One tradition in Capoeira is for the mestre to give nicknames to the students. For some teachers the nickname is meant to encapsulate the character of the students and a student can go for years without receiving a nickname. For others, it’s not as deep of a process. My teacher seems to like giving out nicknames and so for the longest time I didn’t know the real name of most of the people I was playing with.
Here’s how it played out for the first few months before my ears tuned to Portuguese and I understood the nickname thing.
“Hi, I’m Michael, what’s your name?'”
(To myself) “Hmm. That translates to scorpion, right? Okay this guy’s a badass.”
Imagine a playground bully picking a fight with you. He says, “Okay dweeb, you pick three friends to come fight behind the jungle gym after school. I’m bringing Fran, Jonathan and Gary.” “Ha!” you think, “Piece of cake — Fran? Jonathan? Gary? what dorky names.”
Now, replay that scene inserting Fran, Jonathan and Gary’s capoeira names: He says, “Okay dweeb, you pick three friends to come fight behind the jungle gym after school. I’m bringing Rapaz, Break, and Escorião.” “Um…” you think, “…I’ll pass this time, thanks for the offer.” Right?
Let’s start with Rapaz. Given name: Fran.
Next in line: Break. Given name: Jonathan.
Finally, Escorpião. Given name: Gary.