What is capoeira?

at the foot of the Berimbau

In April 1500 AD, The Portuguese arrived for the first time in Brazil. The indigenous population of Brazil numbered around one million Indian tribesmen. The Portuguese attempted to enslave these Indians, but found them difficult to catch and very unwilling workers.

This resulted in the Portuguese bringing African slaves onto Brazilian soil in great numbers. One of the most common places slaves were sent to work were the sugar cane plantations. At night, large numbers of slaves were forced into sleeping quarters called “Senzala”. These Senzalas were always overcrowded and terribly unhygienic.

In their continual quest for liberation from the Portuguese landowners, the African and Indian slaves persisted in improving their fighting skills. It was not easy for them, as the Portuguese created many obstacles. The slaves were often kept shackled and the practice of fighting skills was forbidden.

Despite these hurdles the slaves continued to develop a style of fighting which was ingeniously disguised as a form of dance and celebration. With music and song to complete the picture, Capoeira was born.

Within a movement Capoeira could be transformed from a graceful dance or acrobatics into lethal martial arts. The music contained messages of freedom and hope to those still enslaved.

In 1888 AD, Slavery was finally abolished and most of the records of the slaves were unfortunately destroyed. This attempt at cleaning their history was a tragedy that is still felt today.This destroying of the records meant that for Capoeira all the history about its origins and creators is still in doubt.

It became an offence to practice Capoeira and the punishment was imprisonment or deportation. This forced the Capoeiristas to practice more secretively and find safe areas, in the jungle, mountains or the dark ally-ways, where they could continue “playing”.

For Our Group and many other groups of Capoeira around the world, two men stand out as pioneers to make Capoeira an accepted and respected part of the Brazilian culture and history. These two men; Masters Bimba (creator of Capoeira Regional) and Pastinha (Master of Capoeira Angola), gained the support of the public to have Capoeira recognized by the government and eventually made the national sport of Brazil. Through all the trials and tribulations that Capoeira has endured over the years it still manages to infuse each player to search out and reach their own personal sense of liberation and equality.

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