Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art, game, and culture created by enslaved Africans in Brazil during the 17th Century. Participants form a roda (circle) and take turns playing instruments, singing, and sparring in pairs in the center 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. Throughout the game, a player must avoid a sweep, trip, kick, or head butt that may knock him or her on the floor. Less frequently-used techniques include elbow-strikes, slaps, punches, and body-throws. Capoeira has three variations known as “Capoeira Angola”, “Capoeira Regional”, and the ever-evolving “Capoeira Contempor‚nea”.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Portugal shipped slaves into South America from western Africa. The South American country of Brazil was the most common destination for African captives(citation needed) with 42% of all enslaved peoples shipped across the Atlantic. Most commonly sold into Brazil were Akan, Igbo, Yoruba, Dahomean, Muslim Guineans, Hausa, and Bantu (among them Kongos, Kimbundas and Kasanjes) from Angola, Congo and Mozambique.
These Africans brought their cultural traditions and religions with them to the New World. One theory suggests that capoeira originated from a fern courtship dance in Angola used by suitors of young women, however, this is only one of many disputed theories. There is contention as to whether the game arrived with enslaved Africans or whether Africans refined a preexisting Brazilian game. One catalyst for capoeira was the homogenization of African people under the oppression of slavery. Capoeira emerged as a way to resist oppression, secretly practice art, transmit culture, and lift spirits. Some historians believe that the indigenous peoples of Brazil also played an important role in the development of capoeira.
Capoeira was advanced by Brazilian slaves of African descent (presumably admitted from the Portuguese colony of Angola) some time in the 16th century. since it was illegal for slaves to practice fighting skills, they varied native African spiritual dances so that each time they practised their art they might appear to merely be dancing. Due to the fact these dances included manoeuvres such as handstands, back flips, and cartwheels, Capoeira is today the most energetic of all martial arts, with many kicks being executed from a handstand position. Its offensive techniques are initially kicks, its defensive techniques are in the beginning body movements which stay away from the enemy’s attack all together. African culture is a large part of studying Capoeira, above all since training and competition is done to the rhythm of the berimbau, a single- stringed musical instrument. Only in the 20th century has the practice of Capoeira become legal in Brazil, and Only in very modern years has it been taught in other countries.
In 1942, Mestre Pastinha opened the first formal academy for instruction in the traditional form of the art, known as capoeira Angola. Mestre Pastinha’s efforts prevented capoeira Angola from being lost as newer, modernized forms of the art gained popularity.
This era was a milestone of a dramatic change in the mode of instruction of the art of capoeira. Previously, capoeira was passed on in secret, usually from a relative such as one’s father or uncle, or in a small group setting where several young people in a particular community would receive guidance from elder practitioners from that community. During this era, the academy system became the predominant form of participation in the art. Presently, there are capoeira academies on almost every continent of the world.
Another significant change that occurred due to the proliferation of capoeira ‘schools’ is the participation of middle and upper class members of the population. Presently, some Mestres participate in seminars where they discuss the need to make the art available to poor blacks who can not afford the cost of training in an academy. This is an issue of concern to practitioners who recognize the importance of making the art available to people who come from the culture that invented the art in the first place.
Capoeira training can be done in any city in the world and I encourage you to visit out martial arts directory of Capoeira to find a school near you!