What is Capoeira?


What is Capoeira?

Capoeira is a Brazilian Martial Art that incorporates elements of dance, acrobatics and music.  It originated from the African slaves in Brazil as a movement of resistance against slavery.  Slaves would train together and disguise their training as a dance.  Though Capoeira is in many ways a fight, we call it a game.  This game is played between two people within a circle of spectators (or Roda), who through their singing and clapping give their energy to the pair in the middle. 

The game of Capoeira is a physical conversation between two people.  As with any conversation, the game can be light and comical, aggressive or battle of whits.  The tone of the game depends on the actions of the players and how they question and respond to one another.  In this way, the game of Capoeira is a metaphor and philosophy for life.  It teaches the player flexibility, self-confidence, strength, whit and a little bit of old fasion Brazilian trickery, or malandragem.

As with any martial art, there exists a hierarchy of respect within the Capoeira society.  Students learn respect for the knowledge and abilities of their teachers, or Mestres, and a good Mestre acknowledges the role of their Mestre in making them the Capoeirista they are in the present. But all Mestres and students show respect to the ultimate Mestre of the Roda, the berimbau.

The berimbau is a musical instrument believed to have originated from Angola and refined in Brazil.  Shaped like a bow with a gourd attached for resonance, this instrument is responsible for calling down Axe’, or life force energy to command the players in the roda.  In this way even the greatest of Mestres is subject to the energy of Axe’.  The berimbau is accompanied the atabaque, or drum; the pandeiro, or tambourine, and the agogo.  These instruments dictate the rhythm and style of play in the Roda.

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