Two capoeira players make the sign of the cross by the berimbau and then initiate a slow ballet of corporal questions and answers, until a third one joins them and the other players successively participate in the circle. But, a basic element of Angola’s capoeira, the malice or mandinga, may turn it into a very dangerous fight. The malice consists of a pretending game where the player pretends to go, retreats and goes back quickly; a movement that tricks the opponent is the differential of capoeira in relation to the other martial arts. This is a characteristic that can’t be learned only by practicing.
Capoeira has three styles that differ in the movements and in the accompanying musical rhythm. Besides capoeira Angola, another variation is called Regional Capoeira. This style is characterized by the blending of Angolan capoeira’s malice with quick movements, to the sound of the berimbau. The blows are quick and dry, acrobatics is not used. Differently, therefore, to capoeira Angola, whose main elements are the slow musical rhythm, lower blows (close to the ground) and a lot of malice. The third type is the contemporary one, which unites a little of the two first styles. Nowadays this is the most practiced one.
History and tradition
The capoeira arrived in Brazil in the 16th century, with the slaves of the banto ethnic group, who came from Africa with their customs, religions, outfits and languages. Here, camouflaged in dance, because of the police persecutions it suffered until the first decades of the 20th century, the fight became art, incorporating music and instruments, such as berimbau, tambourine and caxixi.
Differently to what most people imagine Africans didn’t accept slavery peacefully. History is full of examples, like the Malês’ rebellion and many others registered throughout the 19th century, especially in Bahia. Capoeira is one of the resistance symbols of the African people. Its origin in Brazil hasn’t been scientifically proved yet. But probably, the fight has its roots in the fight brought to Brazil by the slaves of banto origin, which lived in the region of Austral Africa, now Angola.
Developed and improved as a form of defense in the quilombos – communities organized by runaways slaves, in places of difficult access –capoeira was taught to the captive slaves by the runaways that were captured again and returned to the plantations. As the masters forbid the slaves to practice any kind of fight, the movements of capoeira were adapted with African chants and songs so that it would be mistaken for a dance. Like candomblé that was surrounded by mysteries, e capoeira constituted a form of cultural and physical resistance of the Brazilian slaves.
Capoeira was played in backyards near the slave quarters and its main functions were the maintenance of culture and physical health, besides work stress relief. Many times, the fights occurred in fields with small shreds, called at the time capoeira or capoeirão. That’s why the fight received this name.