Three pillars (and two more)

This is another great concept I learned from my capoeira master, and he gives credit for it to Mestre Ombrinho, the first non-Brazilian master in the history of capoeira.

If you are capoeirista and have already heard the story about “Three pillars”, you probably don’t know there are two more. And if you don’t practice capoeira at all, stay put, try to use your imagination and switch “capoeira” to your work, study, or whatever you do.

To be a master, start by being a student. Being a good student is based on the three pillars of capoeira.

1st Pillar is Academy. Find a teacher, join a school, be a member with a group of students. Practice with your classmates; be consistent in your attendance. Learn the basics and foundations first.

2nd Pillar is Homework. There is no a good capoeirista or a world champion, who would succeed only by attending his regular trainings. Practice at home, practice by yourself. Train what you learned in class. Work by yourself mindfully to internalize good technique, balance, coordination, strength, flexibility.

3rd Pillar is Travel. After enough time spent in the academy and with home practice, when you feel stuck, go out and “travel”. Participate in workshops, rodas, events with other groups, but choose wisely.

“Discover how your game works with other capoeiristas, how your style works with other styles. Find things you admire in the practice of others. Reinforce what you like about your style, find areas for development.”

Mestre Ombirnho

So these three pillars are the foundation for a good and well-balanced capoeira. If you feel like you reached a bottleneck in your progress, or stuck, try to go back and check your pillars.

  • Maybe you got too comfortable at your academy, and it’s time to put some more time in for the self-practice?
  • Maybe you are one of those capoeira hermits, who trains too much by himself, and when he comes to a roda, it’s very hard to connect and play with him? So you should go back to the first pillar.
  • Maybe you travel too much and capoeira for you is a party? You show up only for workshops, jump from event to event, and in the end you feel like you learned something new, but actually didn’t progress at all.

Check those pillars. Work on them. Make sure they are balanced. I think this has a lot to do with “Learn, Practice, Train” cycle, but it zooms out from particular skills to a big picture – your strategy in capoeira and life in general.

Two more pillars

All from above I learned in a very natural and ancient form of oral tradition. But then I found the source of this story and somehow two more pillars got lost on the way. Perhaps they were intentionally set aside so as not to confuse young students. Or perhaps Mestre Ombrinho enhanced his original work by adding two extra pillars. Here they are.

Original quote from “Becoming a mestre1

4th Pillar: Take care of your Mind, Body & Spirit

Do the things that promote health, vitality and longevity. Eat nutritious foods, hydrate, get plenty of sleep and rest: a good place to begin. Develop habits that develop your mind, body and spirit. Push your boundaries, explore outside of your comfort zone. Live well, share and be considerate. Give back to others, to earth, to the universe.

5th Pillar: The Universe

This realm is for each of us to explore with an open heart and mind. The forces of nature that are unseen, unsung, and undiscovered are everywhere. Be open and receptive to their power. They effect us all in realms of which we are mostly unaware.

These 5 Pillars are to be explored and developed. All 5 Pillars promote growth, balance and longevity in capoeira and in life.


1. Mestre Ombrinho (Michael Goldstein) is the Head Instructor at the New York Mindful Capoeira Academy. Mestre Ombrinho is the first non-Brazilian to become a capoeira master. The essay “Becoming a mestre” is dated “July 8, 2015”.