At their heart, all martial arts have a paradox. How can martial be viewed
as an art form? How does this paradox relate to our specific martial art of Capoeira?
Mestre Acordeon, arguably the most famous and influential capoeira
mestre alive, today states that `Capoeira is a complex and fascinating art, a physical challenge and a philosophical enigma`.
He speaks of it as a way of life, `a question of infinite possibilities. It has taught me to be tolerant of myself and
of others, respecting my own weaknesses as well as my strengths. As time passed, capoeira came to be my everyday bread, a
fountain of physical and mental energy to face the worlds contradictions, and a pool of crystaline water to quench my thirst
Capoeira for Mestre Acordeon is obviously more than just about fighting.
The art of capoeira is based in the Afro-Brazilian culture that has for
centuries struggled to be allowed to grow and develop in Brazil. Capoeira the art with its elements of fight, game and ritual,
also includes music and the philosophy of the various African nations that were forcibly taken to Brazil in the time of slavery.
This art form has now become embedded in the Brazilian psyche. Over the last decade capoeira has broken free of its native
land andis now conquering the hearts and minds of people all over the world. It has become truly international and multicultural.
This is something that the social elite in Brazil never foresaw, even some Brazilian Mestre.
Capoeira's history amd beginnings are hidden in the Brazil of long ago with
its social and political upheavels. Its also hidden in the cultural and geographical differences that make up present day
Brazil. Some capoeira historians say that you should add to these facts the existence of more than one type of capoeira.
Nestor Capoeira states that `I am going to propose the thesis
that the fights, dances, rhythms and musical instruments from different African ethnicity did not fuse to escape prohibitions
and to deceive the whites lords, but this synthesis which happened after 1830 in accordance with as general tendency of the
black community, in which the armed fight, impossible to be won, was substituted by the conquering od space and territory
through culture. The Jogo de Capoeira did not have an exclusive centre of dispersion but sprouted spontaneously in different
formats abd in various locations. Materialising in Brazil between 1830 and 1930, a certain archetype existent within the black
As you can see, tracing the winding river of capoeira's history can be fraught
with dead ends, false tributaries and backwaters. In fact it appears that capoeira acts just like a good capoeirista faking,
coming, going and then before you know it, it has changed. If its past history has been somewhat unrecorded, its future history
will not be.
Even today there are variations appearing in capoeira, and it is not only
variations happening as capoeira touches strange new shores. But variations are appearing from the source (Brazil), maybe
these are just the present day manifestations of the different types that have existed in Barzil just as Nestor Capoeira pointed
At the beginning og this century it's generally recognised that there was
just one type of capoeira in existence, namely capoeira Angola.
In the early years of the 20th Century, Mestre Bimba began training in capoeira,
he then developed a style based on the capoeira Angola but with variations namely in his approach to the teaching of capoeira,
in which was a reflection of his times and personal interpretation os capoeira.
Today there are numerous approaches to capoeira mainly based around the
two major streams, capoeira Angola and capoeira Regional. Both schools have groups that teach variations, some are just different
names whilst others have fundamentally different approach to their original.
Some modern schools teach traditionally and some have re-invented
traditions that did not exist. This is not necessarily wrong, for capoeira has always re-invented itself. In fact many times
in it's history, from the slve fights ont he Senzalas as told by Gilberto Freyre, to the capoeira of Rio in the early years
of the 20th Century when it was played in a very aggresive manor with no ground techniques or cartwheels and just accompanied
by the drum with no berimbau. Capoeira can include anything and everything as Mestre Pastinha stated, `Capoeira is everything
that the mouth can eat`.
Today a great majority of schools in both Brazil and the rest og the world
try to encompass aspects of both capoeira Angola and capoeira Regional, what the berimbau plays is what we will play, seems
to my mind to be an approach worthy of commitment. At the heart of the art os capoeira lies the complexity, which is the game
we play with, we interact with each other. We try to build each game into a sophisticated story, that at a best selling author
would be proud of.
Playing gives us real opportunities to manipulate and experiment with people
and objects, pretend with them play parts and roles. This all seems to be an important ingredient in a capoeiristas cognitive
and social development. The main point is that capoeirista need to play the game. We need to be involved in the game, just
as in life we need to participate in it, and not just be a voyeur. for there are no rewind buttons in life.
This I believe is the true benifit of martial arts. There is in reality
no paradox at the heart of any martial art. What there is, is a fundamental truth, that the martial arts teach us about the
fight for life, they are not just about fighting for your life.
As Mestre Gato states `We need to be in the actual life, the real
life, because capoeira is fundamentally about the roda of life`.