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What is Capoeira?

Capoeira is far from one of the most popular forms of Martial Arts. But I must admit, coming from having dance lessons as a child, I was immediately taken by the concept of this style. I had the privilege of seeing it performed live when I went to Jamaica several years ago. The images along with the music still burn in my mind.

A Brazilian style of Martial Arts, Capoeira resembles a dance as much as a form of combat. Instead of the traditional stationary starting stance most Martial Arts styles have, Capoeira begins with a Ginga, a side-to-side movement to the beat of the music. From there, the combatants move to perform a variety of attacks and evasions. Some of the movements remind me of complex break dancing routines of the 1980’s. Only, these movements carry with them a deadly intent. Much of the movements focus on the feet rather than the hands, emphasizing evasion over blocking.

Coming to Brazil through Angolan slaves, the basis for this art is traditional African dances and rituals. An artisan under Capoeira should expect to not only learn the moves but the music and songs (Ladainha) of this rich art form. The music is performed on special instruments:
  • Berimbau -- a musical bow with a gourd at the end
  • Pandeiros -- a tambourine
  • Agogo -- two iron bells
  • Reco reco -- bamboo scrapper
  • Atabaque -- barrel hand drum

    Instructors are known as Mestre. Recent movements include some distinguishing between Angola and Regional forms of this style.

    If you’d like to see this Martial Arts in action, I highly recommend the film, Only the Strong (1993) starring Mark Dacascos. And for those gamers out there, you’ll notice the moves are very similar to a character in Tekken 3, namely Eddy Gordo.


    If you’d like to hear some of the music, check out the music review section at Planet Capoeira.com. For more information about Capoeira in general, check out the Capoeira.com site.

    Capoeira10.com is a great site with some of the best pictures I've seen online of performers in action shots!
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