Is Capoeira Viable As Self Defence?

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The highly distinctive style of Capoeira, a form of martial art, dance and acrobatics, has been in debate whether it is viable as a self defence. There are several reasons to why this is so.

First, let us define what Capoeira is. Capoeira is, as stated above, blends acrobatics, dance and martial arts into one distinctive style, generally known as a dance-sport. It originated in Africa, generally said to be Angola, and was brought over to Brazil by slaves who were sold to Brazil by Portuguese slave traders in the 16th century.

On arrival to Brazil, the slaves adapted new techniques to the original form of Capoeira. The reason for this was that the fighting techniques used by the slaves made their overlords extremely nervous, and in order to disguise this, the slaves added several dance moves to Capoeira. However, this did not make their masters any less nervous, and Capoeira was effectively banned and ruthlessly persecuted until the late 1930’s.

There are a series of movements in Capoeira that could make this dance-sport viable as a self defence. Numerous takedowns, defence moves, attacks and kicks all strive to dominate and feat one’s opponent. The two players in the centre (called a ‘roda’) engage in a duel of mastery in which they try to take each other down while also moving gracefully and beautifully in time to the music. One thing that Capoeira teaches is a good sense of equilibrium (equilibrio), since one must learn to balance on one leg for the many kicks and one is continually going upside down onto the hands.

All the players practice keeping their own balance, and in addition there is a class of blows designed to unbalance the opponent. These blows and take-downs are supposed to unbalance opponents psychologically as well as well as physically. In Capoeira, if a player is able to make their opponent angry or afraid, it is considered just as good as a physical takedown.

The presence of music is a big factor in the performance of Capoeira. The players strive to perform beautifully to the music, to interpret the music through the expressions of takedowns, evading techniques, mock blows, kicks and other forms of attacks. Hesitation, or stopping, of the music can render the game to a complete stop.

When looking at the fighting element of Capoeira, its style does not seem to be designed to stand up to the other forms of martial arts, such as Kung Fu, Karate, and Aikido etc. However, if used against someone who has no experience of either Capoeira or other forms of martial arts, it could defect an attack.

All in all, when looking at the adaption of dance moves and the acrobatic elements to Capoeira, it seems apparent that Capoeira is not viable as a means of self defence.


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