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Capoeira

Capoeira is a martial art developed in Brazil around 1520. It was developed as a way for slaves to defeat their oppressors but later practitioners disguised it as a form of dance. This now acrobatic dance movement accompanied with musical beats prevented Capoeira's extinction by the hands of the slave captors.

The styles emphasizes kicks, sweeps and acrobatic maneuvers. It also strives to teach Respeito (Respect), Responsabilidade (Responsibility), Seguranca (Safety/Security), and Liberdade (Liberty/Freedom).

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History During the 1500’s, Portugal shipped slaves into South America from Western Africa. Brazil was the largest contributor to slave migration with 42% of all slaves shipped across the Atlantic. The following peoples were the most commonly sold into Brazil: The Sudanese group, composed largely of Yorubaa and Dahomean people, the Muhammadanised Guinea-Sudanese group of Malesian and Hausa people and the Bantu group (among them Kongos, Kimbundas and Kasanjes) from Angola, Congo and Mozambique.

There are engravings and writings that describe a now lost fighting dance in Cuba that reminds us of capoeira with two Bantu men moving to the yuka[?] drums. It is called the baile del maní[?].

These people brought their cultural traditions and religion with them to the new world. The homogenization of the African people under the oppression of slavery was the catalyst for Capoeira. Capoeira was developed by the slaves of Brazil as a way to resist their oppressors, secretly practice their art, transmit their culture, and lift their spirits.

Music Music is integral to Capoeira. It sets the tempo and style of game that is to be played within the Roda (pronounced Ho'da). The music is comprised of instruments and song. The songs can depict what is going on within the roda; they are sung in a call and response format.

The instruments are played in a row called the Bateria. The first three instruments are berimbaus, which look like an archer’s bow using a steel string and a gourd for resonation. These three bows are the Berraboi / bass, Viola / lead the Violinha / rhythm. Other instruments in the bateria are: two Pandeiros (tambourines), a Reco-Reco (rasp), and an Agogo[?] (double gong bell). The Atabaque (conga-like drum), a common feature in most Capoeira baterias, is considered an optional instrument, and is not required for a full bateria in some groups.

Roda The Roda is the circle of people within which Capoeira is played. It is about the radius of a berimbau. The roda is a microcosm, which reflects the macrocosm of life and the world around us. You practice in the roda so that you can handle the problems of life.

The Play Much like Aikido, capoeira doesn't focus on destroying the person you play against. You are both there to become better. If your opponent cannot dodge your slowest attack, there is no reason to use your fastest. Each attack that comes in gives you a chance to practice an avoidance technique. When mastery has been shown the two players take a short break, walking in large circle, loosely holding right hands and walking in the same direction. Two or three gentle laps is all the rest you get, then it's time to play again.

If the leader of the roda finds it is time to stop the players, he will strike his berimbau string repeatedly on the same note. The players should quickly squat before the leader while he explains what he needs to explain.

Finding a Place to Play If you're interested in learning or playing Capoeira, you can find local groups on the Internet. Most large cities like New York and Toronto have experienced growth in these communities.

See also: Dance, Breakdancing



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