Developed by African slaves and their descendants in Brazil, Capoeira eludes an easy definition and instead pulls the elements of dance, game-play and martial art together. Practitioners are often well-versed in each of these and teachers will adapt workshops and training to cover some or all these aspects.
Capoeira was born in the slaves’ living quarters, the poor neighbourhoods and run-away communities in the 1800’s by those seeking to fight for freedom and self-expression. When slavery ended, mass migration brought this art of deception, trickery and fighting to the cities where gangs clashed over limited resources and fought for access to power and influence.
As a result, Capoeira was heavily restricted until the 1940’s. Finally the Brazilian government acted to lift cultural barriers. Academies teaching capoeira began to open. Like other martial arts students in Capoeira now belong to schools, or groups, and wear uniforms and belts showing their level of experience.
Capoeira is an exchange of physical movements between two players – one kicks high and the other ducks under, one sweeps low and the other cartwheels over. Between these exchanges the dancers will move apart executing backflips, cartwheels or maybe a handspin. The exchange between the dancers is surrounded by a circle of clapping and singing as onlookers await their turn. A group of musicians lead the music which in turn dictates how fast the dance takes place.
In the exchange of kicks and movements there are feints and trips designed to catch the other out. There are no winners; each player seeks to test their own reactions and skill by nudging gently against the limits of the opposing player. Played fast or slow, with humour or cunning, all games begin and end in the same way; with a handshake.
We teach all of these aspects!