Capoeria is a martial art and form of expression that combines fighting,
dance, play and acrobatics. In action, it is a dialog and a contest between two actors,
or combatants (capoeiristas), who communicate through movement; surrounded by participants
who sing and play in a circle (roda) surrounding them. The discussion can reflect all the
feelings that we might anticipate from normal oral communication, so any given contest can
encompass anything from lighthearted play and fun to a deadly serious discussion. Behind
this martial art lies a philosophy, a lifestyle, where people are given a structure to
channel their daily problems, joys, habits and their inner personality out through the art
Capoeira originated in colonial Brazil. Although the precise details of its origin are still a subject of debate among capoeira historians, we know that the African slaves, and their culture, background and lifestyle, played an important role in the development. Brazil was however, the the last country in the world to abolish slavery (in 1888), and it was for many years against the law to cultivate African culture, and the relevant documents from slave-times have now been destroyed.
The myths tell us that the slaves developed capoeira as a form of cultural rebellion and a way of training dangerous warriors. The art was camouflaged with song, music and acrobatics to hide the training from the slave owners.
Capoeira was illegal in Brazil until 1937. I 2009 it was declared a national treasure and is now practiced by millions of people around the world. For some it is a pastime – for others a way of life.