Capoeira - Brazilian Martial Arts Style

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Capoeira - Brazilian Martial Arts Style

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts that focuses on kicks, knee strikes, punches and evading attacks. It is a very fluid and acrobatic martial arts style. Capoeira looks almost like dancing because Brazilian slaves were able to practice this martial arts in front of their colonial masters by saying that they were dancing. Capoeira students are constantly moving in order to avoid attack or to set themselves up to launch an attack.

Books on Capoeira

Elements of Capoeira

History of Capoeira

According to ABADA-Capoeira New York, "Capoeira is a martial art developed in Brazil by enslaved Africans. The true history of the art is unclear, but most people believe the following: In the 1500′s many Africans were taken from different areas of West Africa and brought to Brazil to be used as slaves by the Portuguese. They were taken from their land, but their culture and desire for freedom could not be taken away. With this need for freedom growing, these people began developing techniques for defending themselves and for escape.

Of course slaves could not be allowed to practice martial arts, so the development and practice of the art had to be disguised. The natural disguise for the art was as a dance since in Africa dance and music are the most popular forms of expression. So these “slaves” developed a way of practicing different defensive and offensive techniques with music, singing, and dance.

Although it appeared to be a harmless dance, the dancers or “Capoeiristas” were practicing deadly fighting techniques. That need to be disguised, and the trickery are part of what separates Capoeira from other martial arts. A lot of the kicks and some movements done in Capoeira can be seen in other arts, but the difference is the delivery. There are many fakes and deceiving movements in Capoeira. Although a certain movement is done with grace and style, it can be very dangerous."

Capoeira Music

Without music, there is no Capoeira. It is a fundamental part of the "Game". It dictates the tempo of the full match. People form a circle around the two combatants and clap hands and sing. This is called a "Roda". The instruments, when used together, is called "Bateria". This is typically made up of the following instruments.

  • Berimbau - It is believed the Berimbau originated in Africa before it became so well known in Brazil. Made from wire, stick and gourd, it comes in various sizes which produce different sounds.
  • Pandeiro - A wooden drum with animal skin on the top. Not just used in Capoeira. Also used for Samba music.
  • Atabaque - A large wooden drum that stands around a meter high. As with the Berimbau, comes in different sizes that produce different sounds.
  • Agogo - Two bells that are joined by a U shaped piece of metal. The user hits the bells with a piece of metal to produce the sound.
  • Reco reco - A piece of Bamboo that gets small grooves cut into it. The user then moves another piece of wood over it to produce the sound.

Video of Capoeira Techniques


  1. Capoeira terminology and musical information kindly provided by Brazilian MartialArts,, Added - 10/12/2014
  2. ABADA-Capoeira New York, About Capoeira,, Added - 7/3/13

Martial Arts Books

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