We say capoeira is a Brazilian martial art and dance. But capoeira is much more. It is a sport, a ritual, a dance (that actually inspired the American break dance), a musical expression, a martial art and a philosophy. It's a cultural tradition and a way of life. Capoeira was invented by African slaves in Brazil over 450 years ago. The African slaves that came to Brazil brought with them their culture. Many of those slaves practiced other types of African Martial Arts in their mother land, like the Sanga. Sanga means "to triumph". And it is a war dance. Those martial arts had an enormous influence on the development of capoeira. But although capoeira received the influences of dance and African martial arts, it was the African slaves living in Brazil that invented capoeira.
It was a way to fight against the Portuguese landowners. The slaves were prohibited from practicing forms of self-defense by their owners, so they managed to practice and master slipping martial-arts moves into their evenings of music and dance. Even after the end of slavery in Brazil in 1888 the government officially outlawed capoeira and many capoeiristas were arrested. To avoided being arrested the capoeirista created nicknames for themselves. Many of them had two or three nicknames. This made it hard for the police to discover their true identities. Today when a person is baptized in the art of capoeira, he/she receives a nickname. Capoeira is done in circle (roda). In the center two players show their skills in what is called jogo de capoeira. The people forming the circle around those players sing, play instruments and clap hands. The most important and respected instrument in capoeira is the Berimbau (a wood bent with a steel string). When capoiera was outlawed in Brazil, some of the berimbau rhythms played were a way to alert players that the police was around.
The moves in capoeira are beautiful and spectacular. It combines strength and grace with personal expression. You may kick, sweep or flip. It's acrobatic with moves like au (a cartwheel) and takedowns. In 1920 capoeira was legalized in Brazil and Mestre Bimba opened the first school of capoeira in Brazil in 1932. He is the father creator of the Capoeira Regional . Jane Atwood in her book "Capoeira: A Martial Art and A Cultural Tradition" wrote: "He (Mestre Bimba) incorporated sweeping moves from capoeira batuque. He also created a new way of teaching capoeira by developing sequences, or series', of moves. The sequence allowed students to learn capoeira Regional more quickly than capoeira Angola (Capoeira Angola is the traditional style of capoeira). But Bimba was a tough teacher. Few students achieved the rank of Mestre. Mestre Bimba gave out only ten master diplomas to students in his life." In the 1970's great students of the Mestres brought capoeira out of the country and started to teach capoeira around the world. Mestre Joao Grande is one of the great ones that came to America to demonstrate the capoeira and stayed. He teaches in New York City and he is one of the most respected capoeiristas in the world. Mestre Joao Grande learned capoeira from Mestre Pastinha. Mestre Pastinha was one of the greatest masters . He taught only the capoeira Angola at his school. He was a traditionalist and taught his students to understand the ritual, art and philosophy of the capoeira. People still refer to Mestre Pastinha as the "Philosopher of Capoeira."
Capoeira is becoming more and more popular around the globe. I have seen articles about the great art everywhere lately. In dance magazines, in fashion magazines, music magazines and books . If you have never seen capoeira I assure you that you will be amazed when you get to see it the first time.
Capoeira is so many things that is hard to define it, but people say that capoeira put the ART into the Martial ART.