Introduction to the history

Here follows a very brief introduction to the rich history of capoeira. If you want to learn more, than numerous books are available about the subject.

Capoeira has a very rich history which is based on stories, traditions and cultures of various nations. At the start of the sixteenth century, Portugal began colonizing Brazil. Portugal was initially not interested in her new colony, but later there appeared to be a big potential for cultivatin sugar cane. The Portuguese first tried to use the Indian natives as workforces on the land, but they were too weak and unfit for the job. Portugal then decided to import slaves from Western Africa. Whole villages were transported per ship in pitiful conditions to Brazil, where they would have to work their entire lives on the plantations or in the cities. Especially Rio de Janeiro and Salvador played a huge part in this.

Danca de la Guerre

By importing African slaves, complete cultures traditions and religions were transferred to Brazil. Due to the big diversity of peoples in Brazil all these elements got mixed. Inter alia, martial arts from different cultures got blend together by the slaves. Slow and steady capoeira was born as a mixture of African and Brazilian elements. Back then, capoeira was an activity only practiced by slaves and people from the lowest classes of society. The higher class despised the sport and was even scared of it. As a precaution, a lot of African activities and traditions were banned, including capoeira.

After fast forwarding a few decades, we arrive at the capoeira gangs in Rio de Janeiro and the first written records of capoeira in the nineteenth century. Capoeira got a bad name and a dark image thanks to the gangs and underground groups who used capoeira as a weapon to fight each other. Capoeira was still prohibited by law and heavy punishments were used when someone got caught practicing capoeira. Meanwhile, capoeira was undergoing a real transformation in Salvador da Bahia. At the beginning of the 20th century, there would occur small gatherings of capoeiristas. On special occasions, people gathered to play capoeira in a "roda" (circle), under supervision of a mestre (master). Even though it didn't work out always, capoeiristas tried their best to remain peaceful and calm. Slowly the prohibition on capoeira loosened.

Later in history, the first capoeira academies were opened and the martial art started spreading outside of Brazil. Around 1950, the first capoeira mestres travelled to the United States and Europe to introduce their sport. Today capoeira is practiced by millions all over the world and there are thousands of groups and hundreds of mestres active, all this in less than a hundred years.