The Principles of a Great Capoeirista

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There are several principles that one must be proficient in before one can become a great Capoeirista.

Let us first define what Capoeira is. Capoeira has been classed as a dance-sport, but in reality, the game blurs the lines between martial arts, dance, sport and acrobatics. Two players compete in the middle of a ring made up of musicians and singers. The two players try to defeat, or dominate the other, using a series of graceful and fluid movements, kicks and other physical interactions.

Capoeira is generally termed a ‘dance-sport’ and we can find one of the principles of becoming a great Capoeirista in the name. The term ‘dance-sport’ suggests a state of consciousness either divided between modes of awareness or in which one moves rapidly back and forth between modes. A player must be able to slide between these two modes in order to become proficient.

One of the principles to become a great Capoeirista is to master the movements. There are various different types of kicks, takedowns and movements depending on the style, the region and the level of proficiency the Capoeirista is at. The goal is to defeat your opponent, whilst showing mastery of the movements. It is not enough that one is skilled in kicks or take-downs; you must be able to move your body gracefully in time to the music, interpret the music and anticipate your opponent’s moves all at the same time.

Players cannot become a great Capoeirista unless one master’s the instruments played at the game. Singing is seen as absolutely integral to the action by many players, and in some styles no physical play can occur without a sung invocation. Players competing in the ring can cease moving and start singing, or they can sing while moving. A disturbance in the music, however, can bring the game to an abrupt halt; emphasising the fact that one must be able to play proficiently.

One Capoeirista has stated that the both the music and the dance-sport connects the players with the past; it brings the past back into the present. And it is this, this bond, this connection, with the past, that allows one to become a great Capoeirista. 


Downey, Greg (2002) Listening to Capoeira: Phenomenology, Embodiment, and the Materiality of Music, Ethnomusicology, University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Society of Ethnomusicology.

Lewis, J. Lowell (1999) Sex and Violence in Brazil: “Carnaval, Capoeira”, and the Problem of Everyday Life, American Ethnologist, Blackwell publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association.


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