What is Capoeira?

Capoeira is a martial art that was developed in Brazil by enslaved Africans as a result of their necessity for a means through which to attain freedom from slavery. In the 16th century the Portuguese began importing slave labor to Brazil from various countries on the African continent. These enslaved Africans, feeling a growing need for freedom and escape from their oppressors, developed capoeira as a fighting technique that stressed both agility and efficiency. During this time, the practice of capoeira was disguised as a tribal dance.

The name “capoeira” is an indigenous word that comes from Topiguarani, an idigenous language of Brazil. In Topiguarani, capoiera signified a new forest or vegetation, or one that had been cut back.

There exists two different types of capoeira – Capoeira Angola and Capoeira Regional Bahiana. Capoeira Angola was the first type of capoeira that was created by enslaved Africans in Brazil and later served as the foundation for the creation of Capoeira Regional. The ritual and fundamentals of this type are conserved to this day in the same form.

Capoeira Regional was the creation of Mestre Bimba who felt that capoeira needed to posess more efficiency as a form of fighting. Thus, he begun to create a style known as Capoeira Regional Bahiana drawing from Capoeira Angola, the primitive form of capoeira, and also from Batuque and his experiences with other fighting forms. This style of capoeira is named Capoeira Regional Bahiana because it was created in the region of Brazil known as Bahia. Mestre Bimba began to create Capoeira Regional Bahiana, in 1918, and in 1928 the creation of Capoeira Regional was literally completed, resulting in the first methodology of capoeira in the world. This methodology contained a system of sequences divided into eight parts. Each part was very specific, for example, seven toques of the berimbau, cuadras and corridos (the types of songs used in the capoeira roda), and cinturas despresadas, that are a series of four balãoes executed by students known as “formados” during the game Iuna. The batizado was also a creation of Mestre Bimba, as well as a system of graduation which used differently colored “lensos” (handkercheifs) to signify various levels of skill – blue, red, yellow and, finally, white. Capoeira Regional, the creation of Mestre Bimba, although begun in 1918 and completed in 1928, continues to be the most practiced system of capoeira today.

Capoeira after the time of Mestre Bimba underwent many changes in the evolutionary process. The various basic and technical adaptations that occured served to increase the efficiency of capoeira. The group responsible for creating these changes was Grupo Senzala from Rio de Janeiro. Grupo Capoeira Brasil is a descendent of Grupo Senzala, and the basic and technical process of Grupo Capoeira Brasil has its foundations in the process developed by Grupo Senzala. However, this process has also undergone various changes to the basic and technical process as well as various ideaological changes which were implemented by the three founding Mestres of our group. Today, Capoeira Regional is practiced all over the world.

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