Is it a dance, a fight, a game, or all of this at the same time ? It seems so and that is what creates its fascinaton and thrill. (Francisco Pereira da Silva: Itinerários da capoeira. Monsanto Editora, 1979 – Der afro-brasilianische Kampftanz Capoeira)
The conjunct of traditional music, ritual dances and modern fighting techniques in Brazil during the last 300 centuries emerged in a unique mixture of sport, dance, fight and brasilian popular culture. Capoeira unites African, Brazilian, Indigenous and European influences and is thus expression and answer of the Brazilian people to slavery, repression and social inequality.
For decades Capoeira was tought from master to student secretly. First sistematic class developed only in the beginning of the 20th century thanks to the engagement of masters (Mestres) who recognized its importance and social power and tried to preserve and spread its cultural value. Many old Master dedicated their life and energy in the preservation of Capoeira. Nevertheless amongst them are two names to be mentioned for their remarkable significance: Manuel dos Reis Machado (Mestre Bimba) who started to create a modern style around 1920 knowadays commonly called “Capoeira Regional” and Mestre Pastinha who dedicated his live to preserve the traditional Capoeira Angola.
Beyond these two styles, developed numerous substiles, that can be comprisingly described as Capoeira Contemporanea (Contemporary Capoeira). These styles often add new elements from dance, martial art and music to the traditional heritage of the old masters.
With the upcoming globalization Capoeira spread during the 80ies and early 90ies all over the world. Its diversity (the training teaches elements of dance, martial arts & acrobatics, supplemented by music with traditional elements) makes it a well recognized medium of extra-scolar learning, and in socio-cultural and inclusive youth-work.
Movements, teaching system, clothes and graduation system differ from group to group, as well as the size of groups differs from single, independet teachers to worldwide working associations with up to 40.000 members.
In Brazil Capoeira can today be considerd being one of the top sports – its uniqueness as being originally Brazilian gives it a cultural significance even more outstanding. In 2008 Capoeira was recognized as national cultural heritage of Brazil. Estimations count several million Capoeira adepts only inside Brazil, at the moment the recognition as immaterial cultural world heritage by the UNESCO is being discussed.
Capoeira is an urban subculture, symbolizing social equality, resistance against the establishment, the conjunct of tradition and modernism and – most of all – communication through body language.
(Florian Hoffmeier 12/2012, all rights with the author)