Capoeira first mentioned

More or less authentic information about capoeira dates back to the beginning of XVIIIth century. First records on capoeira are traced back to sources of this particular time. However the history of capoeira has deeper roots.

In 1500 Portuguese under the leadership of conquistador Pedro Kabrala (Pedro Alves Cabral) arrived to Brazil. One of their top-priorities was to conquer native population - Brazilian Indians - to turn them into a labour force for Portuguese. However Indians either died soon in captivity or ran away to thick depth of woods.

Having failed, Portuguese started to bring slaves from other Portuguese colonies - Angola, Congo, Mozambique, Guinea. Slaves brought their religion, culture and traditions to Brazil. Later on they partially integrated into capoeira as a part of the art.

These are - candomble - religion; berimbau - musical instrumentand many other things.

Origin of capoeira

History The place of capoeira origin - either it is Africa or Brazil - is still in dispute. There are plenty of opinions and hypotheses being very contradictory at times. However all researches in the area are mostly speculative and assumptive in character.

According to the most popular version, capoeira is a martial art disguised as a dance to let slaves practice it right under their owners’ nose. However this version is rather unlikely as since 1814, when Africal culture was under harassment, other dance forms were forbidden alongside with capoeira. Therefore there was no sense in concealing it as one of them.

Other theory states that during ritual initiation of people of Mukupe in the south of Angola, young soldiers of the tribe performed aggressive «dance of zebras» - N'golo. This dance is thought to be the beginning of capoeira. Yet no convincing facts to confirm the theory have been found.

Capoeira development passed through hard times. Major periods can be defined as slavery and vagrancy.

Hard work, shared barracks, styles and peoples mixture are features of the slavery period. Gradually, decade by decade a new cultural form arose - a dance-fight, a game representing a mix of incendiary rhythm, African music and kicks from different martial arts.

After a “Golden Law” which cancelled slavery was signed in 1888, capoeira “vagrancy” period began. This period was marked by capoeira emergence to streets; capoeira was taken up and developed by street hooligans. As a result capoeira was tagged as something illegal. It had such an influence that “capoerista” turned into a synonym of "tramp", "gangster" and "thief". This led to a ban of capoeira practice in 1892 by the first constitution of the Brazilian Republic. A decree on organizing a special police force to deal with capoeristas was issued in the beginning of XIXth century. Capoeira took over memories and a habit to give nicknames (apelido) to colleagues from this period

History In 1932 in Salvador Mestre Bimba (Manoel dos Reis Machado) opened the first academy of capoeira in Centro de Cultura Fisica Regional Baiano. This is where the name of one of the two basic modern styles of capoeira - Regional - originates from. The school opening became possible due to nationalistic policy of the president of Brazil Zhetuliu Vargasa (Getulio Vargas) who wished to revive interest to capoeira.

However Bimba was not the only one who wished to develop capoeira. In 1941 Mestre Pastinha (Vicente Ferreira Pastinha) opened a school of capoeira Angola (Angola).

Mestre Bimba

History Mestre Bimba (real name Manuel dos Reis Machadu) was born on November, 23, 1900 (Salvador, Brazil) - an outstanding master of capoeira Regional (Regional).

Manuel started to learn capoeira at the age of 12. At that time capoeira was still pursued in the country by the Constitution of Brazil accepted in 1892. Having matured, Bimba began to add movements from other African martial arts to capoeira - Batuke (contact attacking kind of martial art). It was the beginning of capoeira Regional.

In 1928, after a performance in Bahia governor’s palace, Mestre Bimba convinced state authorities to officially permit capoeira, having proved its high cultural value of Brazil.

His first school of capoeira opened in 1932, in Salvador. After that capoeira ceased to be an exclusively street martial art. Bimba added lacking rules and innovations to it.

Major innovations introduced were: white form for pupils and gradation.

In 1936 Bimba tossed a challenge to fighters of different martial arts to fight with him. As a result, he had four fights with the most known fighters in Brazil and won all the four.

In 1937 he was invited to show capoeira to the president of Brazil Zhetuliu Vargasu. As a result Mestre Bimba received a certificate of the Ministry of Education of Brazil.

In 1942 Bimba opened the second school which operates till now and one of his pupils supervises it.

In course of many years Mestre saw that there was no use in waiting for support on the side of Bahia authorities and in 1973 moved to Gojaniju. A year later - on February, 15 - he died of a heart attack.

Mestre Pastinha

History Mestre Pastinha - (Visente Ferrejra Pashtinja) was born on April, 5, 1889 (Salvador, Brazil) - an outstanding mestre of capoeira Angola (Angola).

Early in childhood he learned about capoeira from an African seaman. At first it was a simply boyish interest - desire to be able to fight back.

Later, at his father’s will, he entered nautical school. But he never stopped training and started to involve his fellows into capoeira. In 1910 he resigned and started teaching capoeira.

In 1941, invited by his student Aberre, he visited a street Roda «ladeira do Gengibirra» (Salvador) after which capoeiristas-participants asked him to teach them. That’s how Sports Center of Capoeira Angola was opened.

He also introduced a form for capoeira trainings. Colours of his students form - black and yellow - are the colours of his favorite football team «Ypiranga» Futebol Clube. Now they are common for the standard form of capoeira Angola.

In April, 1966 he visited Africa with his group and took part in the First International festival of African People Culture (Senegal).

However the end of Mestre Pastinha life was gloomy. Pastinha - old, sick and almost completely blind - was asked by the government to vacate capoeira Academy building for reconstruction. And he did. During moving almost all property of the Academy, tools, pictures, photos were lost. The building was never returned him again. He died in 1981, at the age of 92, in poverty, abandoned by everybody, having devoted all his life to capoeira.

But capoeira Angola has not vanished after his death. His two pupils, Mestre Joao Grande and Mestre Joao Pequeno, continued to develop this style of capoeira.

Capoeira today

History With the creation of Regional style and competitions on capoeira with rules and judges it seemed that traditional aspects of capoeira were becoming extinct. Though some masters of Angola style continued to give lessons, they were almost off-stage in a shade of the new style which was introduced in capoeira by master Bimba.

Over last thirty years big cities of Brazil, traditional centers of capoeira, have seen major changes - they turned into industrial and tourist centers. Traditional rules in rodas were lost in all these changes. Many masters, upset by the fact, have ceased teaching and do nothing but occasionally play in rodas.

On the other hand, while traditional style Angola was fading away and old masters withdrew from it, a new generation of teachers of Regional style, coming from middle class of Brazil, experienced unusual success proved by the quantity of pupils and support of mass media.

But capoeira Angola did not surrender its positions. In about 1985 it saw a rapid growth not only in Brazil, but in other countries as well.

Nowadays we are witnessing a wide variety of styles and trends enriching capoeira movements. Apart form Regional style varieties, with their detailed techniques of kicks and movements, there are many masters of Angola who have their own techniques of movements and deepen our knowledge of traditions and philosophy of capoeira. There is also a contemporary style of capoeira called Contremporaneo.

Having such founders of capoeira teaching as Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha modern age has added a great lot of legendary masters of new generation: Mestre Waldemar, Mestre Joao Grande, Mestre Joao Pequeno, Mestre Tete, Mestre Suassuna, Mestre Barrao and many others.