Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, a dance, a game, music, a way of life. It was created by slaves in Brazil as a way to fight back against their oppressors, drawing on their African heritage. After being outlawed for some years, capoeira was legalized in the 20th century and has spread around the world.
Capoeira is a game in which two players dance together in a roda, or circle. All movements are based on the ginga, a swinging step done in place. In a beautiful game, the players alternate attack and defense, responding to the other person’s choices. It may look choreographed, but it’s always fluid and dynamic.
The players are accompanied by the bateria of musical instruments. In Angola Palmares, a full bateria consists of three berimbaus, or musical bows; two pandeiros, or tambourines; a ganzua; a rasp; and an atabaque drum. The media berimbau is the leader of the roda, setting the pace and tone and leading the singing. Yes, the singing is in Portuguese – if you don’t know it, don’t worry; start by imitating what you hear and you’ll pick up the basics quickly.
No question, capoeira is an excellent workout, but you don’t need to be an athlete to start. As Mestre Pastinha said, “Capoeira é para homem, menino e mulher, só não aprende quem não quer” – capoeira is for men, children, and women; the only ones who don’t learn are those who don’t wish to.
Capoeira Angola Palmares, founded by Mestre Nô, is in the Angola tradition and can be found all over the world. It is based on respect, safety, responsibility, and liberation. While it can be powerful and dangerous, the purpose of capoeira in the classroom and the roda is to refrain from violence, to show that you can hit rather than doing so, to play a beautiful game with your partner. Our group is under Mestre Gulliver, a student of Mestre Nô’s. We were founded by Gulliver’s student Bambu.
Currently, our teachers are Zulu and Cojaque, and we offer classes several times a week at locations across Nashville.