Capoeira: Much More Than Just a Kicking Dance


There are hundreds of different styles of martial arts. Some have been passed down through the ages, and others have more of a mixed style, combining a few different styles together. Some are the creation of new form altogether. There are no legislative laws regarding style, they are as different and as abundant as personalities are to people. However, there are very few martial arts that combines a variety of different art forms. This is unique to what is called Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art form that combines fight, dance, rhythm and movement. Haven't heard of it yet? Well, let us fill you in! You're about to find out about the most intriguing fighting dance game that is sweeping the world. You may even develop a new hobby.

What is Capoeira?

Simply speaking, Capoeira is a dialog spoken between two players using movement as their conversation. More formally, it is known as the Brazilian fight dance. The game consists of fluid acrobatic play, feints, sweeps, kicks and even headbutts, and an extensive use of groundwork. However, the goal is not to hurt the opponent, but to show skill, technique and strategy. Capoeira has three main styles, Regional, Angola and Contemporanea.

Where Did It Originate?

This form of martial arts is said to have been created by enslaved Africans trafficked to Brazil during the 19th Century. Although the details of its origins are a matter of much debate, it is very clear the the African slaves that inhabited Brazil at this time played a significant role in its development. The most popular belief is that the slaves used capoeira's dance-like appearance as a way to hide their training of combat and self defense. Questions arise about whether or not capoeira was already formed in Africa and brought to Brazil, or whether it was created by Africans while in captivity in Brazil. Arguments supporting both sides have long been discussed and researched. But one thing is certain, an amazing art form was developed along the way.

The Game

Capoeira is different. The fighting component does not focus on injuring the opponent as other martial arts do. Rather, it emphasizes the skill of each player. Often time Capoeiristas, what the players are called, often choose to show an incomplete movement enforcing a type of dominance or superiority. The philosophy follows as such, if an opponent cannot dodge a slow attack, there is no reason to use a faster one. It's strategic. Each attack that is given provides the practice for an additional technique to be applied. The game consists of ginga, attacks, defenses, volta ao mundo and trickery. Participants form a roda, or circle, and take turns playing instruments, singing, and sparring in pairs in the center.

Ginga. This the basic movement of Capoeira. It literally means to rock back and forth, or to swing and is performed in to match the rhythm being played by the music. Players stand with both feet shoulder width apart and move one foot back at a time into a triangular position, while coordinating the arms with a blocking type of movement. The body moves back and forth according to the game, leaning back to avoid kicks, and forward to show attacks. 

Attacks. They are called attacks, however opponents do not physically touch each other. They consist of movements suggesting kicks, sweeps and head strikes, with some schools utilizing punches and hand strikes, although they are not as common. Elbows are more commonly used in their place. Acrobatic and athletic movements such as cartwheels, handstands, headspins, jumps turns and flips are used to maneuver around each other. 

Defenses. Defenses in capoeira involve moves, ducks and rolls, ways of escaping attacks. The goal is to quickly evade and attack and set yourself up for the next attack. It is this fluidity of defense and attack that gives the game its dance like motion. 

Volta ao Mundo. This means"taking a trip around the world" and it takes place after the an exchange of movements has reached its end. One player begins walking around the perimeter of the circle, and the other joins in. They both then return to the normal game. 

Trickery. Once the game has been mastered, players begin acquiring more cunning and deceitful moves that involve a lot of improvisation and fake outs to trick the opponent into responding incorrectly. Some take this aspect to new heights by adding a bit of drama and performance by staging skits and reenactments, giving the game more of a beautiful show like appearance.

The Benefits of Capoeira

Why capoeira? There are many martial arts and physical activities to choose from, why would one choose capoeira? Well, for one, capoeira has some extremely impressive health benefits such as strength, flexibility, cardio and stamina. 

  • Strength: With all the handstands, rolls, poses, kicks and movements, Capoeiristas gaining strength and improving muscle tone
  • Flexibility: It has been said that those who study capoeira become just as flexible as yoga practitioners.
  • Cardio and Stamina: The games and the training themselves take an enormous amount energy and makes for a great cardio session building stamina along with the strength.

But that's not where it ends. In addition to its overall health benefits, capoeira instills a new found sense of confidence. Players learn to feel stronger and more courageous. They find new likeminded friends, and get a connection to a new culture. Capoeiristas learn to flow, get creative, and develop a bond with their bodies.

The Passion Behind Capoeira

It is extremely easy to find the passion behind capoeira, and it has been the driving force for both participants and enthusiasts in keeping the art alive through the ages, and for all ages. For most youngsters, the passion comes from the enthralling movement of acrobatic movielike fighting to the sounds of exciting drum beats. For the older folks, capoeira has other appeals; a philosophy, a cultural aspect, and a way of fitness and life. Capoeira is both a widely communal activity and a deeply individual experience. Once you become a capoeirista, you will develop an instant bond with thousands of people across the globe who share your passion for this amazing art form.

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