Capoeira Kicks: An Overview of the Brazilian Art’s Fancy Foot Techniques (Part 2)

One of capoeira’s most powerful and best-known foot techniques is the mevlva de compaso, which means “half moon of the compass.” Although this kick might be compared to the wheel kick used in taekwondo, a major difference in its delivery is apparent.

When the mevlva de compaso is executed, the upper body drops toward the ground and the hands touch the ground for support. With the body in this position, the practitioner looks through his legs to spot the target. As the supporting leg pivots on the ball of the foot, the kicking leg is locked straight. For maximum impact, the foot travels in a circular motion and strikes with the heel or knife edge of the foot.

Heel Kick

Another popular capoeira kicking technique is the bencao, or heel kick. This kick is delivered with a pushing or thrusting motion, in much the same way a karate or taekwondo stylist delivers a front kick.

The heel is usually used to strike, but the entire bottom of the foot may be used to push an opponent away. This kick can be aimed at the opponent’s centerline or used to break the rhythm of his circular motion of attack and counterattack.

Instep Kick

Capoeira’s martelo kick uses the instep to strike its target. The technique is delivered at a 45-degree angle — in much the same way practitioners of other arts throw a roundhouse kick — except that the waist and hip are turned over so the kicker can put his body behind the kick.

The martelo can be executed in what many martial artists call kicking and trapping ranges — in which case the practitioner must step off at an angle before striking from a closer distance.

Handstand Kick

Another kick used in capoeira is the au cortado. The practitioner launches his body into a one-arm handstand, and from that position, his legs execute a scissor-shaped motion to strike the opponent’s head or ribs. The practitioner also adds a spinning motion to the kick by turning his body before beginning the handstand.

From this handstand position, the capoeira practitioner can quickly switch to the cois, or two-foot mule kick. For this technique, he waits until his body is upside down, then brings his knees to his chest and delivers the kick with a backward thrust.

Screw Kick

Possibly the most acrobatic capoeira kick is the parafusal, or screw kick. This technique is extremely strong and deceptive because of the angled path the foot travels.

With the waist and hips turning in a twisting fashion, plus the jumping motion and the snap of the leg, it makes for a very strong technique.

Additional Factors

Besides the physical aspects of capoeira kicking, many other factors demand consideration. The need to be in constant motion requires the utmost in physical conditioning, and the use of occasional straight techniques mixed among circular movements requires the ability to think strategically. Because the practitioner is either attacking or counterattacking with each move, he wastes nothing in terms of technique or energy.

One of the most important strategies in capoeira combat is trickery. This can be very challenging because a practitioner’s movement must correspond almost exactly with his partner’s. As soon as the opponent responds to a feint, the capoeira practitioner, already in motion with his ginga, moves in for the finishing technique.

In capoeira sparring, each motion has a purpose — whether to deflect an attack or set up a counterattack. And each technique has a counter. As knowledge of capoeira gradually grows within the martial arts community, practitioners of other styles will learn something about the Brazilian art and expect the capoeira fighter to kick. However, when the advanced capoeira stylist takes the offensive, he’ll often employ a combination — perhaps a sweep, followed by a thrust and spinning kick. Or he may elect to throw an occasional capoeira hand technique or head butt.

Capoeira differs from most martial arts because its varied kicks possess unmatched grace and beauty and the rhythmical movements offer more for students concerned with artistic self-expression. In any case, capoeira makes for an excellent supplement for a practitioner of any art.

Read Part 1 of this article here.

Capoeira Kicks: An Overview of the Brazilian Art’s Fancy Foot Techniques (Part 1)

Capoeira Angola is often referred to as the traditional form of capoeira. Dating back some 300 years, the art originated when the first African slaves — from Angola, the Congo, Guinea and other nations — arrived in Brazil. Because of the brutality of many of the Portuguese slave traders, the Africans gradually created a system of physical combat they hoped would one day take them on a path to freedom.

The Africans were able to deceive their European masters by disguising their deadly art as a recreational dance that incorporated spectacular back flips, cartwheels and handstands. Little did the Europeans suspect that such acrobatic exercises were really an intense form of martial arts training. Even with their wrists chained, the Africans could work to perfect their art; this accounts for the fact that 90 percent of capoeira is based on kicking techniques. The art does employ head butts, takedowns, sweeps, slaps and eye jabs, but they are obviously subordinate.

Recent History

For much of its history, capoeira was banned by the Brazilian government. A few slaves were able to escape to remote villages and continue practicing the art, however.

In the 19th century, many capoeira stylists roamed the streets as criminals because they had no other means to make a living. This caused practitioners of the art to be ostracized, persecuted and ultimately prohibited from practicing. Fines and threats of imprisonment were levied against anyone caught training in capoeira.

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Only a few nobles such as D. Pedro and Juca Reis recognized the value of capoeira and practiced it secretly. Finally in 1932, a mestre (teacher) named Manoel Machado (nicknamed Mestre Bimba), born in Sao Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, received an invitation to perform for Brazilian President Getulio Vargas. Getulio Vargas was impressed and subsequently ended the prohibition of the art.

In 1972 capoeira became an official Brazilian sport, and rules and regulations for competition were implemented. Later it spread outside its homeland. A small number of schools now operate in Europe, the United States and a few other countries, where capoeira lives as a testimony to the indomitable spirit and ingenuity of its Brazilian founders and a unique expression of their culture.


Capoeira instructor Deraldo Ferreira established schools in his home country of Brazil and in Montreal before relocating to Boston. “Capoeira is spontaneous, not choreographed,” he says. “It requires acute attention and cooperation between the players.”

Deraldo Ferreira claims that the unique character of the art stems from the acrobatic way the kicks are performed, and from the way training sessions and matches are often accompanied by music from traditional Brazilian instruments such as the pandeiro (tambourine), atabaque (conga drum) and berimbau (single-string bow).

Before a capoeira student learns how to kick, he must learn the ginga. “All kicking techniques start with the ginga,” Deraldo Ferreira says. It’s the root from which all capoeira kicks grow — both offensive and defensive. It allows the practitioner to impart maximum momentum and body motion to his kick. Thus, capoeira stylists can generate more powerful kicking techniques than can practitioners of martial arts in which students merely use their leg muscles to push the foot straight into the target.

After having traveled extensively in Brazil to study many different styles of capoeira, Deraldo Ferreira prefers the X-type footwork of the ginga because it allows him more opportunities when moving. Other variations of capoeira employ L-shaped footwork.

Kinds of Kicks

When looking at the kicks of capoeira, it’s important to realize that 80 percent are circular and very versatile. “There are no basic kicking techniques in capoeira,” Deraldo Ferreira says. “Everything is based on the right move for the right situation.”

Many factors are involved in capoeira kicking. Depending on what the practitioner’s intentions are, a kick may move in a snapping, pushing, circling or swinging fashion. The kicker stays in constant motion while he attacks and counterattacks, so the position he ends up in after each technique is important.

Students find capoeira training strenuous because they must support their bodyweight in a multitude of positions. And because many techniques are practiced in slow motion as well as at full speed, the muscles used to kick and move the body must be developed. This variable-speed practice enables the student to better analyze the technique he’s performing. It accounts for the fact that when people observe capoeira, they’re impressed by its graceful and fluid movements and by the power and effectiveness those movements possess.

(To be continued.)

Brazilian Martial Arts DVD Collection Features Capoeria Moves and Capoeira Drills

Earlier this week, Black Belt announced G4’s American Ninja Warrior tryouts. The show’s intense obstacle course requires its athletic contestants to perform a wide variety of acrobatic leaps, swings, dangles and landings. Anyone even thinking of taking on that course would require hard-core body conditioning for strength, flexibility, agility, balance and cardiovascular endurance. This is where capoeira videos come in handy for addressing all these conditioning criteria!

Among the Brazilian martial arts, the acrobatic moves of capoeira are renowned for cardiovascular conditioning, balance development and agility enhancement. Part martial art, part dance, capoeira moves contains a wide range of strikes, kicks and acrobatic maneuvers that place significant performance demand on the body.

Learn Capoeira Drills and Capoeira Fighting Techniques In Five Brazilian Martial Arts DVD Titles Available Now!

The history of capoeira starts in 1405, when Chinese admiral Zheng He set sail from China to East Africa aboard 62 huge treasure ships carrying 28,000 men. The admiral left warriors and laymen to live with the native cultures he encountered on his journey.

The last stop on the admiral’s journey was Angola, Africa, where Chinese warriors ended up living with the coastal natives. In the decades to follow, Portuguese slave traders would ship Angolans to Brazil. Not long after this, it’s thought that Angolan slaves in Brazil developed a system of unarmed self-defense called “capoeira.”

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Fearing punishment by their masters, the slaves disguised their capoeira moves as dance. The result: capoeira drills’ trademark rhythms and inherent musicality. The intersection of rhythm, music and body mobility produced a dance-art that was not only beautiful to watch but also could be applied to self-defense — particularly the mobility developed by constant practice of capoeira drills, which allowed the practitioners to evade attacks. Capoeira kicks, thrown by legs strengthened from daily conditioning, could do their fair share of damage.

While many would not consider capoeira fighting to be applicable to a modern style such as mixed martial arts, some would argue that it’s not the capoeira moves themselves that are of value in MMA but rather the capoeira drills. Perhaps more so than drills found in other Brazilian martial arts, capoeira drills can contribute to fighters being quick on their feet to evade opponents’ attempts at shooting in for takedowns.

Capoeira moves include numerous acrobatic actions such as kicks, punches and flips. Some capoeira moves were born out of dark circumstances. The cartwheel kick, for example, was created because the Angolan slaves’ wrists and ankles were chain-bound to prevent them from escaping.

Because Chinese martial artists lived among the Angolans in Africa, some believe that it’s possible that capoeira is rooted in Chinese martial arts. Upon closer visual inspection, some observers have pointed out that some capoeira moves resemble moves found in some Chinese martial arts.

Now you can learn the capoeira drills and capoeira moves that make up this most social of Brazilian martial arts. In these capoeira videos on DVD, you can learn capoeira from some of the world’s most renowned capoeira instructors:

Capoeira: The Dance Art of Martial Arts

Some 400 years ago in Angola, on the west coast of Africa, a form of combat practiced by the natives was beginning to take shape in what we would today call a martial art. Four centuries later, capoeira is practiced in that South American nation known as Brazil. It no longer uses savage self-defense techniques that originated in Africa, however. And thereby hangs a tale.

In the days of the great plantations, the owners took a dim view of the capability for mayhem that the natives possessed. Practitioners of capoeira suffered great persecution at the hands of the owner-dominated police. In order to avoid this persecution, the capoeristas began to camouflage their “sport” by turning it into a weird dance, consisting of pantomime, music and dances. Capoeira ceased to be a matter of violence and death and became an amusement. It became the custom to remark that “the natives are playing Angola style.” Even the plantation foremen would applaud the “performances” as the “players” would jump, weave, gambol, trip and kick their opponents, then avoid retaliation by slithering on the ground like serpents.

So in spite of early difficulties, capoeira caught on. Legendary names appeared: invincible fighters, men with flesh impenetrable by knife or bullet, men under contract with the devil, men with charms against the most powerful of enemies, men who could liberate themselves from any kind of a trap.

Capoeira’s Musical Instruments

The berimbau (a kind of Jew’s harp) can be divided into two types: The berimbau de boca and the berimbau de barriga. The berimbau de boca was said that it came originally from Angola. This, however, is contested by some students of the subject. It consists of a bow that tightens a cord of “timbo” (a kind of vine). The resonating chamber is the mouth of the player. The cord is made to vibrate by striking it with a knife. The berimbau de barriga is the most usual type used. It is formed by a piece of wood called “the pigeon,” which maintains tension in a steel wire. The resonator is a small gourd attached to the wire by a string. The wire produces a sound that is modulated by a copper coin, while the mouth of the gourd is placed at varying distances from the abdomen of the player.

The berimbau has many quivering vibrations that are marvelously adapted to the reproduction in sound of the swaying of hips and the feline jumping of the capoeiristas. Independently of this, it lends a melancholy note to the singing of “Lundus,” which accompany the movements of the game of capoeira. According to Oneyda Alvarenga, the music of the berimbau is a “force activating the energies of two combatants, and in such manner, the music ties itself to the game so that the latter is entirely dependent on it and is regulated by it.” So the ardor of the battle grows in accordance with the crescendo or rallentando of the music.

The other instrument that accompanied the evolution of the capoeira is the caxixi. It consists of a round bamboo basket with dried seeds inside. The orifice is covered with dried gourd skin. It acts as an accompaniment to the berimbau. Each time the wire resounds, it is accompanied by the rattle of the dried seeds.

The third instrument that frequently accompanies the game of capoeira is the reco-reco. It is a large segment of bamboo, in which have been made innumerable lateral incisions for the escape of the air, which is caused to vibrate by a piece of cane that is scraped across the incisions in the side of the bamboo, thus producing the characteristic sounds.

Finally, we must consider the pandeiro. It is a regional instrument, used not only to accompany the capoeira but also to mark the shaking rhythm of the sambas. Its shape is well-known: the circle of quince wood, the goatskin top and the jingles of Flemish tin. Certain societies of capoeira use agogó.

Capoeira Combat Songs

The berimbau is used by the accompanists of the capoeira to produce definite and resolute tunes that modulate the rhythms of the game. The most important are the following:

  • Sao Bento Grande — the light game
  • Sao Bento Pequeno — samba of the capoeira
  • Banqnela — the knife game
  • Santa Maria — the measured game
  • Ave Maria — the capoeira hymn
  • Amazonas — the middle game
  • Iuna — the creeping game
  • Cavalaria — a signal denouncing the proximity of strangers
  • Angolinha Samba de Angola

In view of what we tell, it is easy to understand the character of the capoeira game.

At the sound of the music of Sao Bento Pequeno, the combat is transfigured into the clashing of the samba. The good masters of capoeira, in order to give a demonstration of singular ability in …

Capoeira: The Muddied History of Brazil’s Other Martial Art

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.”

Capoeira’s International Prestige

Benjamin Muniz and his group, the Olodum, are performing demonstrations wherever they can find an audience. Their efforts at folklore festivals have garnered them international prestige, despite the backhanded help given them by national officials. In 1968, the Olodum represented Brazil at the Third Latin American Folkloric Festival staged in Argentina and took second place after finding themselves winners of three gold medals and one silver. This year, they garnered a first place win at the Latin American Festival held in Peru. Their performance, supported by musical instruments, was so commanding that the Brazilian Ministry paid homage to the art by including capoeira demonstrations on its “official” schedule of national demonstrations.

How strange it was for the heritage to start in Brazil and seemingly end there, because slaves were traded and deposited all over the world. Quite possibly, had there been instructors in the martial art in the United States, capoeira might have changed the face of history in North America.

This is not a treatise on civil rights; it is a testimony to an austere and legitimate martial art that identifies with all of the traditions of the other martial arts forms. Just as the Okinawan populace sought an effective means of self-defense, slaves developed capoeira to fight against the tormentors of human dignity in Brazil.

Quick Capoeira Body Movements

Representatives of Brazil, those who wish to look with pleasure on the history of their nation, would like the demonstrations of the dance to continue and be treated as a dance. Indeed, capoeira—because of its potentially dangerous aspects—must be practiced as a dance, as a “kata,” but there cannot be a “kumite.” The practitioners know the law and are forced to accept it, but they earnestly believe that the art could be a dynamic sport if the reigns of government myopia were removed. Admittedly, there have been many practitioners of the art who are working out with no punches or kicks pulled. It has resulted in some damaging effects, and even they recognize that the unleashed power of the art must be tempered somewhat for a sport in which the nation could take pride. As …