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Martial arts training to a Brazilian beat

La Voz Latina

Capoeira is a 500-year-old martial art developed by African slaves brought to Brazil by the conquering Portuguese.

Unlike the slaves of the United States, the slaves in Brazil were allowed to keep possession of musical instruments as the Portuguese valued their percussion skills for use in marching bands and armadas. Capoeira’s development was a result of slaves training to defend themselves from groups that caught runaway slaves.

Because their slave masters didn’t allow them to fight, they used their music to disguise Capoeira as a dance to advance their training for the freedom they hoped to attain.

In the late 1800s, Brazil abolished slavery, however Capoeira was also outlawed. Capoeira was not only viewed as an “underclass” activity, used by ex-slaves and thieves, but also as a risk to the ruling class. During this time, Capoeira was primarily taught in faraway mountains or remote areas of the country.

Other rhythms were also developed such as Cavalaria to alert people that the police were coming so that they could do something else such as Samba de Roda. By 1940, Capoeira was finally legalized in Brazil, and today is regarded as an iconic symbol of that country.

Grupo Unção focuses on teaching students the principles of Capoeira at the West Chatham YMCA in Pooler, GA. Here students learn music, dancing, acrobatics, strategy, and the game of Capoeira. The local group is taught by David “Zè Colmèia” Deal, under the instruction of Mestre Boi in New Jersey. Each of the four weekly classes has a different focus to improve the various principles of Capoeira…

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