By Lindenberg Junior | Translation: Linda Yudin
Capoeira is a lifestyle, an art form and a way to direct physical and mental energy. Capoeira has envolved into a spiritual fusion of dance, music, martial arts, community an self-expression. In addition to offering practitioners a means of fighting back against violence, it provides a healthy way to release pent-up aggression and frustration without causing harm to society. It increases the mental, psychological and physical ability, besides contributing to a perfect balance-social interaction and much harmony among those training – men, women and children.
The capoeira history is a somewhat controversial, due to the diversity of opinions relating to its origins. The word capoeira has its possible origins in Portuguese roots and also in a number of African languages and dialects of native Brazilians.
It is safe to say that this martial art was brought and developed in Brazil by enslaved Africans brought to Brazil by the Portuguese during the cruel period of slavery, to work in the sugar cane fields, and other arduous, kinds of labor. During this period the slaves were discouraged from practicing their rituals and exalting their religious cosmos.
The most widely accepted theory is that slaves incorporated dance into their martial arts training in order to fool the slave masters into thinking that were just playing a game, hence, the introduction of instruments and rhythms into the martial art. There are many songs in the art of capoeira telling of the plight of the slaves and the art to free themselves from their masters and run off the quilombos, freestanding slaves communities, for safety.
The most famous of these quilombos was called Palmares, which was headed by a charismatic and now legendary Ganga Zumba, who is credited as being the first capoeirista. Ganga Zumba and his successor, Zumbi, are now honored in hundreads of capoeira songs for their efforts in freeing their people from slavery in Brazil.
Once slavery was abolished in Brazil, capoeira was still being practiced by blanks Brazilians, post slavery. However, those that practiced capoeira were considered to be marginal members of Brazilian society. Unfortunately, capoeiristas (those who practiced capoeira) where associated with criminal activities and were persecuted by police authorities. Included in the penal core were laws attempting to prohibit the practice of this martial art.
This kind of legal persecution was sufficiently strong to make capoeira almost disappear in cities such Rio de Janeiro and Recife. There cities has until the formation of theses penal codes much capoeira being practiced. However, in the state of Bahia, capoeira began to establish itself as a contemporary Afro-Brazilian martial art form.
This new phase can be attributed to very well know masters of capoeira, Mestre Pastinha and Mestre Bimba. The first was the creator of the Angola style. This name refers to the African country where many of Bahia’s black descendants were taken by the Portuguese. The Capoeira Angola has more variation. It fosters playful activity that is not necessarily combative. Its tactics are at times sneaky, and is characterized by its crawling like movements which are played low to the groud. It’s considered to be oldest and most traditional style practiced. The second, is attributed to developing the capoeira Regional.
This style emphasizes faster movements and the interation of Asian martial arts. Fast, strong and effective, it teaches the importance of competition. Practitioners avoid the low game; instead, they maneuver on their feet more than their hands, and they frequently launch high kicks. Mestre Pastinha became a legend for his insistence on integrating African rituals and the concept of capoeira as a game and not a fight. Mestre Bimba became a legend for his contribution of furher developing new methods in the art of teaching capoeira. However, Angola and Regional are different, but complementary. Nevertheless, capoeira masters are working to unify the two styles.
All of the moves in capoeira are based on the ginga, the basic move – side by side, from back to the front, up and down. Capoeira is played between two players or contenders, inside a “roda” (circle), in which other players also participate by singing,hand clapping and playing the instruments called berimbau (the principal instrument of capoeira), atabaque (drum) and pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine). The instruments dictate the rules of the “jogo” (game) in terms of speed and the kind of game that will be played. Music and movement go hand and hand in capoeira.
Today, capoeira is found on every continent, in more than fifty countries. It’s an interaction between people of all races, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. It has attracted celebrities like Wesley Snipes, Jean Claude Van Dame and others. Around the world it appears in music, videos, films, television commercials, sport, fitness and fashion magazines.
Capoeira is culture, history, music and dance! It’s a exquisite and unique Brazilian art form.