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Capoeira History Overview


Capoeira History Overview


From Capoeira Volta Ao Mundo in Tallahassee, under Mestre Rony




Historical evidence regarding the origins of Capoeira is unfortunately quite scarce. Capoeira is believed to have been developed by slaves in Brazil about 400 years ago, however, even historical documentation that might have been recorded at some point during the first 300 years of Capoeira has been lost or destroyed -- a tragedy for those who seek to learn about Capoeira's past. Despite this shocking lack of primary historical documentation, many have attempted to piece together what little historical evidence still remains in order to tell Capoeira's story. In fact, theories attempting to pinpoint the exact history of Capoeira seem to be as varied as the Capoeira games themselves.


Though this gap in our knowledge exists, one theory believed by many suggests that Capoeira came from West-African slaves, who began developing it while living and working in the plantations of Brazil in the hopes that it would someday be their vehicle to freedom. By masking it as a dance and retaining many of the old West-African cultural elements -- a call-and-response singing style, a strong precussion rhythm, a dance surrounded by a circle -- slaves were able to disguise their practice of Capoeira as a ritual from their homeland.


Many legends say that Capoeira was somewhat sucessful in the fight for freedom, and that it enabled some of the slaves to fight off Portuguese landowners and escape into the jungle to form renegade villages, known as "quilombos." These quilombos, ex-slave villages in the jungle, developed their own social structures, and some were thought to have lasted as long as 70-80 years before finally being defeated by the Portuguese. Capoeira is thought to have evolved tremendously within the quilombo, where villagers fended off intruders with the use of Capoeira.


With the abolition of Slavery in 1888 and the publication of the first constitution of the Brazilian Republic in 1892, Capoeira was outlawed. Practicioners of Capoeira were considered thugs and outlaws, as many formed some of the most formidable gangs in Rio and Bahia. This was slowly changed, beginning in 1932, with the debut of Mestre Bimba's Capoeira academy, believed to be the first of its kind in Brazil. Bimba, who helped to legalize Capoeira, is thought of by many as the founder of the "Regional" style of Capoeira, the Capoeira that is practiced by Volta Ao Mundo school as well as countless others.