Capoeira (pronounced kah-poo-EH-ra) is a martial art form developed in Brazil by African slaves. It involves self defense, combat, dance-like expression, acrobatics, and music. Forbidden to practice martial arts, the slaves disguised it from their masters as a dance. It became a source of freedom from slavery and mental oppression. Today it is practiced worldwide by men, women, and children.
The game of Capoeira is played, rather than fought, in a roda (pronounced ‘ho-da’), the Portuguese word for a circle. At the foot of the roda stands the bateria, or percussion ensemble, which accompanies the call and response songs sung in Portuguese. The players, called capoeiristas, take turns entering the circle two at a time to engage in a physical dialogue of attack and defense.
Players move according to the rhythm of the berimbau, the main instrument, which directs how fast, slow, expressive, playful, or intense the game will be. Players attack and defend, combining round and straight kicks, ducks, sweeps, take-downs, acrobatics, and dance-like esthetics, all the while maintaining flow and rhythm. Players aim to show the potential harm of movements, exercising control rather than following through. The ultimate goal is to trick or deceive, catching the opponent in a position that he/she cannot get out of.