Introduction to Martial Arms for Capoeira

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art, game, and culture created by enslaved Africans in Brazil…


Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art, game, and culture created by enslaved Africans in Brazil in the 17th century. Participants form a wheel (circle) and take turns playing musical instruments, singing, and competing in pairs in the center of the circle. The game is characterized by fluid acrobatics, feints, evasions, and extensive floor work as well as sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Throughout the game, a player must avoid sweeps, trips, kicks, or headbutts that could throw him to the ground. Less commonly used techniques include elbowing, slapping, punches, and body throws. Capoeira has three variations known as “Capoeira Angola”, “Capoeira Regional” and the ever-evolving “Capoeira Contempor├ónea”.

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Portugal sent slaves from West Africa to South America. The South American country of Brazil was the most common destination for African prisoners [citation needed] with 42% of all enslaved people being shipped across the Atlantic. Akan, Igbo, Yoruba, Dahomean, Guinean, Hausa, and Bantu Muslims (including Congos, Kimbundas, and Kasanjes) from Angola, Congo, and Mozambique are most commonly sold to Brazil.

These African peoples brought their cultural and religious traditions with them to the New World. One theory holds that capoeira originated in the fern courtship dance [citation needed] in Angola used by young female suitors, however, this is just one of many theories being debated. It is disputed whether the game came with enslaved Africans or whether the Africans perfected the already existing Brazilian game. One of the catalysts of Capoeira was the homogenization of Africans under the yoke of slavery. Capoeira originated as a way to fight oppression, practice art in secret, 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 developed by Brazilian slaves of African descent (possibly admittedly from the Portuguese colony of Angola) around the 16th century. Since slaves were not allowed to practice martial arts, they varied the native African spiritual dance to appear as if they were dancing every time they practiced the art. Because the dance includes maneuvers such as handstands, backflips, and cartwheels, capoeira is the most energetic of the martial arts today, with many kicks performed from the handstand position. His initial offensive technique is a kick, while his defensive technique is an initial body movement that moves away from the opponent’s attack at the same time. African culture plays a big part in learning Capoeira, as training and competitions are conducted to the rhythm of the berimbau, a single-stringed instrument. It was not until the 20th century that the practice of Capoeira became legal in Brazil and only in modern times has it been taught in other countries.

In 1942, Mestre Pastinha opened the first formal academy for teaching the traditional art form known as Capoeira Angola. Mestre Pastinha’s efforts prevented Angolan capoeira from disappearing as the newer, modern art form gained popularity.

This era marked a dramatic change in the way Capoeira was taught. Capoeira used to be passed on in secret, usually by relatives such as fathers or uncles, or in small groups where some young people in a particular community received guidance from an experienced practitioner of that community. During this period, the academy system became the main form of participation in the arts. Today there are Capoeira academies on almost every continent in the world.

Another significant change brought about by the rise of capoeira ‘schools’ was the participation of middle and upper-class residents. Today, several Mestres attend seminars discussing the need to make art accessible to poor black people who cannot afford an education at academies. This is a concern for practitioners who recognize the importance of making art accessible to people from the culture who are encountering it for the first time.

Capoeira training can take place in any city in the world and I encourage you to visit the Capoeira Martial Arts Directory to find a school near you!