The origin of Capoeira
The art of Capoeira was developed over generations of African slaves working in Brazilian plantations.
Starting in the 1500's millions of slaves were shipped to Brazil to work in Coffee and Cotton plantations. Slave owners had to keep the slaves from revolting and to do this, they suppressed their freedom to learn any martial arts, or use any weapons.
The slaves would gather together and dance in order to uphold some of their African cultural traditions. They would play instruments and sing and dance in a circle. Eventually, they began to develop techniques and moves that resembled dancing, but were actually designed to be very effective in fighting. The movements never stop and flow very gracefully from one to another, but kicks, jumps, flips and take-downs were all developed and hidden within the dance.
Hands are rarely used in Capoeira because "hands are meant for building and feet are meant for destroying". In other words, the slaves lives depended on the fact that they could work effectively on the plantations - if they didn't have their hands they wouldn't be very valuable to the slave owners - so they were very careful not to injure their hands. Also, it is speculated that many of the moves in Capoeira were designed to be effective if they were bound by the wrists in chains, leaving only their feet and head to attack with.
Art of Capoeira
The martial art of Capoeira was originally created over 400 years ago in Brazil by the African slaves. This martial art is unlike any of the other martial arts there anywhere in the world, and possesses a blend of power, beauty, mental balance, physical power, music, and an overwhelming sense of art and finesse.
Upon it’s creation, Capoeira proved to the world that it can be practiced by anyone, regardless of size, weight, or age. The style is more than a martial art, but also a social event that is rich in tradition and history. Capoeira is a truly powerful martial art, resembling a collaboration of music, dance, and exotic movements - and even a game.
Those who witness Capoeira games will note the music. Both the music and the lyrics play a big part in the way that the game (known as jogo) is conducted. For the players, there are several different rhythms that call for different speeds. When watching the game played, spectators are normally in awe from the movements. The jogo consists of a circle, with the players in the middle and the musicians at the foot of the circle.
Players that enter the game will enter into the circle, with a spring, cartwheel, or other type of visually stunning movement. Upon entering the circle, players will complete back and forth with various combinations of poetic movements and breathtaking aerial displays. It takes years of practice and hard work to become great at the jogo, as it requires precision, fast movement, and flawless application of the Capoeira techniques.
From a defensive standpoint, Capoeira is flashy, very creative, and also very useful, as the techniques seem to come out of nowhere and can be very hard to defend against. The opponent or attacker has no clue what to expect from the student. The Capoeira student defends himself through the use of dancing movements and acrobatic techniques, executing perfect movements that up until Capoeira were only dreamt of.
Capoeira and the jogo game are really big in Brazil, with hundreds of students learning the martial art. It isn’t one of the most popular in the United States, although it is offered. In South America it is more of a lifestyle, with jogo games being played on a daily basis. A lot of martial arts students don’t want to learn Capoeira for the simple fact that the movements can be a bit of a risk. Once you see how the style is performed, it can make you cringe at any second.
Over the last couple of decades, the art has grown a lot. In 1974, the art of Capoeira became the national sport of Brazil, proving that just about everyone in Brazil had accepted it. As time continues to pass, you can count on more and more competitions and dojo’s to surface - introducing this truly excellent martial art to newer generations.