|Also known as||jogo de angola|
jogo de capoeira
|Focus||kicks, dodges, takedowns, handstands, acrobatics|
|Country of origin||Brazil|
|Famous practitioners||(see notable practitioners)|
Capoeira (Portuguese pronunciation: [kapuˈe(j)ɾɐ]) is an Afro-Brazilian martial art and game that includes elements of dance, acrobatics, music and spirituality.
It is known for its acrobatic and complex maneuvers, often involving hands on the ground and inverted kicks. It emphasizes flowing movements rather than fixed stances; the ginga, a rocking step, is usually the focal point of the technique. Though often said to be a martial art disguised as a dance, capoeira served not only as a form of self defense, but also as a way to maintain spirituality and culture.
Originated among enslaved Africans in unknown past, capoeira is a constantly evolving art form. Since its first mention in 1789, capoeira has been banned and persecuted, and it was declared totally illegal in 1890. However, in the early 1930s, Mestre Bimba created a form of capoeira that held back on its spiritual elements and incorporated elements of jiu jitsu, gymnastics and sports. In doing so, the government viewed capoeira as a socially acceptable sport. In the late 1970s, trailblazers such as Mestre Acordeon started bringing capoeira to the US and Europe, helping the art become internationally recognized and practiced. On 26 November 2014, capoeira was granted a special protected status as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
Some of the most renowned capoeira groups are Abadá, Cordão de Ouro, FICA, GCAP and Senzala.
Although debated, the most widely accepted origin of the word capoeira comes from the Tupi words ka'a ("forest") paũ ("round"), referring to the areas of low vegetation in the Brazilian interior where fugitive slaves would hide.
A practitioner of the art is called a capoeirista (Portuguese pronunciation: [kapue(j)ˈɾistɐ]).
Main article: History of capoeira
Well, there is one thing that nobody doubts: the ones to teach capoeira to us were the negro slaves that were brought from Angola.
In the past, some participants used the name angola or the term brincar de angola ("playing angola") for this art. In formal documents, capoeira was known as "capoeiragem", with a practitioner being known as a "capoeira". Gradually, the art became known as capoeira with a practitioner being called a capoeirista.
Capoeira first appeared among Africans in Brazil, during early colonial period. According to the old capoeira mestres and tradition within the community, capoeira originates from Angola. Although the origin of capoeira is not entirely clear, many studies have supported the oral tradition, identifying engolo as an ancestral art and locating the Cunene region as its birthplace. Still, some authors believe there were more ancestors besides engolo. However, at the core of capoeira we find techniques developed in engolo, including crescent kicks, push kicks, sweeps, handstands, cartwheels, evasions and even the iconic Meia lua de compasso, scorpion kick and L-kick.
The street capoeira in 19th-century Rio was very violent and far from the original art. This street-fighting capoeiragem was mix of five fighting techniques: foot kicks, head butts, hand blows, knife fight and stick-fighting, only the first of them arguably originates from Angolan art. That now extinct version of capoeira was called capoeira carioca (meaning of Rio de Janeiro).
Modern capoeira comes from Bahia, and was codified by mestre Bimba and mestre Pastinha, in regional and angola style. Despite their significant differences, both mestres introduced major innovations — they moved training and rodas away from the street, instituted the academia, prescribed uniforms, started to teach women and presented capoeira to a broader audiences.
See also: List of capoeira techniques
Capoeira is a fast and versatile martial art that is historically focused on fighting when outnumbered or at a technological disadvantage. The style emphasizes using the lower body to kick, sweep and take down their aggressors, using the upper body to assist those movements and occasionally attack as well. It features a series of complex positions and body postures that are meant to get chained in an uninterrupted flow, to strike, dodge and move without breaking motion, conferring the style with a characteristic unpredictability and versatility.
The ginga (literally: rocking back and forth; to swing) is the fundamental movement in capoeira, important both for attack and defense purposes. It has two main objectives. One is to keep the capoeirista in a state of constant motion, preventing them from being a still and easy target. The other, using also fakes and feints, is to mislead, fool or trick the opponent, leaving them open for an attack or a counter-attack.
The attacks in the capoeira should be done when opportunity arises, and though they can be preceded by feints or pokes, they must be precise and decisive, like a direct kick to the head, face or a vital body part, or a strong takedown. Most capoeira attacks are made with the legs, like direct or swirling kicks, rasteiras (leg sweeps), tesouras or knee strikes. Elbow strikes, punches and other forms of takedowns complete the main list. The head strike is a very important counter-attack move.
The defense is based on the principle of non-resistance, meaning avoiding an attack using evasive moves instead of blocking it. Avoids are called esquivas, which depend on the direction of the attack and intention of the defender, and can be done standing or with a hand leaning on the floor. A block should only be made when the esquiva is completely non-viable. This fighting strategy allows quick and unpredictable counterattacks, the ability to focus on more than one adversary and to face empty-handed an armed adversary.
A series of rolls and acrobatics (like the cartwheels called aú or the transitional position called negativa) allows the capoeirista to quickly overcome a takedown or a loss of balance, and to position themselves around the aggressor to lay up for an attack. It is this combination of attacks, defense and mobility that gives capoeira its perceived "fluidity" and choreography-like style.
Main article: Capoeira carioca
Through most of its history in Brazil, capoeira commonly featured weapons and weapon training, given its street fighting nature. Capoeiristas usually carried knives and bladed weapons with them, and the berimbau could be used to conceal those inside, or even to turn itself into a weapon by attaching a blade to its tip. The knife or razor was used in street rodas and/or against openly hostile opponents, and would be drawn quickly to stab or slash. Other hiding places for the weapons included hats and umbrellas.
Mestre Bimba included in his teachings a curso de especialização or "specialization course", in which the pupils would be taught defenses against knives and guns, as well as the usage of knife, straight razor, scythe, club, chanfolo (double-edged dagger), facão (facón or machete) and tira-teima (cane sword). Upon graduating, pupils were given a red scarf which marked their specialty. This course was scarcely used, and was ceased after some time. A more common custom practised by Bimba and his students, however, was furtively handing a weapon to a player before a jogo for them to use it to attack their opponent on Bimba's sign, with the other player's duty being to disarm them.
This weapon training is almost completely absent in current capoeira teachings, but some groups still practice the use of razors for ceremonial usage in the rodas.
Playing capoeira is both a game and a method of practicing the application of capoeira movements in simulated combat. It can be played anywhere, but it's usually done in a roda. During the game most capoeira moves are used, but capoeiristas usually avoid using punches or elbow strikes unless it's a very aggressive game.
The game usually does not focus on knocking down or destroying the opponent, rather it emphasizes skill. Capoeiristas often prefer to rely on a takedown like a rasteira, then allowing the opponent to recover and get back into the game. It is also very common to slow down a kick inches before hitting the target, so a capoeirista can enforce superiority without the need of injuring the opponent. If an opponent clearly cannot dodge an attack, there is no reason to complete it. However, between two high-skilled capoeiristas, the game can get much more aggressive and dangerous. Capoeiristas tend to avoid showing this kind of game in presentations or to the general public.
Main article: Roda (formation)
The roda (pronounced [ˈʁodɐ]) is a circle formed by capoeiristas and capoeira musical instruments, where every participant sings the typical songs and claps their hands following the music. Two capoeiristas enter the roda and play the game according to the style required by the musical rhythm. The game finishes when one of the musicians holding a berimbau determines it, when one of the capoeiristas decides to leave or call the end of the game, or when another capoeirista interrupts the game to start playing, either with one of the current players or with another capoeirista.
In a roda every cultural aspect of capoeira is present, not only the martial side. Aerial acrobatics are common in a presentation roda, while not seen as often in a more serious one. Takedowns, on the other hand, are common in a serious roda but rarely seen in presentations.
The batizado (lit. baptism) is a ceremonial roda where new students will get recognized as capoeiristas and earn their first graduation. Also more experienced students may go up in rank, depending on their skills and capoeira culture. In Mestre Bimba's Capoeira Regional, batizado was the first time a new student would play capoeira following the sound of the berimbau.
Students enter the roda against a high-ranked capoeirista (such as a teacher or master) and normally the game ends with the student being taken down. In some cases the more experienced capoeirista can judge the takedown unnecessary. Following the batizado the new graduation, generally in the form of a cord, is given.
Traditionally, the batizado is the moment when the new practitioner gets or formalizes their apelido (nickname). This tradition was created back when capoeira practice was considered a crime. To avoid having problems with the law, capoeiristas would present themselves in the capoeira community only by their nicknames. So if capoeiristas are captured by the police, they would be unable to identify their fellow capoeiristas, even when tortured.
Chamada means 'call' and can happen at any time during a roda where the rhythm angola is being played. It happens when one player, usually the more advanced one, calls their opponent to a dance-like ritual. The opponent then approaches the caller and meets them to walk side by side. After it both resume normal play.
While it may seem like a break time or a dance, the chamada is actually both a trap and a test, as the caller is just watching to see if the opponent will let his guard down so she can perform a takedown or a strike. It is a critical situation, because both players are vulnerable due to the close proximity and potential for a surprise attack. It's also a tool for experienced practitioners and masters of the art to test a student's awareness and demonstrate when the student left herself open to attack.
The use of the chamada can result in a highly developed sense of awareness and helps practitioners learn the subtleties of anticipating another person's hidden intentions. The chamada can be very simple, consisting solely of the basic elements, or the ritual can be quite elaborate including a competitive dialogue of trickery, or even theatric embellishments.
Volta ao mundo means around the world.
The volta ao mundo takes place after an exchange of movements has reached a conclusion, or after there has been a disruption in the harmony of the game. In either of these situations, one player will begin walking around the perimeter of the circle counter-clockwise, and the other player will join the volta ao mundo in the opposite part of the roda, before returning to the normal game.
Main article: Malandragem
I think malícia is not only to feign, to pretend that you are going to deliver a certain blow and do something else, but a system of signs and signals. It is as if you were casting a spell or a charm in order to build a specific reality, a seductive reality, during the game and also outside the roda in day-to-day life and in any type of struggle or combat.— Nestor Capoeira
The essence of the capoeira game is affectionately called malícia or mandinga by players. The meaning of malícia in capoeira is the capacity to understand someone's intentions and making use of this understanding to misdirect someone as to your next move. In the contemporary capoeira, this is done good-naturedly, contrary to what the word may suggest. Men who used street smarts to make a living were called malandros.
Malandragem is a word that comes from malandro, which means a person who possesses cunning as well as malícia (malice). In capoeira, malandragem is the ability to quickly understand an opponent's intentions, and during a fight or a game, fool, trick and deceive him.
Capoeira is slave mandinga, desirous of freedom.
Its principles have no method,
its aim is inconceivable even to the wisest of the mestres.
Similarly capoeiristas use the concept of mandinga. Mandinga can be translated "magic" or "spell", but in capoeira a mandingueiro is a clever fighter, able to trick the opponent. Mandinga is a tricky and strategic quality of the game, and even a certain esthetic, where the game is expressive and at times theatrical, particularly in the Angola style. The roots of the term mandingueiro would be a person who had the magic ability to avoid harm due to protection from the Orixás. Same players "do their mandinga" before the game by drawing magical symbols on the ground with their fingers.
Alternately Mandinga is a way of saying Mandinka (as in the Mandinka Nation) who are known as "musical hunters". Which directly ties into the term "vadiação". Vadiação is the musical wanderer (with flute in hand), traveler, vagabond.
Main article: Capoeira music
Music is integral to capoeira. It sets the tempo and style of game that is to be played within the roda. Typically the music is formed by instruments and singing. Rhythms (toques), controlled by a typical instrument called berimbau, differ from very slow to very fast, depending on the style of the roda.
Capoeira instruments are disposed in a row called bateria. It is traditionally formed by three berimbaus, two pandeiros, three atabaques, one agogô and one ganzá, but this format may vary depending on the capoeira group's traditions or the roda style.
The berimbau is the leading instrument, determining the tempo and style of the music and game played. Two low-pitch berimbaus (called berra-boi and médio) form the base and a high-pitch berimbau (called viola) makes variations and improvisations. The other instruments must follow the berimbau's rhythm, free to vary and improvise a little, depending upon the capoeira group's musical style.
As the capoeiristas change their playing style significantly following the toque of the berimbau, which sets the game's speed, style and aggressiveness, it is truly the music that drives a capoeira game.
Many of the songs are sung in a call and response format while others are in the form of a narrative. Capoeiristas sing about a wide variety of subjects. Some songs are about history or stories of famous capoeiristas. Other songs attempt to inspire players to play better. Some songs are about what is going on within the roda. Sometimes the songs are about life or love lost. Others have lighthearted and playful lyrics.
There are four basic kinds of songs in capoeira, the Ladaínha, Chula, Corrido and Quadra. The Ladaínha is a narrative solo sung only at the beginning of a roda, often by a mestre (master) or most respected capoeirista present. The solo is followed by a louvação, a call and response pattern that usually thanks God and one's master, among other things. Each call is usually repeated word-for-word by the responders. The Chula is a song where the singer part is much bigger than the chorus response, usually eight singer verses for one chorus response, but the proportion may vary. The Corrido is a song where the singer part and the chorus response are equal, normally two verses by two responses. Finally, the Quadra is a song where the same verse is repeated four times, either three singer verses followed by one chorus response, or one verse and one response.
Capoeira songs can talk about virtually anything, being it about a historical fact, a famous capoeirista, trivial life facts, hidden messages for players, anything. Improvisation is very important also, while singing a song the main singer can change the music's lyrics, telling something that's happening in or outside the roda.
Dr Maya Talmon-Chvaicer suggests that capoeira should be explained in Bantu terms. Within the Bantu culture, the circle (roda) carries profound symbolism. Village dwellings are frequently arranged in circular formations, and communal meals are enjoyed while seated in a circle. Dancing in a circle holds significance, representing protection and strength, symbolizing the bond with the spirit world, life, and the divine.
A major means of communication in West Central Africa is music. Musical instruments play a pivotal role in bridging the realms of the living, the deceased, and the gods. This explains why African dances customarily commence by paying homage to the primary instrument, often through kneeling or bowing before it. This practice of supplication, appeasement, and seeking divine assistance from the gods is mirrored in the capoeira tradition of kneeling before the berimbau during the ladainha.
African martial arts naturally take the form of dance. In Bantu culture, dance is an integral part of daily life, encompassing song, music, movements, and rituals. This holistic view applies to Congo/Angola, where dance is intricately linked to song, music, and ritual. Additionally, in Congo and Angola, as well as other African regions, dance served as a traditional method of preparing for battle.
In Bantu religion, kalûnga represents the idea that, in the realm of the living everything is reversed from the realm of the ancestors. Where men walk on their feet, the spirits walk on their hands; where men reach their peak physical abilities, the ancestors reach their peak spirituality. Inhabitants of the ancestral realm are inverted compared to us, as viewed from our mirrored perspective. With this particular worldview, practitioners of African martial arts deliberately invert themselves upside down to emulate the ancestors, and to draw strength and power from the ancestral realm.
Capoeira has been additionally shaped by the cosmic worldview of candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that has engaged with various manifestations of natural energies. The capoeira player in past usually had his orixá or santo (patron saint) as Ogum (the Warrior) or Oxóssi (the Hunter).
It is a task, and a lonely one, to find and develop your own style, breaking with the “correct” way of playing that you learned from your teacher, who many times presents himself as “owner of the truth.” But this can be done after one has experience and an idea of what capoeira is … maybe after ten or fifteen years of practice.— Nestor Capoeira
Determining styles in capoeira is difficult, since there was never a unity in the original capoeira, or a teaching method before the decade of 1920. However, a division between two styles and a sub-style is widely accepted.
Main article: Capoeira Angola
Capoeira de Angola (Angolan capoeira) is the traditional style of capoeira. However, it can refer to two things:
The ideal of capoeira Angola is to maintain capoeira as close to its roots as possible. Although Pastinha strove to preserve the original Angolan art, he nevertheless introduced significant changes to capoeira practice of his time. He forbid weapon and violent moves, prescribed uniforms, moved training away from the street into the academia, and started to teach women.
Capoeira Angola is characterized by being strategic, with sneaking movements executed standing or near the floor depending on the situation to face, it values the traditions of malícia, malandragem and unpredictability of the original capoeira. The anthropologist Alejandro Frigerio defines capoeira Angola as art, versus capoeira Regional as sport. He emphasizes the following characteristics of contemporary capoeira Angola, namely: cunning, complementation (of the two players" movements), a low game, the absence of violence, beautiful movements (according to a "black aesthetic"), slow music and the importance of ritual and theatricality.
Unlike many other capoeira groups that play barefoot, angoleiros always train with shoes. When it comes to the color of the uniforms, there is a lack of uniformity within the style. Although mestre Pastinha at his academy required students to wear yellow and black jerseys, some of his successors have adopted white only uniforms within their schools.
Capoeira Regional began to take form in the 1920s, when Mestre Bimba met his future student, José Cisnando Lima. Both believed that capoeira was losing its martial side and concluded there was a need to re-strengthen and structure it. Bimba created his sequências de ensino (teaching combinations) and created capoeira's first teaching method. Advised by Cisnando, Bimba decided to call his style Luta Regional Baiana, as capoeira was still illegal at that time.
The base of capoeira regional is the original capoeira without many of the aspects that were impractical in a real fight, with less subterfuge and more objectivity. Training focuses mainly on attack, dodging and counter-attack, giving high importance to precision and discipline. Bimba also added a few moves from other arts, notably the batuque, an old street fight game invented by his father. Use of jumps or aerial acrobatics stay to a minimum, since one of its foundations is always keeping at least one hand or foot firmly attached to the ground.
Capoeira Regional also introduced the first ranking method in capoeira. Regional had three levels: calouro (freshman), formado (graduated) and formado especializado (specialist). After 1964, when a student completed a course, a special celebration ceremony occurred, ending with the teacher tying a silk scarf around the capoeirista's neck.
The traditions of roda and capoeira game were kept, being used to put into use what was learned during training. The disposition of musical instruments, however, was changed, being made by a single berimbau and two pandeiros.
The Luta Regional Baiana soon became popular, finally changing capoeira's bad image. Mestre Bimba made many presentations of his new style, but the best known was the one made at 1953 to Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas, where the president would say: "A Capoeira é o único esporte verdadeiramente nacional" (Capoeira is the only truly national sport).
Capoeira flourished in the city of São Paulo since the 1960s. Mestre Suassuna was prominent figure throughout this period. Mestre Canjiquinha played important role in shaping the capoeira style that began to emerge in São Paulo during the 1960s. This evolving style, which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, drew from both Regional and Angola styles while maintaining its distinct characteristics. The majority of modern practitioners affirm to be neither Angola nor Regional, emphasizing that "there is only one capoeira".
This new capoeira incorporated not only berimbaus and pandeiros but also atabaque and agogô into its musical ensemble. In contrast to Bimba's preference for quadras, these modern rodas typically commenced with ladainhas. The games in these rodas often featured a fast and upright style, even though they might start with an Angola toque and a slower game.
Nowadays the label Contemporânea applies to any capoeira group who don't follow Regional or Angola styles, even the ones who mix capoeira with other martial arts. Some notable groups whose style cannot be described as either Angola or Regional but rather "a style of their own", include Senzala de Santos, Cordão de Ouro and Abada. In the case of Cordão de Ouro, the style may be described as "Miudinho", a low and fast-paced game, while in Senzala de Santos the style may described simply as "Senzala de Santos", an elegant, playful combination of Angola and Regional.
Because of its origin, capoeira never had unity or a general agreement. Ranking or graduating system follows the same path, as there never existed a ranking system accepted by most of the masters. That means graduation style varies depending on the group's traditions. The most common modern system uses colored ropes, called corda or cordão, tied around the waist. Some masters use different systems, or even no system at all. In a substantial number of groups (mainly of the Angola school) there is no visible ranking system. There can still be several ranks: student, treinel, professor, contra-mestre and mestre, but often no cordas (belts).
There are many entities (leagues, federations and association) with their own graduation system. The most usual is the system of the Confederação Brasileira de Capoeira (Brazilian Capoeira Confederation), which adopts ropes using the colors of the Brazilian flag, green, yellow, blue and white. However, the Confederação Brasileira de Capoeira is not widely accepted as the capoeira's main representative.
Even though those activities are strongly associated with capoeira, they have different meanings and origins.
Main article: Samba de roda
Performed by many capoeira groups, samba de roda is a traditional Brazilian dance and musical form that has been associated with capoeira for many decades. The orchestra is composed by pandeiro, atabaque, berimbau-viola (high pitch berimbau), chocalho, accompanied by singing and clapping. Samba de roda is considered one of the primitive forms of modern Samba.
Main article: Maculelê (dance)
Originally the Maculelê is believed to have been an indigenous armed fighting style, using two sticks or a machete. Nowadays it's a folkloric dance practiced with heavy Brazilian percussion. Many capoeira groups include Maculelê in their presentations.
Main article: Puxada de rede
Puxada de Rede is a Brazilian folkloric theatrical play, seen in many capoeira performances. It is based on a traditional Brazilian legend involving the loss of a fisherman in a seafaring accident.
I think beating (pancadaria) is good. I learned capoeira being beaten up and I like a rough game, heavy game. Sometimes, when I receive a kick that breaks my mouth, my nose, I even like it because I am learning. Beating is important in capoeira. Pancadaria is not violence.— Nanico, the boxer and capoeira teacher
Combat capoeira, often referred to as capoeira dura (rough capoeira), places a primary emphasis on combat. It is commonly observed in ring competitions and street rodas, and sometimes even in graduations within certain groups.
Several capoeira fighters have gained national reputation, including Mestre King Kong from Salvador, Mestre Maurão from São Paulo, and King from Rio de Janeiro (formerly associated with Abadá). They advocate for capoeiristas to be skilled in playing intense games to ensure that the art retains its combat effectiveness.
It's important to note that capoeira fights have, on occasion, resulted in severe injuries and even fatalities, as seen in Petrópolis in 1996. The most suitable context for combat-focused capoeira appears to be the ring, where predetermined fighting rules provide clarity. In the tradition of Ciriaco, Sinhozinho, Bimba, and Arthur Emídio, contemporary capoeira fighters have expanded their training by incorporating various martial arts disciplines, including ju-jitsu, boxing, and taekwondo.
Even Brazilian mixed martial arts champions like Marco Ruas acknowledge the significance of capoeira in their training. The use of capoeira techniques in free-style competitions shows to what extent the art still provides essential fighting skills.
For full the list, see Category:Capoeira practitioners.
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