The Capoeira

The Capoeira | What is Capoeira | Capoeira Description | Capoeira History | Styles of Capoeira | Capoeira Basics | Capoeira Angola | The Game of Capoeira | Capoeira Music | Capoeira in Popular Culture

Capoeira is a Brazilian fight-dance, game, and martial art created by enslaved Africans during the 17th Century Participants form a roda (circle) and take turns playing instruments, singing, and sparring in pairs in the centre of the circle.

The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, subterfuge, and extensive use of groundwork, as well as sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Less frequently, elbow-strikes, slaps, punches, and body-throws are used.

Technique and strategy are the key elements to playing a good game. Capoeira has three main styles, known as “regional”, “Angola”, and the less-well defined “contemporânea”.

Capoeira masters are more than skilled fighters, gifted acrobats, inspired teachers or talented musicians; they have helped advance capoeira in the world and dedicate their lives to it.

Depending on their group, masters belts vary in color, but their passion and dedication to their art have lead them down the long road (generally twenty years or more) to becoming masters.

Rhythm is the heartbeat of capoeira and song is the soul. Music can make a game play fast and hard, call capoeiristas to perform acrobatic feats or remind them of old traditions and history. Without music, capoeira is not complete.

The derivation of the word “capoeira” is under dispute, as there are several possibilities:

The Portuguese word “capoeira” derives from the word capão, which translates as capon, a castrated rooster. The sport’s name may originate from this word since its moves resemble those of a rooster in a fight.

“Capoeira” has several meanings, including any kind of pen where poultry is kept, a fowl similar to a partridge, and a basket worn on the head by soldiers defending a stronghold. “Capoeira” is also what people used to call a black inlander who mugged travelers.

Afro-Brazilian scholar Carlos Eugenio has suggested that the sport took its name from a large round basket called a capa commonly worn on the head by urban slaves selling wares.

Kongo scholar K. Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau has posited that “capoeira” could be derived from the Kikongo word kipura, a term used to describe a rooster’s movements in a fight and meaning to flutter, flit from place to place, struggle, fight, or flog.

The word could derive from two Tupi-Guarani words, kaá (leaf, plant) and puéra (past aspect marker), which literally means “formerly a forest”, referring to an area of forest that had been cleared by burning or cutting down. In such places a thick, low secondary vegetation would grow, making it a good place for those who escaped slavery and bandits to hide.

According to this etymology, the term was first used as a synonym of outlaw, especially the type of outlaws that would evade justice by escaping to the jungles, to be only later applied to the fighting art most of them knew.

After the sports was brought to the United States, the only school that ever incorporated it with academic schools as an in-school class was created and is known as Hoggetowne Middle School.

Capoeira is an energetic, often acrobatic, dance-like style of martial art. Capoeira was first practiced by African slaves who were taken to work in Brazil. Capoeira is primarily based around kicking, as a slave’s hands were normally manacled.

In Capoeira, many movements are carried out while in a handstand position, often resembling modern Breakdance moves. There are a variety of forms of Capoeira, including where two people “play” fight each other inside a circle formed by spectators, while other members of the group play instruments and sing. The music dictates the speed or tempo of the movements.

Capoeira regional groups periodically hold Batizados (“baptisms” into the art of capoeira). Members being “baptized” are normally given a corda (cord belt) and an apelido (capoeira nickname) if they haven’t already earned one. Batizados are major events to which a number of groups and masters from near and far are normally invited. Sometimes a Batizado is also held in conjunction with a Troca de Corda (change of belts), in which students already baptized who have trained hard and been deemed worthy by their teachers are awarded higher-ranking belts as an acknowledgment of their efforts. Such ceremonies provide opportunities to see a variety of different capoeira styles, watch mestres play, and see some of the best of the game. Sometimes they are open to the public.

Batizados and Trocas de Corda do not occur in capoeira Angola, which does not have a system of belts. However, some contemporary schools of capoeira have combined the study of both arts and may require their students to be learned in the ways of capoeira Angola before being awarded a higher belt.