Capoeira is a 400 year old Afro-Brazilian
art form that was developed as a method of expression and self
defense by the African slaves in Brazil.
Today it is Brazil's second largest sport after soccer, and
is fast becoming a global recognized art and sport form. It's
distinctive blend of martial arts, dance, ritual, music attracts
people of all types. It's emphasis on functional core strength,
flexibility and balance makes it an ideal workout.
Capoeira is called a "jogo",
or game, in Portuguese, the language spoken in Brazil. This
game is played in a circle of participants, the "roda".
Inside the roda, two players will play capoeira - using rhythmic
movements, kicks, sweeps and evasions. They play capoeira to
the music created by other players, who use instruments specific
to capoeira - the Berimbau, (the stringed bow), the Atabaque
(the floor drum) and the Pandeiro (a tambourine). The music
sets the tone for the type of game to be played.
As in the USA, there was
also slavery in Brazil. The slaves were put to work in the plantations
where sugar and tobacco were the main crops and the demand for
slave labor was great. During the history of the slave trade,
it is estimated that more than two million slaves were brought
to Brazil from Africa.
These slaves came from
different regions of Africa and thus had different cultures.
They were distributed in three main ports: Bahia, Recife, and
Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio and Recife, the
slaves were from different ethnic groups and sometimes from
enemy tribes as well, which made it difficult for these slaves
to organize a revolt. More slaves in Rio were from Bantu peoples,
while in other areas, such as Bahia, slaves came primarily from
As the slaves became aware
that their condition was irreversible, that they were intended
to be an involuntary work force forever, they began to run away.
In Recife, a group of 40
slaves rebelled against their master, killed all the white employees,
and burned the plantation house. They then set themselves free
and decided to find a place where they could be hidden from
the slave hunters. They headed to the mountains, a trip that
took many months to complete. Had it not been for the help they
received from the Indians, this journey would have been practically
impossible to accomplish. Eventually they reached what they
thought was a safe place, which because of its abundance of
palm trees they named Palmares. In this place an African community
was born; a community which lasted nearly a century. In this
community the first forms of Capoeira were developed.
While no one would deny
the tremendous African influence on Capoeira, nothing is really
known about a form of Capoeira originating in Africa. All that
is written on this subject is based on speculation. The earliest
known historical record of Capoeira as a martial art is approximately
1770, long after early years of slavery. No further accounts
of Capoeira are found until the early 1800's in the form of
various police records from Rio de Janeiro.