Just as a good capoeirista must have a strong foundation, so should the heart and soul of capoeira, the Berimbau; and while all parts of this sacred instrument are important, the biriba is a crucial and foundational piece that provides the structure and shape necessary for the right sounds to come out during a roda.
Scientifically known as Rollinia mucosa, the biriba is native to various regions of the world, such as the Antilles, Central America, and northern South America, as well as some regions of the tropics. The biriba tree is a medium sized tree, growing to about 30 feet (or 9 meters) tall. It is usually grown from seeds, but those who are experiences in growing this type of tree might also graft it onto rootstocks of Annona Montana (another type of tree) to dwarf its growth. Biriba also grows best under lots of sun in the acidic soil of the wet tropics.
There are over 65 Rollinia species in the world, but it is the Rollinia mucosa species has been specifically used for ages by capoeiristas and music afficionados alike to create the perfect foundation for a great berimbau.
It seems that no matter what part of the world one is from or what martial art one chooses to practice, one always seems to be captivated by the awe-inspiring stories of the young disciple who is taken under a master’s wing and taught the secret techniques and philosophies required to ultimately become a master in his own right. The idea of putting so much hard work and dedication into one’s discipline, as well as developing that intimate relationship with one’s master, is something that many say they would do if they had the chance… yet the tendency to develop these things is becoming more and more rare as the times go by.
With so many tools accessible in this world, such as Youtube videos, DVDs, and other internet sources, many seem to have started developing the idea that having a mestre isn’t as necessary as it used to be if one wants to learn a martial art nowadays. However, what people fail to realize is that practicing a martial art, such as capoeira, is so much more than acquiring different moves and simply putting them together. In order to call oneself a martial artist or, in our case, a capoeirista, one should also learn his or her mestre’s philosophy regarding the martial art. After all, having an idea of what your mestre’s philosophy is what provides you with a concrete sense of what your identity and style is. Also, just as we all have our familial lineage that we receive from our parents and grandparents, following your mestre’s philosophy will provide you with your lineage pertaining to your history in martial arts as well as passing on the legacy and vision that your mestre has created. One cannot truly call oneself a true student of his or her mestre without giving him- or herself to his philosophies and teachings.
Developing that mestre/student relationship requires a lot of time and dedication, but the rewards that one reaps are absolutely priceless. Therefore, we must all inspire to become not only our mestre’s students…but actually become a disciple of his philosophies and teachings. If you are not sure of what the difference between being a student and a disciple, here are a few examples.
A student makes excuses as to why he can’t do something / A disciple makes it happen.
A student says, “I don’t have time” / A disciple always says, “Here I am”
A student simply worries about oneself / A disciple offers to help out
A student waits to be told what to do / A disciple takes initiative and assumes responsibilities
A student complains and criticizes when corrected / A disciple obeys and follows his mestre’s teachings
In the end, we all have to realize that our mestres have dedicated their whole lives to learning this beautiful martial art known as capoeira. We can only benefit by giving 100% of ourselves to our mestres and follow their teachings with dedication and heart.