In the Beginning
The art of Capoeira was born over 400 years ago in Brazil as a martial art combining traditional African elements of music and dance. The African slaves of Brazil developed it as a means of survival and freedom. It is estimated that over 2 million slaves were brought from different regions of Africa to Brazil. They were then dispersed into three ports of Brazil, Bahia, Recife and Rio de Janeiro. Organization amongst the slaves was sometimes difficult because many were from enemy tribes in Africa. The slaves began to run away to escape the oppression of slavery. They fled into the jungles forming secret societies known as Quilombos. Here, the African tribes were able to put their differences aside and unite to fight for a common interest, FREEDOM.
They developed a fighting technique called “jungle war” or ambush, in which Capoeira was the key element in staging the unexpected revolts. They began to help free other slaves and disrupt the involuntary work force of the plantations. Capoeira was effective as a means of combat, defense and escape. Seen as a threat to the officials, Capoeira became outlawed and punishable by death. They were only able to maintain their martial art by disguising it as a folk-dance. Their clever tactic of disguising self-defense movements within the framework of song and dance proved effective. While it looked like a celebration, the slaves were really planning their liberation.