Capoeira is a Brazilian cultural art. It is both a martial art and a dance. Kicks are very used. Created and practiced by enslaved Africans in Brazil, its history remains cloaked in mystery and legend. Forbidden to train in fighting arts, the early capoeiristas hid the power of capoeira in the innocence of a dance. Accompanied by atabaques(drums) and a unique percussion instrument, the berimbau, capoeira did not appear to be a threat to the slaveholders. Even today, music is central to the art which is generally played in a circle (roda) with musicians and players singing. Movement is rhythmic as two players (never called fighters) effortlessly attack and counter attack without actually striking each other.


Capoeira creation is attributed to the African slaves who had been imported by the Portuguese since the early 1500's. Starting around 1814, Capoeira and other forms of African cultural expressions were prohibited by the slave masters and overseers. It was "practiced" in a violent form in Rio De Janeiro and Recife. It was practiced as a ritual-dance-fight-game in Bahia. And sometimes in hiding, and in other places openly in defiance to the laws prohibiting it.

With the abolition of slavery in 1888, the newly freed slaves did not find a place for themselves in the existing socioeconomic order. Many capoeiristas turned to criminality and this caused many to associate Capoeira with criminality.

However, in Bahia, Capoeira continued to develop into a ritual-dance-fight-game. The African instrument called the berimbau began to be indispensable in the rodas.

In 1932 Mestre Bimba (Manuel dos Reis Machado 1900-1974) opened the first Capoeira academy. This was due to an effort by the Getulio Vargas government to promote Capoeira as a Brazilian sport. Bimba sacrificed much of the ritual aspect for the more aggressive and fighting spirit. He called this new style Capoeira Regional.

Then in 1941 Mestre Pastinha (Vicente Ferreira Pastinha 1889-1981) opened his school that taught the more "traditional" Capoeira. He called his style Capoeira Angola. Capoeiristas all over the world can be classified under either Regional, Angola or a combination of both.

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