The art of Capoeira


Capoeira is considered a Brazilian martial art form that involves movement, music, and elements of practical philosophy. It is a dialog between players, and one experiences the essence of capoeira by “playing” a physical game called jogo de capoeira (game of capoeira) or simply jogo.






The most widely accepted origin of the word comes from the Tupi words ka’a (“jungle”) e pûer (“it was”), referring to the areas of low vegetation in the Brazilian interior where fugitive slaves would hide.



Three main lines of thought concerning its origins have been introduced throughout the times: The first said it was already formed in Africa; The second said it was created in the rural areas of colonial Brazil; and the third said it was created in one of the major Brazilian urban centers and all of them are agree that it was created by Africans and their descendants. 


Arguments supporting these theories have long been discussed. For the last three decades, theories of rural Brazilian origins of capoeira around XVI century have been popular among young fight-oriented capoeiristas, and they believe is that that capoeira was born out of a “burning desire for freedom,” developing its structure as a fight in the the quilombos, back-country villages formed by runaway slaves.


Jogo de Capoeira

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 reco-reco (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.


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