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Malicia (Malice) is a concept in Capoeira that is both simple and complex. Its Latin root, mal, meaning 'bad,' or 'ill,' would imply a concept of evilness. However, contextually speaking, malicia translates best as 'trickery/deceit.' Malicia, at its heart in Capoeira, is the art of deceiving your opponent and tricking them into a compromising position.
Malicia has several philosophical areas. One of which lies in the idea that the roda is a microcosm of life. As such, malicia becomes important, as it allows a capoeirista to see into a person and understand how a person thinks and approaches life. As malicia would allow the capoeirista to see an attack as a fake to set up a takedown, also malicia would allow the capoeirista to see a person's real motive behind a facade (Nestor Capoeira, Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game).
Another philosophical area of malicia concerns mandinga, or magic. Malicia, at its heart, is the deep understanding of the human condition, and the other person. To truly embrace malicia is to attain a level of insight reserved for shamans and other magic practitioners. It is to have an understanding of the basic forces of the universe and be able to harness them, as referenced in Nestor Capoeira's books The Little Capoeira Book and Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game.
Pros and cons
Malicia has an important role in capoeira and life outside the roda. However, in many aspects, malicia also has an upper limit in terms of scheming and planning. Nestor Capoeira states in The Little Capoeira Book that "Malandro demais se atrapalha". A loose translation of this statement is that someone who tries to be too clever or smart only confuses himself. For the capoeirista, this serves as a warning to not become so involved in tricking your opponent that you miss the actions of the game. In Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game, he further explains that for the capoeirista, malicia becomes an innate part of their game. The desire to be sneaky and deceptive can grow until it blinds the capoeirista to his/her opponent's trickiness. Instead of using malicia to become a better player, often the capoeirista winds up at the mercy of his/her opponent, as a result of being so caught up in trying to work their own malicia that they forget to play Capoeira. Malicia, in its proper place in life and the roda, becomes a healthy understanding of the interactions of the capoeirista and the outside world.