One of the amazing things about martial arts is the number of different styles that stem from the variety of cultures around the world. Human beings scattered around the earth, working with the same anatomical structure have managed to find different and creative ways to use the head, arms, hands, knees, feet, and shins as weapons. In reviewing a lot of different martial arts, sometimes a round kick is just a round kick even in a different language. But then sometimes you come across a truly unique form.
Capoeira is one of those different forms. It is a martial art that offers a very unique system of movement. Considered a striking style, Capoeira combines elements of acrobatics, dance and ritualistic movements to feint, avoid contact, set-up sweeps, elbows and create openings for it's powerful kicks.
Capoeira is believed to originate during the 16th century when West Africans were brought to Brazil by Portuguese colonists and made into slaves to work the sugar cane and coffee plantations in the region. They were prohibited from celebrating their cultural customs and forbidden from practicing anything that resembled traditional combat or self-defense. Capoeira emerged as a way to pass along cultural traditions while at the same time hiding it's martial art form in music and entertainment for the slaveholders. But, it was also practiced in secret as a method of self-defense. Today Capoeira is embraced in Brazil as a recognized martial art of the country and a sense of nationalistic pride for the Afro-Brazilians who gave birth to the art.
It can now be found around the world, with schools in several countries. Many of it's elements are used by some of the more popular MMA fighters in UFC who have received training in the discipline, including Anthony Pettis, Anderson Silva, Thiago Santos and recent sensation, Conor McGregor.
The style features a series of complex movements and positions which are meant to flow together producing a mix of unpredictable motions and strikes. The practitioner of the art is called a capoeirista. The capoeirista's objective is to remain in a state of constant motion, presenting a difficult target for an adversary. Most attacks are made with the legs in the form of twirling kicks that can come from cartwheels or handstands.
In the nation's capital, CapoeiraDC (Capoeira Males DC) continues the tradition of teaching and sharing Capoeira. It is a community-run nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the Afro-Brazilian martial art through classes for adults and children. On September 17th, the organization celebrated their annual event, Batizado and Troca de Cordas (exchange of cords/graduation) for their students and invited DMV Combat Fanatics to drop by to learn more about the art.
CapoeiraDC was founded in 2000 by capoerista friends led by Professor Morcego under the tutelage of Brazilian Mestre (master, teacher) Curisco of Seattle, WA. Saturday's event was a celebration of sorts with workshops, music, games, dance all of course with the objective or putting capoeira on broad display.
Students are advanced through a ranking system designated by colored cords or ropes. Like a lot of martial arts today, there is not a standard ranking system used by capoeira worldwide but it is generally recognized that the highest level one can obtain is Grand Mestre usually preceded by Mestre and Professor.
If you ever have the occasion to see a capoeira event, don't mistake all the laughs and good times for a weak martial art. A smile could be the last thing you remember seeing.
For more information on classes at CapoeiraDC, check out their website at www.capoeiradc.com.
About the Author:
Darryl Keeton is an avid striking, grappling and wrestling fan living in Upper Marlboro, MD. He holds a black belt in Taekwondo and is also a practitioner of Combat Jujutsu, Boxing and Muay Thai.