For several years now, Brazil has skirted its heritage with capoeira. It has been overlooked, disregarded and dismissed. Historians battled against bureaucratic red tape. To find the clearing, some gaps in history had to be filled in. A few years ago an 81-year-old Vicente Ferreira Pastinha— a Portuguese man and an eyewitness to the open gaps in history—told capoeira’s story. Descriptions aptly outlined by the old man attest to fast-moving arms and legs, battling against slave owners, and fighting the oppression only to be defeated. Capoeira had its most terrifying results in the slave uprisings against and owners who were in operation since the colonization of Brazil by the Portuguese. With each suppression came more restrictions until at last the insurgent African slaves were defeated. As the white populous worked on the ledgers of history, they erased the black marks of capoeira, pretending it never happened. Vicente Ferreira Pastinha remained alive and brought the reality of the past into full focus. Kept alive, the martial art continued to be taught. If movements were displayed, they were said to be a harmless native dance. This was the way capoeira survived the torture of time. Vicente Ferreira Pastinha revealed how the cultural aspects of capoeira seemed to vanish and how desperate students used its martial art techniques to break down the statutes that were placed in their way. That they used capoeira for damage and destruction without rhyme or reason is also part of the haggard history. Again and again, insurgent blacks were put down in one bloody encounter after another. Capoeira’s heritage seemed to vanish for good. Now, 81 years old and blind, destitute save for the income that has been secured from devoted followers of the art, Vicente Ferreira Pastinha is cared for by students who look at him with the same dedication that Japanese karate or judo students look toward their sensei. He still partakes in capoeira, although the years and the disregard have taken their toll on his prowess. But as Vicente Ferreira Pastinha has revealed the past, a 68-year-old instructor known only as “Master Bimba” is advancing it to the future with his instruction in the martial art. Five years ago, a group headed by Benjamin Muniz started to make a true and schematic study of the “kata” of capoeira, transferring what Vicente Ferreira Pastinha related into viable and teachable terms. Reluctantly, the nation began to recognize capoeira and accept it for what it was although they have staunchly refused to accept it as a national sport. Today, it has been “washed down” as a cultural, native dance. In this manner capoeira is, to the Brazilian hierarchy, “acceptable.”
Introducing Martial Arts School Listings on Black Belt Mag!
Sign Up Now To Be One Of The First School Listed In Our Database.
SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the worlds largest magazine of martial arts.