Capoeira (Portuguese pronunciation: [kapuˈejɾɐ]) is an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, music, and dance. It was created in Brazil by African slaves by mixing the many fighting styles from many of their tribes, sometime after the sixteenth century.

[1] It was developed in the region of Quilombo dos Palmares, located in the Brazilian state of Alagoas, which was the state of Pernambuco before dismemberment,[2] and has had great influence on Afro-Brazilian generations, with strong presence in the states of Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.[2] Participants form a roda, or circle, and take turns either playing musical instruments (such as the Berimbau), singing, or ritually sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The sparring is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, takedowns, and with extensive use of leg sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Less frequently used techniques include elbow strikes, slaps, punches, and body throws. Its origins and purpose are a matter of debate, with theories ranging from views of Capoeira as a uniquely Brazilian folk dance with improvised fighting movements to claims that it is a battle-ready fighting form directly descended from ancient African techniques.[3] 

Afro-Brazilian art form

Capoeira is a direct descendant of African fighting styles, and was incorporated with Brazilian dance form distilled from African slaves in Brazil which is in essence from various African and Brazilian influences.[3] One popular explanation holds that it is an African fighting style that was developed in Brazil, as expressed by a proponent named Salvano,[who?] who said, "Capoeira cannot exist without black men but its birthplace is Brazil... Capoeira, as it was taught to me, is the warrior's dance that was done between slaves that escaped their masters outside the cities. I was taught Capoeira in Rio de Janeiro by master Morcego who had come from Bahia, where he said Capoeira was played in the streets since he was little." (Page' Retifumo, MR)[citation needed]

Some interpretations emphasize capoeira as a fighting style designed for rebellion, but disguised by a façade of dance. Supporting the martial interpretation are renderings in the 1835 Voyage Pittoresque dans le Brésil (Picturesque Voyage to Brazil), where ethnographic artist Johann Moritz Rugendas depicts Capoeira or the Dance of War, lending historical credence to the idea that Capoeira is a combative art form with many dance elements.

Other Pan African-American combative traditions parallel capoeira. According to Dr. Morton Marks, the island of Martinique is famous for danymé, also known as ladja.[4] As with capoeira, "there is a ring of spectators into which each contestant enters, moving in a counter-clockwise direction and dancing toward drummers. This move, known as Kouwi Lawon (or ‘Circular Run’ in Creole), is an exact parallel to the capoeira interlude called dá volta ao mundo or ‘take a turn around the world.’"[4] Marks stated that in Cuba, a mock-combat dance called Mani was performed to yuka drums.[4] "A dancer (manisero) would stand in the middle of a ring of spectator-participants and, moving to the sound of the songs and drums, would pick someone from the circle and attempt to knock them down." Some of the manisero's moves and kicks were similar to those of Afro-Brazilian capoeira including its basic leg-sweep (rasteira).[4]

In Capoeira : A History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art, Matthias Röhrig Assunção compared "three American combat traditions: knocking and kicking in the United States, ladija in Martinique, and capoeira in Brazil."[5] African-derived combat games similar to wrestling and stick fighting were also witnessed and documented in 17th-century Barbados, 18th-century Jamaica, and 19th century Venezuela.[6] Stick fighting was and still is practiced in Trinidad, Carriacou, Dominica, and Haiti.[6]

Maya Talmon-Chvaicer suggested capoeira may have been influenced by a ritual fight-dance called N'golo (the zebra dance) from Southern Angola, which was performed during the "Efundula, a puberty rite for women of the Mucope, Muxilenge, and Muhumbe tribes of southern Angola." [7] Since the 1960s, the N'golo theory has become popular amongst some practitioners of capoeira Angola, although it is not universally accepted.

While many of these games are combative, it is widely accepted that slaves in the New World would have sought both violent and jovial means of coping with their oppression.


^ "Martial arts meets dance in health clubs". MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3937537. Retrieved 2010-01-18.
^ a b Capoeira, N. (2003, p.10)
^ a b Assunção (2005, p. 2)
^ a b c d e Marks, Morton. (20 August 2009) http://www.capoeira-infos.org/ressources/textes/t_marks_capoeira_angola.html "Capoeira Angola". Capoeira-Info.org: Ressources: textes & paroles de chansons. Retrieved on 20 August 2009. Orig. notes printed in CD from Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho (2003). Capoeira Angola 2: Brincando na Roda. Smithsonian Folkways.
^ Assunção (2005, p.64)
^ a b Assunção (2005, p.59-66)
^ Talmon-Chvaicer (2007, p. 19)
^ Assunção (2005, p.80, 70-95)
^ Assunção (2005, p.80)
^ a b Assunção (2005, p. 141)
^ a b c d Assunção (2005, p. 154)
^ Assunção (2005, p. 155)
^ Assunção (2005, p.155-169)
^ a b c Assunção (2005, p. 190)
^ ABADÁ-Capoeira-RPI. (22 August 2009) http://capoeira.union.rpi.edu/history.php?chapter=Pastinha "4. Mestre Pastinha and Angola". Capoeira History. Retrieved on 22 August 2009.
Printed references
Assunção, Matthias Röhrig (2005). Capoeira : A History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-8086-9.
Capoeira, Nestor (2003). The Little Capoeira Book. (Alex Ladd, Trans.). Berkeley: North Atlantic. ISBN 1-55643-440-5.
Talmon-Chvaicer, Maya (2007). The Hidden History of Capoeira: A Collision of Cultures in the Brazilian Battle Dance. ISBN 978-0-292-71723-7.
Further reading
Almeida, Birra "Mestre Acordeon" (1986). Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books. ISBN 0-938190-30-X.
Merrell, Floyd (2005). Capoeira and Candomblé: Conformity and Resistance in Brazil. Princeton: Markus Wiener. ISBN 1-55876-349-X.

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