Capoeira | Brazil

Name in Original Language


Area Where Played



The main version of this manifestation appearance is that it started in Brazil’s colonial times most probably at the big seaside slaveholding cities. The Portuguese brought people from Angola (also Portuguese colony) as slaves to work in Brazil. The people from Angola had a ritual called “n’golo”, which means zebra. This ritual was used to celebrate the beginning of a man adult life, and the young people used to copy male zebras fighting for a female.

When they were slaved in Brazil, the rituals were forbidden but they kept doing it just as a game. After that, some new moves were added. When the slaves ran away they hid themselves in the local vegetation, called “capoeira”, the owners used to send people to capture them, and those people were attacked by the slaves with the movements of the “n’golo” inside the vegetation. When they came back without the slaves, they said that were attacked on the capoeira, and that is the origin of the name.

After a brief time, the practice of capoeira was also forbidden, and then the slaved people started to add instruments and songs to disguise, turning it into a dance.

After the abolishing of slavery capoeira has also been forbidden by law between 1890 and 1940, when the fight of master Bimba started to finally put the capoeira out of the marginalization.

Detailed Description

Capoeira is a Brazilian intangible cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO since 2008.
In spite of the fact that it was a fight, the game doesn’t count with physical contact between the players. There are no winners of the combat, that follows the rhythm of drums and a particular instrument called “berimbau”. Maybe that’s the reason why it is commonly confused with a dance.

There are many rhythms intoned by the conga drum (main instrument present in a circle of capoeira). Some of them used to have other uses. During the times when its practice was a crime, the drums intoned a beat called cavalry when the police was coming to arrest the players. This way they had time to stop the practice.
The main place to found capoeira is the city of Salvador, in the state of Bahia. The black culture is very strong in this place, and the most traditional centers are also there.
There are two big groups of capoeira. One of them is called Capoeira Angola, and its principal patron is master Pastinha. This kind of capoeira is the one more traditional and close to the way it was played by the slaved people. It maintains traditions as Africans rituals and a more rhythmical music. With more complex movements, this type of capoeira is known to be slower but harder, containing traces of dissimulation, theatricality and maliciousness.

The other type is the Regional Capoeira. This one idealized by master Bimba, who created sequences of teaching and methodized the capoeira. Bimba called his capoeira of Bahia’s regional fight, and that is how the Regional Capoeira is from. His aim was to give capoeira an even more strength character, and to do that, he added some movements. With the methodizing of capoeira, it was possible to create a class division, measuring how much knowledge the player has, indicated by the color of the cord used.


In the rules of capoeira the participants stay in a circled position. Both instruments players and fighters form the circle, in which two people go inside to play. The objective is to synchronize movements with your opponent simulating a fight without touching him or her.

The fighters must greet themselves before starting, and after a period of confrontation anyone of the circle can ask one of them to leave, and this way the players take turns between them.
The players that are watching keep clapping hands in the same beat of the drums and singing songs containing lyrics about the black people struggle. The instruments present in a circle of capoeira are: conga drum, berimbau (typical string instrument), caxixi (sort of rattle), pandeiro (tambourine) and reco-reco (percussion instrument).

There are 6 types of blows in capoeira. The mortals (possibility of death to the opponent), the traumatizing (great damage to the opponent), the unbalancing (knock down the rival), dodges (defend from the opponents attacks), escapes (move further of the action) and flourishes (to add beauty and confuse the opponent).