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History of Capoeira

Capoeira is often referred to as the Brazilian martial art. However, most masters would say that this is an oversimplification of an art that has been used for martial purposes in some instances. The practice involves an array of artistic abilities as capoeiristas, as practitioners are called, know how to play percussion, sing, dance, perform acrobatics and fight.

The art has been practiced in Brazil for at least 300 years and is often traced back to ritual dances and fighting styles used in rites of passage by African slaves brought to Brazil, who many times used the techniques to escape captivity.


Capoeiristas sometimes are called dancers that fight and fighters that dance, but again, that definition excludes broader aspects of the art. In fact, in the roda, the circle that capoeiristas make to test their skills with each other, there hardly ever are fights, there are what is called in Capoeira “games”.


Capoeira has evolved across the centuries and today practitioners often are divided into two styles: Capoeira Regional and Capoeira Angola.

Capoeira Regional

Created by Mestre Bimba in the 1930s as a way to standardize the teaching methods and bring Capoeira out of illegality (the art was forbidden by law until 1937 in Brazil). Regional is the more common form of Capoeira, it is practiced much more widely in Brazil then any other style of Capoeira and it’s often what Brazilians refer to when they speak of Capoeira.

Capoeira Regional was developed to make Capoeira more effective and bring it closer to its fighting origins, and less associated with the criminal elements of Brazil. The Capoeira Regional style is often considered to consist of faster and more athletic play than Capoeira Angola.

Regional ranks capoeiristas by ability, denoting different skill with the use of a corda (colored rope, also known as cordel or cordão) worn as a belt. Angola does not use such a formal system of ranking, relying instead upon the discretion of a student’s mestre.

Capoeira Angola

Capoeira Angola is the more ritualistic form of Capoeira and a roda – in which capoeiristas gather to play, as they call their combat simulations done to the music of up to ten percussion instruments – can last for several hours. Angola is characterized by playful, ritualized games, which combine elements of dancing, combat, and music, while stressing interaction between the two players and the musicians and observers.

Capoeira Angola is often characterized by deeply held traditions, slower movements and with the players playing their games in closer proximity to each other. Capoeira Angola is often characterized as being slower and lower to the ground than other major forms of Capoeira, although in actual practice, the speed varies in accordance with the music.

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