Capoeira is unique martial art that provides inclusion, diversity, self-expression and a sense of belonging. The art of respect and friendship, it combines individual discipline, self-defense, physical and mental empowerment, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and eventually self-mastery, through a reinforced personal and collective creativity. It is among the World’s top martial arts styles that include skill development for flexibility, kinetic movement flow and fluidity, physical and emotional strength, and increased aerobic capacity. Movements of Capoeira are specialized but geared toward all sizes, shapes, age, and gender – kids, adults, women, men, large and small.
Everyone learns to move within their own body then expands any perceptions of limitations by increased confidence and strength. All supported by the shared energy of the training environment. Capoeira originated in the 16th century, after Portugal brought the slaves from Africa to the Brazilian harbors. These slaves were forced to work intensely in the sugar cane and cotton fields for labor. In the midst of their oppression they had a shared goal, to free themselves from their captivity.
Capoeira was created through a combination of different African traditions. One of these traditions was called Engolo with very similar body movements to Capoeira. It is a leg-based fighting style, practiced in Southern Angola. This was used as a method of survival that was taught and known just among slaves at the time. This creation was the only way they could effectively fight back the Capitao do mato or overseer who was armed, on horseback, and in charge of hunting down the escapee slaves.
In the 17th and 18th century the slaves could socialize and interact among themselves. However, the nature of freedom for practicing a fighting art was of course forbidden. The disguised methods for practicing Capoeira stayed the same for the slaves. Since many slaves worked in the cities and most of the time were out of any sight of direct supervision, that is where Capoeira was commonly practiced. As it created opportunities for slaves to practice during and after work, it was tolerated until the 1800's when the art of Capoeira became known as a fighting style and ultimately therefore criminalized. Any slaves found practicing would become inhumanly penalized.
With the end of slavery in the 19th century, some of the Capoeira practitioners where used by business men and land owners as bodyguards, enforcers and even hit-men for that matter. In 1890 the Brazilian Republic decreed the prohibition of Capoeira in the whole country (they could then arrest any citizen that practiced Capoeira during that time). It was in 1932 when one of the first Capoeira schools was created. Thanks to Manuel dos Reis Machado, well known as Mestre Bimba. He was a very intelligent and prudent minded person. Since Capoeira was illegal, Mestre Bimba called his adjusted style Luta Regional Bahiana (Regional Fight from Bahia).
With the approval of Salvador's Secretary of Education in 1937, Mestre Bimba founded the school Centro de Cultura Fisica e Luta Regional. By 1940 Mestre Bimba made a presentation to the government. The demonstration is how he explained the good positive attributions that Capoeira could offer to the communities. After that presentation, Capoeira finally lost its criminal designation and became legalized nationwide. Capoeira’s future actually started to advance in 1941 when Vicente Ferreira Pastinha founded Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola (CECA) in Salvador, Bahia. After the hard work and time commitment from many Capoeira masters, and Capoeiristas traveling around the world showing, teaching, and helping Capoeira become known beyond South America and Africa. Many lives of underrepresented or forcibly displaced populations became transformed. November 26, 2014, Capoeira was granted a special status as "intangible cultural heritage" by UNESCO. Currently, Capoeira is practiced around the world on various continents and countries, a few examples of this thriving Worldwide community include:
Europe: France, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Holland, and Germany
Asia: India, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Malyasia and Japan
South America: Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil
Caribean Islands: Curacao, Aruba, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica
Central America: Honduras, Guatemala, El Slavador, Panama and Nicaragua
North America: USA, Canada, Mexico