Capoeira from Brazil

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form that ritualizes movement from martial arts, games, and dance. It was brought to Brazil from Angola some time after the 16th century in the regions known as Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo. Participants form a roda or circle and take turns either playing musical instruments (such as the Berimbau), singing, or ritually sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of sweeps, kicks, and headbutts.

As students master the basic moves, their game naturally acquires a more cunning slant as they begin to perfect the art of trickery, or malandragem. This involves a lot of improvisation and modifications of basic moves into a flurry of feints and fakes to trick the opponent into responding wrongly. These attempts can be blatant or subtle at discretion of the players. Effective malandragem lies in the development of sharp observation skills and a keen innate ability to anticipate the moves of the opponent and prepare an appropriate response. Some capoeiristas take this aspect of the art to heights akin to the guile of theatrics and drama. Games displaying elaborate performances and even staging skits reenacting historic cultural aspects of capoeira are commonly demonstrated amongst the most learned of the arts.


Capoeira's origins are not clear. It is a combination of African and Brazilian martial arts,
but camps are generally divided between those who believe it is a direct descendant of African fighting styles and those who believe it is a uniquely Brazilian dance form distilled from various African and Brazilian influences. The best working theory is that it's an African fighting style that was developed in Brazil.

Some proponents believe that Capoeira was first created and developed by slaves brought to Brazil from Angola, the Congo, the Gulf of Guinea and the Gold Coast, who used it as a way to practice their martial arts moves while making it appear to be a game or dance. Since the slave-masters forbade any kind of martial art, it was disguised as an innocent-looking recreational dance. Others believe that Capoeira was practiced and used to fend off attacks by Portuguese slavers in Palmares, Brazil's most famous Quilombo maroon colony of escaped slaves.

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