What is Capoeira?












What is Capoeira?

Capoeira is a unique Brazilian art form, which incorporates acrobatics rhythm and music, fun, fitness and self-defence in an alternative martial art.

"Life is about progression …… and ….. capoeira is about life".

Capoeira Is A Sport With

No Barriers

No Prerequisites

No Gender


No Age


In the 16th Century, Africans were carried away in ships by the Portuguese to new found lands in the Americas. These Africans were forced onto the sugar cane fields and into a life of slavery. Housed in crowded, filthy slave quarters called Senzalas, they began to run away. These runaways then formed communities known as Quilombos. The most famous of these communities was called Quilombo dos Palmares, with more than 20,000 inhabitants, including Africans and some native Brazilian Indians. One of their great leaders was Zumbi, who became famous because of his defensive skills and numerous victories against the dominating Portuguese. In the Quilombos, self freed slaves shared and learned their differing dances, rituals, religions and games from each other.
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They developed a system of ambushes and together with fast tricky movements the slaves caused considerable damages. It is believed that one of the earliest forms of Capoeira was born* in the Quilombos. Capoeira became their weapon, their symbol of freedom. Princess Isabel signed the abolition of slavery on May 13, 1888 but the practice of Capoeira remained prohibited until 1920. Music, dance and rituals were incorporated, helping disguise the practice of a deadly and forbidden art. Capoeiristas (practitioner of Capoeira) always did their best to keep the tradition alive by presenting it as a folk dance which in turn made it more acceptable to society. Nicknames were used to hide from authority during the time of prohibition. Capoeira’s progress was aided by two of its faithful disciples. Mestre Bimba & Mestre Pastinha walked Capoeira into the modern world.




Presently in Brazil it is practiced as a national sport through all levels of society, at schools, universities, clubs and in military academies.

The rest of the world too has taken to Capoeira. From very different countries, backgrounds and religions, the practitioners of the world today play Capoeira to express themselves through this very animated, vibrant, exciting and rich art form. Capoeira has come of age from expression of freedom to expression of self.

* Many historians and Capoeira enthusiasts debate the origins of Capoeira. The present theory in Brazil indicates that Capoeira is of African origin but was created and evolved on Brazilian soil.



MESTRE BIMBA (Creator of Capoeira Regional)

Manuel dos Reis Machado, known as "Mestre Bimba" was born November 23rd, 1899, at the "bairro do Engenho Velho" in Salvador-BA, Brazil.

Mestre Bimba began Capoeira at the age of 12 at Estrada das Boiadas, today known as " bairro da Liberdade," in Salvador and was taught by "Bentinho", an African who was the captain of a shipping company called the Companhia de Navegação Bahiana.

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Capoeira was officially prohibited during and even after slavery. Nevertheless, it was practiced by the poorer population on public holidays, during work-free hours and similar occasions In spite of the official ban, Mestre Bimba created a new style. He incorporated new moves and techniques. He became extremely proficient in "Batuque" a type of fighting brought by Africans during their enslavement in Brazil, which he learned from his father. He later mastered Capoeira Angola, combining these two art forms to produce an exclusive Bahian Capoeira called Capoeira Regional or "Luta Regional Baiana" was then a more martial art oriented, effective, efficient and athletic style of Capoeira. The central component to teaching Capoeira Regional is the "Sequencia," a learning process that was non-existent in Capoeira until it's introduction by Mestre Bimba.

A performance at the palace of Bahia's Governor, Juracy Magalhães, was the stepping stone needed for Mestre Bimba to finally convince the authorities of the cultural value of Capoeira, thus ending its official ban in the 1930's and opening doors for Mestre Bimba.

Mestre Bimba founded the first Capoeira school in 1932, the "Academia-escola de Capoeira Regional", in Salvador-Bahia. As Capoeira was still heavily discriminated by upper class Brazilian society Bimba attempted to change the slyness and malicious reputation associated with Capoeira practitioners by setting new standards to the art. His students had to wear a clean, white uniform, show proof of grade proficiency from school, show good posture and many other standards. As a result, doctors, lawyers, politicians, upper middle class people, and women (until then excluded) started to join his school.

The main characteristics of Mestre Bimba's Capoeira were: The training of the art in enclosed school facilities; the implementation of a course curriculum; the introduction of a systematic training method; a defined musical ensemble of one berimbau and two pandeiros, and an emphasis placed on the rhythms of São Bento Grande, Benguela and Iuna, which mandated specific jogos.

For these reasons Mestre Bimba was and still is so important to Capoeira because he changed its destiny. In 1942, Mestre Bimba opened his second school at the "Terreiro de Jesus - rua das Laranjeiras"; today rua Francisco Muniz Barreto, #1. He also taught Capoeira to the army and at the police academy. He was considered "the father of modern Capoeira".

Mestre Bimba was a coalman, carpenter, warehouse man, longshoreman, horse coach conductor, but mainly capoeirista; a giant with strong personality! In 1973, Bimba was unhappy with a number of false promises and a lack of support from local authorities in Bahia. By invitation from an ex-student, he moved to Goiânia-GO in order to continue teaching Capoeira Regional, but unfortunately only a year later, on February 15th, 1974 Bimba died due to a stroke.

Four years later, at the request of his former students, his body was brought back to Salvador, where he lies in a tomb built especially for him in a public square.

(From "Bimba: Perfil do Mestre" by Raimundo Cesar Alves de Almeida, (Mestre Itapoan), 1982.)


MESTRE PASTINHA (Patriarch of Capoeira Angola)

Vicente Ferreira Pastinha, son of José Señor Pastinha, a Spaniard and Eugênia Maria de Carvalho a Brazilian woman of African descent was born on April 5th, 1889 in Salvador-BA, Brazil. Mestre Pastinha was exposed to Capoeira at the tender age of 8 by an African named Benedito.

Mestre Pastinha had a happy and modest childhood. During the mornings he would take art classes at the Liceu de Artes e Ofício school where he learned to paint, during the afternoons he would play with kites and practice Capoeira. He continued his training with Benedito for three more years. He later joined a sailor school by his fathers wish, which would not support the Capoeira practice. At the school, he used to teach Capoeira to his friends. At the age of 21, he left the sailor school to become a professional painter. Since it was still illegal at that time, he would secretly practice Capoeira during his spare time.

Mestre Pastinha was an extraordinary character. He was innovative, wise and open-minded. In 1942, Pastinha founded the first Angola school, the "Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola"(The Sport Centre of Capoeira Angola), located at the Pelourinho. His students would wear black pants and yellow t-shirts, the same colour as the "Ypiranga Futebol Clube", his favourite soccer team.

In 1964 Pastinha published his own book, Capoeira Angola. Capoeira Angola was characterized by: a high degree of combat simulation in which the mere suggestion of an attack should be acknowledged; a focus on rituals, strategy and tactics of the game; and an emphasis on playfulness and theatrics of the movement.

Pastinha worked as shoe shiner, tailor, gold prospector, security guard (leão de chácara) at a gambling house (casa de jogo) and construction worker at the "Porto de Salvador" to maintain him financially so he could do what he loved the most, be an Angoleiro.

He dedicated his entire life to Capoeira Angola, but in the end felt betrayed by local authorities and their endless false promises and with no support, Pastinha was left abandoned in a city shelter. By 1973, the aged Pastinha had lost his sight but according to his friend, the well known Brazilian writer, Jorge Amado, he remained lucid until his final days. On April 12th, 1981, he played his last Capoeira game. On November 13th, 1981, blind and very sick, at the age of 92, Mestre Pastinha, the father and protector of Capoeira Angola, died.


Mestre Olho de Peixe

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