Capoeira History

The history of Capoeira is a somewhat controversial issue since there is a diversity of opinions regarding the origin of the martial art. Many say “capoeiras” were the African men that hid between the wild grasses and jumped at the slave masters to confront them, therefore, gaining their freedom. Did the Africans bring Capoeira from Africa? “When and how did it originate?”

Who were the first “Capoeiristas?”
No one can answer these questions accurately, since most of the books concerning slavery in Brazil were burned during the first government of the newly established, “Republic Government.” Minister of Finance, Ruy Barbosa, signed a resolution to erase from the history of Brazil all the traces of slavery in 1890. Also, in 1890, there was penal code introduced in Brazil that prohibited anyone from practicing Capoeira. The penalty for those who practiced Capoeira would be from two to six months of prison. One thing is for sure, Capoeira is a unique art form not found in any other geographic region outside Brazil, including all of the African nations, or any of the other nations that brought Africans to be exploited as slaves.

Capoeira, meaning, “wild grass cut short” in the Tupi-Guarani language of the Brazilian Native Indian has two major styles: “Angola,” (named after the country of Angola, where most of the African slaves came from) and “Regional.” The founding of the Angola form of Capoeira is credited to Vicente Ferreira Pastinha, or Mestre Pastinha, it is characterized by its lower movements, contortionist style, and is the older, more traditional form of Capoeira.

The Regional style, a more recent development, was founded in the 1930’s by Manuel dos Reis Machados, known as Mestre Bimba. Mestre Bimba brought the acrobatic movements to Capoeira, which is performed from an upright position with lashing kicks, faster moves and incredible display of acrobatics.

Capoeira is now a national sport, and the popularity of the art is on a rapid rise and continues to gain a steady following. Capoeira has already attracted a few celebrity followers such as Wesley Snipes, Mark Decascos, Jean Claude Van Damme and others. Capoeira is now considered a beautiful art form, known as the most hypnotic and interesting art form to come out of Brazil.

capoeira history