Styles of Capoeira

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Capoeira has two main classifications: traditional and modern. Angola refers to the traditional form of the game. This is the oldest form, approximately 500 years old, with roots in African traditions that are even older, and is the root form from which all other forms of capoeira are based. Modern forms of capoeira can be classified as Regional and Contemporanea.

Capoeira Angola: Capoeira Angola is considered to be the mother form of capoeira and is often characterized by deeply held traditions, sneakier movements and with the players playing their games in closer proximity to each other than in regional or contemporanea.

Capoeira Angola is often mis-characterized as being slower and lower to the ground than other major forms of capoeira. However, this is a common misperception as some of the fastest and intriguing games can be found in Capoeira Angola rodas.

The father of the best known modern Capoeira Angola schools is considered to be Mestre Pastinha who lived in Salvador, Bahia. Today, most of the capoeira Angola media that is accessible in the United States comes from mestres in Pastinha’s lineage.

He was not the only Capoeira Angola mestre. However, he is the best known mestre who helped bring more traditional Capoeira philosophy and movements into the modern setting of an academy.

Capoeira Regional: Regional is a newer form of Capoeira. Regional was developed by Mestre Bimba to make capoeira more mainstream and accessible to the public, and less associated with the criminal elements of Brazil. The regional style is most often composed of fast and athletic play.

Later, so called modern regional came to be (see the next section about capoeira Contemporânea). Developed by other people from Bimba’s regional, this type of game is characterized by high jumps, acrobatics, and spinning kicks. This regional should not be confused with the original style created by Mestre Bimba.

Regional ranks capoeiristas (capoeira players) by ability, denoting different skill with the use of a corda (colored rope, also known as cordel or cordão) worn as a belt. Angola does not use such a formal system of ranking, relying instead upon the discretion of a student’s mestre. In both forms, though, recognition of advanced skill comes only after many years of constant practice.

Capoeira Contemporânea: Contemporânea is a term for groups that train Angola and modernized capoeira simultaneously. This is controversial because many modern practitioners argue that Angola must be practiced alone, or that regional can only be practiced alone for the student to truly understand the form of the game. Other practitioners[citation needed] argue that a capoeirista should have a working knowledge of traditional and modern capoeira, and encourage training both forms simultaneously. This is an issue of great disagreement amongst capoeiristas.

The label contemporânea also applies to many groups who do not trace their lineage through Mestre Bimba or Mestre Pastinha and do not strongly associate with either tradition.

In recent years, the various philosophies of modern capoeira have been expressed by the formation of schools, particularly in North America, which focus on, and continue to develop their specific form of the modern art. This has become a defining characteristic of many schools, to the point that a seasoned student can sometimes tell what school a person trains from, based solely on the way they play the game. Some schools teach a blended version of the many different styles.

Traditionally, rodas in these schools will begin with a period of Angola, in which the school’s mestre, or an advanced student, will sing a ladainha, (a long, melancholy song, often heard at the start of an Angola game). After some time, the game will eventually increase in tempo, until, at the mestre’s signal, the toque of the berimbaus changes to that of traditional Regional.

Each game, Regional and Angola stresses different strengths and abilities. Regional emphasizes speed and quick reflexes, whereas Angola underscores a great deal of thought given to each move, almost like a game of chess. Schools that teach a blend of these try to offer this mix as a way of using the strengths of both games to influence a player.