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What is Capoeira?

The history of capoeira begins in the 16th century, at a time when Brazil was a colony of Portugal. Most slaves were brought from Africa to Brazil to work in the sugar cane mills, on the coffee farms, in the fields or in the homes of the lords of north-eastern Brazil. Many of these slaves came from the region of Angola, also a Portuguese colony. Angolans, in Africa, performed many dances to the music.

Upon arriving in Brazil, Africans realized the need to develop forms of protection against violence and repression by Brazilian colonizers. The mills’ Lords slaves to engage in any kind of fight. Soon, the slaves used the rhythm and movements of their African dances, adapting a martial art disguised as dance. This was how capoeira emerged, as an important instrument for the cultural and physical resistance of Brazilian slaves.

Capoeira is a form of martial art; endurance training and art is based on Capoeirista's gingado. It is a rhythmic movement that keeps the body relaxed and the centre of gravity in constant displacement, and other movements arise from the ginga.

The word capoeira means "what was forest", through the connection of the Tupi-Guarani* terms ka'a ("forest") and pûer ("what/which was"). It alludes to the shallow forest areas of the interior of Brazil, where indigenous agriculture was carried out. *Tupi-Guarani was the biggest indigenous nation in the area where today is Brazil.


Three most practiced modalities of Capoeira:

Angola - The oldest style, which main characteristics are slow musical rhythm, lower movements (close to the ground), stronger body control and outwit.

Regional - Created by Mestre Bimba, it is characterized by the mixture of the outwit of capoeira Angola in a faster play of movements, as well as the quick berimbau’s beats.

Contemporary - which unites a little of these two styles. This latter style of capoeira is the most practiced today.

Mestre Bimba

Manuel dos reis Machado, better known as Mestre Bimba, was born on November 23, 1899 in the city of Salvador / BA and was responsible for founding the first capoeira school in Brazil and known for being the precursor of a new style called “capoeira regional”. He started in capoeira at the age of 12 and trained for 4 years, his first master was the African Bentinho, captain of the Bahia Navigation Company, the method used at school was old capoeira.


In mid-1932 he founded his first martial arts school in the neighborhood of Engenho Velho de Brotas, adopting his own method of the fight, years later his conservatory was registered as a Regional Physical Culture Center.


Mestre Bimba was an important figure, as he modernized the practice of capoeira to bring more fans and managed to make it a national sport in Brazil. In 2014 Unesco recognized capoeira as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.



Mestre Bimba died on February 5, 1974 in the city of Goiânia / GO, he was the most recognized master of all, with the right to honorary degrees, such as the one granted posthumously in 1996 by the Federal University of Bahia. His life story was portrayed in the documentary “Mestre Bimba a capoeira Iluminada”, released in 2005.

Fonte do texto:

Photo: Mestre Bimba e Mestre Lobão

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