Food for Thought

Learning the deadly art of capoeira


Source: The Gaia Health Blog

There are many different forms of martial arts, all originating from different countries and were taught for different reasons. Almost all, if not most, forms of Chinese martial arts, also known as kung fu is the result of the need for self defence against attacks. It was originally taught as a means to avoid confrontation, but you can’t always avoid those who use their skills with a negative purpose in mind.

Capoeira was a means for slaves who were captured by the Portuguese in the 16th century and worked on plantations as a means of resistance and a way to defend themselves. As street fighting as it was originally seen was outlawed and those seen to be practicing capoeira would have been punished, dance, acrobatics and music were incorporated into the movements to avoid raising colonists’ suspicions of any escape attempts.


Source: Ullapool Dance Festival

There are 3 fundamentally different styles of capoeira: capoeira angola (the older and more traditional form with an emphasis on strategy and deception), capoeira regional (With a greater emphasis on fighting techniques) and capoeira contemporânea (a ontemporary fusion of capoeira angola and capoeira regional, although there’s more emphasis on fighting techniques like capoeira regional).


Source: Capoeira Connection

Most modern day classes will most likely teach capoeira contemporânea as it combines the teachings of both original forms of the art. Just like tai chi, to a bystander, it might appear as if it’s a very subdued and ‘safe’ form of martial arts because of the slow movements and seemingly fluid motions that appears beautiful. One should never underestimate its power; martial arts in any form is a deadly art form. At its most basic, these techniques were taught as self defense tactics and still are. Although capoeira incorporates dance and acrobatics and tai chi is seen to be slow and mainly practiced by the elder generations, both are all about the individual’s own control of their body and movements. While it may appear to be a sight to behold, when used under certain circumstances and enough force, it can be dangerous to adversaries.


Capoeira demo video from cameracapoeira

Techniques from capoeira are still used in mixed martial arts fights today and to some extent, some techniques are quite similar across countries and styles. One of the most effective are the roundhouse, front or side kicks which can push back an opponent from a distance, far enough from your face, by using force from your core and through your legs.


Front kick. Source: The Gaia Health Blog

One other thing that never changes in any form of martial arts is that you should never take your eyes off your opponent. In almost any video you find of capoeira, no matter what position the opponents are in, they always maintain eye contact. The eyes of your opponent will more often than not give you an indicator as to what they are planning next or feeling to which you can use to your advantage. In rodas (games between two opponents), or any publicised martial art competitions, it’s always about winning, but never done with malice (the same cannot be said for illegal caged or underground fights.


Source: The Gaia Health Blog

From my BodyCombat classes, I’ve been gaining more and more interest into how I can learn more about different forms of martial arts. I have thought about taking mixed martial arts classes, or at one point krav maga (a form of self defence adopted by the Israeli Defence and Security Forces) but felt this might have been a bit extreme since training will usually involve practicing techniques offensive situations. I have been giving more and more thought to starting capoeira at Capoeira Malungos Edinburgh, because of the mesmerising technique involved in this form of martial arts. I’ve already learned a self defence version of tai chi when I was a teen (called Wing Chun which was taught by the Hong Kong Police Force) and want to learn a different style that is less structured in its defensive tactics but in time, I want to try and learn other forms as well. For now, capoeria is what’s caught my eye.

Although the quality of the video at the beginning isn’t very clear, you can learn more about the origins and basic techniques used in capoeira by watching this video.

Have you been learning the art of capoeira? What is your experience with this form of martial arts?

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