April 19

Capoeira: The Ultimate Guide


Capoeira is a Martial Art that both looks amazing but also confuses people.

Is it dance? Is it a fighting style? Is it acrobatics? Can it be used in self-defence?

Well, in this article we break down the mystical art of Capoeira and explain all you need to know.

Ready? let's dive in.

What is Capoeira?


Capoeira is a martial art form developed by slaves in Brazil. It is likened a dance but is actually a sport. It is a refreshing mix of dance, acrobatics, self-defense tactics, music, and song.

You thought capoeira is only a game? Think again!

Capoeira can be lethal also. Participants use speed and mobility and ‘malicia’ or deception to escape rather than block attacks from opponents. The game is played in a circle called the ‘Roda’. It takes years to learn the Brazilian martial art form fully and it takes hard work and practice to perform this graceful sport.

Capoeira can be dangerous to perform as participants may use blades that are strapped to ankles or held between toes. The sport is characterized by swings of the legs, somersaults, and graceful aerial kicks. Performers can pass these kicks close to the stomach, groin, and head of their opponents. The ante can be upped immediately when the intent is to hurt or defense.  

Where Did Capoeira Originate?


Capoeira has a murky history as experts differ in their opinion as to where it originated from. The most popular theory is that African slaves brought this martial art form with them to Brazil from the west and west-central Africa. The advent of the sixteenth century saw the Portuguese import African slaves to Brazil. The early years of Capoeira are not documented, but lore says that it originated with the slave trade in Brazil.

African slaves mingled their talents with native Brazilian slaves to create a unique martial art form that was essentially disguised as a dance form. Although slavery was abolished in 1888 in Brazil, Capoeira flourished. The main exponents were the Afro-Brazilian community of Bahia in particular.

 The modern form of Capoeira has evolved into a precise sport that has a modicum of precise kicking, strategic deception, and passing. An exclusively male bastion till the20th century, Capoeira has an international following today, with many women as its face.

 Is Capoeira hard to learn?


What good thing comes easy? Nothing!

 The martial art form capoeira is as difficult to learn as you make it. It all depends on what you want to take away from it. If you are looking to master the basics and have a clear goal in mind when you learn Capoeira, progress can be measured in terms of difficulty.

 Capoeira training daunts many, as it demands flexibility and strength. It is true of all martial arts, not only this Brazilian martial art form. It all depends on where your fitness, flexibility, strength, mobility, and coordination levels lie when you start learning. If you are a newbie, it may need a lot of work to regain fitness before you are proficient.

 You also need an ear for music when you commence training in Capoeira. The musicality of this martial art style may be a challenge if you cannot follow a tune or beat. Capoeira follows a rhythm, and you need to get a feel for music to learn this graceful sport.

 Fortunately, you can still learn the art if you are willing to follow a beat!

 Proprioception is another very essential part of learning Capoeira. Coordinated movements are a big part of Capoeira, and you may find it difficult in the beginning if you are not in sync with your body. In time, training will help you build body awareness. The more you train, the easier it becomes to learn the martial art style of Capoeira.

Flow and improvisation are best learned with a partner. If you get a chance to practice Capoeira with a proficient partner, it becomes easier to learn. It requires discipline and perseverance to learn this Brazilian martial art form.


Why did the African slaves develop capoeira?


Capoeira meant cultural expression and survival for the African slaves who escaped and gathered in hidden areas from the farms. These areas were called Quilimbos. The name Capoeira means open area and signifies these spaces where the slaves congregated to perform the martial art style.

 Escapees were often brutally punished by the slave owners. The slaves were left to defend themselves without weapons and restricted resources. The only tool available was the honed bodies that practicing capoeira built. Capoeira proved to be an effective tool to fight back against punishment for escaping. The slaves imitated animal movements to defend and attack. In happier times capoeira was used to express the feelings and hopes of the players of the sport.

 The sport resembles a dance and the slaves used it as a disguised fighting style. The strokes and kicks are powerful enough to inflict serious damage. If the slaves used knives and blades, the Brazilian martial art form was enough to hurt and even kill the opponent. The Beriambu or the musical instrument used in Capoeira was also used to warn the slaves that the foreman was approaching the quarters. The players were saved from punishment when the fighting style was hidden in the form of dance.

What are the rules of Capoeira?


Capoeira players do not aim to hurt their opponents. This makes the sport fundamentally different from other martial art forms. The goal of the sport is to showcase skills like mobility, flexibility, and stamina rather than attack and hurt the competitor. The ‘Roda’ is filled with positive energy, musical rhythm, and companionship. The martial art is played in the form of dance and the aim is to show skills rather than dominate the other proponent.


Capoeira consists of kicks, jumps, escapes, sweeps, acrobatics, gymnastic moves, and takedowns. The martial art form was developed by slaves to escape punishment and deceptive movements are a large part of the Brazilian martial art style. The sport moves to the musical rhythm of the beriambu, the lead instrument of the orchestra. The ‘Roda’ has a musical orchestra at its side that plays live music. The entrance to the ‘Roda’ is marked by a tilting of the beriambu. This gives a blessing or authorization for the players to begin. The end of the game is signaled by the beriambu player present on the side. The Capoeirista may also take the permission of the beriambu to bring the play to a close. Players can also interrupt the game in play. The new payer then proceeds to pursue the game with an existing player in the ‘Roda’ or even a new one from outside the ring.

The rules are simple and not rigid. Most players have a good rapport with the beriambu player and the game proceeds smoothly.


Does Capoeira build muscle?


It is not the intent of Capoeira to build muscle, but it is a welcome by-product of practicing a martial art. The benefits of playing this martial art regularly are many! The exercise routine needed to train for the sport helps you maintain high levels of fitness and flexibility. It is an excellent way to build personality and groom you for social interaction.

The training for Capoeira requires you to perform handstands, somersaults, high kicks, poses, rolls, and many other upper body movements. It engages the core and abs, and in turn builds upper body strength and by default muscle.

The sport requires a high energy level and speed to coordinate with the group. The performance engages multiple muscle groups in many ways. The movements are repetitive and lead to an intense cardio workout. The cardiovascular system and muscular system are taxed and practicing Capoeira is a great way to build endurance, mobility, strength, and in turn muscles!


 What type of music is used for Capoeira?


The earlier form of Capoeira used the beriambu as a musical instrument. The modern form uses a small musical orchestra or ensemble to provide the beats to which the players move. The ensemble includes beriambus or musical bows, atabaques or conical drums, a pandiero or tambourine, and a reco-reco or a scraped bamboo tube.

The musical instruments are accompanied by a song that is rhythmic and typically a call and response sequence. Music is an integral part of the Capoeira and hence a good ensemble is integral to smooth play.


So, there you have it. Our guide to the Martial Art Capoeira.

Without a doubt, this art is one of the most unique ever created, but it's compelling history, and dance like movements make it an incredible one to be part of.

Thanks for reading.





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