I met Mestre Preto Velho by pure chance and divine luck. And I met him through pure curiosity of understanding the beautiful martial art form known as Capoeira.
When I was 17 years old, I remembered walking down Balboa Park, near a playground, where I saw two people (dressed in white) exchanging kicks (without hitting each other) and incorporating acrobatic moves. I was amazed. And I amazed myself even more when I knew what it was; their moves assimilated to the popularized video game, “Tekken.”
Although these guys had no affiliation with Mestre Preto Velho, I knew that I had to learn this art form. And so, every Saturday or Sunday–that these guys were playing Capoeira on in Balboa Park–I committed myself to train with them. However, it would not be until Black History Month, when I finally trained under the Legendary Mestre Preto Velho
During Black History Month, my High School (Coronado) commissioned me to find a cultural event that would promote Black History. The first idea that popped into my head was the World Beat Center (a center in San Diego which housed all different types of culture on a day-to-day basis). And so, when I arrived to the World Beat Center I came across a pamphlet that said, “Capoeira–Every Saturday, at the World Beat Center.” When I saw this, I knew that I had to come. And on the following Saturday, I finally met him.
When I first met him, he had on a black hat, black shirt, black pants, and thick reading glasses. But I won’t forget how he conducted his classes. When I asked him if I could move up to the front of the class–because my row had kids– he said, in a stern voice, “No!” [The front is only awarded to those who have cordels (belts) and above, and I certainly did not have any]. I was shocked because adults never trained with little kids in the same row. But I swallowed my pride and continued the session; I wanted to learn the art and have him perform at my school.
When I persuaded him to come to my school for Black History Month, neither of us really knew anything about each other–we were complete strangers. But he trusted what I had to say, and agreed to perform for my school for free. The event was a complete success, and soon after I began to attend his classes.
A month has passed and I’m still struggling to understand this art form–not physically but mentally. My moves were getting better, but my ego was not which is something you cannot have in the art of Capoeira. It is like refusing to use a GPS, when you know it will take you to your destination. But all of that changed when I turned 18 years old.
Turning 18 at the time was important to me because I was entering adulthood–and I invited all of my friends to help me celebrate this special occasion. But when I did, the only people who attended were him and my Capoeira group. That day I learned Loyalty.
“Never disrespect the hand that fed you.”
This is something that he would always say to everyone at the end of every class–right after the word “Loyalty.” And so after my birthday, I began to really listen to his teachings in my life–and that’s when I truly discovered the “true hand” in my life: My Mother.
I realized my mother was the one who fed me when I was a baby. And, the one who protected me while I was growing up. This philosophy is something that can never be taught in schools or found online. Mestre, in short, taught me Humility–to not let your knowledge or ego disrespect your parents or anyone who has fed you knowledge or food.
I understood that I must always honor my Mother and Father, but I had to learn to appreciate them as well. And since this discovery, I now have a beautiful relationship with my Mother–and for the first time I am enjoying life. I knew that if I were to feature anyone on my website, it would be Mestre Preto Velho .
Thank you Mestre again for your teachings, and the beautiful relationship that I have with my Mother–it’s because of this that I am eternally grateful.
You are a legend and you will forever be my mentor.