Considering taking a dance class? Why not learn self-defense at the same time? Martial arts isn’t just for self-defense, but can be fun and engaging as well. Capoeira classes are a great way for all ages to interact socially and learn about Brazilian culture.
Capoeira is a form of martial arts that originated in Brazil, South America. Rather than being purely a form of combat or defense, as is the case with most forms of martial arts, Capoeira is more of a staged dance between opponents that combines elements of music, dance and acrobatics. Capoeira martial arts classes are popular across the United States because they provide participants with an incredible cardiovascular and whole body workout that also increases balance and flexibility.
Combining the elements of dance, acrobatics, and music it is a fluid combat discipline. The practice of Capoeira is often called the Game. The first forms of Capoeira were introduced by slaves of African descent but were heavily influenced by the native Brazilians.
Capoeira is a self-defense form known for the quick and highly complex movements. The main focus of Capoeira instruction is focused on back-and-forth foot maneuvers. These shifts closely mimic the movements of the Brazilian ginga dance. Quick shifts allow the artist to use power, speed, and leverage to support many kicks and spins.
Although the origin of the name is controversial, many believe that Capoeira comes from the Tupi words ka'ameaning "jungle” and e pûer meaning “it was.” Ka’a e pûer refers to the lowland area of Brazil where slaves would disguise training as dances to avoid punishment. Although forbidden by slavers, it became the symbolic hope of survival for escaped slaves against armed colonial agents.
Slaves who managed to escape gathered together in small communities known as quilombos. The most famous quilombo, known as Quilombo dos Palmares, was successful in keeping their freedom for many years. One Portuguese governor declared the Capoeira fighting style was harder to defeat than the Dutch invaders.
As slavery disintegrated throughout Brazil, Capoeira organizations became common among warlords and hitmen and eventually was banned. Harsh penalties, often physical abuse were given to those found engaging in any sort of Capoeira. Eventually Capoeira was brought back as an appreciated art through Mestre Bimba of Salvador who took it upon himself to teach the Brazilian elite. It is now considered a great Brazilian cultural heritage.
The most fundamental movement of Capoeira instruction is the ginga. The most important use of of this movement lies in the idea that the capoeirista should always be in motion to prevent becoming an easy target. The second use lies in deception. By constant motion, the capoeirista forces their opponent to attack or defend. These false starts give Capoeira the edge in offensive maneuvers.
Attacks by a capoeirista are decisive. Usually done through the leg with the momentum from the ginga, rasteiras(leg sweeps), tesouras(knee strikes), and swirling kicks can be used to damage an opponent or finish a fight. Elbow strikes and punches are also used to complete the offensive arsenal.
Due to its origins, Capoeira defense is avoidance. Rather than blocking a weapon with the body, capoeiristas practice esquivas (avoids). These are performed much like cartwheels. Using the ginga to propel the capoeirista to one side and placing a hand on the ground, artists are able to quickly move their body away from the attack. In the event that avoidance is not an option, blocks can and are used.
When used as self-defense, capoeiristas utilize more sweeps and attacks to the lower body but while performing the jogo (game) the emphasis is less on the lower attacks and more on the demonstration of skill. Acrobatics, specifically cartwheels, are used for evasion tactics and more experienced masters will incorporate additional flair to simple movements for the sake of their performance.
The jogo is conducted in a circle of clapping capoeiristas and musicians called a roda. The jogo is played according to the style and tempo of the music. The finish is either denoted by the musicians simply ending the music, or the capoeiristas either change opponents or call an end. There are also various aspects of the roda used to test an artist’s ability to remain focused and to read an opponent.
There are various types of rodas, for example a Batizado is a special ceremonial roda which “baptizes” new capoeiristas into their first graduation. These usually are between the student and the instructor. An Apelido is a special roda in which one is given a nickname or renamed. Once a common ritual among slaves for secrecy, it is now used to define the Capoeira culture.
Practicers of Capoeira traditionally train with Brazilian berimbau music. During rodas, vocalists are usually combined with instruments which include berimbaus, pandeiros, atabaques, agogôs, and ganzás. The number and mix varies depending on the school. In addition to the many instruments, there are also different types of songs which can be played.
Capoeira for kids and adults is a great way to incorporate music and movement into their everyday lives while learning how to better defend themselves and stay in shape. Why not learn to be a dancing martial artist? Take a few minutes to find Capoeira schools near you and start your martial art experience today!
As it was mentioned, Capoeira originated as a martial art in Brazil, but was actually developed by the descendants of African slaves who were taken there. Capoeira is actually a derivative of what was known as the “Zebra Dance” or “N’golo”. Capoeira moves also feature much native Brazilian influences, especially those pertaining to their own war fights. Traditionally and even today in most Capoeira training classes, this war-like dance is performed to the beat of Brazilian berimbau music.
Capoeira is a dance-like method of fighting that involves much power and speed, which is used to fuel a great diversity of spins and kicks. The movements involved in Capoeira classes and lessons are complex and quick, requiring much energy and a full body workout. Although it’s mostly taught as a fitness and weight loss regime today, Capoeira is a fantastic method of self-defense in real-life situations involving danger or an attack. This martial arts technique makes use of low moves and sweeps to foil one’s opponent.
To learn more about Capoeira, check out the soon to come links below:
- Capoeira Angola
- Capoeira Regional
- Capoeira Contemporanea