Caleb Buckley and Capoeira Inspiring the Youth of Australia

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Caleb Buckley talking about himself and his Passion Project.

I am 15 years old and I have been training Capoeira for 7 years. My Capoeira Mestre (Master) Edval Santos has strongly recommended that I need to see, experience and understand the origins of Capoeira. To be a success in Capoeira you must share your knowledge and skills with others. In 2007, Mestre Edval Santos brought two Masters from Brazil to Melbourne, Mestres Boa Gente and Alfredo. Within a very short time I learnt new skills and discovered new forms of Capoeira. I came to realise that if I could learn so much in only two weeks, I would gain invaluable knowledge and skills if I were to spend time in Brazil living amongst the highly qualified and respected Masters. The time I have spent with my Mestre Edval Santos (Collingwood) and Mestres Alfredo and Boa Gente ignited my inspiration for this project.
Mestre Boa Gente is famous worldwide for helping the community; he trains children that would otherwise be living on the streets of Brazil. He has also started a community Radio Station that has further enhanced his popularity. On one of his segments he reads the newspaper’s main headlines on air, to help keep the locals who can’t read or write. Mestre Boa Gente uses Capoeira introduces kids to an alternative life away from unemployment, street life and crime. National Geographic has documented his work in a program that has been aired around the world (a copy can be provided upon request). Mestre Boa Gente stayed with my family during his brief visit in Melbourne and inspired me to begin the Passion Project. Mestre Boa Gente has extended an invitation for me to train with him in Brazil so that I too can follow in his footsteps. He will show me how he created his community program independently. This includes creating a Capoeira Academy and a Radio Station but also a safe area where the kids can congregate, play music and incorporate their Capoeira skills with break dancing (which is also very popular amongst the kids). By reaching kids earlier in their lives, his programs have given them an opportunity for a better future, something they may never have had without his help. It is for these reasons that I would like the to start the Passion Project.

The issues my project aims to address are: lack of discipline, lack of structure, low self esteem, lack of confidence, boredom, obesity, lack of focus and goals, shortage of positive and popular role models, and lack of safe and positive environments to congregate, and be productive in a safe, disciplined and respectful manner.

I will begin my Passion Project within the Collingwood Community in Melbourne Australia. I am a student at Collingwood College. Collingwood has a community from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds, including an indigenous community, immigrants, public housing residents and low-income earners. As a community I believe it’s strengths are it’s independent culture and diversity. It is this environment that allows for schools like Collingwood College to exist and support alternative programs like this one. I also believe that the Collingwood community will embrace something new and that it will support an addition to the cultural richness of Collingwood.

A weakness of this community seems to be lack of opportunity for youth who may not be able to afford private tuition in sport, music, etc. This can also create a lack of direction and hope for the future, which I hope my project will be able to help. I believe that Australias youth will respond positively to something new, like a cool dance/acrobatic/martial art. It will also be taught by someone their age, someone who can relate to them, talk to them and is one of them. It may even show to other students what can be done and achieved by someone who is their age and similar to them.

This project is a new method being used to address the above issues, as it aims at self-awareness, body strength, self-defence, self-expression and health through practical activities and martial arts. It is active and able to cover so many aspects and is a really fun form of dancing/acrobatics. In Capoeira, you are encouraged to develop your own style of expression and create your own style on movements. This comes from understanding and developing what your body and personality are naturally like and feeling good and strengthening your individuality (every single Capoeirista, capoeira student, has a different style of playing and moving in Capoeira, even if they are all taught by the same teacher!

This Capoeira program will involve a form of dance that takes it off the streets, into a structured, safe and disciplined environment where students can obtain levels and be ambitious in achieving their goals. Accomplishment is experienced as the level in belts escalates to a higher grade the longer students remain in the program. This teaches students, that if they are dedicated and consistent through self-discipline, they will achieve higher grades. In addition, they will be given opportunities to represent the school through many public performances held throughout Melbourne and Australia. This will also give back to the community in a positive way.

About six years later Caleb Buckley made this video Unknown Horizons after training in Brazil, and travelling to America, India and Thailand. He once said to his father he wanted to see every country in the world by the time he was thirty.

Caleb was an extraordinary and disciplined artist, a loving and caring son, a beautiful gentle soul and a wonderful friend. He took his own life on 12th January, 2014 suffering from depression.

This is one of the beautiful dedications to this unique and wonderful person.

Dedication to Caleb (27 Nov 1991–12 Jan 2014)

January 14, 2014 at 11:08am
Dedication to Caleb Buckley (27 Nov 1991–12 Jan 2014)

To my companions in Filhos Da Bahia and our capoeira family around the world:

I learned yesterday that our dear friend Caleb Buckley, whom I regarded as a younger brother, left this world the day before on 12 January 2014, in Melbourne. I am heartbroken.

I first met Caleb in 1997, when I moved to Melbourne and started training in capoeira with Filhos Da Bahia, under Mestre Val Boa Morte. Caleb was a little kid at that time: seven or eight years old. I remember him as a little rubber ball of energy. He threw himself into training with all his heart and had a voracious appetite to learn from Mestre Val and from all of the many mestres who visited our school over the years: including Mestres Marcos Gytaúna, Amen Santo, Burguês, Ousado, Barrão, Suassuna, Roxinho, Boa Gente, our Grand-mestre Alfredo, and the incomparable Mestre Leopoldina.

As he grew, we could all see how talented he was. Caleb had so much energy, was impossibly flexible and seemed totally fearless. He would launch himself into the air in defiance of gravity, just as he would jump into the roda to play absolutely anyone, from the youngest kids, through the toughest instructors to the most venerable of mestres. At all times he was courageous, audacious but respectful and generous, with unfailing good humour.

As time went by, Caleb pushed himself further and developed his acrobatic skills to the point where those of us who remained earthbound could only gaze in awestruck admiration. He had innate talent, but he worked so hard and literally searched the world for teachers from whom he could learn the technical skills he needed to put his talents into practice. Nei, Formiguinha, Luizinho, Borracha, Caracol were all sources of inspiration and instruction, but Caleb went far and wide in his quest, including Brazil, where he played with Mestre Val’s brother Jorginho, whom I remember from Sydney in 1996, when I first started learning capoeira, and who visited us later in Melbourne.

Jorghino stands out for me as playing the most beautiful game I have ever seen… until Caleb came back from Brazil and I saw that the boy who had left to explore the world had come back as a man, as a consummate capoeirista and an artist who had gathered together the materials and the knowledge to create something truly magnificent. After playing in rodas in the US and Brazil, teaching and learning, and spending time with some of the greatest living exponents of this art––Mestre Accordeon, Mestre Amen and many others––Caleb had not only honed his acrobatic and expressive skills, he had developed the valour, toughness and vision to become as great a warrior as he was a performer. Entering the roda with Caleb at that time was a wonderful, terrifying, beautiful ride: anything could happen and the ordinary rules of time and space were suspended. Caleb seemed to see and move in multiple dimensions, appearing from nowhere and everywhere at once, but his true greatness in the roda was his generosity and his respect. He always tried to bring out the best in whomever he played and he always took care of the other person in the roda: he was tough, cheeky, playful and intense, but he was never cruel or dangerous.

Caleb was a brilliant performer, but he was not egotistical or selfish. He stood tall and flew high, but his companions were never stepping-stones or launch-pads to be used and left behind: his greatest joy was to share his knowledge and encourage others to stretch themselves beyond the boundaries of what they thought was possible.

As Caleb taught, so he learned. Constantly developing his physical skills, he also listened to the stories and the songs of the mestres and to the experiences and thoughts of his fellow students. His musicianship and singing began to bloom in the last few years and he was starting to delve into the shifting mysteries of capoeira’s history, learning the roots of this strange, beautiful, multifaceted art.

Caleb was the one amongst us who was on his way to become a mestre. I would dare to say, he was the one who would become the first true Australian capoeira mestre. His physical skills, his knowledge, his hunger for learning, his generosity in teaching, his dedication and his youth were all there, ready for him to continue along this road, farther than any other.

It was not to be.

Caleb had his troubles. I do not know them all. No one can know the world inside another person. Caleb shone brilliantly, but he had a turbulent life and his relationships were just as intense and volatile as those of any of us. I do not have the knowledge or the right to say more, except this: do not blame yourselves and do not blame others. At times like this, we all ask “why?”, but no one except Caleb really knows why––and he cannot tell us.

We may regret things we have said. We may regret things we left unsaid. We may regret things done and left undone. But it never comes down to one word or action alone––there is always more going on than we can see. A chance word one day might tip someone over the edge into an impulsive action, but on another day might raise no more than a sigh. So please: be kind. Be compassionate. We who live must live, for each other and ourselves––and for whatever greater purpose we have, whether it is known to us or not.

None of us knows when our time may come. I have lost a brother before, taken away at the happiest moment of his life. I have lost friends in tragic circumstances. We lost Richard “Azulão” two years ago, after a long period of solitary torment. We have now lost Caleb–our brother, son, lover, teacher, inspiration, companion, but he was always generous and he still has more to give.

Caleb is a hero––in the true sense of the word––and heroes are immortal.

Valeu, my friend. I will carry you in my heart. AXÊ!

Chris Lemoh: “Doutor”, Mahatma Grande”

Melbourne, 14 January 2014
We will miss you forever Caleb. When there is sadness you can plant a garden of memories.
If you are feeling bad and suffering from depression go to
A song from Caleb Buckley

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