Introduction to Capoeira — The Brazilian Dance Fighting

Capoeira is one of the most well-known martial art forms in Brazil. It’s a blending of elements from various fighting styles — primarily weaponry and hand-to-hand combat. This combination created a complex art form that has become extremely popular. Although its history is traced to Brazil, Capoeira can now be found all over the world.  

What are the origins of Capoeira? 

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian training that combines combat, dance, and music. Although Capoeira’s meaning remains the subject of much debate, many believe that capoeira is derived from the Angolan term “caboa huéra” or “human cup,” referring to ancient African tribal cup fighting tradition. 

Going by its history, it is believed that Capoeira was developed by slaves and brought to Brazil from Africa during the 16th century. These slaves learned the art of fighting in Brazil as a means to defend themselves from the slave owners and slave traders. Realizing that they were outnumbered and not equipped enough to fend for themselves in Brazil, the slaves developed this graceful martial art from what they did know, i.e., dance. Slowly, it went on to become a part of their culture and tradition. 

In that manner, Capoeira was born out of a combination of forces from culture, society, and history. It was not the result of a single slave’s struggle but developed from thousands of years of African slaves’ combat techniques, European stick fighting, and other influences.  

Capoeira (246039881).jpeg
By Fábio Ericeira, CC0, Link

How is Capoeira used today? 

Capoeira is practiced as a celebration of life as much as it is as a serious martial arts self-defense technique. While the secret art of Capoeira was born from the African slaves brought to Brazil during the introduction of slavery in the 1500s, it took a modern form years later. 

This art is combined with music and combat techniques indigenous to Brazil. Capoeira is based on a fusion between African tradition, martial arts, and attack/defense techniques that resemble traditional European combative systems. 

One event that all Capoeira practitioners look forward to is the Batizado. This ceremony is a part of the Brazilian tradition. A Batizado is a gathering of capoeiristas. Every year, groups of capoeira practitioners from cities or regions gather to play, show their skills to the public, and demonstrate the diversity of this martial art during a Batizado.  


How does Capoeira work? 

Capoeira dance is not really a martial arts training, or a dance sport, but rather somewhere in between. However, those who practice it are formidable. Capoeira has been described as “the martial art that doesn’t hurt” as it takes you on a non-violent journey during the training.  

Capoeira brings to the table moves that come together to take the form of martial arts, which seems graceful and easy to perform. It is a game of self-defense and combat but practiced without any weapons or physical violence. Capoeira fight is a set of movements that requires physical strength, agility, and lots of concentration — after all, Capoeira is Portuguese for “to move quickly” — which is exactly what you do with this practice. 

Brazil’s very intriguing Capoeira dance is known for its fast and complex maneuvers, predominantly involving kicks. The practice largely consists of cartwheels, in which practitioners leap with their legs, hands, and arms fully extended so that the body forms an X and bowls over one or more somersaults. 

Roda de capoeira

What are the benefits of Capoeira? 

The Brazilian dance fighting, Capoeira, is a practice of discipline for health, life within a community, and interaction with nature. It also promotes creativity by stimulating a way of seeing the world through the eyes of the African diaspora. 

The philosophy of the ancient practice of Capoeira helps individuals get in touch with their body through basic movements, easy routines, and a toning workout. It is beneficial for both children and adults since it allows one to lose weight, build stamina, and increase flexibility and balance. 

The Brazilian Capoeira is practiced as a way of culture and life, where defense techniques become an art form, giving way to a perfect blend of the mind, body, and spirit.  

Capoeira show Master de fleuret 2013 t221422.jpg
By Marie-Lan Nguyen, CC BY 2.5, Link

Capoeira is not a sport. It is a martial art, a discipline, and a way of living that finds its foundation in body movement and fighting. It is a remarkably agile form of activity that was developed by African slaves in Brazil and is currently practiced across the globe. It allows you to move like a dancer and keep yourself safe at the same time. When you use it well, Capoeira brings several benefits for the body, mind, and soul.