What is Capoeira?

I'll be honest, I'm very much intrigued by the martial art, Capoeira. I was first introduced to Capoeira (please hold your laughter), by the Tekken character Christie Monteiro, with whom I can dominate any fight (save from my husband fighting as Hwoarang). In seeing matches first-hand and learning more about the historical significance of the dance-style of fighting, I thought it would be interesting to share the implicit beauty of this striking and mysterious martial art.

The history of Capoeira's roots is an interesting one. First originating in Brazil by African slaves in the 17th century, it became a form of defense against the slaves' oppressors, and once it was discovered as a form of self-defense Capoeiristas were punished, often to the point of death. It was at that point when Capoeiristas thus began to disguise their practice by singing and clapping thus leaving outsiders to assume that they were simply celebrating or performing a particular entertaining aspect of their culture, when in fact they were practicing.

In 1888, the end of slavery came about in Brazil with the signing of a new law, “Lei Aurea” (the golden law). The newly freed African slaves had nowhere to go, and were widely discriminated against by Brazilian society. Capoeiristas in turn were hired as body guards and often, hit-men and in 1890, the practice of Capoeira was outlawed in the country. Any citizen who was caught practicing the martial art, could be arrested, tortured or even killed. Capoeira was practiced secretly practiced in remote locations, with guards standing by to warn of police.

Fewer people feared Capoeira by the early 20th century, and everything changed when a man from Salvador, Mestre Bimba, and another fighter (later Bimba's student), Cisnando Lima, came together to discuss the future of Capoeira in the country. They both saw it as less of a martial art, and more of a form of entertainment for the country's tourists and they wanted to regain the true roots of the fighting style reformed. In 1932, the first official Capoeira school was founded, using the name of “Luta Regional Baiana”, as the name of Capoeira was still outlawed in Brazil. Five years later, Bimba founded the school of “Centro de Cultura Fisica e Luta Regional”, his work was widely accepted and by 1940, Capoeira was once again legal in the country.

Today, Capoeira is not only a martial art, but an art-form all its own. With a mixture of dance, music, and fighting, Capoeira tells the story of a people's struggle for survival against an oppression that almost knocked them down, but as they rose up they held tight to the only thing that allowed them to stay so strong, and grounded in their passion against resistance... Capoeira.

Animation by Taciclei Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

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