What is Capoeira

Capoeira is a Brazilian cultural expression that mixes martial art, sport, popular culture and music. It has Afro-Brazilian origins and incorporates movements of fight, acrobatics, dance, percussion and music in a rhythmic dialogue of body, mind and spirit.

Playing capoeira helps in the development of diverse social, mental, and physical abilities, and also helps its practitioners to deal with conflicts and fears, overcoming those with confidence, determination and humour.

Capoeira was developed in Brazil, mainly by descendants of African slaves with some native influence and is characterized by blows and complex and agile movements, utilizing primarily kicks and trips, beyond headers (cabeçadas), knees (joelhadas), nudges (cotoveladas), acrobatics on the ground or in the air.

It is it’s musicality that distinguishes Capoeira from the majority of the other martial arts. Practitioners learn not only how to fight and play the game, but also to play the typical instruments and to sing.  An experienced capoeirista that ignores the musicality is considered incomplete.

The ginga step also differentiates Capoeira from the other modalities of fight and its purpose is to study the adversary and the “game”.  It serves to prepare and defer the strikes of attack and, in the defence it is responsible for swings and avoidance of blows, helping decisive way to reflexes, exactly by the capoeirista being in constant movement. A good capoeirista is recognized by his style of ginga, this is, if he shows big ease, rhythm, informality, amplitude of movements and malice.

The word capoeira originates from Tupi-Guarani and refers to the new vegetation on cut forest areas of the Brazilian interior. It was suggested that the capoeira have obtained the name from this vegetation that surrounded the big rural slave-owner estates.

Nowadays, the capoeira became not only an art or a cultural aspect, but a true exporter of the Brazilian culture. It is present in many countries on all of the continents. Every year capoeira attracts thousands of foreign students to Brazil and, frequently, foreign capoeiristas make an effort to learn Portuguese in an effort to get involved better with the art.  Respected masters are constantly invited to teach outside of Brasil. Presentations of capoeira, generally administered in form of spectacle with acrobatics and minimum fighting, are carried out all over the world.

The martial aspect however is still very present in capoeira and, as in the old times, still is subtle and disguised. The street-wise aspect is always there, experienced capoeirista rarely takes the eyes off his opponents in a capoeira game, since a fall can arrive disguised into even a friendly gesture.

Other cultural manifestations as batuque, maculelê, puxada de rede and samba de roda are dances strongly connected to the capoeira, as they have been born from the same culture.

What we have got as a learning from capoeira? It is the presence of ginga in the body, the street-wise witchcraft, the ability to learn how to resolve a disagreement through a game of cleverness, and not the rough force and violence.

As Mestre Pastinha said in his writings: “To be a good capoeirista the person has to know how to play not only capoeira: also should be a person that gives examples through his attitude of discipline, respect and solidarity. In the game, it is prohibited to use tricks and all of the masters have a duty to teach their students that hands cannot be put on the adversaries. Capoeira is the fight of slave in the angst of freedom!”

Capoeira is a symbol of the Afro-Brazilian culture, symbol of the intermarriage of ethnic groups, symbol of resistance to the oppression. At present, it is considered Immaterial Cultural Patrimony of Brazil.