The exact origins of capoeira are uncertain, although most people recognize that it was created by the 16th-century African slaves who were shipped across the Atlantic. The movements contain unmistakable native Brazilian influences. What noone can deny is that capoeira has been around for almost 500 years and is now as powerful a cultural symbol of Brazil as it ever has been.
Capoeira – The Early Years
Practicing a form that's part dance, part martial art, a capoeira fighter is distinguished by his constant motion and rocking back and forth. The movements are designed to put a potentially larger and better armed opponent at a disadvantage and the effectiveness of capoeira as a mean fighting method have led to its rather dark reputation over the years. Capoeira usually takes place to the beat of traditional Brazilian music.
Indeed it was banned as an activity for around 60 years in the late 19th/early 20th century; but the practice lived on, with underground capoeira clubs attracting plenty of eager young men to their ranks.
Capoeira in Salvador
Salvador da Bahia is considered the heartland of capoeira and the place from which it took root in Brazilian culture. In modern day Brazil there is a renewed interest and widespread acceptance of capoeira and now it is not uncommon for visitors to Salvador to learn the basics while they are also taking a language course!
'Fly Away Beetle'
Just released May 10 on iTunes, the 2011 documentary film Fly Away Beetle aimed to bring awareness of capoeira to a wider global audience. The movie follows the lives of three masters of the art as they describe the origins of capoeira and tell in their own words why it is that this martial art/dance has become such an important symbol of hope in Brazil.
The movie looks at the lives of some of the disadvantaged young people of Salvador who have benefited from the discipline and camaraderie of being part of the capoeira fight scene and have chosen to follow the art form as an alternative to the city’s street gangs.
After a successful US premiere the filmmakers took at taking the movie around the world, sharing in Europe and beyond an eye-opener into an art form that carries with it a rich and colorful history. And if you visit Salvador, be sure to check out the capoeira masters in the streets. You’ll be watching 500 years of history flashing before your eyes...
Image | Johann Moritz Rugendas