Capoeira is a martial art developed in Brazil by enslaved Africans.The true history of the art is unclear, but most people believe the following:
In the 1500's many Africans were taken from different areas of West Africa and brought to Brazil to be used as slaves by the Portuguese. They were taken from their land, but their culture and desire for freedom could not be taken away. With this need for freedom growing, these people began developing techniques for defending themselves and for escape.
Of course slaves could not be allowed to practice martial arts, so the development and practice of the art had to be disguised. The natural disguise for the art was as a dance being that in Africa dance and music are the most popular forms of expression. So these "slaves" developed a way of practicing different defensive and offensive techniques with music, singing, and dance.
Although it appeared to be a harmless dance, the dancers or "Capoeiristas" were practicing deadly fighting techniques. That need to be disguised, and the trickery are part of what separates Capoeira from other martial arts. A lot of the kicks and some movemens done in Capoeira can be seen in other arts, but the difference is the delivery. There are many fakes and deceiving movements in Capoeira. Although a certain movement is done with grace and style, it can be very dangerous.
Capoeira is usually done inside a circle of people called a "roda", pronouced HO-DUH. The people in the circle are usually other capoeiristas waiting to "play", and observers. Player or not you are expected to give energy to the roda by clapping and singing in response to the person "in charge" of the roda.
There are several instruments used to make the music in the capoeira roda. The agogô (double cowbell), pandeiro (tambourine), Atabaque (conga type drum), and the Berimbau which is the most important.
Each instrument, when played correctly, contributes to the energy in the roda, but the Berimbau is the commanding instrument. It tells the players inside the roda how to play, fast or slowly, agressively or pretty with lots of acrobatics. The berimbau starts and stops the roda, and all the other instruments follow it's rhythm and tempo.
Once a year our group holds an important event. The batizado is a day of celebration. The students that are starting are presented to the senior students. They are iniciated and receive their nickname, and corda (rank).
During the batizado, the new learn of tradition, and tradition renews itself. You can see the happiness, and anxiety in teh students faces. In the Mestres you see the satisfaction of being able to understand, learn, and teach this art, in this way.
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