Capoiera

.. the confrontations with the police continued. The art form was slowly extinguished in Rio and Recife, leaving capoeira only in Bahia. It was during this period that legendary figures, feared players such as Besouro Cordao-de-Ouro in Bahia, Nascimento Grande in Recife and Manduca da Praia in Rio, who are celebrated to this day in capoeira, made their appearances It is said that Besouro lived in Santo Amaro da Purificacao in the state of Bahia, and was the teacher of another famous capoeirista by the name of Cobrinha Verde. Besouro did not like the police and was feared not only as a capoeirista but also for having his corpo fechado (a person who through specific magic rituals, supposedly has almost complete invulnerability in the face of various weapons). According to legend, an ambush was set up for him. It is said that he himself carried the written message identifying him as the person to be killed, thinking that it was a message that would bring him work. Legend says he was killed with a special wooden dagger prepared during magic rituals in order to overcome his corpo fechado. Of all the rouges that led the carnival bands through the streets of Recife, Nascimiento Grande was one of the most feared.

Some say he was killed during police persecution in the early 1900s, but others say he moved from Recife to Rio de Janiero and died of old age there. Manduca da Praia was of an earlier generation and always dressed in an extremely elegant style. It is said that he owned a fish store and lived comfortably. He was also one of those who controlled elections in the area he lived in. It is said that he had twenty-seven criminal cases against himself (for assault, knifing etc.) but was always overlooked due to his influence of the politicians he worked for.

The two central figures in capoeira in the twentieth century were undoubtedly Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha. These two figures are so important in the history of capoeira that they (and the mystery that surrounds them) are the mythical ancestors of all capoeira players. Much of what a modern capoeira player tries to be is due to what these men were or represented. In 1932 in Salvador, Mestre Bimba (Manuel dos Reis Machado) opened the first capoeira academy. He started teaching what he called “the regional fight from Bahia,” eventually known as Capoeira Regional (faster more aggressive than traditional Capoeira Angola style).

This was made possible by nationalistic policies of Getulio Vargas, who wanted to promote capoeira as a Brazilian sport. Although Bimba opened his school in 1932, the official recognition only came about in 1937. The Getulio Vargas government permitted the practice of capoeira, but only in enclosed areas that were registered with the police. With the opening of Bimba’s Academy, a new era in the history of capoeira began, as the game was taught to the children of the upper classes of Salvador. Bimba was active in capoeira his whole life.

In 1941, Mestre Pastinha (Vincente Ferreira Pastinha) opened his capoeira angola school. For the first time, capoeira began to be taught and practiced openly in a formal setting. He became known as the “philosopher of capoeira”. Unfortunately, government authorities, under the reforming of the Largo do Pelourinho, had his academy confiscated. Although he was promised a new one, the government never came through. The final years of his life were sad.

Blind and almost abandoned, he lived in a small room until his death in 1981 at the age of ninety-two. Capoeira has grown tremendously over the last fifty years. It has finally been excepted by the masses in Brazil. Capoeira competitions and academies are surfacing everywhere. In 1974 it was recognized as the national sport of Brazil.

This forced the creation of a national federation of capoeira. In 1974 it was recognized as the national sport of Brazil. It was formed to govern, promote and coordinate capoeira since no effort was made previously to unite the various emurgances of capoeira throughout Brazil. Capoeira has expanded beyond the borders of Brazil and is growing rapidly in other countries (including the United States). Capoeira appeals to many for many different reasons.

First of all the pure beauty of the art is hypnotic. Capoeira is a dance and a fight. It’s not only a combination of gymnastics, dance and martial arts but also music, culture, history and knowledge. The capoeirista must learn to balance the physical with the mental. The capoeirista must play many instruments and sing. The capoeirista may at times be your enemy but is usually a friend.

The capoeirista is a historian. The capoeirista is all of these. Description: Capoeira consists of a form of dance, practiced in a circle called the “roda”, with sound background provided by percussion instruments, like the “agogo” and the “atabaqui”. The “Berimbau” is a non-percussion instrument that is always used on rodas. Capoeira relies heavily on kicks and leg sweeps for attacks and dodges for defenses. Is not uncommon to not be taught any kind of hand strike, though arm positioning for blocks is taught.The “ginga” (the footwork of Capoeira), consists in changing the basic stance (body facing the adversary, front leg flexed with body weight over it, the other leg stretched back) from the right leg to the left leg again and again.

Capoeira also puts a heavy emphasis on ground fighting, but not grappling and locks. Instead, it uses a ground stance (from the basic stance, you just fall over your leg stretched back, flexing it, and leaving the front leg stretched ahead), from which you make dodges, kicks, leg sweeps, acrobatics, etc. Hand positioning is important but it is used only to block attacks and ensure balance, though street fighting “capoeiristas” use the hands for punches. When fighting, it is rare to stop in one stance, and in this case, you just “follow” your opponent with your legs, preventing him from getting close, or preparing a fast acrobatic move to take advantage when he attacks. The rest of the time, you just keep changing stances and do the equivalent of boxing “jabs”. Players enter the game from the pe’da roda (foot of the circle), usually with a cartwheel (au). Once in the circle, two players interact with a series of jumps, kicks, flips, head and handstands and other ritualistic moves.

Games can be friendly or dangerous. The music plays an important role in the feel of the game. The type of game being played, whether fast or slow, friendly or tough, depends on the rhythm being played and the lyrics being said. Training: After a thorough warm-up, standing exercises are done, with emphasis on the “ginga”, and on the basic kicks: “bencao”, a front-stomping kick, “martelo”, a roundhouse kick, “chapa”, a side-kick, “meia-lua”, a low turning kick, “armada”, a high turning kick, “queixada”, an outside-inside crescent kick. Then walking sequences are done, with the introduction of somersaults, back flips and headstands, in couples and individual.

Some more technical training follows, with couples beginning basic and slow, and then the whole class forms and goes for “roda” game for at least 30 minutes. Capoeira conditions and develops the muscles, especially the abdominal muscles. Sub-Styles: Regional style is capoeira in a more artistic, open form, giving more way to athletic prowess and training. Angola style is a more closed, harder style that is closest to the original African systems that came to Brazil. Iuna is a totally athletic and artistic form of the art, where the couple inside the “roda” play together, as opposed to one against the other.