Capoeira is an art-form that can be described in many ways. It encompasses Afro-Brazilian culture, art, music, language, and movement into one cohesive whole. The result is at once beautiful yet dangerous, smooth yet powerful.
At its purest level, Capoeira simply becomes a conversation between two bodies in motion, and at this level it truly becomes a sight to behold. The music controls the focus of the game, and from the music the movements of Capoeira flow. The berimbau leads the “roda” (circle) and dictates the type of “jogo” (game) that the two “capoeiristas” (people who play capoeira) must play. They, and everyone else playing in the roda must essentially follow the rhythm of the berimbau.
There are two predominant styles of Capoeira. The originating style, Capoeira Angola, remains closer to the roots of the original style, and is a slower game with more emphasis on technique and strategy, rather than blinding speed and acrobatics. Capoeira Regional originated in the 1930’s, with a focus on the fighting aspects of Capoeira, and utilizes a faster beat, flashy high kicks, and incredible acrobatics.
History – Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art developed in the 1500s by African and Indigenous slaves in Brazil as a form of self-defence from their oppressors. It is marked by its agile and tricky movements that may be executed anywhere from an upside-down position, to a gravity defying kick. During the 1500s, Portugal shipped slaves into South America from Western Africa. Brazil was the largest contributor to slave migration with 42% of all slaves shipped across the Atlantic.
After slavery was abolished, the slaves moved to the cities of Brazil, and with no employment to be found, many joined or formed criminal gangs. They continued to practice Capoeira, and it became associated with anti-government or criminal activities. As a result, Capoeira was outlawed in Brazil in 1892. The punishment for practicing Capoeira was extreme, and the police were vicious in their attempt to stamp out the art. Capoeira continued to be practiced, but it moved further underground. Rodas were often held in areas with plenty of escape routes, and a special rhythm called Cavalaria was added to the music to warn players that the police were coming. To avoid being persecuted, Capoeira practitioners (Capoeiristas) also gave themselves an apelido or nicknames, often more than one. This made it much harder for the police to discover their true identities. This tradition continues to this day. When a person is baptized into Capoeira at the batizado ceremony, they may be given their apelido.
In 1937, Mestre Bimba was invited to demonstrate his art in front of the president. After this performance, he was given permission to open the first Capoeira school in Brazil. Since that time, Capoeira has been officially recognized as a national sport, and has spread around the world. Mestre Bimba’s systematization and teaching of capoeira made a tremendous contribution to the capoeira community. [Source: Wikipedia]
History of Grupo Axé Capoeira - Grupo Axé Capoeira began in Recife, Brazil in 1982. Today, with academies throughout Canada, United States, Europe, Asia and South America, the Grupo continues to rise as one of the world’s leading Capoeira organizations. Backed by worldwide releases of eight albums musical albums, the video release of the International Capoeira Encounter and two Performance videos from the Axé Capoeira Volume IV and V DVD releases, enrollment continues to steadily increase. The Grupo also continues to travel around the world promoting Brazilian culture, music and dance, and participating in Capoeira and open martial art exhibitions and competitions.
Philosophy & Methodology – The philosophy of Grupo Axé Capoeira is to respect all the mestres, preserve the roots and traditions of Capoeira, and train Capoeira in all its aspects: as a fight, art, dance, music and culture. We endeavor to teach and educate so that capoeira will grow in a positive healthy way. We attempt to pass on to the students physical and mental methods of training so that they learn to create situations and maintain a dialogue within the game. By playing both with friends and enemies, students learn to deal with any situation in or out of the roda. In North America, we not only teach movements, but the Brazilian language and customs as well so that the students may become true capoeiristas.
Objectives – Axé Capoeira is working hard to ensure that Capoeira has a strong future. Through research, travel and participating in events, we hope to increase our knowledge in the art and contribute to the evolution of Capoeira. Our goal is for Capoeira to be placed among the most widely practiced and respected martial art forms in the world.
Axé Capoeira Belt System
Axé Capoeira utilizes a belt system to acknowledge the knowledge of the capoeira student. The belt is known as “corda”, or cord - an important part of contemporary Capoeira, and is presented to the student during an event called the Batizado (baptism) or Troca de Corda (changing of the belt) ceremony. This is an event that celebrates the Brazilian culture through dances and music and where students can progress through the belt system.
Mestre Bimba was the first Capoeira Master to introduce cordas and a ranking system when he created the style of Capoeira Regional. Other Capoeira Regional and Contemporãnea groups have since adapted and created their own unique belt systems. As mentioned above, a corda is received on the day of a Batizado or Troca de Corda ceremony, and is normally given by a master or professor level student. Students train throughout the year(s) to meet the requirements to receive their next corda. Requirements normally consist of length of time training, knowledge of movements and the history of capoeira, a dedication to learning portuguese, knowledge of capoeira songs and various instruments and rhythms, and embodiment of the group philosophy.
Each new belt requires that these requirements are met to an increasing level of proficiency, and as a student starts to become a teacher, additional requirements are also taken into account. These include leadership quality, dedication to the grupo (e.g. keeping up-to-date with improving his skills/knowledge, travel to events etc.), dedication to his/her students and academy, as well as quality of teaching. It is also important to note that, especially in Grupo Axé Capoeira, having branches in over 30 different countries in the world, one is judged by the standard of the entire group. This is done in order to maintain the quality of Capoeira that is practiced by Axé Capoeira students world-wide.
Children's Graduation System (13 years and younger)
Youth & Adult's Graduation System (14 years and older)
Adult's Graduation System cont. (Leadership)
Marcos da Silva, Mestre Barrão, was born in the port city of Recife, on the North East coast of Brazil. Recife is renowned for its Brazilian music and dance, and its long Capoeira tradition.
In 1974, Marcos began studying Capoeira with Mestre Pirajá. While learning the foundations of the art, he showed an affinity for the drums and other instruments as well as the skills that would conduct his life. After three years of training with Mestre Pirajá, who eventually left on sabbatical, Marcos went on in 1977 to continue his training with Mestre Teté. Mestre Teté shared with him the ways of the Street Capoeirista. He learned about the variable situations of the street: how to be shrewd and clever when playing, how to read opponents, and how to judge situations that one invariably finds oneself in, both inside and outside of the Roda of Capoeira.
In 1979, he began to enter Capoeira competitions throughout North East Brazil and in 1980, Marcos began to teach. In 1982, a young Barrão was determined to test his skills against the best opponents he could find and entered the prestigious National Championship in Rio de Janeiro. Such was his skill and fortune that in the end, he left as Brazilian Champion. Upon his return, many opportunities came his way to teach in schools, community centres, and universities throughout Brazil and eventually he formed Grupo Axé Capoeira. In 1987, he was graduated to First DegreeMaster by Mestre Pirajá. He has now received his Second Degree Master.
In 1990, Mestre Barrão was invited to demonstrate his art at the International Children’s Festivals throughout North America and eventually found himself in Canada at the Vancouver International Children’s Festival. After spending 1991 teaching in Italy, Barrão decided to immigrate to Canada in 1992 and begin teaching here at various locations. He started The Annual International Capoeira Encounter and has renowned and respected Mestres from all over the world visit and share their skills. In 1996, he opened Canada’s first Academy of Capoeira.
Today, Mestre Barrão frequently receives invitations to conduct and teach Capoeira at international workshops. The mestres who assembled at the Melhores Do Seculo, in Curitiba Parana, recognized Mestre Barrão as one of the great capoeiristas of the century, due to his skills and contribution to Capoeira. Mestre Barrão and his Grupo, Axé Capoeira, have recorded several volumes of Capoeira music which continues to be tremendously popular throughout Brazil and around the world. Mestre Barrão now has schools in Canada, Brazil, United States, Peru, Russia, Angola, Bermuda, Barbados, China, Kazakhstan, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Poland and more!