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CAPOEIRA HISTORY

The Formation of Capoeira Identity Throughout the Ages

  by Andrew C Eadie, Kings College London, 2003


The New Generation

Bimba's style was to be denominated Regional and his ethos of development was to be continued by other groups who would become characterised by their own particular style. For example Cordão de Ouro, Senzala, Abadá and Muzenza are the largest of all capoeira groups in the present day, and to the experienced capoeirista different stylistic elements are brought to mind upon the invocation of any one of these names. Abadá are known for a strong defensive ginga (the continuous side to side step which forms the basis for all capoeira movements) whilst being notorious for a predisposition toward violence and an extremely muscular physique. Meanwhile Cordão de Ouro has become famous for an intricate style of play that places emphasis on difficult acrobatic movements in both negating and launching attacks. On the other hand, the Capoeira schools of Mestre João Pequeno, João Grande and Morães continue to teach capoeira in the format taught to them by their collective master, Mestre Pastinha. While the personal game of these individuals may vary and this in turn may affect the game of their students, the very nature of Capoeira Angola is one of preservation and so no change has occurred since Pastinha. Furthermore Pastinha would deny that he made any innovations himself, he was styled as the preserver of the old ways. The most important point being that it is mostly adherents to the Regional philosophy who continue to modernise, sometimes forming their own style whereas the exponents of Angola purport to preserve, teaching only what has been passed to them by their own Mestre.

Mestre Suassunna, the founding head of Cordão de Ouro is making an attempt to bridge the gap that came about as a result of the Regional/Angola polemic. His style includes several different types of game that are demanded by specific rhythms on the berimbau. He has incorporated existent Angola movements that are characterised by acrobatic contortions performed low to the ground then developed and added to these, rendering them accessible via a structured didactic process. As such these difficult and potentially dangerous (to the practitioner) movements can eventually be mastered by the majority of able-bodied students. While specific acrobatics may be the invention of Mestre Suassunna his is not the only group to have developed novel techniques and placed them in context where they can be performed together in of a specific game that is demanded by a corresponding berimbau rhythm. Mestre Bimba formed a similar game called Iuna, in which only graduated students could play. Mestre Suassunna’s Miudinho can be seen as a continuation along the lines of Mestre Bimba's development. At the same time the Miudinho is an effort to regain some of what was lost in his predecessor’s process, as shown by its recourse to the archives of the more expressive Capoeira Angola.

It is crucial to realise that the overall development of capoeira could have diverged from the general format described in this thesis, and that in some isolated cases, it has. These divergences have mostly taken the form of hybridity and concerned themselves with one of two possibilities existent in the physical aspect of capoeira; the martial or the purely recreational/sportive. As such we have seen the emergence of capo-jitsu, a mixture with jiu-jitsu where the action can become so close that players end up on the floor, attempting to force one another to submit through the application of painful joint locks, likewise, capo-box, demands that practitioners exchange real blows and punching is incorporated. On the other hand, hydro-capoeira and capo-aerobics (to name but two) are performed in gymnasium swimming pools and aerobic salas respectively. As their name suggests these latter two activities are nothing more than physical workout routines based on the movements of capoeira. The fact that these practises are by nature hybrid, taking their name as such means that they are posited as different to capoeira itself, and as such are not threatening to its integrity. This is partly because they came about in the last decade of the twentieth century, at a point by which capoeira had formed a strong enough identity to resist changes of the type they exemplify. The question remains - at what point in history had capoeira format become universal?

Previous: The Capoeira Angola/Regional Polemic

Next: Conclusion and Bibliography

Copyright ©2006 Charles Andrew Eadie. All rights reserved.    SITEMAP