Capoeira Brief Description

published in: Martial Arts

Capoeira Brief Description
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Since this task is impossible to accomplish in a summarized study guide, I will present, instead, an outline of work based on my own school, Capoeira-Bahia. …

Brief Description Of Capoeira
by Mestre Acordeon

Capoeira is an art form that involves movement, music, and elements of practical philosophy. One experiences the essence of capoeira by "playing" a physical game called jogo de capoeira (game of capoeira) or simply jogo. During this ritualized combat, two capoeiristas (players of capoeira) exchange movements of attack and defense in a constant flow while observing rituals and proper manners of the art. Both players attempt to control the space by confusing the opponent with feints and deceptive moves. During the jogo, the capoeiristas explore their strengths and weaknesses, fears and fatigue in a sometimes frustrating, but nevertheless enjoyable, challenging and constant process of personal expression, self-reflection and growth. The speed and character of the jogo are generally determined by the many different rhythms of the berimbau, a one-string musical bow, which is considered to be the primary symbol of this art form. The berimbau is complemented by the pandeiro (tambourine), atabaque (single-headed standing drum), agogo (double bell), and recoreco (grooved segment of bamboo scraped with a stick) to form a unique ensemble of instruments. Inspiring solos and collective singing in a call-and-response dialogue join the hypnotic percussion to complete the musical ambiance for the capoeira session. The session is called roda de capoeira, literally "capoeira wheel," or simply roda. The term roda, refers to the ring of participants that defines the physical space for the two capoeiristas engaged in the ritualized combat. Historical Background During the Middle Ages, Portugal suffered a drastic decrease in its labor force as a result of human loss in the war for independence from Castile, and from a series of epidemics of devastating proportions. Moreover, a huge deployment of people to Africa and India in Portugal’s colonial endeavors intensified the crisis (Pinsky1988: 14). Gomes Eannes de Azurara was one of the first to register Portugal’s incipient attempt to replace its productive hands, narrating how Antáo Gonçalves in 1441 captured and took the first Africans to the Infant D. Henrique, King of Portugal (in Rego 1968: 1-2). By the early 1500s, Portugal had begun extensive human trafficking from Africa to its South American colony of Brazil. Between the years of 1500 and 1888, almost four million souls crossed the Atlantic in the disease-ridden slave ships of the Portuguese Crown. The signing of the Queiroz Law prohibiting slave traffic in 1850 was not strong enough to empty the sails of the tumbadoras (slave ships) crossing the ocean. Many Africans were still forced to face the "middle passage" and were smuggled into Brazil. The ethnocultural contributions of this massive forced human migration, along with those of the Native inhabitants of the colony and those of the Europeans from Portugal, shaped the people and the culture of Brazil. From the Africans, we inherited the essential elements of capoeira. This is evident in the aesthetics of movement and musical structure of the art, in its rituals and philosophical principles, as well as in historical accounts of the ethnicity of those who practiced capoeira in the past. Most of the questions related to the formative period of the art still remain unanswered. When, how, and why did capoeira emerge in Brazil? From what specific cultural groups did it come, and from which original art forms did it derive? The difficulty in answering these questions resides in the lack of written registers of capoeira and in the absence of an oral tradition that reaches as far back as the pre-dawn of the art. Also, the unclear Europeans’ notion of cultural and geographic boundaries of the African territories at the beginning of Portugal’s colonial enterprises, as well as the mixing of Africans from different tribes in the same work areas in Brazil, increase our uncertainties.

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