Capoeira is an art form that combines movement, music, martial art and elements of Afro-Brazilian tradition and philosophy. The essence of all these elements is experienced by ‘playing’ a physical game called jogo de capoeira (game of capoeira). During this game that takes place in a circle (roda) of other capoeiristas, two capoeiristas (players of capoeira) exchange movements of attack and defence in a constant flow while observing rituals and proper manners of the art.
On one side of the circle there is the ‘bateria’, which is bascally the orchestra consisting of various traditional afro-brazilian instruments. The speed and character of the jogo are generally determined by the many different rhythms of the berimbau, a one-string musical bow, which is considered to be the primary symbol of this art form. The berimbau is complemented by the pandeiro (tambourine), atabaque (single-headed standing drum), agogo (double bell), and reco-reco (grooved segment of bamboo scraped with a stick) to form a unique ensemble of instruments. To complete the musical ambiance for the capoeira session, a game is accompanied by collective singing in a call-and-response dialogue in Brazilian Portuguese and clapping, always following the rhythm and speed set by the bateria.
Capoeira has all the elements of the true meaning of a game. It is an interaction between the capoeiristas, highlighted by movements such as kicks, feints, defences and acrobatics that look like a physical conversation between them. However, the interaction is not only physical. There is strategy, engaging not only the body, but the mind too. Although capoeira has a grading system, the aim of the jogo is not for the capoeiristas ‘to gain points’ but to interact with each other, explore their strengths and weaknesses, fears and fatigue in a sometimes frustrating, but nevertheless enjoyable, challenging and constant process of personal expression, self-reflection and growth.
Capoeira has a list of benefits. Apart from increasing fitness and stamina, which are the most obvious ones, is improves balance, coordination and flexibility. The art is practised in a group of people, which is a great way to make new friends, expand our social networks and boost confidence. Last but not least, capoeira can help us alleviate everyday stress and find ways of expressing ourselves and being creative through movement and music.