Capoiera

Capoeira is the common name for the group of African martial arts that came out
of west Africa and were modified and mixed in Brazil. These original styles
included weapons, grappling and striking as well as animal forms that became
incorporated into different components and sub styles of the art. In 1500\'s the

Portuguese, led by explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral, arrived in Brazil. One of the
first measures taken by the new arrivals was the conquering of the local
population, the Brazilian Indians, in order to allow the Portuguese slave labor
(for sugarcane and cotton). The experience with the Indians was a failure. The

Indians quickly died in captivity or fled to their nearby homes. The Portuguese
then began to import slave labor from Africa. On the other side of the Atlantic,
free men and women were captured, loaded onto slave ships and sent on nightmare
voyages that would end in bondage. The Africans first arrived by the hundreds
and later by the thousands (approximately four million in total).Three major

African groups contributed in large numbers to the slave population in Brazil,
the Sudanese group, composed largely of Yoruba and Dahomean peoples, the

Mohammedanized Guinea-Sudanese groups of Malesian and Hausa peoples, and the
"Bantu" groups (among them Kongos, Kimbundas, and Kasanjes) from

Angola, Congo and Mozambique. The Bantu groups are believed to have been the
foundation for the birth of capoeira. They brought with them their culture; a
culture that was not stored in books and museums but in the body, mind, heart
and soul. A culture that was transmitted from father to son, throughout
generations. There was candomble\', a religion; the berimbau, a musical
instrument; vatapa, a food; and many other things. The Dutch controlled parts of
the northeast between 1624 and 1654. Slaves took steps towards reconquest of
their freedom when the Dutch fought against the Portuguese colony, invading
towns and plantations along the northeastern coast, concentrating on Recife and

Salvador. With each Dutch invasion, the security of the plantations and towns
were weakened. The slaves, taking advantage of the opportunities, fled into the
forests in search of places in which to hide and survive. Many, after escaping,
founded independent villages called quilombos. The quilombos were very important
to evolution of capoeira. There were at least ten major quilombos with economic
and commercial relationships with neighboring cities. The quilombo dos Palmraes
lasted sixty-seven years in the interior of the state of Alagoas, fighting off
almost all expeditions sent to extinguish it. Because of the consistency and
type of threat present, capoeira developed as a fight in the quilombos. The
birth of capoeira as a fighting style was created in the slaves\' quarters and
might not have developed further if left only to that environment. Starting
around 1814, capoeira and other forms of African cultural expression suffered
were prohibited in some places by the slave masters and overseers. Up until that
date, forms of African cultural expression were permitted and sometimes even
encouraged, not only as safety against internal pressures created by slavery but
also to bring out the differences between various African groups, in a spirit of
"divide and conquer". But with the arrival in Brazil in 1808 of the

Portuguese king Dom Joao VI and his court, who were fleeing Napoleon Bonaparte\'s
invasion of Portugal, things changed. The newcomers understood the necessity of
destroying a people\'s culture in order to dominate them, and capoeira began to
be persecuted in a process, which would end with its being outlawed in 1892. Why
was capoeira suppressed? There were many motives. First of all it gave Africans
a sense of nationality. It also developed self-confidence in individual capoeira
practitioners. Capoeira created small, cohesive groups. It also created
dangerous and agile fighters. Sometimes the slaves would injure themselves
during the capoeira, which was not desirable from an economical point of view.

The masters and overseers were probably not as conscious as the king and his
intellectuals of his court of all of these motives, but even still, they knew
something didn\'t seem right. There are many other theories to explain the
origins of capoeira. According to one well known theory, capoeira was a fight
that was disguised as a dance so that it could be practiced without knowledge of
the white slave owners. This seems unlikely because when African culture began
to be repressed, other forms of African dancing suffered prohibition along with
capoeira, so there would be no sense in disguising capoeira as a dance. Another
theory says that the Mucupes in the South of Angola had an initiation ritual (efundula)
for when girls became woman, on which occasion the young warriors engaged