What is capoeira? Part 2

I will start this article clarifying that Capoeira is not and never will be KARATE!!! Often americans defined capoeira as KARATE, or even worst people is trying to teach capoeira following karate schools. NO, stop it!!! I got tired to get upset seeing it happen over and over, so I decide to create this blog to see if I can help spreading what is real capoeira!

Be ready to learn something new!!!

What is capoeira for you? Is it a game or a fight or a dance? Some people define capoeira as a combination of dance, fight and game. For me, all these options are considered capoeira and that is what makes it so complex, so surprising, so special and so rich. The best definition of capoeira that I found during my study to write this article was:

“Capoeira is a fight, one of the most violent and treacherous, disguised as a game of physical ability, beauty and lots of malice”(capoeirabrasil.com.br)

Capoeira is a manifestation of the Popular Brazilian culture that has very peculiar characeristics, such as:

  • It is a mix of dance, fight and play (through the game);
  • The sound of the berimbau (the most important instrument in capoeira) drives the rhythm and characteristics of the game;
  • Songs (following by clapping) also have an important role in determining the type of game;
  • It is an exceptional system of self-defense and physical training, standing out among other sports because it is the only one originally Brazilian and based on our cultural traditions.

The history of capoeira begins in the 16th century, when Brazil was a colony of Portugal. African slaves came to Brazil to work in sugarcane farms. Many of these slaves came from Angola (portuguese colony), their way to be happy was through dance to the sound of music. Upon arriving in Brazil, the slaves realized that they need to develop forms of protection against the violence and repression of the slaves Master. They were constantly target of violent practices and punishments from the slaves Masters. When they scape form the farms, they were pursued by the slaves marters who had one of the most violent way to captured them.

The slaves masters prohibit the slaves to practicing any kids of fight, so the slaves used the rhythm and movements of their African dance and adapted them to a type of fight called capoeira. Capoeira is a martial arts disguised as a dance and it became the most important instrument of the cultural and physical resistance from the slaves.

Roda (circle) is a space where capoeira is practiced, at the entrance of the roda are the instruments (3 berimbaus, one pandeiro, one atabaque and one agogo). The berimbaus will always drives the games. Normally, all participants (called capoeiristas – person who plays capoeira) should be able to play instruments so they can switch and everyone will be able to play in the roda. Capoeiristas will be around the circle clapping and singing together with the instruments.

There are three types of capoeira: Angola, Regional and contemporaneous. Angola is the oldest one and it came from African slaves , it is characterized by slow game, kicks close to the floor and lots of malice. Capoeira Regional was created by Mestre BIMBA (This man deserve one article just about him) and it is characterized by fast games and lots of kicks. The last one, capoeri conemporaneous is a connection of these two styles (angola and regional).

Today, there are several capoeira groups around the world (I will be writing an special article about them). A capoeira group has their own characteristic but every single one MUST to have roots in BRAZIL. If you come across a capoeira group without roots in Brazil (Mestre from Brazil, name of the group in portuguese, foundation in Brazil, history and years of experience, cord system and …) be aware!!! Unfortunately, there are several people trying to change capoeira!!! Sadly, they are loosing the main point of this amazing martial arts which is the cultural aspect.


I hope you enjoyed it!!!

Monitora Mel – FICAG Gainesville, Florida



This picture is from our first graduation ceremony called Batizado (Instrutor Samurai and Mestre Ze com fome) FICAG Brazil, MIAMI and Gainesville



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