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Published July 16th 2011
Capoeira is an exciting Brazilian martial art in the form of dance created by the black African slaves in colonial Brazil. It is widely known for its acrobatic and complex manoeuvres, ground-based defence techniques, quick sweeping strikes and aerial kicks; and incorporates elements of percussion, song and dance.
The origins of Capoeira are unclear due to the insufficient number of historical records, however it has been agreed amongst scholars that Capoeira was most likely to be created around the 16th century. During this era, the Portuguese was one of the major colonial empires at the time and colonized the resource rich Brazil.
The colonial government imported black slaves from various parts of Africa to work on the production fields. Combining the different cultures, dance, rituals and combat techniques, the African slaves had created the fundamentals of Capoeira.
The art of Capoeira become a symbol of hope for the emancipated slaves. It wasn't just a fighting style, it was a tool for escape and defence; an art that strengthen the unity of the slaves and made freedom seem possible.
To the naked eye, Capoeira may look like the street art of break dancing, with practitioners performing ground and aerial routines through dance and song. Interestingly, there are actually no direct link between break dancing and Capoeira.
The early break dancers were really influenced by the kung fu movies of the 70's, imitating their actions and incorporating it with their street art, essentially 'acting out lyrics'. The deceptive nature of Capoeira is exactly what the early creators intended for; disguising their fighting style as a dance.
To avoid their colonial master from discovering their true motives, the slaves would practice the subtly disguised martial art through music, song, costume, a mixture of African rituals and religious beliefs.
There are two main styles of Capoeira: Capoeria Angola and Capoeira Regional.
Capoeira Regional is the most common style of Capoeira and was established by Mestra Bimba during the 1920's. Bimba believed that Capoeira was losing its fighting aspect and concluded there was a need to restructure it to make it more applicable to a real fight situation. Including elements from other fighting style, Capoeira Regional is a style that focuses more heavily on the fighting aspect and de-emphasis the musical and dance aspect of Capoeira.
Capoeira Angola on the other hand is somewhat a more traditional style of Capoeira. It keeps the traditions that were discarded from Capoeira Regional, and the dance and musical elements of the art are more of the focus. It is also known to be the closest style of Capoeira the slaves had used and is characterized with its playful and ritualized games of roda, 'mock fighting'.
Although the practice of Capoeira was outlawed until 1940, Capoeira has gone on to become one of the biggest exporters of Brazilian culture. Today, it is practised all over the world and continues to grow in popularity. Melbourne is lucky to have a handful of schools that teach Capoeira, making it a rare art that one must seek to learn.
Capoeira Filhos da Bahia was originally formed in Salvado but somehow found its way on the outside of the CBD in Collingwood. It is operated by the exceptionally experienced Mestra Val Boa Morte, who has travelled to all corners of the world performing and teaching the art of Capoeira and Brazilian Culture for the past few decades. Capoiera Filhos da Bahia holds affiliations with many Capoeira clubs around the world who are linked with Bahia, the state where Mestra Val is from.
Situated across the road from Queen Victoria Market, Capoeira Angola Mato Rasteiro is the place to learn the traditional style of Capoeira Angola. It was founded by Mestre Roxinho and was the first Capoeira Angola school to be established in Australia. Students will have the chance to fully understand all aspects of Capoeira, from learning the fundamental Capoeira movements to playing percussion instruments at a music class.
Muzenza Melbourne Capoeira is affiliated with Group Muzenza, a school established in Rio de Janeiro in 1972 with a philanthropic aim of stopping famine under the slogan 'Capoeira vs Hunger'. Muzenza Melbourne is operated by former trampoline gymnast, Monitor Lorem, and classes are held in Richmond and Elsterwick. Originally from Minas Gerais, Brazil via Lisbon, Portugal, Monitor Lorem has been teaching Capoeira for over 15 years and is the one of the founding members of the Oz Capoeira Association, an association aiming to unite the Capoeira community in Australia.
Wow, Im not a fighter, I believe in the power of peaceful protest. I do like dancing better than fighting. I like the concept of street dancing instead of fighting and the healthy social aspect of this on the street.
I love the story you've told here though and respect any master of defensive skills used for the right purposes.
By Jody Kimber - senior reviewer Sunday, 17th of July @ 02:38 am
Well by all means Jody, if you're interested, you should definately take up Capoeira!
By Brendan Wan - senior reviewer Sunday, 17th of July @ 09:16 am
Wow, back to the 16th century, that IS old... I had no idea it dated back that far! I've seen a lot about capoeira in documentaries, and I know it's starting to be incorporated into martial arts fitness classes, like the Les Mills choreographed classes...
Thanks for providing the background and some places I can do it, it's definitely something I'm interested in!