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date: 23 March 2019

Capoeira: From Slave Combat Game to Global Martial Art

Summary and Keywords

Capoeira is a martial art that developed from combat games enslaved Africans brought to Brazil. It is systematically documented since the beginning of the 19th century in Rio de Janeiro and later in other port cities. During the 19th century capoeira was increasingly practiced by the poor free people, black and of mixed ancestry, and also by white immigrants. Capoeira gangs controlled their territories against intruders and allied with political parties until the Republican purge of 1890. Capoeira survived best in Bahia, where it remained more associated with other forms of Afro-Brazilian culture and acquired many of its features still extant in present-day capoeira. From the 1930s onward, capoeira masters such as Bimba and Pastinha modernized capoeira, leading to the emergence of the Regional and Angola styles. Bahian capoeiristas migrated to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in search of better opportunities during the 1950–1970s. There they and their students developed what later became known as “Contemporary capoeira” (Capoeira Contemporânea) which is the most practiced style today. Capoeira was and is practiced in various ways: as a friendly game or as a fight, as a combat sport, or as an Afro-Brazilian cultural activity. Since the 1980s, capoeira has undergone a process of globalization and is now practiced in many countries around the world. Capoeira is the only martial art of the African Diaspora that is known and practiced worldwide. Writing on Capoeira has rapidly grown in a number of disciplines, leading to the constitution of its own interdisciplinary field of study.

Keywords: capoeira, capoeira Regional, capoeira Angola, Brazil, martial arts, Afro-Brazilian culture, modernization, combat sport, African Diaspora, globalization

Slave Capoeira

Capoeira was first documented among enslaved Africans and Creoles in the port cities of late colonial Brazil. Although there is one isolated mention in a court trial in 1789, the first systematic references to a combat game called capoeira started to appear in 1810 in Rio de Janeiro.1 Contrary to the widespread myth among today’s practitioners that capoeira was a fight disguised as a dance, the very first reports by the newly created, professional Royal Police Guard left no doubt that capoeira was a dangerous activity and needed to be repressed. At this time Rio de Janeiro had just become the capital of the Portuguese empire, due to the migration of D. João VI, the Portuguese prince-regent, and his court, who escaped Napoleon’s troops occupying Lisbon. The city underwent significant change as a consequence of this transfer of the metropolis and at the same time also grew due to the economic expansion in the surrounding region based initially on sugar and later on coffee plantations. The growth of coffee plantations fueled a massive increase in the transatlantic slave trade. During the first half of the 19th century, more than a million enslaved Africans were disembarked on the shores of Rio de Janeiro province, first at the Valongo site next to the city center and, after 1831, when the trade was officially banned, at more discrete locations along the coast. Although most slaves were sold to plantations in the Paraíba valley, an important number did remain in the city. The proportion of slaves in relation to the total population rose from 34 percent in 1799 to 46 percent in 1821, and in 1849 almost 80,000 slaves lived in the city. Free black and people of color represented at least another 20 percent, so it is no wonder many travelers likened Rio de Janeiro to an African city.2

Capoeira developed in this period when thousands of enslaved Africans populated the streets of Rio de Janeiro. In contrast to plantation slaves, many urban slaves did not work under the permanent surveillance of an overseer. They were street vendors, or their owner made them rent out their labor as porters. These slaves “for hire” enjoyed thus a relative autonomy of movement, which allowed capoeira to develop. Maintaining law and order, in particular controlling the masses of enslaved urban workers, understandably became an obsession of the white elites, especially in the decades after the Haitian Revolution. The Police Intendant was granted authority to punish minor offenses on the spot, through immediate “correction,” combined with imprisonment. In 1817 the Intendant announced that slaves found with knives were to be punished with 300 lashes of the whip and three months of forced labor and that “the same penalty will apply to all those who roam around the city, whistling and with sticks, committing disorder most of the times with no aim, and which are well known by the name of capoeiras, even if they do not provoke any injuries or death or any other crime.”3

This announcement reflects the standard attitude of legislators and police chiefs throughout the empire at the time: capoeira was to be repressed by all means, even if its practitioners had not committed any crime according to Western legal traditions—and for that reason capoeira was not formally included in the first Brazilian Criminal Code (1831). In the years 1810–1820, capoeira accounted for 438 arrests in Rio de Janeiro, or 9 percent of the total, second only to escapes of slaves.4 These police records also provide us with an idea of the background of the arrested capoeiras (the term used at the time). Ninety-one percent of those arrested were enslaved, 77 percent of the same total were Africans, and just 10 percent were creoles (the rest were of unspecified origins). In other words, capoeira then was, above all, a practice of enslaved Africans. This raises the question of what combat traditions these men brought with them and how pre-existing forms and techniques eventually did or did not combine. In that respect, it is worth detailing the more specific African origins. Based on early police records, Carlos Eugênio Soares has calculated that 84 percent of the Africans came from west-central Africa (Kongo and Angola) and the rest from Mozambique and west Africa, which more or less reflects the overall proportions of these groups in Rio de Janeiro.5 Within the west-central Africans, arrested capoeiras came often from the Kongo region but also from northern Angola and southern Angola (Benguela), making it again difficult to trace any particular region or ethnicity as responsible for the core input of what became capoeira. Soares concludes that it seems the art “was the fruit of a combination of dispersed African traditions and creole cultural ‘inventions.’”6 It therefore seems that participation in capoeira reflected to a large extent the composition of the enslaved population. Hence when the numbers of Benguelas increased in the city in the 1840s, they became the most numerous group among the arrested capoeiras.

Capoeira: From Slave Combat Game to Global Martial ArtClick to view larger

Figure 1. Johann Moritz Rugendas, “Jogar Capoëra: Danse de la guerre” (1835).

Unfortunately, police sources rarely provided detailed descriptions of capoeira practice beyond the explicit mention that individuals were arrested for “playing capoeira.” This is a crucial detail, insofar as some teachers and writers have suggested the practice acquired a playful character only at a later stage. A game—and that is also clear from police records—could easily become a brawl, resulting in injuries such as broken legs. Since slaves arrested for capoeira often carried musical instruments with them—drums, violas, tambourines, and bells—one can safely assume that they used them for the game. Contemporary engravings seem to confirm that capoeira was a leisure activity, already referred to as a game, often accompanied by musical instruments and carried out in a circle surrounded by participants and bystanders. The iconic engraving based on a painting by Johann Moritz Rugendas (1835), the first explicit representation of “Playing Capoëra or war dance,” shows it accompanied by a drum. The two men facing each other seem to perform a basic step quite close to what is known today as the ginga, or basic movement from which all attacks and defenses originate.

Capoeira: From Slave Combat Game to Global Martial ArtClick to view larger

Figure 2. Augustus Earle, “Negroes fighting, Brazil” (c. 1824).

Police sources also mention frequently head butts (cabeçadas), and Earle’s watercolor “Negros fighting, Brazil”(1820–1824) confirms that kicks were used. Otherwise there is very little information on specific corporal techniques. Since capoeira also appears occasionally in 19th-century records of other Brazilian port cities such as Recife, Salvador, and São Luís, it is better to conceive of “slave capoeira” as a generic term ascribed to quite different practices in those various places, depending on the specific African input and local circumstances.

Capoeira and Gangs in Imperial Brazil

The demographic changes that affected Rio de Janeiro after 1850—the slow decrease of the proportion of slaves and Africans and growing importance of a population of mixed ancestry and of European, mainly Portuguese, immigrants—also had an impact on the capoeira universe. The proportion of creole slaves but also that of free practitioners grew substantially. By 1881, the free constituted 60 percent of those arrested for capoeira in Rio, and in 1885 whites represented at least 22 percent of arrests. These developments were accompanied by changes in social context and capoeira’s cultural meaning. Capoeira expanded into all lower classes—sailors, port workers, artisans, and vagrants but also soldiers and policemen. This was facilitated not only by enslaved and free, blacks, browns (pardos), and poor whites working increasingly side by side but also by those living in the same squalid, overcrowded tenements (cortiços) and fighting for the same women of color, as rendered in Azevedo’s famous novel, where the mulatto capoeira Firmo confronts the white Portuguese stick fighter Jerônimo because of the stereotypical mulata, Rita.7

Capoeira practice changed accordingly. The enslaved Africans and their descendants had been relegated since colonial times to the very bottom of the official social hierarchy, but even that did not prevent them from inserting themselves into urban social life. Capoeiras hence participated not only in African-inspired street celebrations (batuques) but also joined processions for patron saints and even military parades. They did so by imposing their presence, for example ringing the church bells or exhibiting their skills at the head of processions or parades. This often ended in confusion, with the capoeiras running and yelling “Shut down” to close an event, followed by street battles with the police or among themselves. As Mello Morais wrote, the results were “broken heads, shattered light posts, stabbing and deaths.”8

Since the times of “slave capoeira,” practitioners assembled in groups to practice, relax, or fight—not only against the police but also among themselves, for instance over access to fountains on Carioca Square.9 Early records do not establish exactly how organized these groups were or if all of their members really practiced capoeira.10 Yet since at least the 1850s capoeira in Rio was dominated by the infamous maltas, who divided the city’s territory among themselves. A malta was comprised of between half a dozen and a hundred individuals, from adolescent boys to mature adults. They practiced and instructed younger adherents on hills or on the beaches. Each gang established around a parish church, its square, and the surrounding neighborhood, which also became the symbol of their identity. Hence the malta that assembled in the proximity of the Saint Joseph parish church was called the “Carpenters,” the name of the “Spear” gang was an allusion to Saint George’s lance in the church of São Gonçalo Garcia e São Jorge with his statue, and the malta of Santa Rita parish church was called “Three Bunches” because of the grapes that saint was often pictured with. If African secret societies may have initially contributed to malta formation (for which we still have no evidence), later developments therefore show the importance of popular Catholicism in gang culture. The influence of military organization and hierarchy is also apparent and can be explained by the fact that a number of capoeiras were or had been in the army or were enrolled in militias such as the National Guard. Gang members identified through attire, ribbons, colors, and, increasingly, political affiliation. The two main political parties of the Brazilian empire (conservatives and liberals), recognizing the potential of capoeira gangs, started to hire their services during election times to intimidate voters and make sure they voted for the right party. This contributed to the emergence of two overarching federations of maltas, the Nagoas and the Guaiamus. The Nagoas were associated with the conservatives, while the Guaiamus supported the liberals. Nagoas used hats with a lowered brim and their color was white, while the Guaiamus used hats with a lifted brim and their color was red. Soares has argued that the Nagoas were “identified with a slave and African tradition of capoeira,” whereas the Guaiamus “should be linked to a native and mestizo root.”11 While patterns of residence and gang membership reveal that indeed some gangs had higher proportions of Africans than others, these are at best broad trends, as all maltas in the 1880s consisted of African and Creole blacks, pardos, and white men. It is precisely capoeira’s capacity to recruit beyond its original constituency that allowed the art to survive and expand.

The alliance between Nagoas and the conservatives on one side and Guaiamus and the liberals on the other meant that repression of capoeiras by authorities was usually partial (restricted to the gangs affiliated with the party in opposition) and therefore ineffective. The abolition of slavery, in May 1888, even though it raised support for the royal family among the ex-slaves, let to the overthrow, in November 1889, of the empire, no longer endorsed by the majority of planters. Republican planters and the military, influenced by positivism, increasingly viewed the empire as a symbol of archaism and an obstacle to progress, and even more so when defended by a “Black Guard” of ex-slaves and capoeiras. Capoeira and more generally any form of Afro-Brazilian culture was seen as barbarism, which the Republic needed to extirpate. The first republican police chief of Rio de Janeiro nominated by the provisional government, no longer bound by imperial party-political allegiances, organized a systematic clampdown against capoeiras in the city. In December 1889 hundreds of capoeiras were detained at home according to lists drawn up by the police. Without trial or right to defense, at least 162 of them were deported to the distant Atlantic island Fernando de Noronha.12

The Republican Criminal Code, issued by the Provisional Government in 1890, sought to maintain the harsh repression against the practice. The Code qualified capoeira as a crime in its chapter dedicated to vagrants and capoeiras. Articles 402–404 threatened two to six months of jail for anyone found doing “exercises of physical agility and dexterity, known by the denomination capoeiragem, in the streets and public squares; to run amok, provoking disorder and mayhem, and threatening, frightening or injuring specific or unspecified individuals.” Belonging to a gang was considered an aggravating circumstance, and gang leaders were to receive twice the ordinary penalty.

Capoeira in the First Republic

The Republican purge put an end to the hitherto powerful maltas, and capoeira disappeared from the streets of Rio de Janeiro. It is not entirely clear how much of it survived in more discrete locations, such as backyards and shantytowns. No doubt some capoeira skills went into the pernada, also known as samba duro, where one man danced to the rhythm of the emerging samba while another tried to make him fall by swiping his feet from the side (banda) or unbalancing him using his knees.13

Capoeira survived better in other surroundings, in particular in Bahia around the Bay of All Saints and in its capital and main port, Salvador but also in the south of the state, making Bahian capoeira less exclusively urban. Although there is mention of some gangs in the city of Salvador during the empire, they never became as powerful as the Cariocan maltas. Unfortunately this also means there is very little information on 19th-century capoeira here. The absence of significant European migration and the economic decline of Bahia resulted in capoeira remaining more closely associated with other Afro-Bahian forms such as samba-de-roda and candomblé. Black or pardo workers in the port area played it to relax while waiting for work in between tides.14

On Sundays, informal capoeira circles (rodas) also took place in poor neighborhoods. This again was a purely leisure activity, but here participants played in Sunday attire instead of working clothes, in front of families, and more musical instruments and people to play them were available. Since this was very different from former gang mayhem in Rio, it did not provoke the same kind of repression. Republican legislators were more worried about evidence of gang activity rather than mere “exercises of physical dexterity.”

The annual cycle of celebrations of port gangways and patron saints provided a third important social context for Bahian capoeira rodas. Each gangway along the quayside in the harbor organized its own commemoration, usually taking place between August and November, aggregating port workers, sailors, boat owners, and tradesmen. It was sponsored by a wealthier merchant house and entailed a pilgrimage to one of the churches on the waterfront. Playing capoeira intermingled with other Afro-Bahian music and dance. The festas de largo started in November and went until carnival, in February. Almost every week some church would celebrate its patron saint, all of which were syncretized with African orixás (spiritual entities) worshipped by the various nations of candomblé. After the Catholic mass and processions, celebrations continued on the square next to the parish church, where capoeira, batuque, and samba-de-roda circles provided again the key performative attractions. It was here that good capoeira players could exhibit their skills to a wider audience and poorer young males could impress their peers. Yet it was also the situation where repression was the most likely. One subchief of police, Pedro Gordilho, carved himself a reputation during the 1920s for having his subordinates break up capoeira rodas, as well as invading candomblé shrines, arresting priests and confiscating instruments and cult objects. This was part of a wider campaign, particularly in the press, stigmatizing all Afro-Brazilian forms as barbarous.15

It is in this ambivalent context of post-emancipation that Bahian capoeira evolved and acquired what can be considered its classical form during the first decades of the 20th century. Ethnographic accounts, newspaper reports, and oral history facilitate a more accurate and detailed picture of Bahian capoeira during the post-emancipation period.

Capoeira took place in an imaginary circle formed by the orchestra (bateria) and the other participants or spectators. Two players kneeled down in front of each other and next to the orchestra, at the “foot” of the berimbau. They listened to a preliminary song, called “litany” (ladainha) and waited for subsequent “praise” (reza or canto de entrada), when some of the standard phrases such as “turn around the world” (volta ao mundo) from the lead singer, repeated by the chorus, indicated that the game could begin. Players crossed themselves, drew signs on the ground, and started their game. Many capoeira groups today still comply with this basic structure and ritual. The movements were less standardized than those used today in Contemporary Capoeira or the Angola style. All kicks developed from the syncopated basic step or sway (ginga) that kept players in permanent movement and always in tune to the rhythm played by the orchestra. Movements required good balance and flexibility, as well as strength, since players often equilibrated themselves on their arms or their head while executing a kick. There is some controversy regarding the instruments used in the former rodas, in particular regarding the berimbau and the drum. All sources suggest that the berimbau (musical bow) might only have been incorporated into capoeira at the beginning of the century.16 Furthermore, all early-20th-century sources seem to agree that no drum (atabaque) was employed but only berimbaus and tambourines (pandeiros). They were eventually complemented by some other percussion instruments, such as the chocalho (metal rattle), the reco-reco (scraper), and the agogô (metal bell). Moreover, the berimbaus were not necessarily restricted to three. Early photographs and drawings of capoeira orchestras confirm this flexibility of the number of berimbaus and tambourines. As in Rio de Janeiro, the “professional” Bahian practitioner developed an idiosyncratic way of dressing (consisting of scarf, trousers with a big hem, golden earrings, and pointed boots) and walking, derived from the ginga. In other words he represented a social type and a whole subculture.

The game consisted of avoiding the other player’s attack through an acrobatic escape movement such as the “negation” (negativa) and riposting with a counterattack. The game became therefore a sort of dialogue, where each movement provided a reply to the other player’s previous one. Players could show off through particularly acrobatic movements but also through malice (malícia). Malice or deception—also a key concept in modern capoeira—was meant to lull the other player into a false sense of security, only to surprise him with a move he was not expecting. However, respect for the other player usually meant the attack was not carried out; it was only to show him what one could have done. This was enough to score points in front of an initiated public. A carefully executed rasteira or a soft head-butt that threw the other off balance was equally acceptable, although it raised the stake of the game. Full contact was therefore unusual and almost proscribed and, when it happened—due to inattention or provocation—could lead to retaliation and the outbreak of violence. The employment of malícia meant that the game did not just represent an athletic competition, where the youngest and strongest could show off. Experience was paramount for a skillful game, and for that reason older mestres were able to keep in control even when playing with much younger practitioners.17 The capoeira orchestra (bateria) played a range of rhythms (toques) during a roda. Each toque consisted of a basic rhythmic-melodic pattern and its variations. The berimbau with the deepest sound took the lead, and the others instruments followed, countermarking or varying the basic pattern. The most common toques were São Bento Grande, São Bento Pequeno, Angola, Santa Maria, Angolinha, Jogo de Dentro, and Cavalaria.18 Yet there was no strict consistency regarding the names and the rhythmic pattern of each toque.19

Most testimonies agree that games in this period could be tough but usually did not cross the borderline into real fights. Capoeira players called each other “comrades” (camará), not opponents or fighters. Old mestres also insist that players were well aware of the different types of games, which varied according to the toque played by the orchestra. Common characterizations differentiated between high and low; inside and outside; fast and slow; and acrobatic, playful, or aggressive games. The particular toques thus provided a framework for the different modalities of play. Since boundaries between rather playful and more antagonistic games were blurred, every jogo could potentially cross the borderline and deteriorate into an open confrontation. Only the mestres in charge were able to prevent this by calling the players back to the “foot” of the berimbau to admonish them, or by changing the rhythm or the song. Hence the strategic ambiguity between game and fight resided at the very core of the art. Despite the insistence of many old mestres that in this period there was less aggression in capoeira than today and that friendship reigned between “comrades,” games occasionally did become violent. Capoeira was more than a game; it could be a lethal weapon.

Songs were central to the capoeira game. They conjured up memories of capoeiras of the past, praised orixás and saints and asked them for protection, exhorted players, and commented on the ongoing game.20 Capoeiras drew from a wide repertoire of tradition during each roda performance, but they were not bound to a mere, uncreative repetition of existing songs. They rather rearranged known songs, weaving their own biography, convictions, and feelings into the lyrics and interpretation. If the refrain sung by the chorus repeated a traditional verse, the solo singer could, after chanting some of the well-known verses, fully improvise his part. Usually singers did use older, established verses but inserted others of their own creation, to compose a song that was suited for the particular context of a given performance. In that way they could acknowledge tradition while at the same time display their skills as improvisers. Thus every capoeira song performed in a roda constituted an intertextual bricolage.21

The Modernization of Capoeira

Capoeira evolved considerably in the second part of the 20th century in part because Brazilian society went through major changes. The modernization of capoeira also resulted from its interaction with foreign martial arts, in particular from Asia. After Japan defeated Russia in 1905, the West became interested in its martial skills. The arts of the samurai (bushido) were modernized in Japan after the Meiji Restoration so that they could be taught and practiced by civilians. A number of sensei traveled to the West to exhibit their skills. In Brazil, ju-jitsu fighters challenged urban audiences to step in the ring and confront them. Some capoeiras accepted the challenge, and even if some of them occasionally won, they were often defeated. The first ju-jitsu school was registered in 1914, and others followed, eventually resulting in a specific Brazilian style of the art, the now famous BJJ.22 Since the beginning of the 20th century some Brazilian intellectuals have argued that capoeira needed to be redeemed from its criminal background to become a national sport. A sportsman and boxer from Rio, Anibal Burlamaqui, developed a teaching method for capoeira moves and published a manual in 1928. But his “national gymnastics” had been cleared of its Afro-Brazilian cultural roots. There was no music or ginga, and practitioners were supposed to practice in boxer attire. That was the capoeira that had survived in Rio.

In Bahia, a capoeira master, Manoel dos Reis Machado (1900–1974)—better known as Mestre Bimba—became increasingly unsatisfied with capoeira as it was practiced at the time. According to him, it was overly playful with too much pantomime and not efficient enough for real fights. Bimba developed a new style, eliminating the most theatrical aspects of traditional vadiação (e.g., the chamadas or “calls” during which the proper game stopped while practitioners executed ritualized, dance-like steps) and incorporating a range of new kicks, inspired by Asian martial arts but also French savate and Greco-Roman wrestling.23 To distance his style from traditional capoeira he called it “Bahian Regional Fight,” a term later abbreviated to “Regional.” Even more importantly, he devised a teaching method for capoeira, which so far had only been taught quite unsystematically, on a one-to-one basis. For example, he developed six “sequences,” each of which consisted of a string of attacks and defenses to be practiced by two students repeatedly until they familiarized themselves with them and could execute them at high speed. Bimba moreover moved the training away from the street into a closed space, which he called, perhaps inspired by his pupils who were university students, the “academy.”

Bimba’s didactics were probably the most important innovation, because they allowed a much more systematic teaching of capoeira. His students could graduate in only two years, and given their intense training of attacks and the focus on speed, they were able to defeat not only many traditional capoeiras but also more experienced fighters. During the 1930s and 1940s Bimba had his best students confront other fighters in the ring in prize matches with large audiences in various Brazilian cities.24 This helped to advertise his new style even more but also had some drawbacks. The emphasis on fighting tended to eliminate the playful and ritual aspects. The ring was hardly a propitious environment for a capoeira orchestra, and prize matches with fighters from other martial arts were increasingly hampered by arguments over the rules that should prevail, for example regarding the proper attire or the attacks that should be allowed. Therefore Bimba and most of his students eventually retreated from the ring and concentrated on consolidating their style. In contrast to earlier attempts to transform capoeira into a sport by eliminating its African roots, Bimba did maintain core Afro-Brazilian rituals of the roda, including the orchestra (based on berimbau and tambourines only), and his rhythms became another hallmark of Regional. At the same time he created, with the help of his pupils with an academic background, new rituals that contributed to attract new audiences. For instance he invented two new rites of passage, a “baptism” ceremony for new and graduation ceremonies for advanced students in his “academy.” Students, or capoeiristas as they were now called, were expected to abide by strict rules of the academy, such as, for example, abstaining from drinking alcohol.

These ceremonies reaffirmed the separation between beginners and graduated students and contributed toward the creation of a hierarchy that had not existed before.25 It also enhanced the group’s identity, which was further reinforced through adoption of white uniforms with the emblem of the school—a Solomon star with an R inside, topped by a cross. No doubt Bimba’s religious background—he had been initiated in Afro-Bahian Candomblé religion at an early age and was the chief drummer at his wife’s shrine—provided the materials with which he and his group built a definitively modern style that proved to be attractive to new and wider audiences. Some of his middle-class students also helped his academy become officially recognized by the Bahian state government in 1937, an important step toward the decriminalization of the art. All of these innovations did not necessarily please other practitioners, even though Bimba invited them to join. Bimba’s success made them feel that he was betraying genuine capoeira in order to promote himself. Ever since then, the meaning of Regional has been an object of heated disputes.26

The emergence of Regional not only decisively contributed to the survival of an art form that may have disappeared otherwise, but it also provoked the development of a second, competing style, which modernized by emphasizing tradition. During the 1930s, a civil guard known as Amorzinho held a roda in Gengibirra, an area within the popular black neighborhood of Liberdade, in Salvador. His profession may have helped to avoid repression. A group of twenty-two respected mestres attended that regular roda, and they constituted the core group resisting the innovations of Regional, which some other mestres had been adopting, at least in part. Among them were many respected mestres such as Antônio Maré, Juvenal, and Noronha. According to the latter, this was the first capoeira Angola center. After the death of Amorzinho in 1942, Vicente Ferreira Pastinha took over the direction of the center and dedicated the rest of his long life to promote what became known as the Angola style. Pastinha became the main—even if not undisputed—figurehead of Bahian capoeira traditionalists for a number of reasons. He was an extraordinary skilled player, having been initiated into capoeira at the end of the 19th century by Benedito, an old Angolan freedman, and he had practiced fencing, jack-knife techniques, and Swedish gymnastics while serving in the Navy as an adolescent. Moreover, he was an accomplished musician, who not only had learned to play capoeira music but also had received training in the Navy orchestra. Although he received no formal education beyond primary school, he became the most articulate Angola master, enjoying reflection, in conversations, interviews, or writing, about capoeira. He therefore became “the first popular capoeirista to analyse capoeira as a philosophy and to worry about the ethical and educational aspects of his practice.”27 He also enjoyed the support of many Bahian intellectuals, such as Jorge Amado, who hailed him as preserving one of the city’s core traditions. Having himself experienced trouble with the police as a young man, Pastinha later identified the “tough guys” of the past as being responsible for the bad image of capoeira. He wanted to establish distance between these troublemakers and Capoeira Angola, and for that reason he named his center “Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola.” The ethics of sports spreading at that moment throughout the Western world seemed to provide Pastinha with a model consistent with the type of behavior he wanted to see implemented in the capoeira rodas. This meant establishing a clear differentiation between capoeira as a game, capoeira as a defense, and capoeira as a training method. Yet at the same time Pastinha, together with the other icons of the Angola style, such as M. Waldemar or Cobrinha Verde, emphasized the role of music in controlling and giving meaning to the game, the need to learn the “foundations” of capoeira, and the initiatory character of the art requiring a long process of apprenticeship. All this made capoeira Angola more than a simple sport but rather a holistic art with its own philosophy and an elaborate ritual. This also meant maintaining aspects such as the “calls” even if they were not “efficient.” If Pastinha did not invent, like Bimba, an entirely new style, he nevertheless contributed significantly to codify the capoeira of his time, establishing norms for Angola still valid today. Regarding the music, for example, he institutionalized the existing song forms ladainha, chula and corrido as the trilogy for a proper game. He also codified the capoeira orchestra as consisting of three berimbaus, one drum, two tambourines, one bell, and a scraper. Similar to Bimba, Pastinha required his students to take regular classes in a closed “academy” and to wear uniforms modeled on sport jerseys. The colors yellow and black were inspired by those of Ipiranga, his preferred football club, and became another hallmark of the Angola style, or at least one core variant of it. In contrast to Bimba’s Regional, though, the Angola style did not immediately become very popular. As his generation of mestres passed away, Pastinha emerged as the increasingly undisputed voice of traditional capoeira—but after he died in 1981, very few people practiced the Angola style.

The Growth of Contemporary Capoeira

From the late 1940s onwards, capoeira masters and their groups started to demonstrate their skills in the more developed cities of southeast Brazil. Capoeira became part of folklore shows and was performed alongside other Afro-Bahian forms such as samba-de-roda, candomblé, and maculêlê. Just like prize matches in the ring (which continued until the 1950s), this was a new setting, which not only contributed to disseminate the art but eventually resulted in new adaptations. Furthermore, thousands of Northeasterners migrated to the growing metropolises of the Southeast, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, in the search for jobs and a better standard of living. Among them were a number of capoeira practitioners and even masters. Playing capoeira after work was a way to reconnect to their homeland, but some soon realized it could also become a source of income if taught to locals. Not all of them were successful, but by 1970 nine capoeira academies existed in the city of São Paulo alone, all led by Bahians from both Regional and Angola style.28 The conflict between both styles seemed less relevant in the new setting, where cooperation among all capoeiristas appeared the best way to ensure the art would take root in the metropolis.

A good case in point is the Cordão de Ouro group, set up by mestres Suassuna and Brasília. Suassuana had first learned traditional capoeira in southern Bahia but had then trained with Bimba’s students before coming to São Paulo. Brasília was a student of M. Canjiquinha, a prominent angoleir, and founder of an important capoeira lineage. As a result, Bahians in the southeast of Brazil usually no longer claimed to belong to a specific style but asserted that they taught capoeira full stop.

A number of Bahian masters from both styles were also established in Rio de Janeiro, such as Paraná, Roque, and Mário Santos. Artur Emídio (1930–2011), a prize-fighter who nevertheless stuck to the rituals and the music of capoeira, was probably the most influential. Most capoeira masters of the second generation in Rio were his students: Leopoldina, Paulo Gomes, Celso do Engenha da Rainha, and Djalma Bandeira. That capoeira was established mainly in the poorer neighborhoods in the “Northern zone” or even the periphery such as Caxias, where a capoeira street roda has been in existence since the 1970s. Another important development was the emergence of the Senzala group in the richer “Southern zone” of the city. Two adolescents discovered capoeira during a trip to Salvador where they trained in Bimba’s academy. They decided to continue training on their own on the veranda of their flat, and soon a group of white, middle-class youngsters were training with them (although there were also some boys from the nearby shantytown). They received further support from Bimba’s students, some of whom established themselves in Rio. The Senzala group developed their own training method, including “exhaustive and methodological repetition of kicks,” “systematic trainings of kick-counterattack and kick-fall carried out by pairs.”29 This renewed emphasis on speed and efficiency, and the systematic use of grappling techniques resulted in Senzala students performing well in the capoeira competitions that were being organized. Their decentralized structure—with every teacher, soon master, being relatively autonomous—also appealed to the new, middle-class audiences, and Senzala became a model organization for capoeira groups all over Brazil. Several important figures subsequently left and established their own organizations. The most prominent example is M. Camisa. He founded Capoeira Abadá, which was to become the most important organization worldwide, claiming 20,000 members in 1996.30

The initial expansion of capoeira throughout Brazil took place during the 1960s to the 1980s, when the military was ruling the country. There were various attempts to transform capoeira into a national sport and institutionalize it. M. Bimba had already taught recruits in 1938, and in the 1960s capoeira was taught by Artur Emídio and others to Navy recruits in Rio. More important still was the creation of capoeira federations in each state, with the aim of standardizing practice and imposing norms on capoeira groups. The “Technical Rules of Capoeira” were adopted in 1972 and likened capoeira to an athletic competition with judges awarding points and ranking competitors. Some prominent mestres adhered to the Federations, expecting support for their own groups. But many others resented the imposition of rules, for instance stating that groups had to use the greeting “Salve!” before or after classes, adopt a system of colored belts, or display the Brazilian flag in the academy. Retrospectively it is clear that most of the growth capoeira experienced in this period did not happen within the Federations but through the independent groups. In São Paulo, for example, two influential groups, Capitães de Areia and Cativeiro, emerged based on an alternative model of “cultural resistance,” aiming to maintain the “foundations” of capoeira against control from above and its absorption into a highly standardized sport.

Most capoeira groups in the Southeast merged elements of the two Bahian styles, for example Bimba’s sequence of movements with the music and instruments of Angola. Many masters insisted that there was only one capoeira and hence the denomination “Contemporary capoeira” began to be used for what was in fact not one unified style but rather a vast range of practices shaped by the idiosyncrasy of individual groups and their masters. In Rio de Janeiro one student of Pastinha academy, though, insisted that Angola was different. After the death of Pastinha in 1981, M. Moraes established in Salvador and spearheaded the revival of the traditionalist Angola style. Angoleiros ever since insist on the specificity of their style and traditions.

Capoeira: From Slave Combat Game to Global Martial ArtClick to view larger

Figure 3. M. João Grande being awarded Ordem do Mérito by president Dilma Rouseff (2015).

Photo by Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil. CC BY 3.0 BR.

Since the 1960s some masters had traveled abroad for exhibitions, but it was not until the late 1970s that some established themselves as teachers in western Europe and the United States.31 During the 1980s and 1990s, capoeira became a popular practice in many western European and US cities as well as in Israel and Japan. It also started to expand into Spanish America, Africa, eastern Europe, Australia, and a number of Asian countries. Today it is practiced by millions of young people, including women, in virtually every country in the world. This globalization happened “from below,” without any institutional support, hence transnationalization is a more adequate term.32 It relied on various vectors, including individual migration but also systematic efforts by some groups to establish affiliate nuclei or franchises. The Brazilian Ministry of Culture started a process of official recognition in 2007, which culminated with capoeira being recognized as “cultural patrimony of the humanity” by UNESCO in 2014. It remains to be seen what benefits this growing institutionalization will bring to the art.

Discussion of the Literature

History is paramount to capoeira practice, to the point that playing capoeira can be considered a re-enactment of the sinister past of slavery and the resistance against it.33 The way capoeira history is told therefore reflects and expresses the meaning practitioners give to their practice. The history of capoeira has been and still is told from various perspectives.

The Brazilian nationalist narrative presents capoeira as a typical and unique Brazilian art form, developed by slaves in runaway communities in the distant interior. It tends to deny any African input and the existence of similar art forms in the Black Atlantic.34 The Afrocentric narrative, in contrast, emphasizes the African origins of capoeira. In its most fundamentalist expression it asserts that capoeira is derived from one single Angolan form, engolo, or the zebra dance, hence dismissing the extent to which capoeira was shaped by its development on Brazilian soil as well as disregarding the lack of historical evidence about this hypothetical link.35 Capoeira mestres developed a more corporative narrative that emphasizes the importance of oral tradition and their traditional knowledge, dismissing archival evidence as nonexistent or flawed.36 The class narrative, in contrast, underscores the role of capoeira as a tool of the oppressed, disregarding the ambiguities of the art’s social insertion.37 These master narratives emerged from the interaction between capoeiristas, intellectuals, and academics. Since most capoeira scholars are or have been practitioners themselves, it is impossible to cleanly separate academic and emic (originated within capoeira) discourses. Research and discussions have also led many scholars to adopt more nuanced approaches, so these meta-narratives should be seen as basic trends structuring the field.

Nineteenth-century capoeira in Rio de Janeiro was first explored by Holloway and Bretas, who, based on criminal records, highlighted the confrontations between capoeira and police. Talmon-Chvaicer depicts capoeiras as heroic defenders of entire communities, a rather romantic interpretation of these fights not really borne out by the sources. By far the most substantial work to this date are the two monographs published by Soares, which rely on extensive research and use a wide range of primary sources. Capoeira in Rio during the First Republic is the topic of Luiz Sergio Dias’ research. He traces how the Republican clampdown resulted in capoeira surviving only when assuming new forms, in particular the collective samba duro associated with batucadas, and the individual character of the cafajeste, or rogue. Pires in his Culturas circulares, in contrast, focuses on the men arrested for supposedly practicing capoeira in the years 1890 to 1920 and shows that the majority of them were workers. Moura’s work traces individual episodes of great relevance for capoeira in this period.38

Bahian capoeira has received more attention recently. The late Fred Abreu, who personally knew the entire old guard of capoeira, has not only tried to elucidate the enigma of 19th-century capoeira in Salvador but also provided seminal studies of epic masters such as Bimba and Waldemar.39 Pires also studied Bahian capoeira in the First Republic, but the problem here is that the criminal records he used never mention capoeira. Some cross-referencing with oral history, however, shows that a number of capoeiras of that period were indeed the same “tough guys” in permanent trouble with the police.40 Studies by Adriana Dias and Josivaldo Oliveira have shown to what extent the worlds of workers and vagrants and capoeira intersected in Salvador. Acuña’s study examines the relationship between M. Pastinha and Bahian intellectuals, which was crucial to establish the Angola style. Magalhães traced an alternative strand of capoeira Angola genealogy, focusing on M. Aberrê and Canjiquinha, instead of Pastinha.41 M. Bimba and the creation of Regional is related in a number of studies, some of which were written by his former students (Sodré, Itapoan, Xereu, Moura).42 Luiz Renato Vieira’s account interprets Regional as a paradigmatic case of modernization in the Weberian sense, with its emphasis on efficiency. Letícia Reis’ monograph, in contrast, characterizes both Regional and Angola as modernizing traditional capoeira. Her work on the paulista groups Cativeiro and Capitães de Areia is still the best to date regarding the spread of capoeira to southeast Brazil. There are various histories of specific groups, such as Falcão and Vieira on Beribazu.43 Capoeira in other states has also been the subject of recent research, for example Luiz Leal on Pará, Israel Ozanam on Pernambuco, and Pedro Cunha on São Paulo.44

Some anthropological work on capoeira is also of great interest for historians, in particular the monographs by Downey, Tavares, Lewis, and Gonzalez that all grew out of doctoral dissertations.45 A good contrast between contemporary Angola and Regional is provided by Zonzon.46 A growing number of books by capoeira masters are being published, some of which cover historical aspects in more depth (Nestor Capoeira) or provide clues about their own development in capoeira. The best ones so far available in English are those by M. Nestor Capoeira and Bira Almeida (M. Acordeon).47 Doctoral dissertations that focus on one eminent master are also increasingly common.48

The globalization of capoeira is the subject of an increasing amount of research and doctoral dissertations. Aceti develops an interesting model of the various ways capoeira spread in Europe.49

Granada compares the transnationalization of capoeira in Paris and London, while Guizardi looks at this same process in Spain and Joseph in Canada.50 A recent, innovative approach to capoeira in a British setting is provided by Delamont et al., while Rosa explores to what extent the ginga, or basic capoeira step, has contributed to the Brazilian idiosyncratic way of moving one’s body.51 Assunção provides an attempt of synthesis of capoeira history in English and an overview of the research until 2004.52 The collections of essays edited by Pires et al. and Simplicio and Pochat provide good insights into more recent work.53

Primary Sources

Nineteenth-century primary sources consist primarily of judicial records or newspaper articles, which are available at the National Library and National Archive in Rio de Janeiro, and Brazilian regional archives. The first insider accounts around the turn of the century are provided by a Portuguese poet, Plácido de Abreu, and the writer Lima Campos.54 Important early descriptions are given by Querino and Burlamaqui.55 For 20th-century capoeira, newspapers are again an important source. During the 1930s reports on capoeira migrated from the crime section to the pages dedicated to culture. A growing number of folklorists and ethnographers provide accounts of capoeira in the first half of the 20th century, in particular Edison Carneiro. Two eminent capoeira masters also left their personal narratives or memoirs: Pastinha and Noronha.56 From that generation of masters we also have the long interviews with M. Cobrinha Verde and M. Atenilo.57 Abreu and Barros provide a collection of short accounts from various masters.58 In the last twenty years a number of capoeira masters have published their own memoirs or narratives.59

Iconographic sources are crucial for the understanding of the history of capoeira. For the early 19th century we have a number of drawings, paintings, and engravings. The most important artists are Johann Moritz Rugendas and Augustus Earle. Photography of capoeira becomes important from the 1930s onward. Here outstanding contributions came from Pierre Verger and Marcel Gautherot.

The first known audio recordings of capoeira music were made by Lorenzo Turner (1941) and some radio reporters, such as André Lacé, who broadcasted interviews and music in their programs during the 1950s and 1960s. The first moving images of capoeira are even more important to document the historical changes capoeira underwent. Early registers include footages used in TV reports. Two early documentary films stand out because of their value as historical documents: Vadiação (dir. Alexandre Robato, 1954) and Dança de Guerra (dir. Jair Moura, 1968). More recent documentaries cover the lives of famous mestres of the past, such as Mestre Bimba—A capoeira iluminada (dir. Luiz Fernando Goulart, 2007), Pastinha, Uma vida pela capoeira (dir. Antonio Carlos Muricy, 1998), Mestre Leopoldina, a fina flor da malandragem (dir. Rose La Creta, 2005), or, still in circulation, O Zelador/The Caretaker (dir. Daren Bartlett, 2007). The mythical Black Beetle is the subject of two films: Besouro Preto (dir. Salim Rollins, 2003) and Memórias do Reconcâvo: Besouro e outros capoeiras (dir. Pedro Abib, 2008). A number of documentaries have a broader focus on the art, for example Capoeira em Cena (dir. Mercio Queiroz and Ricardo Ottoni, 1982). Mandinga em Manhattan (dir. Lázaro Farias, 2006) and Capoeira, um passo a dois (dir. Jorge Itapuã, 2016) show the globalization of capoeira. Verses and Cudgels (dir. Matthias Assunção and Hebe Mattos, 2009) documents a kind of rural capoeira with sticks in the Paraíba Valley in Rio de Janeiro state. Body Games: Capoeira and Ancestry (dir. Richard Pakleppa et al., 2014) explores the Angolan roots of the art.

Capoeira is very present on the Internet: a Google search at the time of writing produces more than 19 million hits. Virtually every capoeira group has its own website, and some of them have substantial information on their group’s history and their approach to capoeira. YouTube constitutes a rich repository of visual sources for capoeira. With over 2 million clips (as of 2017) uploaded by users, it provides an excellent research tool. A number of YouTube channels and web portals direct users to selected materials, such as or Portal Capoeira.

Further Reading

Abib, Pedro Rodolpho Jungers. Mestres e capoeiras famosos da Bahia. Salvador: EDUFBA, 2009.Find this resource:

Abreu, Fred José de. “Bimba é bamba.” A capoeira no ringue. Salvador: Instituto Jair Moura, 1999.Find this resource:

Acuña, Mauricio. Intelectuais na capoeira e capoeiristas intelectuais, 1930–1969. São Paulo: Alameda, 2014.Find this resource:

Almeida, B. (Mestre Acordeon). Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form: History, Philosophy and Practice, 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1986.Find this resource:

Assunção, Matthias Röhrig. Capoeira: The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art. London: Routledge, 2005.Find this resource:

Bretas, Marcos L. “A queda do império da navalha e da rasteira (A Républica e os capoeiras).” In Estudos Afro-Asiáticos, no. 20, 239–256, 1991.Find this resource:

Capoeira, Nestor. Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game. Berkeley, CA: Blue Snake, 2002.Find this resource:

Castro, Mauricio Barros de. Mestre João Grande: Na roda do mundo. Rio de Janeiro: Garamond, FBN, 2010.Find this resource:

Delamont, Sara, Neil Stephens, and Claudio Campos. Embodying Brazil: An Ethnography of Diasporic Capoeira. New York, NY: Routledge, 2017.Find this resource:

Dias, Adriana Albert. Mandinga, manha e malícia: Uma história sobre os capoeiras na capital da Bahia (1910–1925). Salvador: EDUFBA, 2006.Find this resource:

Dias, Luiz Sergio. Quem tem medo da capoeira? Rio de Janeiro,1890–1904. Rio de Janeiro: Secretaria Municipal das Culturas, Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 2001.Find this resource:

Downey, Greg. Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Gonzáles Varela, Sérgio. Power in Practice: The Pragmatic Anthropology of Afro-Brazilian Capoeira. New York, NY: Berghahn, 2017.Find this resource:

Granada, Daniel da Silva Ferreira. Pratique de la capoeira en France et au Royaume Uni. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015.Find this resource:

Guizardi, Menara Lube. Etnografia de una historia transnacional entre Brasil y Madrid. Santiago de Chile: Ed Universidade Alberto Hurtaxo, 2017.Find this resource:

Holloway, Thomas. “A Healthy Terror’: Police Repression of Capoeiras in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro.” Hispanic American Historical Review 69, no. 4(1989): 637–676.Find this resource:

Lewis, J. Lowell. Ring of Liberation: Deceptive Discourse in Brazilian Capoeira. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Oliveira, Josivaldo Pires de. No tempo dos valentes: Os capoeiras na Cidade da Bahia. Salvador: Quarteto, 2005.Find this resource:

Pires, A. L. Cardoso Simões. Culturas circulares: A formação histórica da capoeira contemporânea no Rio de Janeiro. Curitiba: Editora Progressiva, 2010.Find this resource:

Rego, Waldeloir. Capoeira Angola: Ensaio sócio-etnográfico. Salvador: Itapuã, 1968.Find this resource:

Rego, Waldeloir. Capoeira Angola: Ensaio sócio-etnográfico, 2nd ed. Salvador: FGM, 2015.Find this resource:

Reis, Letícia Vitor de Sousa. O mundo de pernas para o ar: A capoeira no Brasil. São Paulo: Publisher Brazil, 1997.Find this resource:

Soares, Carlos Eugênio Líbano. A capoeira escrava e outras tradições rebeldes no Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp, 2001.Find this resource:

Soares, Carlos Eugênio Líbano, A negregada instituição: Os capoeiras no Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, 1994.Find this resource:

Sodré, Muniz. Mestre Bimba: Corpo de mandinga. Rio de Janeiro: Manati, 2002.Find this resource:

Talmon-Chvaicer, Maya. The Hidden History of Capoeira: A Collision of Cultures in the Brazilian Battle Dance. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Vieira, Luiz Renato. O jogo da capoeira: Corpo e cultura popular no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Sprint, 1995.Find this resource:

Vieira, Luiz Renato, and Matthias Röhrig Assunção. “Mitos, controvérsias e fatos: Construindo a história da capoeira.” Estudos Afro-Asiáticos no. 34 (1998): 81–120.Find this resource:


(1.) Nireu Cavalcanti. Crônicas históricas do Rio colonial (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2004), 201–202.

(2.) For census figures and a detailed analysis of Rio’s African population, see Mary Karasch. Slave Life in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), chapter 1.

(3.) Edict from 6.12.1817, quoted in Carlos Eugênio Líbano Soares, A capoeira escrava e outras tradições rebeldes no Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1850 (Campinas: Editora da Unicamp, 2001), 557. On the Intendant, also see Kirsten Schultz, Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1821 (New York, NY: Routledge, 2001).

(4.) Leila M. Algranti. O feitor ausente: Estudo sobre a escravidão urbana no Rio de Janeiro (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1988), 209.

(5.) Soares, Capoeira escrava, 599.

(6.) Soares, Capoeira escrava, 125.

(7.) Aluisio Azevedo. A Brazilian Tenement (New York, NY: H Fertig, 1976; 1st Brazilian ed., 1890).

(8.) Alexandre José de Mello Morais Filho. Fests e tradições populares do Brasil (Belo Horizonte: Itatiaia, 1979), 260.

(9.) Soares, Capoeira escrava, 73.

(13.) Luiz Sergio Dias, “Da Turma do Lira ao cafajeste: A sobrevivência da capoeira no Rio de Janeiro,” doctoral dissertation (Rio de Janeiro: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, 2000).

(14.) For descriptions of early-20th-century capoeira, see the writings by Antonio Vianna, in particular Quintal de Nagô e outras crônicas (Salvador: Universidade Federal de Bahia, Centro de Estudos Baianos, 1979).

(15.) Angela Lühning, “‘Acabe com este santo, Pedrito vem aí’ Mito e realidade da perseguição policial ao candomblé baiano entre 1920 e 1942,” Revista USP 28 (1995–1996): 194–220.

(16.) E. Carneiro, “Capoeira,” Cadernos de Folclore, no. 1 (Rio de Janeiro: MEC, 1977), 20; E. L. Powe, Capoeira & Congo (Madison: Dan Aiki Publications, 2002), 30.

(17.) Jorge Amado, Bahia de Todos os Santos (Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1977), 239–240.

(18.) For a complete list of toques played by eight different mestres, see Waldeloir Rego, Capoeira Angola (Salvador: Itapuã, 1968), 59–62.

(19.) When Kay Shaffer, in the 1970s, asked the same old mestres to play the rhythms from the list each of them had provided to Waldeloir Rego in the 1960s, he discovered that some of them had since changed their mind and provided him with different lists or played them differently. See K. Shaffer, O Berimbau-de barriga e seus toques (Rio de Janeiro: FUNARTE, 1977), 41–42; and also Rego, Capoeira Angola, 62–64.

(20.) The available early recordings are the LPs by M. Bimba, Caiçara, Canjiquinha, Cobrinha Verde, Pastinha, Traíra, and Waldemar.

(21.) For capoeira lyrics, see Rego, Capoeira Angola; and Matthias Röhrig Assunção, “History and Memory in Capoeira Lyrics from Bahia, Brazil,” in The Portuguese Black Atlantic, ed. D. Treece, N. Naro and R. Sansi (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 199–217.

(22.) Raimundo C. Alves de Almeida (M. Itapoan), Mestre Bimba (Salvador: Author’s edition, 1995), 21.

(23.) For a list of the kicks, as published in Bahian newspaper A Tarde, 16.3.1936, see Fred José de Abreu, “Bimba é bamba.” A capoeira no ringue (Salvador: Instituto Jair Moura, 1999), 68.

(24.) The best account of these episodes is given by Abreu, “Bimba é bamba.”

(26.) For an overall appreciation, see Matthias Röhrig, Capoeira: The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art (London: Routledge, 2005), 140–149.

(27.) Angelo A. Decanio Filho, A herança de Pastinha (Salvador: Author’s edition, 1996), v.

(28.) For a complete list, see Revista Capoeira I, no. 4 (1998): 24.

(29.) Nestor Capoeira, Capoeira: Os fundamentos da malícia (Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1992), 92–93.

(30.) Revista Capoeira I, nos. 2 (1998): 32.

(31.) For an analysis of “Viva Bahia”, the most prominent folcloric group which established a pattern of capoeira exhibitions in Brazil and abroad, see Ana Paula Höfling, “Staging Capoeira, Samba, Maculelê and Candomblé: Viva Bahia’s Choreographies of Afro-Brazilian Folklore for the Global Stage,” in Performing Brazil, ed. S. J. Albuquerque et al. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2015), 98–105.

(33.) Greg J. Downey, “Incorporating Capoeira: Phenomenology of a Movement Discipline,” doctoral dissertation (University of Chicago, 1998), 121.

(34.) See for example Inezil Penna Marinho, Subsídios para a história da capoeiragem (Rio de Janeiro: SCP, 1956). A more recent example is Paulo Coêlho de Araujo, Abordagens sócio-antroplógicas da luta/jogo da capoeira (Porto: Instituto Superior da Maia, 1997).

(35.) For a broader perspective on central African links see the work by Gerhard Kubik, in particular Angolan Traits in Black Music, Games and Dances of Brazil. A Study of African Cultural Extension Overseas (Lisboa: Junta de Investigaçôes Científicas do Ultramar, 1979); and Kazadi wa Mukuna, Bantu Contribution in Brazilian Popular Music: Ethnomusicological Perspectives (New York: Diasporic Africa Press, 2014). The most elaborated form of Afrocentric narrative on capoeira is provided by T. J. Obi-Desch, Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World (Columbia: South Carolina Press, 2008). Desch considers capoeira as a direct continuation of engolo, despite the absolute lack of any evidence on the latter from the time of the slave trade or even before the 1950s. For the link between berimbau and African musical bows, see Richard Graham, “Technology and Culture Change: The Development of the ‘Berimbau’ in Colonial Brazil,” Latin American Music Review/Revista de Musica Latinoamericana 12, no. 1 (1991): 1–20.

(36.) Pedro Rodolpho Jungers Abib, Capoeira Angola: Cultura popular e jogo dos saberes na roda (Campinas, Salvador: UNICAMP/EDUFBA, 2005) discusses the importance of traditional knowledge of capoeira masters.

(37.) For more on capoeira master narratives, see Assunção, Capoeira, chapter 1.

(38.) Jair Moura, A capoeiragem no Rio de Janeiro através dos séculos (Salvador: JM Editora, 2009).

(39.) Frederico José de Abreu, O barracão de Mestre Waldemar (Salvador: Zarbatana, 2003); Capoeiras: Bahia, século XIX: imaginário e documentação (Salvador: Instituto Jair Moura, 2005); and O Batuque: A luta braba (Salvador: Instituto Frede Abreu, 2014).

(40.) Antônio Liberac Cardoso Simões Filho, A capoeira na Bahia de todos os Santos: Um estudo sobre cultura e classes trabalhadoras, 1890–1937 (Porto Nacional, NEAB/Grafset, 2004).

(41.) Paulo Andrade Magalhães Filho, Jogo de Discursos. A disputa por hegemonia na tradição da capoeira angola baiana (Salvador: EDUFBA, 2012).

(42.) Helio Campos (M. Xereu), Capoeira Regional: A escola de Mestre Bimba, 2nd ed. (Salvador: EDUFBA, 2014); Almeida, Mestre Bimba; Muniz Sodré, Mestre Bimba: Corpo de mandinga (Rio de Janeiro: Manati, 2002); and Jair Moura, Mestre Bimba: A crônica da malandragem (Salvador: Author’s edition, 1991).

(43.) José Luiz Cirqueira Falcão and Luiz Renato Vieira, eds., História e fundamentos do grupo Beribazu (Brasília: Starprint, 1997).

(44.) Luiz Augusto Pinheiro Leal, “Deixai a politica da capoeiragem gritar”—Capoeira e discursos de vadiagem no Pará, master’s thesis (Universidade Federal de Bahia, 2002); Israel Ozanam, Capoeira e capoeiras entre a Guarda Negra e a Educação Física no Recife, master’s thesis (Federal University of Pernambuco, 2013); and Pedro Figueiredo Alves da Cunha, Capoeiras e valentões na história de São Paulo, 1830–1930 (São Paulo: Alameda, 2013).

(45.) Julio Cesar de Souza Tavares, Gingando and Cooling Out: The Embodied Philosophies of the African Diaspora, doctoral dissertation (University of Texas, 1998). All others have been published as books.

(46.) Christine Nicole Zonzon, Nas pequenas e nas grandes rodas da capoeira e da vida: Corpo, experiência e tradição, doctoral dissertation (Universidade Federal de Bahia, 2014).

(47.) Bira Almeida (M. Acordeon), Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form. History, Philosophy and Practice, 2nd ed. (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1986); Nestor Capoeira, The Little Capoeira Book (Berkeley, CA: Blue Snake, 2003); and Capoeira, a construção da malícia e a filosofia da malandragem, 3 vols. (Rio de Janeiro: Kindle edition, 2010).

(49.) Monica Aceti, “Becoming and Remaining a Capoeira Practitioner in Europe: Giving a Meaning to One’s Commitment,” Society and Leisure 36 (2013): 145–160.

(50.) Daniel Granada da Silva Ferreira, Pratique de la capoeira en France et au Royaume Uni (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2015); Menara Lube Guizardi, Etnografia de una historia transnacional entre Brasil y Madrid (Santiago de Chile: Ed Universidade Alberto Hurtaxo, 2017); and Janelle Joseph, ‘The Practice of Capoeira: Diasporic Black Culture in Canada,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 35, no. 6 (2012): 1078–1095. See also José Luiz Cirqueira Falcão, “The Globalization of Capoeira,” Textos do Brasil no. 14 (Brazil, Ministry of Foreign Relations).

(51.) Sara Delamont, Neil Stephens, and Claudio Campos, Embodying Brazil: An Ethnography of Diasporic Capoeira (New York: Routledge, 2017); and Cristina Rosa, Brazilian Bodies and Their Choreographies: Swing Nation (New York: Macmillan, 2015).

(52.) Assunção, Capoeira.

(53.) Antonio Liberac Cordoso Pires, Paulo Magalhães, Franciane Figueiredo, and Sarah Abreu, eds., Capoeira em múltiplos olhares: Estudos e pesquisas de campo (Cruz das Almas and Belo Horizonte, Ed. UFRB and Fino Traço, 2016); and Franciane Simplício and Alex Pochat, Pensando a capoeira: Dimensões e perspectivas (Salvador: Fundação Gregório de Mattos, 2015).

(54.) P. de Abreu, Os capoeiras. (Rio de Janeiro: Typ. da Escola de Serafim José Alves, 1886); and L. C., “A Capoeira,” Revista Kosmos no. 3 (March 1906): n.p.

(55.) Manuel Querino, A Bahia de outrora, 3rd ed. (Salvador: Livraria Progresso Editora, 1955; 1st ed. 1916); and Anibal Burlamaqui (Zuma), Ginástica nacional: capoeiragem metodizada e regrada (Rio de Janeiro, 1928).

(56.) Daniel Coutinho, O ABC da Capoeira Angola: Os manuscritos do Mestre Noronha (Brasília: DEFER/GDF, 1993); Vincente Ferreira Pastinha (M. Pastinha), “Manuscritos e desenhos de Mestre Pastinha” [original by Angelo Decanio Filho] (Salvador: Author’s edition, 1996); and Capoeira Angola (Salvador: Fundação Cultural doEstado da Bahia, 1988).

(57.) M. dos Santos, ed., Capoeira e mandingas: Cobrinha Verde (Salvador: A Rasteira, 1991); and Raimundo Cesar Alves de Almeida (M. Itapoan), Mestre Atenilo: O “Relâmpago” da Capoeira Regional (Salvador: Author’s edition, 1991).

(58.) Frederico José de Abreu and Maurício Barros de Castro, eds., Capoeira (Rio de Janeiro: Beco de Azougue, 2009).

(59.) Some examples are: Russo de Caxias, Capoeiragem.“Expressões da Roda Livre” (Rio de Janeiro: Impresso Brasil, 2005); and Rosangela Costa Araújo (M. Janja), É preta, Kalunga: A Capoeira Angola como prática política entre os angoleiros baianos—anos 80–90 (Rio de Janeiro: M,C&G, 2015).