There has been much speculation about the history of Capoeira, a deadly form of martial arts that was created in Brazil by Africans who had been captured as slaves by the Portuguese slavers.
Capoeira was a form of martial arts that grew out of the eternal need by enslaved Africans to protect themselves at all costs. It developed into a very skillful but extremely lethal way of self-protection. The methods of the Capoeira were sneaky, and often brutal. The full origins of Capoeira have gone largely unnoticed in academic historical works. It is known that it was started by African slaves who brought the fighting and dancing techniques of capoeira to Brazil when they were taken there by the Portuguese Conquistadors.
Since the origins are mired in obscurity, certain theories have sprung up to explain how Capoeira started. One theory suggest that it was a courtship dance in Angola used by suitors of young women. Another suggests that it was a fighting system that was refined and evolved by Africans to its deadly form in the Brazilian slavery era. Regardless, of the final outcome of these disagreements, the ultimate truth is that no one disputes that it is an African creation.
Capoeira required and requires great skill for it to be efficient and achieve the desired results. It was and is composed of cat-like movements where the participants collapse to the ground, use cartwheels, flips and many other deceptive movements to avoid strikes from the enemy. Practitioners use kicks, sweeps, head butts, gouges and punches in order to strike their opponent. All of these actions are combined to compose a devastating form of martial art which protected its ancient participants from enslavers and at times each other.
These methods were often used as a mechanism of self-defence from overseers, land owners, slave owners and so forth who executed unruly behaviour on the slaves. The skill and force of this form often resulted in the victims knocking out suddenly and in some cases the victims even died.
Capoeira got “banned” by the slave owners following deadly interactions that were occurring between Africans and the colonialists and at times injury from African participants against each other. Slaves who had escaped had also formed alliances with Native Americans and the effects were heavily devastating. Although it was banned, the community found ways to keep it alive by incorporating it dances and also by arranging secret meetings at secret locations.
After the banning of slavery in 1888, Brazil continued to ban Capoeira as they characterized it as behavior by “thugs” and “criminals.” However those who knew its true worth, value and essence managed to keep it alive although through clandestine methods.
Capoeira is an attestation of the creativity of Africans which they employed to ensure their sustenance despite heavy odds being stacked against them. Although its origins remain uncertain, one thing for sure is that it was heavily influenced by African cultures.