What’s Capoeira?

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Capoeira is a mix of dance, ritual, and martial arts that originated from African slaves in Brazil. The game is played in a circle with a single-stringed instrument called a berimbau. The goal is to catch the opponent off guard using technique and gymnastics without physical contact. There are two main styles: Angolan and Regional, and capoeira is now a global phenomenon with schools teaching various fusion styles.

Capoeira is a combination of dance, ritual and martial arts that has developed
from the Portuguese trade of African slaves to Brazil in the 16th century.
Capoeira was illegal in Brazil until the 1930s.
The ritual game begins with two players squatting in a circle, or roda, of
spectators. The players rest at the foot of a single-stringed instrument,
or berimbau, and one player sings an initiation song.

The other player can sing back or remain silent to allow the former
player to sing the announcement that the game has begun. The musician a
the berimbau then resumes the song as the players move to the center of the
circle. The primary berimbauist is the Mestre, or master of the game of capoeira. The songs of the roda,
sings and drums under the direction of Mestre.

The players and the Mestre converse during the game; the music
set time for cheats a player can use. A player can also
improvise his movements according to the musical commentary that the Mestre gives
to his performance. Mestre in turn can play music that reflects the
player attitudes, reactions and strategies.

The object of the game, or jogo, is to catch the opponent off guard using
cunning, technique and gymnastics. Players can pretend each other using
quick kicks, somersaults, handstands, leg sweeps, somersaults, jabs, dodges and
turns. The basic movement, and the one most used by beginners, is a
lateral movement into a semi-crouched position called a ginga.

Unlike most martial arts, strikes are admired most when there is no physique
contact. One player gets the most cheers when the other player has been
cleverly baited into a vulnerable, off-balance position, but he didn’t
actually fell or been hit.

While there is no points system and no official winners or losers,
players can be disqualified for falling while sitting or in some forms
of capoeira, using the hands to strike. Some speculate that the lack of
the use of the hands in capoeira refers to an ancient Kongo saying: “hands are for
to build, the feet are for destroying”.
Modern martial artists have two main choices for capoeira techniques and
philosophy. Angolan capoeira is the most traditional form, with lenses,
dance-like steps while regional capoeira relies much more on high energy
Capoeira today is truly a global phenomenon with schools teaching Angolan,
Regionals and dozens of fusion styles in major cities around the world.

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