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Capoeira Code of Ethics



Reginaldo da Silveira Costa “Squisito”

Conversion from the original language to HTML by Decânio Filho

Translated by Shayna McHugh





            To the professors is given the full right to create their ways of teaching capoeira, according to their conditions, locations of work, characteristics, ages of the students, social environment, and other factors that help or limit in the exercise of capoeira instruction.

            All professors have the obligation to manifest and make understood to their students the principles of capoeira, its identity, origin, great names of its precursors, etc; in an implicit or explicit way, depending on the age ranges and other typical factors of each group/school, as well as to teach and to respect the principles of this Code.

            Capoeira can be taught in any location, as long as it offers conditions of safety and hygiene to its practitioners. The professors, whenever possible, should require their students to use a complete, clean uniform.

            No professor should impose rigid postures on the capoeira students, being allowed to apply rules of efficiency in the development, in the movement, and in the final result of the learning of capoeira.

            The professors should always be aware of their students’ limitations and potentials; they must seek to teach them to explore their physical resources and natural abilities. Capoeira as a national art will always have its tie to our traditions and history, so the professors are obligated to encourage their students in the habit of studying our history and our origins.

            No capoeira professor can make use of techniques or resources typical of other sports inside the class to novices of capoeira. They should reserve the study of other arts only to the capoeiristas, students or professors, who already possess the sufficient maturity so as not to mix the characteristics, rules, and resources of other sports with capoeira. The capoeiristas graduated until the dark green cord in the graduation of the ABPC are considered novices.

The professors must know, teach, and require the relationship between the berimbau toques and the type of capoeira game.

Every professor should teach and give the example of respect to the oldest; the most experienced capoeiristas always having the preference in the capoeira games, at their judgment.

The professor is obligated to discourage his students from making comments of an aggressive nature, or that stimulate rivalries between groups. The exchange of insults between professors is a great fault, particularly in the presence of students or by means of students. If it is proved that some professor encouraged or encourages their students to bring insults of any nature to other groups or colleagues, that professor can be warned or even punished by the Regional or National representation of the ABPC.

The professor must never encourage his students to violence of any type. If it is proved that he does so, he is subject to punishment and incompatibility with ABPC.

It is forbidden for professors to use their students of any age for their own interests or services, without remuneration!

It is forbidden for professors to show any form of moral or physical aggression to their students. The act of a professor who maintains amorous or sexual relationships with their students who are minors (particularly in the place of teaching of Capoeira) will be considered a serious mistake.

ABPC will recognize self-claimed professors as long as they respect and adhere to the regulations and precepts of the ABPC, and as long as they are accepted by the regional representatives of the ABPC, in the form of its Statutes or regulations.




            The sporting competition of capoeira will be ruled by regulations widely discussed by those involved, and will always be done in places that permit the public to watch. Independent of the structure of capoeira competitions, they will always be conducted in a way to preserve their traditional values and basic principles. Capoeira, when in sporting competition, will always have as arbiters mestres and professors of traditional recognition and fame in the local, regional, and national capoeira scene, according to the level of the competition.

            The professors are obligated to teach their students to always have in mind the physical and moral preservation of their opponents when in sporting competitions. They should even create and encourage conditions of fraternity and high community spirit from the sport. All professors have the obligation to prepare their students for both victory and defeat, and always to take into account mutual respect with their adversaries.

            No capoeira competition without the fundamental characteristics, or that imposes strange rules on the practitioners, should be done. Instruments and other principles, cited here in the Statutes of the ABPC and others, known by and revered by capoeiristas and mestres, make up part of the fundamental characteristics of capoeira, particularly its music.




            Capoeira unites all the possibilities of a martial art. All arts of war are considered martial – the word comes from Mars, the God of war, among the Romans. Martial arts can be armed or unarmed. Capoeira is not included among the most well-known martial arts; this is because its combative power is not of the public domain. However, the ABPC recognizes this part of capoeira and recommends to its affiliates that they seek to practice and demonstrate whenever possible the fighting resources of capoeira to the public, to increase the public’s respect and attract students, avoiding, however:


-         Freely exposing all its combative potential, and with that detracting from the most important element in a fight – surprise! It is therefore a duty of capoeiristas to preserve the combative resources of capoeira, avoiding that other styles steal or freely assimilate them.

-         It is not recommended to participate in combats for exclusively commercial or financial ends.

-         Minors should not participate in martial confrontations;

-         It is not recommended to participate in combats that do not have rules for the moral and physical preservation of the contenders as a basis;

-         Capoeiristas must not, in any circumstance, blame capoeira for their defeat, since the one defeated is the fighter and not the art. No one meets conditions to represent the totality of the resources of capoeira; therefore, if someone is defeated, this defeat will not be attributed to capoeira! It is a responsibility of the capoeiristas to assume this principle before or after the combats in which they participate.




            Capoeira’s origin is in the fight for equality among men, and because of this capoeira needs to preserve democratic and single-minded familiarity of its practitioners with society as a whole and in particular with comrades in the art.

            Capoeira professors are morally obligated to distinguish themselves as good citizens. It is hoped that they are distinguished for:

-         never exposing a peer to any form of humiliation (unless in defense of his own integrity or the integrity of someone else less fortunate);

-         always defending those who are weaker;

-         respecting older people, women, and children;

-         always being inside the law;

-         defending democracy and liberty;

-         never losing self-control;

-         respecting his opponents;

-         defending the national principles, the language, and the many fundamentals of capoeira;

-         honoring mestres and professors;

-         always preserving the physical and moral integrity of his opponents;

-         not discriminating against anyone for belief, race, color, social level, etc;

-         his self-discipline and moral awareness;

-         never committing any form of cowardice;

-         defending capoeira beyond his own personal interests;

-         not using his knowledge for personal self-promotion or to get an advantage over vulnerable or innocent people.




            It would be ideal if no capoeirista asked why capoeira needs an identity. However, it is a fact that some of them will ask. So, to exemplify the sense of identity to which we are referring, we remember:

- judo does not permit kicks;

- boxing does not use takedowns;

- karate does not use gloves;

- Greco-Roman wrestling has a uniform;

- among many other examples that could be given, and capoeira?

Okay, as an example, we would say that capoeira is played to the sound of the

music of the berimbau, which is its basic instrument… but that is only one example.


The idea of the present code of ethics is to establish other, wider parameters for capoeira. Next, some proposals to be adopted as principles inseparable from the identity of capoeira are presented:


Capoeira is always played: the game of capoeira assumes diverse forms of manifestation, according to the moment in which it is occurring, and can be:


 - Sport: when in competitions for which previous rules are established, such as: time of duration, form of scoring, categories of participants, rules of style, number of games per phase, judging, etc., and when it is studied and developed in view of physical-motor performance, such as aerobic ability, speed, explosiveness, flexibility, etc.;


 - Idleness/leisure: when in spontaneous manifestations in public or private locations, without previously established rules or restrictions, without determined times, without uniform, etc;


 - Folklore/presentation: when in exhibitions of groups especially prepared for a specific moment, on stage or other environments for performance, being able to use combined plans, special-effect movements (esquetes), and in those cases numerous other folkloric arts associated with capoeira can be represented. In that type of expression of capoeira, the traditional manifestations of capoeira are valid at the same time, since folklore is of the public domain; because of this, it is free to the creation of each group, or community, in that type of manifestation. The capoeira professors are obligated, when they organize or participate in this form of manifestation, to inform the public and the authorities present the specific nature of that moment: capoeira has many other facets, that require other conditions and rules in order to be exhibited;


 - Choreographic Spectacle: when capoeira’s movements are adopted, combined amongst themselves, aiming for a dance or choreographic effect. In this context, capoeira can be understood as a spectacle of capoeira-flavored dance, in which the greatest intention is to explore the resources of its rhythmic beauty, sensuality, etc.;


 - Martial Game/Fight: when in a martial confrontation between capoeiristas or with practitioners of other styles. In this case there must be previous definition of the rules to be respected, weight, scoring, etc. as well as the criteria of victory, as in other martial arts. This type of manifestation should not be initiated by the representative Entities of capoeira, being however free to their associates to participate when they desire in non-capoeira events, respecting the ethical rules of the present code;


 - Psychological Game/Mandinga: this is capoeira’s mental form of manifestation, which is based in confronting or examining the knowledge and the experience level of the capoeiristas, through resources and themes of any order, which permits the demonstration and the discussion of the relevant aspects of the art of the capoeira game. To probe the feelings of the opponents, to test one’s highest mental reflexes and knowledge among capoeiristas. This form of identity is particularly recognized by the oldest capoeiristas, not having previously established rules. Mandinga is also admitted in the physical game, and is characterized by creating illusions such as: being hurt, scared, weak, tired, confused, etc. This is the mental stage of the evolution of the capoeirista’s knowledge, the highest phase of the art of capoeira…


Beyond these forms of capoeira’s practice, there is also the essential part of the art of music, the berimbau, the pandeiro, the clapping, and its particular songs.


Capoeira should be played in the space of a circle or semi-circle, aiming to maintain its relations with the traditional Afro-Brazilian ritual and also because of the acoustic aspects, those of visibility and of collective participation in its most essential and typical manifestation, which is the roda of capoeira.

Capoeira is a collective manifestation. The students, from early in their learning, should learn that they are an important part of the capoeira manifestation and that they are the ones responsible for promoting the necessary energy so that capoeira occurs in its fullness.

Capoeira will always be practiced in the Brazilian language. Capoeiristas are obligated to impede any changes in the nomenclature of the movements, sequences, or symbols used in the practice of capoeira, in other languages that are not Portuguese/Brazilian. Explanations and description about the capoeira movements in other languages will be allowed, as long as their names are always kept in Portuguese. The use of songs in Afro-Brazilian dialects is permitted; however, one must avoid turning to the points of umbanda, candomblé, and other religious rituals in the capoeira roda.

The music of capoeira is unique, and capoeiristas should impede the introduction of other musical styles and lyrics that are strange to capoeira in rodas and in other capoeira-like manifestations.

The color of the capoeirista’s official uniform is white, and in official competitions the utilization of other colors in the capoeirista’s uniform is forbidden, independent of graduation. Details of identification will be admitted as long as they do not compromise the whole. In folkloric manifestations, free dress is permitted.

The national customs of Brazil make up part of the capoeira essence. The origins of our land must always be sought in order to found the theories and practices of capoeira. No capoeirista should introduce ideas or symbols into capoeira that are foreign to the Brazilian people, particularly those that alter capoeira’s primary characteristics, such as gestures, movements, attitudes, forms of relating, music, songs, etc. The capoeirista who introduces or allows strange values to be introduced into capoeira, in such a manner that it discharacterizes its identity and nationality, will be considered a traitor and persona non grata.

Capoeira Regional and capoeira Angola are recognized as styles by the ABPC. Any affiliate of ABPC should respect the existence of these two styles. Any other style will have to be justified in all the aspects so that it can be considered a new style of capoeira. Only a National Convention of the ABPC can approve a new style of capoeira.

Capoeira Regional is characterized by the adoption of the principles created by its founder, Mestre Bimba; the tie of Regional to its precursor is a requirement of honor. Principles of capoeira Regional are:

 - The toques of berimbau of capoeira Regional;

 - The teaching sequences of Mestre Bimba (eight sequences of the Mestre);

 - The cintura desprezada;

 - And other characteristics unique to Regional, defined by its followers.


            Capoeira Angola possesses its own traditions; its characteristics and principles should be preserved. Capoeira Angola is distinguished from Regional, basically by:

 - Its traditional berimbau toques;

 - The “chamadas” of Angola;

 - The origin of its students, the direct or indirect link with Angoleiro mestres;

 - Among other aspects of the style, defined by the followers of Angola.




            Capoeira aims for the spiritual growth of its practitioner…

            That spirituality occurs, in particular, when the capoeirista reaches the maturity of his development. However, the professors should motivate their students in the intention of seeking their spiritual realization.

            When a capoeira manages to recognize his real possibilities and yet does not use them gratuitously, or when he avoids revealing his knowledge freely or in order to socially promote himself, he is developing spiritually. Capoeira is a path for its practitioners to perfect themselves as human beings, and reach the fullness of their citizenship and spirituality.

The music of capoeira should be understood and manifested as a transport to the most elevated stages of consciousness. By means of its practice and experience, the capoeirista should establish a connection with the superior energies of life, with the messages of capoeiristas who are our ancestors, and with the highest human feelings of solidarity, happiness, and peace. Capoeira is a manifestation that should reach the human soul in its most profound understanding, above the purely physical sensations.

The health of the body and the fullness of the spirit should be goals of the practice of capoeira. The capoeirista should always seek to surpass his limitations and anxieties; capoeira should be a form of liberation for it practitioners, whether from addictions, from fears, from limits, or from any other forms of human mediocrity. It is an obligation of capoeiristas to seek their interior growth. The potential for interior growth is infinite!

The great diversity of understandings about capoeira, plus the great gap in its official organization and coordination, has become each day a greater tangle of definitions, both theoretical and practical. With the spread of capoeira, more influences are increased, in innumerous innovations, whether of a teaching, sportive, martial, or spiritual nature and also, dangerously, of identity.

At a meeting in Brasília-DF in the University of Brasília in 1990, Doctor Milton Freire, known in capoeira as Mestre Onça-Tigre, descendent of Mestre Bimba, spoke about the versatility of Capoeira and about how Mestre Bimba, the creator of Regional, was revolutionary by recreating and redefining capoeira. In a certain way, Mestre Onça-Tigre gave a rasteira to capoeiristas who are faithful to a defined and standardized capoeira, by stating that capoeira adjusts itself to the reality in which it is applied or practiced… Capoeira is based in the environment around it. From it arise innumerous and infinite forms of training and understanding associated with capoeira. All, in principle, are part of capoeira.

Logically, he is not defending the view that anything is capoeira; or at least, we do not think that everything can be understood as Bahian regional capoeira, or as capoeira angola… It is in this point that we start to speak about our basic question: that is, the definitions and foundations of capoeira: CAPOEIRA REGIONAL and CAPOEIRA ANGOLA… That discussion needs a point of departure, a theoretical point of support and a convention in which it is based. It is in that sense that the ABPC arises, and that is its principle duty: to create a common foundation in the practice of capoeira; to organize and spread a professional approach inside the capoeira militancy and with that, occupy an important space in the integration of capoeiristas, whether on the level of preserving capoeira’s traditional values, or with the aim of allowing its evolution in a modern context while at the same time being faithful to its ethical principles.

That is the main issue of the present work: to provide an ethical approach to the discussion and diffusion of capoeira, to its practice and to its theory… and this is our intention!




            In a very superficial reference about ethics, we find the following basic definitions:


ETHOS – Greek word from which ethics comes, that means the form of social behavior of an individual or human group (clothing, attitudes, culture) indicator that its owner makes up part of a certain social class or ethnic group.

ETHICS – part of philosophy that tackles moral problems.


            Many other definitions exist regarding ethics, but only a minimal explanation interests us in the aim of justifying this discussion. So, finally, if we consider valid the question of capoeiristas’ behavior, then ethics is already present in our thoughts. In other words, even without having a clear idea of ethics, we already discuss it all the time, when we judge attitudes or ideas about capoeira, whether ours or those of other people…

            Another aspect that must be clear is that we do not intend to suggest a sweetened or “good-boy” position for capoeiristas or capoeira professors. The goal is to discuss viable aspects and to establish frontiers, inside of which capoeira can be recognized and shared…

            In other words, those who have an individual version of capoeira, and who understand it to be the definitive truth, will be absolutely free to adopt it and defend it, its practice in a socio-sportive process and other forms of its collective manifestation being left only to those who are concerned with it in the widest cooperative and professional context.

            Capoeira, as a folkloric manifestation, is of the public domain, and thus will always have the right to be freely manifested. This, as a matter of fact, can be considered the code zero of capoeira: it is the free cultural manifestation of the Brazilian people and because of this the right to practice it freely is reserved to the Brazilian citizens.

Our concern is regarding the professors who are followers of the Associaçao Brasileira de Professores de Capoeira – and in the sense of giving them a base of identification with their Entity, and an approach that involves the professionals of capoeira. On the other hand, as in the many principles adopted by the ABPC, the present regulation is one of free adoption in any other independent capoeira currents. Regarding this, we only ask that, if the concepts and understandings formulated here come to be used, that the author be mentioned, as well as the fact that it deals with the bibliography destined for the followers and affiliates of ABPC (This ethics – of authorial right -, does not belong exclusively to capoeira. It is already well-established).





Today the quantity of information that arrives at people is so great. Even without perceiving it – and there’s the biggest problem – we receive a most diverse cargo of influences, coming from all the sources: television, movies, radio, shows, conversations with people of different backgrounds, newspaper articles, books, etc… All of this influences us in a greater or lesser degree, since our mind works all the time making associations, and everything that has to do with our lives in particular is more readily absorbed, and stays stronger in our subconscious.


Thus, it is very clear that the strength of the means of communication interferes in our upbringing and opinions. For example, we can cite the importance of the Olympics, particularly ground gymnastics, on capoeira. And the great majority of people who receive this influence remain unaware of the original source of the stimulus. It is even possible to swear confidently that one learned or saw a sequence of backflips, followed by other acrobatic movements, in a capoeira roda!


We often lack an ideological base that guarantees the identity of the sport/art that we practice. Or better, we lack a definition of what would be admitted or not admitted in capoeira – although many books of great value have certainly been written. However, this question of identity has not been much studied; there is more preoccupation with the technique and history of capoeira. Thus, on top of the formulated question, we need to define beforehand some practical utilities of a code of ethics:

  1. For the definition of a relationship politic;
  2. For the guidance of paths for ABPC affiliates, that share the principles adopted here; and with that defined ethic it becomes easy to know beforehand what are the requirements to be an associate;
  3. To make it so that capoeira can serve as a life strategy, since its learning, seen in its fullness, is a way of living. As something much bigger than a simple rule of gaming, capoeira should allow its practitioner their personal fulfillment and full citizenship, even a professional condition if the practitioner so desires;
  4. To impede the introduction of prejudices into capoeira, and with this always guarantee its democratization;
  5. To impede the introduction of influences that are capable of corrupting capoeira’s theory and practice, removing its cultural identity, and substituting other things for its foundations and basic principles;
  6. As a teaching guide for professors and new students, who will know to preserve capoeira’s traditions and teachings, allowing its creativity but guaranteeing its origins, principles, and traditions;
  7. To create an instrument capable of demonstrating, in an organized and accessible way, the amplitude of the art of capoeira, and with this be able to spread its resources to the public, to public organizations, and also to scholars who want to understand and research capoeira.