Mestre Gato and the Foundation of Grupo Senzala

Mestre Gato is one of the founding members of Grupo Senzala de Capoeira, one of the first Capoeira groups of its kind in Brazil. Grupo Senzala was founded in 1966 with the objectives of teaching, researching, and promoting Capoeira. The Senzala style of Capoeira is based on the techniques of Capoeira Regional developed by Mestre Bimba while drawing on other influences, incorporating movements from Capoeira Angola and gymnastics.

Mestre Gato began training Capoeira in 1963 with Paulo and Rafael Flores in the Laranjeiras district in Rio de Janeiro, where a small group of friends, that would later become the founders of Grupo Senzala, would gather to work on their technique. In these early days, he also trained with Mestre Valdo Santana, Mestre Artur Emídio, and Mestre Acordeon.


Mestre Gato and Mestre Mosquito

In 1967, the Senzala duet of Mestre Gato and Mestre Preguiça entered and won the Berimbau de Ouro Capoeira tournament. After winning again in 1968, they were prevented from entering a third time in 1969. The organizers informed them that the competition was not open to Mestres, and that their performance over the past two years had proven that they were Mestres of their art.

Unable to compete, they carried on their work by training other capoeiristas for competition. Their efforts proved successful when the next team representing Grupo Senzala, Mosquito and Borracha, entered and won the Berimbau de Ouro tournament. News of the success of this new group spread fast throughout the Capoeira community in Brazil, and the young Grupo Senzala acquired a reputation of excellence in Capoeira.


Since then, Mestre Gato has continued to be an important figure in the practice, promotion, and instruction of Capoeira in Brazil. His activities involved teaching Capoeira at the Universities UFRJ and PUC, participating in discussions, demonstrations, and interviews (including the television programs Hebe Camargo and Bibi Ferreira), organizing and administrating Capoeira events and discussions, participating in policy formation within the Capoeira community, and lecturing at Capoeira events. In addition, he traveled throughout Brazil participating in the classes and Rodas of many historically important mestres such as Mestre Bimba, Mestre Caiçaras, Mestre Eziquiel, Mestre Saci, and Mestre Popó de Santo Amaro da Purificação.

In 1989, Mestre Gato traveled to the UK to study at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. There, he founded the UK branch of Senzala, which has since spread throughout the country with schools in Cambridge, Harlow, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norwich and Peterlee. Mestre Gato has traveled throughout Europe, lecturing and giving workshops in Capoeira. He also maintains a school in Rio de Janeiro, organizes the international Capoeira event Capoeirando held every January, and participates in the organization of the annual Senzala event Vadiação Senzala held in July.

Senzala Seattle is the first school under the leadership of Mestre Gato in the U.S.

Mestre Gato and Mestre Itamar