What is Capoeira ?
Capoeira has got to be the strangest of all martial arts that I have ever witnessed. The art is an art that descends from African slaves it was taken to Brazil by Portuguese emigrants, the exact origin as with almost all martial arts is not 100% clear how it got to Brazil, one thing is certain they have claimed it as their own, the reason that it is claimed as a Brazilian art is that it is not practiced anywhere else the way that it is in Brazil. One clue that it came from Africa, drums and other instruments that are used in the background of Capoeira demonstrations. The art of Capoeira is steeped in tradition one of the reasons that the art is so tight is because of the fact that so many original practitioners of the art literally died for it, when the art began it was used as a way to try to escape from the evil that was slavery, the slave masters felt a massive threat from the slaves that practiced Capoeira that they vowed that anyone caught practicing it would be tortured and then put to death so this is one reason that the music is so important in concealing the true meaning of what is happening.
Capoeira is a Portuguese word which means rooster. It is also the name of a small partridge these two birds have in common that they are very good at fighting, they use fighting to maintain their territory. In fact some of the early practitioners of Capoeira used to wear feathered head dresses for the Roda which is the name of the “game” of Capoeira it is called the game because when it is demonstrated the practitioners take it in turn to have a go. In the late 1900s Capoiera was frowned upon as a dirty style of fighting because practitioners would have razors between their toes. Capoiera looks and feels different to any other martial art it uses mainly kicks with spins jumps and twirls much more than any other art. In the 1930s Getulio Vargas was put in charge after he overthrew the previous government which was ran by Washington Luis during the 1930s revolution, whilst Vargas was in charge he stopped the banning of Capoiera and in 1932 Mestre Bimba opened a school of Capoiera which he systemized and revealed in public, the new system looked pretty grim because the repression of Capoiera meant that there was no formal system of movement or set patterns and this made it hard for people to follow. The style of Capoiera that he practiced and taught was called Capoiera Regional and it was very martially focused.
Mestre Bimbao or Machado was born in Salvador in the year 1899 but was not officially registered until 1900, resulting in some confusion surrounding his date of birth. Despite his being born in 1899, 1900 is the date most commonly known and published.
The son of Luiz Cândido Machado and Maria Martinha do Bonfim, Manoel was born at the Bairro do Engenho Velho, Salvador. The nickname “Bimba” came up due to a bet between his mother and the midwife during his birth; his mother bet that he was going to be a girl and the midwife bet he would be a boy. After he was delivered, the midwife said… it’s a boy, look at his Bimba’ male sexual organ’.
He started learning Capoeira when he was 12 years old, with a Capitão da Companhia Baiana de Navegação Navigation Captain from Estrada das Boiadas, present day Bairro da Liberdade in Salvador, called Bentinho, even though in those days capoeira was still being persecuted by the authorities. He would later be known as one of the legendary founding fathers of contemporary capoeira, the other being Vicente Ferreira Pastinha “Mestre Pastinha”, the father of modern capoeira angola.
Machado was a coal miner, carpenter, warehouse man, longshoreman, and horse coach conductor, but mainly a capoeirista.
The other style of Capoiera that is practiced is a style called Capoiera Angola and this form is less martial in intent. The instrument that is used is called the Berimbau and the player of this sets the tone and pace of the Capoiera fights that take place. When the Berimbau player increases the tempo the fighters have to keep pace with him and this can make Capoiera a very fast and exciting martial art to watch and take part in, the atmosphere around a tournament is very uplifting. IN almost all Asian martial arts they believe in Chi or Ki and Capoiera is no different they have their own word for this mysterious energy and they call it Ache. This martial art is for the very fit and gymnastic, but as with all martial arts the younger you begin the better, it is and the longer you can continue into old age.
One of the kicks that Capoiera is famous for is the kick where you place your hands on the ground and use them to balance when you do kicks as demonstrated in the video below