At first glance, Capoeira looks like a choreographed dance between two people because it is played to music and the game is a seamless combination of circular movements. To those who train, Capoeira is a game of questions and answers, call and response. The challenge lies not only in the ability to form fluid dialogue with these movements, but to form them in such a way that they respond to the “sentences” being formed by your opponent.The basic stance of Capoeira is the ginga. Everything originates from this movement. The ginga is a dynamic stance where one moves from a lunge position on one side, to a lunge position on the other side. The hands are used to maintain balance as well as protect the face from any hand strikes.Unlike other martial arts, Capoeiristas use movements called esquivas to dodge kicks. Esquiva literally translates as “to dodge”. The main types of offensive movements are the round kicks and straight kicks. Round kicks are used more in the game of call and response where hard strikes are not necessarily the object of the game. Straight kicks are used as striking kicks when a friendly game of Capoeira evolves into a fight. The most common straight kick is the martelo. The martelo is not always used for hitting. It’s effectiveness can also be displayed during a friendly game of Capoeira where the kick is stopped just in front of the target to show that it could have hit.The game of Capoeira is a dialogue of attacks and counterattacks, punctuated with floreiros. Floreios, or flourishes, are the acrobatic movements of the game. They are not used when the game turns into a fight. The beauty of Capoeira is that it flows from a flurry of kicks to awe-inspiring acrobatics back to a flurry of kicks, without missing a beat. More advanced Capoeiristas often use floreios to challenge each other in a can-you-do-this kind of game where they try to out-do each other with breath-taking acrobatics.
Movements are but one aspect of Capoeira. Music is as equally important to the game as the movements, if not more. The focal point of any game is the orchestra, which usually consists of five instruments: the atabaque (drum), three berimbaus (bow-shaped attached by a string loop to a gourd) and a pandeiro (tambourine). The berimbau dictates the type of game that is to be played through different toques or rhythms. Toque de Angola calls for a slow, strategic type of game whereas Regional de Bimba calls for a fast-paced more aggressive type of game. In order to advance to the higher levels of Capoeira, one must also become adept at playing each of the instruments as well as lead the roda in song. The songs are sung in Portuguese and are a source of energy for the roda. Through singing, the Capoeiristas who form the roda provide energy for the game that is being played within – energetic singing fuels the players and helps them to elevate their game. Playing Capoeira without the music would be like playing a hockey game without the fans.
Capoeira is more than a martial art. It is an art form that exercises the mind as well as the body. Capoeira encourages men to be graceful and fluid, and women to be strong, powerful and confident.
As for, children, they are not taught the fighting aspects of Capoeira until they have matured and have developed a solid understanding of the cooperative game of call and response.
Capoeira is the whole package – exercise for the mind, body and soul.