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Useful Notes: Capoeira
An Afro-Brazillian martial art which combines fighting with performance art. It's a very recognizable style with its emphasis on acrobatics, ground combat, and spinning kicks frequently all at the same time. Its usage dates back at least to the 18th century. Capoeira as practiced today stems primarily from two Mestres in the 20th century and their respective schools: Mestre Bimba, founder of the modernized Capoeira Regional in the 1930s, and Mestre Pastinha, founder of the more traditionalist Capoeira Angola that strove to keep closer to the art's roots.

Its origins are hazy and debated, but it emerged as a fighting style among the slaves of Brazil. The elements of dance existed partly so that the slaves could mask it as a cultural activity unrelated to fighting. It evolved to be a favored fighting style among criminals, and at various times in Brazilian history, it has been declared illegal to practice. As a result, much of the known history is based on stories and legends.

The art spread first throughout Brazil, from poor blacks to wealthier classes, and throughout the world in the later part of the 20th century.

Tropes associated with Capoeira

  • Armed Legs: A common misrepresentation is that some early capoeiristas performed with razor blades clenched between their toes as a hidden weapon. In actuality, razors were used, but generally in the user's hands. There are videos on YouTube showing people playing with razors between their toes but these games are very slow and cautious.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: How it is seen among many people, at least those who don't see it as Difficult but Awesome. The reality is that capoeira is a legitimately versatile fighting style, but requires an unusually long time and effort to master compared with other martial arts.
  • Badass Grandpa: Some of the founding mestres are still around and at the age of 70-80, they're still happily flipping around the roda and schooling students at the promotion ceremonies.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Capoeiristas outside the roda or other sanctioned fights can easily become this with techniques like Telefone ("Telephone"), in which you clap your hands on either of the opponent's ears to disorient them and potentially permanently ruin their hearing, or Arpão de Cabeça ("Head Spear"), in which you throw your whole body into a headbutt aimed at the enemy's head, chest, or groin. When in the Roda never accept if the other person offers you a "blessing" Just to elaborate, the Blessing (or, in portuguese, "Benção") is an unbalancing pushing kick that is one of the most known and effective moves in Capoeira.
  • Dance Battler: A traditional Capoeira roda (sparring circle) is performed to music, and is as much about looking impressive and showing off how clever you are as it is about landing blows.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Multiple spinning kicks are frequently linked together, building up momentum and, again, looking impressive. The spinning kick exchanges may also be used by one player to lull the other into a false sense of security before dumping him or her on his butt with a sudden sweep. All part of the fun of the game.
  • Extremity Extremist: The basic dozen or so kicks are pretty much always the first thing new students will learn, and probably 90% of the attacks in the roda are kicks. Headbutts and takedowns account for another 9% or so. Hand strikes are usually reserved for illustrating to your opponent that they're conspicuously dropping their guard. Hand or elbow strikes and takedowns are generally reserved to more experienced practitioners, but can become fairly frequent in games between skilled Capoeiristas.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Back when Only the Strong came out, a film critic called Capoeira "the lambada of martial arts". That critic turned out to be very wrong.
  • Martial Pacifist: According to Mestre Bimba, "The best way of self-defense is not getting into fights at all". Facing off in the roda is referred to as "playing" rather than "fighting", and it is always the duty of a more skilled player to look out for the safety of the less skilled opponent.
  • Mood Motif: The music played during the roda determines how the game is played. Slower music results in a slower, more strategic game, typically with a lot of ground fighting, close fighting, and elaborate reversals. Faster music results in a more acrobatic and high-flying match and usually involves more distance so as to not harm your partner.
  • One-Man Army: Capoeira was conceived to fight in extreme conditions, as evidenced in its emphasis on moving unceasingly and using wide attacks. There are stories about capoeristas who fought overwhelming numbers of opponents at once, and while many of them are probably exaggerated, some have historical records. A drug dealing capoerista named Madame Satã was said in police reports to have once beaten up twenty-four policemen in a street brawl. Coincidentally, Madame Satã was a gay man who often dressed in drag. Badass Gay indeed.
  • Roundhouse Kick: The style actually focuses more on the less practical full spin roundhouses, especially to chain spinning kicks, but the shorter arc ones are also used.
  • Rule of Cool: The roda where capoeiristas play is not so much about beating your opponent as both practicing and showing off your own techniques as well as giving the opponent opportunity to show his own. Also, did we mention that it looks really impressive?
  • Use Your Head: A fairly standard move. Unlike most martial arts, headbutts are almost always done with the top of the head in a spearing movement.


  • Only the Strong, generally the movie most U.S. capoeiristras cite as their introduction to Capoeira.
  • Eddy Gordo and Christie Monteiro of the Tekken series, possibly the best reproduced example in non-Brazilian media.
  • L in Death Note, as well as the Action Girl who taught him in the manga.
  • Combo Ninos
  • Eternal Champions: Trident uses Capoeira despite its existence being an anachronism in his given time period.
  • Fatal Fury / The King of Fighters:
    • Soiree Meira, Momoko, Richard Meyer, and Bob Wilson.
    • Yashiro has some acrobatic kicks that resemble Capoeira.
    • Duck King's style is stated as "Breakdance Martial Arts", but he uses several Capoeira moves.
  • The Rundown: The natives employ Capoeira in their fight against Dwayne Johnson.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The attackers in the graveyard use several Capoeira techniques in their hit-and-run attacks
  • Cordão de Ouro: The film is about the history of Capoeira
  • Street Fighter:
    • Elena used Capoeira as her style, being an Extremity Extremist who did kicks even when the punch buttons were pressed.
    • Blanka occasionally had Capoeira listed as his fighting style, but it was in name only.
  • Echidna in The Bouncer
  • Capoeira Fighter: A Flash-based fighting game which has had at least two sequels
  • Capoeira Legends: An Indie Game for Windows which features Capoeira as an exploration of Brazilian culture.
  • Lateef Crowder is one of Hollywood's most prominent capoeiristas. His roles have included:
  • In Hellboy II, Abe employs a negativa/rolê combination to evade attacks at one point in the film.
  • The enemy captain of Episode 2 of Mercs employs Capoeira in his fighting style.
  • Força of the Whateley Universe is a Capoeira practitioner. As noted by several characters, using a fighting style employing handstands makes less sense when your hands are the only point from which you can discharge your energy blasts.
  • Male trolls in World of Warcraft have Capoeira as their dance emote. Few players are any good at replicating it.
  • An episode of Bob's Burgers focused on Tina trying to learn Capoeira. "Capoeira" in this instance consisted primarily of the dreamy instructor hitting people in the face with his ponytail while yelling "Ponytail! and tripping people while saying "Brazil."
  • The dance between Aang and Katara in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Headband" shows major inspiration from it.
  • The Pokémon Hitmontop, known as Kapoerer in the original Japanese, was inspired by a capoeirista. Of note is that is the only Pokémon to learn the unique move Triple Kick, a flashy but unreliable attack that may be a nod to some of the less practical maneuvers in Capoeira.
  • Kilik Lunge from Soul Eater has a pair of Weapons named Pot of Fire and Pot of Thunder that practice Capoeira.
  • This Stand-Up Comedy session in Spanish has the comedian Sergio Freire commenting about Capoeira in a very... special manner.
  • Fabiola Iglesias in Black Lagoon uses it in conjunction with gunplay.
  • The Jaffa martial art mastaba in Stargate SG-1 is capoeira (in fact, the show used actual practitioners as extras and doubles for "The Warrior").
  • The Guardians of Kandrakar in W.I.T.C.H. learned the basics in the New Power arc as part of their attuning to the titular power-up.
  • Martial Arts: Capoeira for the PC and Wii, rather obviously, features the style.
  • Rage Of The Dragons: Pupa Salgueiro, one of the playable characters, uses this style in conjunction with her wrench.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, if Raimundo isn't using Shen Gong Wu, expect him to be using this fighting style.
  • Mugen of Samurai Champloo uses this on top of the rest of his anachronistic character.
  • Drossel from Fireball practices capoeira, even though she insists it's karate.
  • In Iron Kid, Shadow uses capoeira as his hand-to-hand fighting style. At the very opening of the series he is shown striking an aú batido/chapa de costa/piao de mao combination against Lightning.
  • The Fox from Oceans Twelve uses Capoeira to get past a laser security system, as seen here
  • "Kothifiran street fighting" in Chronicles of the Kencyrath has been confirmed by the author to be capoeira in all but name.
  • In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Fai and Seishiro use heavily kicking-based fighting styles with obvious capoeira influences.

KendoSporting EventNCAA
Stanley CupUseful NotesEuropean Swordsmanship

alternative title(s): Capoeira
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