What is Capoeira Angola?

Capoeira is an art form that weaves together fighting, dance, music, ritual and philosophy into a unique "game" called the jogo de Capoeira (play of Capoeira). While there is much dispute over the exact origins of Capoeira, it is known that it was created by African slaves in Brazil. Capoeira is a synthesis of various African and Brazilian cultural and martial influences. As a martial art, Capoeira uses primarily kicks, elbows and knees, headbutts, sweeps and takedowns in a style that places emphasis on deception, flexibility and fluidity. Direct force is primarily dealt with through evasion and timing. Rather than block every attack your opponent throws at you, the goal is to flow with their movement until the right moment of timed attack. In Capoeira Angola, many of these movements begin from stances that are low to the ground in an intricate game characterized by deceptive ground movement, the strategic use of strikes and dynamic acrobatics. As a game, the action is continuous, exciting and beautiful as both players strive to outmaneuver each other. The creativity expressed in this freestyle allows one to develop both the physical and mental aspects inherent in conflict and acts as form of developing our reactions to it.

As a cultural art form, Capoeira was a means of ensuring that the African traditions would survive under harsh slavery. With movements and dance that share much in common with certain African dances such as n'golo from Angola, music using traditional African instruments such as the Berimbau and the continuation of oral storytelling tradition, Capoeira was a form of revolution in itself. In time, these qualities adapted
with the slaves' new landscape to become a uniquely Afro-Brazilian art that has continued to evolve throughout the years.

This evolution has endured slavery, fierce political oppression that continued after the ban on slavery and rifts within the Capoeira community itself. These rifts were caused by the creation of separate styles of Capoeira, primarily Regional and Angola. Regional is a newer form which was created in the 1930s' by Mestre Bimba. It is defined by a more aggressive game which is played to fast rythmns which are meant to channel the spirit of the fight. While Regional certainly developed new and unique innovations to both the training and technique of the game- sequences- and increased its' popularity, there was also a deemphasis on certain traditions and rituals of the game. This was a trend which had continued for many years until the resurgance of Capoeira Angola, the traditional style which existed before Bimba. Kept alive by Mestre Pastinha who opened his school in 1941, Angola contributed to the renewed interest in a more complete version of Capoeira's traditions, rituals and history. Many schools now draw from both traditions to complete their understanding of the art. Truthfully, there have always been various styles of Capoeira which have existed and the art has always kept changing, but no matter which style or variation is played, they draw on the same elements.

The jogo(game) takes place in a circle called the roda made up of the players and audience. Central to the roda and the practice of Capoeira is the music, which is made up of the bateria(orchestra). The bateria consists of three berimbau(stringed bow-like instruments), pandeiros(tambourines), an agogo(bell), a reco-reco(small bamboo instrument) and an atabaque(drum). Once the roda begins, the players begin by singing a ladainha, a ritual song of commencement, then a corrido, a call and response type of song, which is passed on to the musicians and played for the rest of the game. The music of Capoeira serves many purposes from commenting on, as well as controlling the action within the roda to teaching rythmn and timing to Capoeristas while inspiring the players. It is only when both the music and movements are combined that one begins to feel the true essence of Capoeira.


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