understand capoeira

what is


Capoeira (pronounced kaap-o-era) is an Afro Brazilian Martial Art form, combining self defence , acrobatics, dance,
music,movements and songs. It was developed by slaves who used it to disguise the fact that they were practising
fight moves . CApoeira is ‘played ‘ ( its known as a ‘game; or a jogo) In a circle call a Roda, accompanied by music and singing. Only the hands and feet touch the floor.

history of


Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art. It was created by the African people who where capture by the Portuguese and brought to Brazil to be slaves in the 1500s.

The slaves were put to work in the field to harvest sugarcane. These slaves created the earliest form of Capoeira to increase their chances of liberty and independence.   They disguised the martial art and fighting techniques as a folk dance and when the slave masters were not looking they would practice the self-defense aspect. When the slaves escaped, they fled to small villages which they formed called Quilombos. Quilombos dos Palmares was the most famous of the Quilombos, which was lead by Zumbi.

On May 13th 1888 slavery was abolished in Brazil. The Brazilian government feared the ex-slaves would join force and use capoeira to revolt against the government therefore, a ban was put on Capoeira and anyone known practicing Capoeira would be send to jail.

To keep the tradition of Capoeira alive it need to be practiced secretly and disguised as a folk dance. In their hidden places, they did their best to keep the tradition alive and by presenting it as a folk art it became more accepted by society. Capoeiristas were known only by their nicknames, which made it more difficult for the police to identify and arrest them since their real identities were unknown.

Music in Capoeira


In Capoeira, the singing and learning of songs are a crucial part of the practice.

The batteria (orchestra) plays rhythmic accompaniment while all members of the roda sing and clap and create energy for the two fighters in the middle.

The instruments played and music created are unique to Capeoira.

All earners of capoeira should know how to make a Berimbau (one string, ancient instrument of Africa) and eventually move to Atabaque (drums) and Pandeiro (tambourine), the three main instruments of the batteria.

Movements in Capoeira


Pronounced jinga, it is the most basic movement in Capoeira. It is done by moving back and forth alternating both legs and shoulder-with describing a triangular form. The hands are moving with the body aiming to protect those parts that are open and easy to be attacked. In Capoeira Angola, the Ginga is more individualistic. In Capoeira Regional, the Ginga is more defined and structured. Still, the player can add his own style to it. In both Capoeira styles, the Ginga is performed to transfer the body to another move – offensive or defensive.

Aú (cartwheels)

The Capoeira Au is known as cartwheel in gymnastics and other martial arts. However, in Capoeira the Aú is performed slowly and in most cases with arms and legs bent forward to protect the player from incoming kicks and attacks. From Au, the player can also easily kick the opponent. When performing Au, it is very important for the player fighter to look at. the opponent in other to be informed for any incoming attacks. To do this the player has to place his head between his hands looking straight instead of looking at the ground

BalANça (sWinGs)

This is a combination of feint moves performed side to side (from one leg to the other) in order to deceive the opponent and make it hard for him or her to track the player’s next move.
In Balanca, the arms of the capoeirista are moving from side to side. as done in Ginga while protecting the face. This move is often the leading move of many quick kicks, headbutts and hand-strikes.

BanANeIra (haNdStaNd)

Simply, it is a handstand position in which the hands of the capoeirista are placed in shoulder-width and the legs above his head. Like in Au (carthweel), the head of the player is located between his hands looking toward the other player.

This capoeira move is often used when a capoeirista needs a quick break and wants to see the opponent’s next move. It is believed that the name of bananeira comes from the banana trees in Brazil.


Macaco means a monkey. This movement has been called like that as it is more like a monkey move than anything else. In short, it is a back flip performed low to the ground. It requires strength and flexibility but also a very good technique.

NegATivA (neGAte)

The Negativa is a capoeira move used to negate an incoming attack by lowering the body to the ground on the one side or the other. The body is supported by one hand while the other is protecting the face. The legs are located close to one another – the leg close to the hand on and is placed in extended position and the other one is tucked. The body should be bent to the legs to avoid kicks in the head.

The Negativa is a very useful technique due to the fact that while protecting oneself, the player can hook the leg of the opponent while his other is throwing a kick or performing another movement.

PonTE (bRidGE)

In capoeira, the Ponte technique is widely used as a standalone but also as a transitional or defensive move. It is actually a basic back bridge (back bend) where the hands and the legs are located on the ground, the back is forming an arc and the stomach is facing upward.

Experienced capoeiristas can make a Ponte from a standing position by falling backwards on your palm.


The Role (pronounced ho-le) means “a roll” in Portuguese and as Ginga and Au is often used as a basic technique for moving in the Roda. In most cases it is used in combination with other movements – Ginga, Negativa, Esquivas, etc.

In Role, the body is bent forward spinning to one side while the head is placed in a position suitable to constantly watch the opponent. The Role is finished when the body makes turn in 180 degrees.