Sunday, 19 January 2014

Capoeira - Fighting on the Dance Floor

Capoeira do Brazil
(photo by Daniel Zanini H)

CAPOEIRA

Noun. Also capoiera. Mid-20th century.
[Portuguese.]

A martial art emphasizing leg and foot movements and performed inside a circle formed by onlookers,
developed by Angolan slaves in Brazil and now widely practised both as a dance form and a competitive martial art.

The origins of capoeira are somewhat mysterious, though it's generally accepted that Angolan slaves in Brazil, legally defined as property, were banned from practising martial arts for fear that they would use their combat skills against their masters; thus, they disguised their training and martial methods into their dance, and thus capoeira was born. The word's actual etymology is even more mysterious - theories include it being Tupi-Guarani for 'underbrush growing in recently cleared scrubland', perhaps as a hiding place for fleeing slaves, Portuguese for a basket used for transporting chickens, the theory being that chicken-sellers practised capoeira to pass the time when at the market, and from a Kikongo word that references the low, sweeping moves common in capoeira games.

For anyone that's never had the pleasure of seeing capoeira performed (the first time I saw a display was in Estonia of all places), they really are quite remarkable feats of athleticism, coordination and martial prowess. Capoeiristas, accompanied by music, perform a mixture of dance, acrobatic, offensive and defensive moves in a mock battle. Since it started to be exported from Brazil in the early 20th century, capoeira has become popular worldwide and is recognised as a proud and integral part of Brazilian culture.


Are you a capoeirista?

Have you ever seen capoeira performed?

Do please leave your most sweeping comments in the box below.

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