Capoeira
Capoeira or the Dance of War by Johann Moritz Rugendas, 1825, published in 1835
Also known asjogo de angola
jogo de capoeira
capoeiragem
Focuskicks, evasions, takedowns, handstands, acrobatics
Hardnessfull-contact
Country of origin Brazil
Date of formationunknown, first mention in 1789.
Famous practitioners(see notable practitioners)
Parenthoodengolo
Ancestor artsengolo, batuque, possibly moraingy[1] and savate[2]
Related artsdanmyé
knocking and kicking
breakdancing[3]
Meaningforest clearing[4]

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,[5] capoeira served not only as a form of self defense, but also as a way to maintain spirituality and culture.[6]

Capoeira has been practiced among Black Brazilians for centuries. The date of its creation is unknown, but it was first mentioned in a judicial document under the name capoeiragem in 1789, as "the gravest of crimes".[7] In the 19th century, the street fighting style called capoeira carioca was developed. It was repeatedly outlawed and its performers persecuted,[7] and it was declared totally illegal and banned in 1890.[8] In the early 1930s, Mestre Bimba reformed traditional capoeira and incorporated elements of jiu jitsu, gymnastics and sports.[9] In doing so, the government viewed capoeira as a socially acceptable sport. in 1941, Mestre Pastinha Later founded his school where he cultivated the traditional capoeira Angola, distinguishing it from reformed capoeira as the Brazilians' national sport.[10]

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.[11]

Martial arts from the African diaspora similar to capoeira include knocking and kicking from the Sea Islands, and ladya from Martinique, both of which likely originate from engolo.[12]

Name

In the past, many participants used the name angola or the term brincar de angola ("playing angola") for this art.[13] In police documents, capoeira was known as capoeiragem, with a practitioner being called capoeira.[14] Gradually, the art became known as capoeira with a practitioner being called a capoeirista.[15] In a narrower sense, capoeiragem meant a set of fighting skills. The term jogo de capoeira (capoeira game) is used to describe the art in the performative context.[14]

Although debated, the most widely accepted origin of the word capoeira comes from the Tupi words ka'a ("forest") paũ ("round"),[16] referring to the areas of low vegetation in the Brazilian interior where fugitive slaves would hide.

History

Main article: History of capoeira

Negroes fighting by Augustus Earle, c. 1824. Painting depicting an illegal capoeira-like game in Rio de Janeiro.
San Salvador, 1835, by Rugendas. "The scene is set in a clearing surrounded by tropical vegetation and palm trees, corresponding precisely to the space called capoeira in Brazil."[17]

Well, there is one thing that nobody doubts: the ones to teach capoeira to us were the negro slaves that were brought from Angola.[18]

In the past, some participants used the name angola or the term brincar de angola ("playing angola") for this art.[13] 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.[15]

Capoeira first appeared among Africans in Brazil, during the early colonial period. According to the old capoeira mestres and tradition within the community, capoeira originates from Angola.[18][19] 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.[20][21][22] Still, some authors believe there were more ancestors besides engolo.[23] 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.[21][24]

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,[25] only the first of them arguably originates from Angolan art.[26] That now extinct version of capoeira was called capoeira carioca (meaning of Rio de Janeiro).[27]

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.

Techniques

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.

Simple animation depicting part of the ginga

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 capoeira movement (Aú Fechado) (click for animation)

A series of rolls and acrobatics (like the cartwheels called 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.

Weapons

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.[28] 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.[28]

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).[29] 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.[29]

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.

As a game

Capoeiristas outside

In Bantu culture, the Nkhumbi term ochimama encapsulates the overlapping meanings of game, dance, and tradition. This overlap is also found in Afro-Brazilian folklore, where many similar forms of expression are called brincadeiras (games).[21] Some scholars have interpreted capoeira as a way of concealing martial arts within dance movements. However, research from Angola suggests that the relationship between game, fight, and dance may be even deeper. These scholars propose that the ambivalence between these three elements is a fundamental aspect of the ancestral grammar shared by engolo and capoeira.[21]

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 punches or elbow strikes unless it's a very aggressive game.[30] The game does not focus on knocking down or defeating opponents, but rather on body dialogue and highlighting skills.

Roda

Main article: Roda (formation)

Capoeiristas in a roda (Porto Alegre, Brazil)

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.[31]

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.[citation needed]

Batizado

Main article: Batizado

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.[32] In Mestre Bimba's Capoeira Regional, batizado was the first time a new student would play capoeira following the sound of the berimbau.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[33]

Chamada

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.[34]

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.[35]

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.[35]

Volta ao mundo

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.[36]

Music

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.[37]

Instruments

A capoeira bateria showing three berimbaus a reco- reco and a pandeiro

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.[citation needed]

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.[38]

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.[39]

Songs

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Philosophy

Malícia (malice)

The capoeirista resorts to an endless number of tricks to confuse and distract his opponent. He pretends to step back but he returns quickly; jumps from side to side; lies down and gets up; advances and retreats; pretends not to see the opponent to deceive him; turns in all directions; and shrinks in a cunning and bewildering ginga.[40]

Diário Nacional, from 1927, shows a drawing of a sailor tripping a policeman, while another figure is already on the ground.

The basic term of capoeira philosophy is malícia (malice). One aspect of malicia consists of deceiving the opponent into thinking that you are going to execute a certain move when in fact you are going to do something completely different.[41] There is an example of malicia of Besouro who once fell to the ground during a game, crying like a woman and begging for mercy.[42] Mestre João Pequeno claimed that he teaches his students how to play capoeira, but they should learn malícia for themselves since it cannot be taught.[43]

The meaning of malícia in capoeira has expanded over time to cunning, suspicion, alertness, readiness, flexibility, and adaptation.[40] Basically, it is the capacity to understand someone's intentions and making use of this understanding to misdirect someone as to your next move.[44] In the contemporary capoeira, this is done good-naturedly, contrary to what the word may suggest.[44] Nestor Capoeira explicated malícia as follows:

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.[45]

Gregory Downey explains:

Malícia, not coincidentally, is the quality, or constellation of qualities, that the ideal capoeirista should most evidence in his or her everyday life: a combination of wariness, quick wit, savvy, unpredictability, opportunism, playfulness, viciousness, and a talent for deception. The ability to fool, distract, and deceive the opponent is the key to success. The basic movement in capoeira, the ginga, is a constant fluid movement backward and forward, and a good capoeirista will use malícia in the ginga to deceive his opponent.[40]

The ginga is the first principle of capoeira and the embodiment of malice. The continuous, ceaseless bodily motion, known as gingar, is the principle that creates deception or trickery, catching the opponent off guard.

The bênção kick, ironically named, reflects another form of malícia. Slave owners would gather slaves in the morning, often on Sundays, to offer blessings, despite their mistreatment. In a deceptive twist, bênção appears as a blessing but swiftly becomes an attack on the opponent's belly.[42]

Malandragem

Main article: Malandragem

Malandragem is a word that comes from malandro, a man who used street smarts to make a living. In the 19th century, capoeira was quite similar to the type of urban person who was a constant source of trouble — the malandro (punk).[46]

In the 19th century Rio de Janeiro, the capoeirista was a malandro (a rogue) and a criminal, expert in the use of kicks (golpes), sweeps (rasteiras) and head-butts (cabeçadas), as well in the use of blade weapons.[47]

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.[48]

A popular Brazilian saying, "Malandro demais se atrapalha" means that when one tries to be too clever or smart, instead of confusing his opponent, he confuses himself.[41]

Spirituality

Spirituality in capoeira is shaped under the influence of various African beliefs. Some important concepts of candomblé, such as dendé and axé, which refer to different conceptions of energy, have become common among capoeiristas.[49]

Bantu culture

Divination Ceremony and Dance, Brazil, by Zacharias Wagener, 1630.

Dr Maya Talmon-Chvaicer suggests that capoeira should be explained in Bantu terms. For the African slaves, capoeira was a social expression that incorporated all the basic African elements: circle, dance, music, rituals and symbols. It also contains all the ingredients of a game from the Kongolese perspective: a means to train and prepare for life, providing the experience needed to strengthen the body and the soul.[50]

Within the Bantu culture, the circle carries profound symbolism.[51] Dancing in a circle holds significance, representing protection and strength, symbolizing the bond with the spirit world, life, and the divine.[51]

A major means of communication with the ancestors 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 appeasement and seeking divine assistance from the gods is mirrored in the capoeira tradition of kneeling before the berimbau during the ladainha.[51]

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.[51]

Inverted worldview

Main article: Kalunga line

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.[52] 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.[52][53]

One of the capoeira ritual is performing the "au" at the beginning of the game. This act symbolizes a profound transition in Kongolese religion, where touching the ground with hands while feet are up in the air signifies the player crosses over to other worlds.[54]

Capoeira has been additionally shaped by the cosmic worldview of candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that has engaged with various manifestations of natural energies.[55] The capoeira player in past usually had his orixá or santo (patron saint) as Ogum (the Warrior) or Oxóssi (the Hunter).[56]

Mandinga (magic)

Capoeira is slave mandinga, desirous of freedom.

Its principles have no method,

its aim is inconceivable even to the wisest of the mestres.[57]

Capoeira holds a core of mandinga, which can be translated as a magic, sorcery, witchcraft.[58] Mandinga suggests an understanding of fundamental natural forces and their utilization through magic rituals to some extent.[41] In the past, capoeiristas used protective amulets and performed specific rituals to ensure their safety.[7] Same players "do their mandinga" before the game by drawing magical symbols on the ground with their fingers.[59]

Some magic elements in capoeira are clear and familiar, while others have become obscure over time. Folklorist Edison Carneiro noted that the ladainha, sung before entering the capoeira circle, invokes the gods, adding a touch of mysticism to the ritual.[60] Actions like touching the ground symbolize drawing signs in the dust, and gestures such as kissing hands, crossing oneself, and prayer are reminders of long-forgotten traditions, the Bantus' prayer for divine blessings, aid, and bravery in battle.[60]

Mandinga is also a certain esthetic, where the game is expressive and sometimes theatrical, especially in the Angola style. An advanced capoeira player is sometimes referred to as a mandingueiro, someone who embodies mandinga.[61]

The roots of the term mandingueiro would be a person who had the magic ability to avoid harm due to protection from the Orixás.[62] Alternately the word mandinga originates from the name of Mandinka people.

Styles

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.[63]

— 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.[44]

Capoeira Angola

Main article: Capoeira Angola

Capoeira Angola roda.

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.[44] 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.[64]

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.[44] 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.[65]

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.[66]

Capoeira Regional

Main article: Capoeira Regional

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.[67][68]

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.[69] 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.[70]

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.[citation needed]

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).[71]

Capoeira carioca

Main article: Capoeira carioca

Capoeira carioca was a street fighting version of capoeira that existed in Rio de Janeiro during the 19th century, used by gangs. In capoeira carioca, all available means were used, including various types of weapons, such as knives, straight razors, clubs and machetes. Capoeira from this period is also known as capoeiragem. The widespread violent capoeira practice in Rio led to a nationwide ban on capoeira. After the ban in 1890 and the subsequent mass arrests of capoeira gang members, this version of capoeira is generally extinct.[72]

The main reformators and proponents of this fighting-oriented capoeira were Mestre Sinhozinho and Mestre Zuma.

Capoeira Contemporânea

The 1975 Capoeira Cup

Capoeira flourished in the city of São Paulo since the 1960s. Mestre Suassuna was prominent figure throughout this period.[73] 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.[74] The majority of modern practitioners affirm to be neither Angola nor Regional, emphasizing that "there is only one capoeira".[75]

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.[74] 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.[74]

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.

Ranks

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.[76] 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).[77]

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.[78] However, the Confederação Brasileira de Capoeira is not widely accepted as the capoeira's main representative.[79]

Brazilian Capoeira Confederation system

Source:[78]

Children's system (3 to 14 years)

Adult system (above 15)

Instructors' system

ABADÁ - Capoeira system

Many Capoeira schools use a system taken from Abadá-Capoeira.

ABADÁ has a graduated cord system using colors that refer symbolically to nature and reflect the level of practice. The cord system does not so much reflect the practitioner’s level of skill as much as their progress on their individual path as a member of the ABADÁ community. The cord system as outlined by Arte Capoeira Center – ABADÁ Capoeira is as follows.

Adult Graduation System

Title/Level Cord Color Basic Responsibilities
Beginner Corda Crua

(Natural Cord)

natural cord student
Student

Aluno/a

Corda Crua-Amarela

(Natural-Yellow Cord)

transformation
Corda Amarela

(Yellow Cord)

The Gold

The yellow cord signifies the value of apprenticeship.

Corda Amarela-Laranja

(Yellow-Orange Cord)

transformation
Corda Laranja The Sun

The orange cord reflects the awakening of the apprentice’s consciousness.

Corda Laranja-Azul

(Orange-Blue Cord)

transformation
Graduado/a Corda Azul

(Blue Cord)

The Sea

The blue cord indicates the apprentice’s awareness of the immense path ahead.

Corda Azul-Verde

(Blue-Green Cord)

transformation
Corda Verde

(Green Cord)

The Forest—the world’s lungs

The green cord signifies the consolidation of apprenticeship. It provides the base on which ABADÁ-Capoeira is built.

Corda Verde-Roxa

(Green-Purple Cord)

transformation
Instrutor/a Corda Roxa

(Purple Cord)

The Amethyst

The purple cord signals that the capoeirista has begun to overcome the physical, psychological, and spiritual pain of learning capoeira and defending its ideals.

Corda Roxa-Marrom

(Purple-Brown Cord)

transformation
Professor/a Corda Marrom

(Brown Cord)

The Chameleon

The brown cord represents the constant transformation that characterizes the group’s style.

Corda Marrom-Vermelha

(Brown-Red Cord)

transformation
Mestrando/a Corda Vermelha

(Red Cord)

The Ruby

The red cord symbolizes justice. At this level, the capoeirista acquires an understanding of responsibility; he or she is expected to strive for justice in conducting his work and making her decisions.

Mestre Corda Vermelha-Branca

(Red-White Cord)

transformation

In this graduation the Capoeirista tries to develop their potential in order to concentrate and maintain ABADÁ's ideals. It is a phase of transformation, because the Mestre is preparing to obtain the highest graduation in ABADÁ's system. In order to achieve Grão-Mestre, it is necessary to make decisions with precision, honesty and above all with wisdom and impartiality.

Mestre Corda Branca

(White Cord)

The Diamond

The "Diamond" is the hardest and most resilient mineral. It reflects all colors and all colors are united in white.

Related activities

Even though those activities are strongly associated with capoeira, they have different meanings and origins.

Samba de roda

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.

Maculelê

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.

Puxada de rede

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.

Combat capoeira and MMA

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.[80]

— Nanico, the boxer and capoeira teacher
Professor Barrãozinho from Axé Capoeira performing a meia-lua de compasso against Keegan Marshall.

Combat capoeira, often referred to as rough capoeira (capoeira dura), places a primary emphasis on combat. It is commonly observed in ring competitions and street rodas, and sometimes even in graduations within certain groups.[80]

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.[80]

Capoeira fights have, on occasion, resulted in severe injuries and even fatalities, as seen in Petrópolis in 1996.[80] 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.[80]

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.[80]

Notable practitioners

For full the list, see Category:Capoeira practitioners.

See also

Literature

References

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Further reading