What is 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

Sorcery of slaves is the pursuit of liberty your principle is without method and your end is inconceivable to even the most sage of capoeiristas.” -Mestre Pastinha-

Capoeira meaning “wild grass cut shot” in the Tupi-gurani language of the native Brazilian Indian.

In the 16th century, Africans were carried away in ships by the Portuguese to new found in the Americas. These Africans were forced onto the sugar cane fields and into a life of slavery. Housed in crowded, filthy slave quarters called Senzalas, they began to run away.

These runaways then formed communities knows as Quilombos.The most famous of these communities was called Quilombo dos Palmares, with more than 20.000 inhabitants, including Africans and some native Brazilian Indians.

One of their great leaders was Zumbi, who became famous because of his defensive skills and numerous victories against the dominating Portuguese. In the Quilombos, self freed slaves shared and learned their differing music, dances, fight, rituals, religions and games from each other.

They developed a system of ambushes and together with fast tricky movements the slaves caused considerable damages. It is believed that one of the earliest forms of Capoeira was born in the Quilombos. Capoeira became their weapon, their symbol of freedom.

Princess Isabel signed the abolition of slaves on May 13, 1888 but the practice of Capoeira remained prohibited until 1920.

Music, dance and rituals were incorporated, helping disguise the practice of a deadly and forbidden art. Capoeiristas (practioner of Capoeira) always did their best to keep the tradition alive by presenting it as a folk dance which in turn made it more acceptable to society.

Nicknames were used to hide from authority during the time of prohibition. Capoeira’s progress was aided by two of its faithful disciples. Mestre Bimba & Mestre Pastinha walked Capoeira into the modern world.

Presently in Brazil it is practiced as a national sport through all levels of society, at schools, universities, clubs and academies.

Mestre Bimba (Creator of Capoeira Regional): Manuel dos Reis Machado, known as “Mestre Bimba” was born November 23rd, 1899 in Salvador – Bahia, Brazil and began Capoeira at the age of 12. Mestre Bimba created a new style, he incorporated new moves and techniques. He became extremely proficient in “Batuque” a type of fighting brought by African during their enslavement in Brazil, which he learned from his father.

He later mastered Capoeira Angola, combining these two art forms to produce an exclusive Bahian Capoeira called Capoeira Regional or “Luta Regional Baiana” was then a more martial art oriented, effective, efficient and athletic style of Capoeira. The central component to teaching Capoeira Regional is the “Sequencia”, a learning process that was non – existent in Capoeira until it’s introduction by Mestre Bimba.

A performance at the palace of Bahia’s Governor, Juracy Magalhoes, was the stepping stone needed for Mestre Bimba to finally convince the authorities of the cultural value of Capoeira, thus ending its official ban in the 1930’s and opening doors for Mestre Bimba.

Mestre Bimba founded the fist Capoeira school in 1932, the “Academia – escola de Capoeira Regional”, in Salvador – Bahia. Bimba attempted to change the slyness and malicious reputation associated with Capoeira practitioners by new standards to the art. His students had to wear a clean, white uniform, show proof of grade proficiency from school, show good posture and many other standards. As a result, doctors, lawyers, politicians, upper middle class people, and women (until then excluded) started to join his school.

The main Characteristic of Mestre Bimba’s Capoeira were: the training of the art in enclosed school facilities, the implementation of a course curriculum, the introduction of a systematic training method, a defined musical ensemble of one berimbau and two pandeiros and an emphasis placed on the rhythms of Sao Bento Grande, Benguela and Iuna, which mandated specific jogos(game).

For these reasons Mestre Bimba was and still is so important to Capoeira because he changed its destiny. He was considered “the father of modern Capoeira”. Mestre Bimba was a coalman, carpenter, warehouse man, longshoreman, horse coach conductor but mainly capoeirista, a giant with strong personality! .

Mestre Pastinha (Patriarch of Capoeira Angola): Vicente Ferreira Pastinha was bourn on 5th, 1889 in Salvador – Bahia, Brazil. Mestre pastinha was exposed to Capoeira at the tender age of 8 by a African named Benedito.

Mestre Pastinha was an extraordinary character. he was innovative, wise and open-minded. In 1942 Pastinha founded the first Angola school, the “Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Agola”, located at the Pelourinho. His students would wear black pants and yellow t-shirt, the same colour as the “Ypiranga Fotebol Clube”, his favourite soccer team.

Capoeira Angola was characterized by : a high degree of combat simulation in which the mere suggestion of an attack should be acknowledged, a focus on rituals, strategy and tactics of the game, and an emphasis on playfulness and theatrics of the movement.

Pastinha worked as shoe shiner, tailor, gold prospector, security guard at a gambling house and construction worker at the “Porto de Salvador” to maintain him financially so he could do what he loved the most, be an Angoleiro.