Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music. It was developed in Brazil mainly by Angolans, at the beginning of the 16th century. It is known for its quick and complex maneuvers, predominantly using power, speed, and leverage across a wide variety of kicks, spins and techniques.
The most widely accepted origin of the word capoeira comes from the Tupi words ka’a (“jungle”) e pûer, referring to the areas of low vegetation in the Brazilian interior where fugitive slaves would hide. A practitioner of the art is called a capoeirista.
On 26th November 2014 capoeira was granted a special protected status as “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.
Capoeira is a fast and versatile martial art which is historically focused on fighting outnumbered or in technological disadvantage. The style emphasizes using the lower body to kick, sweep and take down and the upper body to assist those movements and occasionally attack as well. It features a series of complex positions and body postures which are meant to get chained in an uninterrupted flow, in order to strike, dodge and move without breaking motion, conferring the style with a characteristic unpredictability and versatility.
The ginga (literally: rocking back and forth; to swing) is the fundamental movement in capoeira, important both for attack and defense purposes. It has two main objectives. One is to keep the capoeirista in a state of constant motion, preventing him or her from being a still and easy target. The other, using also fakes and feints, is to mislead, fool, trick the opponent, leaving them open for an attack or a counter-attack.
The attacks in the capoeira should be done when opportunity arises, and though can be preceded by feints or pokes, they must be precise and decisive, like a direct kick to the head, face or a vital body part, or a strong takedown. Most capoeira attacks are made with the legs, like direct or swirling kicks, rasteiras (leg sweeps), tesouras or knee strikes. Elbow strikes, punches and other forms of takedowns complete the main list. The head strike is a very important counter-attack move.
The defense is based on the principle of non-resistance, meaning avoiding an attack using evasive moves instead of blocking it. Avoids are called esquivas, which depend on the direction of the attack and intention of the defender, and can be done standing or with a hand leaning on the floor. A block should only be made when the esquiva is completely non-viable. This fighting strategy allows quick and unpredictable counterattacks, the ability to focus on more than one adversary and to face empty-handed an armed adversary.