[Capoeira] Capoeira History

Discussion in 'Other Styles' started by dormindo, Aug 11, 2014.

  1. Bozza Bostik

    Bozza Bostik Antichrist on Button Moon

    Moves that were difficult. The ones at the start, the middle ones and the ones we did at the end. :)

    Quite honestly it was all difficult. But it was the way the lesson was presented. I don't mean that in a negative way, but it was advertised as "Crazy kicks and capoeira flips" or something. The lesson was basically an over view of the "mad" stuff in capoeira and the emphasis was on having fun! It was a charity event after all.

    I am quite a strong kicker and find that kicks come quite natural to me, despite my terrible flexibility these days. But I have never really done an art that focuses on or uses a lot of kicking. The kicks we did use are pretty basic; front, roundhouse etc. Most of the "fancy" kicks I did know when I was doing Uechi etc I'd taught myself messing around with friends when I was younger. But that was a long time ago.

    The ginga. Generalizing, but you tend to see it used in it's "robotic form" more in contemporânea and regional than you do in angola. I also feel that an over use of the ginga when playing is fine for beginners, but not good with more experienced practitioners. There should be more movement or, as you mentioned, a "broken" ginga.

    You mentioned urban slaves. What were they used for? Actually, rural slaves too. I really don't know much about slavery in Latin America.
  2. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Ah, so they kicked you straight out of the nest, then?

    Ginga is a conundrum, sometimes. I'd like to revive the old ginga thread eventually with some discussion about what is a 'good' ginga (with perhaps some video examples posted). Something like that, just turning the idea over in my head.

    Well, this ties in to the topic, as my early view of the history tended to have an emphasis on the plantation image of slavery. Part of that was probably fed by my being from the U.S. and the predominant image of slavery here is that of the plantation, whether cotton, sugar, rice, indigo, tobacco or something else was the product.

    In Brazil (and other parts of Latin America) there were rural and urban forms of slavery. The labor done in urban settings was quite varied and could be anything from hard labor to skilled labor to domestic work to carrying chamber pots from wealthy households to be dumped elsewhere. Many of the enslaved in cities like Rio were hired out, paid and then had to take their earnings back to their masters. But as I say, they did a wide variety of work in the city.

    Outside of the cities, the enslaved (which sometimes included indigenous people as well as Africans) worked on plantations. Sugar and coffee were two major crops. Enslaved Africans also worked in mines in parts of the Brazilian interior. So slavery was far more varied than many of the mainstream dramatic representations let on.
  3. Bozza Bostik

    Bozza Bostik Antichrist on Button Moon

    That's the image I get too.

    To my very limited knowledge, although the UK was heavily involved in the slave trade there was relatively few African slaves on the British Isles. The Africans that were used, were used as servants etc. So yeah, I always think of slaves as working on plantations in one capacity or another.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
  4. Ritab

    Ritab New Member

  5. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Sure, that's the kind of very generalized history that you see on the sites of various capoeira groups. But the history of capoeira is evolving as more is being discovered about the art's history. If you look into the sources mentioned earlier in this thread, especially the work of T.J. Desch Obi and John Thorton, you'll find that things aren't quite like what is presented in the 'Where it All Began' paragraph in your link.

    For example, it says that capoeira was disguised as a dance in order to disguise it from detection by the authorities, but there is no record of people being fooled about capoeira by it being dance. Firstly, though capoeira was repressed for quite a long time in Brazil, it wasn't officially outlawed until the 19th century and, at that point, African dance and drumming was outlawed, too, so it isn't likely to have been dance that would be used to disguise the art.

    Secondly, the performance of capoeira captured the attention of foreign travelers who wrote in their journals (primary source materials for historians currently working on the history of capoeira) about capoeira and seemed to grasp that it was a martial art and not a dance.

    Lastly, there were dancelike martial arts in the West Central African region where the enslaved Africans who were the earliest and nearly the sole practitioners of capoeira (as derived from the arrest records of the time). These dancelike arts were called sanguar/nsanga by the Italian monks who recorded their observations in the 16th century. These arts are meant to be the antecedents to capoeira.

    In short, the 'dance' elements in capoeira are derived from the antecedent arts that compose present day capoeira and not likely to have been devised as a disguise.

    What would really make an interesting historical study is to track the origin of the whole 'it was disguised as a dance' tale, as well as the 'they used handstands because, as slaves, their hands were tied' story. That would be intriguing--at least to me.
  6. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    Well that post was awesome.
  7. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Every great once in a while I have a moment of clarity. And now, back into the darkness.
  8. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    on dormindos point:
    Indlamu is the zulu war dance and the massai have a warrior dance too. heck even the scotsmen had a war dance

    the kapa haka, the Kapu Kuialua, the hula, the cibi and other dances of tribal communities in polynesia have a similar purpose.

    the dances where used not only to transmit martial arts into a kata like sequence (Simon mentionned that in FMA the word for sequences is the same word for dance) but also for other skills and traditions.

    where accompanied by a chant (common in many cultures where the written word was not used by the common man) that had a narrative that explained certain concepts like stories of a moon goddess who called her lover the sea to her and other random things to explain tides.

    for examples sailing by weather patterns, navigating on land, learning moon cycles for fishing, farming seasons, healing, hunting and gathering, tracking etc.

    oral histories and dances are the way things were taught to people for millennia in all parts of the world before book were accessible to the common man.

    on the polynesian use of dance and chants which might be insightful, i highly recommend listening to the bishop museum podcasts.

    its actually pretty sad that oral traditions and their dances have disappeared in many places because there is a lot of knowledge handed down from them and therefore lost.
  9. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Quite on point, Zaad.
  10. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Just realised that I didn't actually state my point.
    All of that stuff I've mentionned is is evidence from global tribes that martial arts are transmitted in dance so the roots of capoeira was likely a dance long before the slaves or brazil.
  11. Bozza Bostik

    Bozza Bostik Antichrist on Button Moon

    Zaad has become a bit of an anthroplogist! I always had you down as a bit 'bro'. ;)

    Is there any footage of the African dances or rituals that could have been an influence on or the root to capoeira?

    I've searched endlessly on YouTube, but maybe I am using the wrong terms to search with. This is the only one I can find. It's very poorly done but maybe it shows something of interest.

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlqnRIMAtTc"]Ongolo predecessor? - YouTube[/ame]
  12. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    a bit of a bro?

    would be hard to identify which of the west african or bantu groups that capoeira came from even with genetic testing.
    especially since abrahamic religions have crapped up tribal practices globally.
  13. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Bozza, there are the very briefest snippets in this trailer for a documentary that I really want to see. The research here was done by Mestre Cobrinha and Matthias Rohrig Assuncao, but I saw similar footage about 7 or 8 years ago when I went to see T.J. Desch Obi speak (he has been researching African and African diaspora martial art traditions for years). At the 57/58 second mark you see snippets of contemporary engolo practice that evokes the images drawn by Albano Neves e Soares when he was in southern Angola back in the 1950s.

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_qzE61iFt4"]Body Games Trailer - YouTube[/ame]
  14. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Zaad, historians have been working on the descent on the art wsing a variety of methodologies, some of which are inherent in the practice of history, others are borrowed from related disciplines like anthropology.

    In the case of tracing the 'lineage' of capoeira, here are some of the things involved...

    1. The earliest practitioners of capoeira in the historical record in Brazil were overwhelmingly from West Central Africa (present day Angola/Congo region). This is determined via the arrest records for practitioners of capoeira which note most arrestees by name (there was a common practce in Latin America--and Brazil in particular--of giving enslaved Africans a Christian first name and a surname based on the region or port that they were shipped out of in Africa, for example Joao Angola or Jose Congo). This indicates that capoeira is likely to have originated from martial traditions in the region.

    2. The region in Africa where these practitioners come from have martial games (note: martial games--which capoeira itself is, indicating that the ludic and theatrical aspects of the art, while undoubtedly continuing to evolve in Brazil, predate the arrival of the art(s) in Brazil) that comprise the primary techniques and tactics of capoeira: there was a headbutting game (whose name I can't recall at the moment), a game composed largely of kicks and inverted movements (the engolo/ngolo) and a kind of 'slap boxing' game called kandeka. It would appear that capoeira is largely engolo, but may even be more accurately be described as a hybrid of engolo and the headbutting and slapping stuff. On a side note: there was also a stickfighting game (unrelated to current maculele practice, I think), that I wonder if it transferred over to Brazil and, if so, does anyone anywhere practice it.

    3. The Africans brought over to Brazil (indeed, to the Americas as a whole) were brought over in waves where the ethnic groups/home locales of those brought over were more dominant in certain time periods and in certain locations. This allowed for the predominance of the expression of certain type of African cultural/linguistic/spiritual practices in certain places for certain amounts of time before being mitigated by the influences of later waves from other regions of the African continent. In Brazil this meant an early large wave of Central African culture into the colony, especially in the south where--despite the contemporary prominence of Bahia as a capoeira cultural center--early capoeira appears to have been centered. A rise in government repression in the late 19th century would move the center of practice to Bahia in the north and the later waves of Africans from West Africa would put their stamp on capoeira practice and related practices (i.e., Orixas in the songs, players wearing elekes, etc.).

    4. Most of the instruments associated with capoeira (including some not in contemporary use) are associated with Central Africa (rather than West Africa). The concepts of patuas, corpo fechado which can be found in various forms across Africa are strongly associated with Central African practices in their Brazilian manifestations.

    Just my two cents on it. Sorry for such a long post.
  15. Bozza Bostik

    Bozza Bostik Antichrist on Button Moon

    That's looks like a nice documentary, and hopefully it will clear up the history a little bit. It's one thing when you hear the inaccurate history from the general public but when you hear it come from within the capoeira community...:bang:]

    there's quite a few clips from the documentary up on youtube. When was it or when will it be released? Any clue?
  16. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    greatly informative dormindo!

    do you know if the martial games still exist in those parts of africa?

    off topic - the JKD guy who does battle field kali had studied zulu stick fighting (i think also a martial game), which i was very surprised to see as i didnt think it would have survived the apartheid period but the zulu nation was MASSIVE.
  17. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    I've no clue when it will be released. The last time I'd checked the indiegogo page (and that was ages ago), there was no indication. I know that it is supposed to have been completed last year, but when it'll be available, I just don't know. I may have to do some asking around.
  18. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Apparently the engolo still survives in some of the villages in Angola. As for the other games, I don't know. Among the other African diaspora games in the Americas that share a similar lineage is ladjia/l'ag'ya which is still around and kicking and knocking--practiced here in the United States--which is dying out.
  19. dormindo

    dormindo Active Member Supporter

    Zaad, which JKD guy is that?
  20. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Burton Richardson
    im pretty sure he's a dog brother too, "Lucky Dog".


    apparently most of their training came from actually sparring with techniques taught in sparring but they did a lot of war dancing which i guess you practice more as part of the tribe
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2014

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