCA.

Galego's memoir discusses the early days of the United Capoeira Association. I learned that Mestre Acordeon’s philosophical discussions were fundamental to his first classes in the bay area. It was also good to read about Mestre Rá’s approach to teaching that emphasized acrobatics and complex sequences.

Before Mestre Galego, became Mestre, he trained hard and consistent for nine years to learn as much as possible from the UCA founders.

In one chapter, Galego discusses the moment he learned of his formatura or graduation. The Mestres invited him to a private meeting to tell him of their decision to promote him at the next event and Galego declined the offer.

A critical component of gaining anything of value in life requires patience. Galego embodied this concept through his decision to reject the promotion. He wanted to travel to Brazil and expand his knowledge of Capoeira and the complementary arts, before accepting Mestres Acordeon and Rá’s invitation. This incident and others shared throughout the text taught me more about the uniqueness of Galego’s character.

In addition to sharing about his journey in Capoeira, Galego discusses his adventures in Israel, Egypt, Mexico, and Ireland. The time he spent abroad resonated with me because I understand how diverse world experiences can lead to self-realization. From a critical perspective, I didn't see how each of his travels connected to Capoeira, but I can see how these aspects of his story were fundamental to the development of leadership skills.

I appreciate Galego’s willingness to be open and vulnerable.

On multiple occasions, he discloses personal and professional failures. His first marriage ended in a divorce. He encountered many challenges in expanding his classes from a park to a studio.

Galego’s book enables the reader to gain more respect for him as a leader and Mestre of Capoeira. He sacrificed relationships, time, and money to make a positive impact in the community and to build a business from his passion.

If you are thirsty to learn about Capoeira and the process to become a Mestre, Galego’s book, “Playing in the Light: My Journey with the Art of Capoeira,” will not disappoint you. It will quench your thirst; yes, Galego’s book is the water to drink or, “Agua de Beber. ” Buy it at this link.


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