This material is part of a series dedicated to the unique Brazilian martial art:
- The history of the origin of Capoeira
- Bananeira and other peculiarities of Capoeira techniques
- Opening of the first Capoeira schools in Brazil
- The spread and global recognition of Brazilian Capoeira
- Capoeira Martial Arts Section
In the world of capoeira, it is not as well-known as, for example, Karate. Even its exact name is not clear to everyone: there is "copoera," "capoeirahem," and "capu aire." In the international press, you will not see a single name for it. So what is capoeira, essentially: sport, show, martial art? Yes, all of the above, plus Brazilian culture!
Capoeira, at the moment, is a great pride of the Brazilian people. It has developed over hundreds of years and was one of the most effective means for subjugated people to fight for their own freedom. Capoeira, in its difficult journey, can be compared to Karate. The latter – a symbol of Japan, originally created on the island of Okinawa under the slogan "death to Japanese occupiers." It took a long time for national pride to turn into a respected culture. The same happened with capoeira.
The birth of the technique began in the society of Brazilian slaves, of African origin. Its prototype could be seen in Africa, in the "fazendas" of society.
The first records of capoeira appeared in the second half of the 17th century. It is described in detail that escaped slaves formed the "Palm State" in the Brazilian jungles. Its citizens stood "to the death" for several decades, fighting off the fierce forces of the Portuguese – conquerors and colonizers. The runaway slaves endured such a long period only thanks to their indomitable spirit and special hand-to-hand combat skills. At that time, superiority in battle was given to whoever fought better in hand-to-hand combat, as firearms provided significant assistance to the colonizers, but they often malfunctioned, and the outcome of battles was decided just "face to face."
Unfortunately, information about the combat techniques in the "Palm State" is somewhat vague, and now it can only be asserted that the runaway slaves had some effective combat technique, but nothing more.
The first clear information about capoeira as a separate martial art is reflected in the "interrogation sheets" of colonial courts in the 17th century. There are investigative works on captured slaves. The texts say that "Capoeira" translates as "school of the jungle." Hence, "Capoeiros" - a common type of jungle vegetation.
Here again, we can observe a striking similarity with the difficult path of karate development. The first information about karate was also mentioned in the interrogation sheets, and the technique was initially called the "school of shrubbery." The karate school also had a patriotic, liberating character with a mafia-like beginning.
Capoeira was born in a more aggressive environment than the schools of Okinawa. However, in both cases, the early karate practitioner was a peasant. He was unarmed, vulnerable, but felt free and would do anything for his freedom. The ancestors of capoeira were initially forced to practice their technique in unthinkable conditions. With their hands tied, led under convoy, what could they come up with for escape? - Of course, involve the legs! Fighters adopted a very low stance, the stance of a slave, so that the oppressors would not suspect anything. The slaves' legs were spread wide, and their arms hung freely above the ground. Everything was done to deceive the eye, even their movements were almost frog-like jumps. A similar stance can often be seen in freestyle fighters nowadays, but it is used to pull the opponent's legs by quickly leaning forward.
In capoeira, hands serve as support, and strikes are made with the legs. Here, both the apparent defenselessness of the head and the long-distance battle unfold. You can't get close anyway – the whole-body lunge won't allow it.
The capoeirist spontaneously fell onto his tied hands, skillfully twisted around them like a spinning top, and partially freed himself. In a matter of seconds, the escorted slave could knock down several guards with such actions. If successful, there was little left to do. A few powerful blows were delivered, weapons were snatched, but more often than not, it was wiser to flee...blindly and without a trace.
Modern capoeira has become more reliant on fighting without falling, as it can be quite traumatic. Changes came from innovations introduced from South America during the first sports championships. As is fitting for all public fights, capoeira is accompanied by a Brazilian musical instrument that resembles a bow with two strings. Street fights are now almost non-contact, and even strikes are more like carnival ones than combat ones. Nowadays, capoeira is designed more for show and publicity. It can be called a martial art only in its homeland, where the true defensive side of the technique is still present.
However, considering the purity of the executed movements, exhibition fights demonstrate the true capabilities of capoeira much better than real ones. For example, fighters manage to perform jumps more technically and fully utilize the entire range of spinning jumps. One of the most common – "Bedouin" - is a sideways rotation of the torso and legs in the air without any support, very similar to a somersault.
All capoeira techniques are based on only two attack bases:
- Extreme lower level. Based on various sweeps, lifts, and leg hooks.
- Extreme upper level. Strikes are mainly aimed at the head, sometimes at the chest.
From the perspective of Capoeira, these techniques are the most reliable for attack and the most desirable. In combat, however, body strikes are often delivered because they are more precise and straightforward than the "spectacular" type.
Defense in the technique occurs only through evasions and sharp rotational turns. However, in the conditions of a fierce clash of opponents, blocks can also be observed, which also have a "sliding" character.