Pelé is the king of soccer. The Gracie family rules in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu world. In the universe of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art, the big name is Manuel dos Reis Machado, aka Mestre Bimba. Born in 1900 and deceased in 1974, Bimba codified the fight, developed a learning method, introduced new elements, such as the uniform (white t-shirt and pants), performed for the governor of Bahia and president Getúlio Vargas and, this way, gained respect for a martial art till then illegal.
There are very few images of Bimba practicing capoeira, playing berimbau and giving interviews. These are some of them:
This is the full version of 2007 film “Mestre Bimba, a Capoeira Iluminada”:
Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art practiced all over the world, was originally a criminal activity. Even after the abolition of slavery, in 1888, the police would repress any manifestation of Black culture. Lots of the early records were destroyed and capoeira disappeared from several parts of the country, thanks to the repression. It only survived in regions where African culture was particularly strong, such as the cities of Salvador and Rio.In Recife, capital of Pernambuco, it morphed into frevo, a popular dance that was quite rough in the beginning of the 20th century. As recently as the 60s, the umbrella – at the time not covered with fabric – was used as a weapon. Today, it is hard to believe frevo descends from a martial art. Continue reading Capoeira through the ages→
Few export products are as successful as capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art that mixes dance and music in exquisite way. You can certainly find a good capoeira school near you, no matter if you are in Lithuania or China.
If you still didn’t fall for it, you will, after watching this beautiful video, made by D’un Autre Monde, a French group that produces coreographies inspired by capoeira.
Check also this post, about “Besouro”, a film about a famous capoeirista who defied gravity and the Devil. Choreographed by Huen Chiu Ku, that worked in “The Matrix” and “The Tiger and the Dragon”, it has been recently released in Brazil and is beginning its international career.
It was high time capoeira were represented in the big screen in all its glory. A movie just released tells the story of Besouro (The Beetle), a true myth among those who practice the Afro-Brazilian martial art/ballet. The director João Daniel Tikhomiroff had a high budget for Brazilian standards – US$ 7 million -, spent in a production that embellishes an art that is, to begin with, extremely beautiful. Several actors are true capoeiristas and their fight scenes were coreographed by Huen Chiu Ku, that previously worked in “The Matrix”, “The Tiger and the Dragon” and “Kill Bill”.
The film is based on the book “Feijoada no Paraíso“, written by Marco Carvalho, a novel based on the life of the fighter, who lived in Bahia in the 20’s. The movie portraits the racial conflicts in the country, that had freed the slaves only three decades before. Besouro was known for his ability to fly and his corpo fechado – a supernatural protection obtained through candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion. He also challenged the powerful landowners that had, and still have, lots of power in the region.
Ailton Carmo, the 22-year-old baiano that plays Besouro, never acted before, but has been practicing capoeira for most of his life. In a recent interview he remembers that, when he was 9, he watched an American movie called “Only the Strong” (Esporte Sangrento) that depicted a capoeirista (played by Mark Dacascos). He says he told his mother: “Mainha, one day I will represent my culture”. I wish Ailton and the film a happy international career.