Capoeira: The History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art (Sport in the Global Society)
Matthias Röhrig Assunção
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Originally the preserve of Afro-Brazilian slaves, the marginalized and the underclasses in Brazilian society, capoeira is now a mainstream sport, taught in Brazilian schools and practised by a range of social classes around the world. Some advocates now seek Olympic recognition for Capoeira.
This apparent change in the meaning and purpose of Capeoira has led to conflicts between traditionalists, who view capoeira as their heritage descended from the maroons, a weapon to be used against the injustice and repression; and reformers, who wish to see Capoeira develop as an international sport.
Capoeira: The History of Afro-Brazilian Martial Art explores Capoeira as a field of confrontation where the different struggles that divide Brazilian society are played out. It contains both the first comprehensive English language review of archive and contemporary literature relating to Capoeira, as well as the first scholarly account of Capoeira's history and development.
martial arts attempted to woo students was no easy business. M.Ousado, who learned capoeira in São Paulo during the 1970s, remembers: ‘These great mestres suffered a lot. We kept hoping for visitors to come, and when one appeared, he was treated like God’.33 By 1970 these mestres were teaching in nine academies distributed throughout the metropolis that, according to its own slogan, could ‘not stop growing’.34 The difficulties the Bahians faced in the industrial metropolis contributed towards
echoes. But some things are universal, catholic and undying…of which such formulas are the broken gleams. These do not age or pass out of fashion for they symbolise eternal things. They are the guardians of the freedom of the human spirit, the proof of what our mortal frailty can achieve.’6 xii If and when the possibly ephemeral fitness fashion has run its course, the spiritual essence of capoeira will remain, and Assunção will have played his part. J.A.Mangan, Swanage, October 2004
rather used kicks and head butts instead of punches, wrestling or stick fighting. As I hope to have shown, this latter assumption is simply proven inaccurate by historical evidence, and we need to come up with a more sophisticated explanation about the link between fighting techniques, combat games and their wider context. A brief look at n’golo’s likely cousins in the African Indian Ocean can help us better to understand the relative autonomy between fighting techniques, rituals and social
purée (angu) was sold. These houses constituted an alternaive ‘black space’, where slaves and freedmen reunited not only to eat, but also to hold parties, worship their gods or play music. No wonder that zungus were under constant police surveillance and often shut down arbitrarily.32 The São José parish, considered the Figure 3.3 Artists recorded the harsh repression unleashed on capoeiras in Rio de Janeiro. ‘Negroes which will be flogged’. Lithograph by Frederico Guillerme Briggs, 1840. By
among others, described him: In my time, when I was capoeirista…There were capoeirista who walked around twisted, but twisted in a way that nature did not make him. Because he got a scarf, he would wear a big scarf, trousers with a big hem, with 30cm of hem. There were some made of chagrin leather…The hat thrown to one side…And there he walked, completely twisted, on the left side or on the right side…[…] And he walked in the middle of the street with that sway (gingado)! The capoeirista had all