Capoeira: An Afro-Brazilian art form sweeping the globe
Many in pop culture are aware of martial arts and for some it has made the biggest impression in their personal lives. For example, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and GZA draw inspiration from the music and creed of the characters in many popular classic kung fu films dating back to the 70s. There’s one martial art form in particular that has been gaining more and more notoriety among the zeitgeist due to its rhythmic African roots: capoeira.
Many celebrities have been noted as practitioners of the art, including Wesley Snipes, Anderson “the Spider” Silva, the first black “Power Ranger” Walter Jones and even Victoria’s Secret supermodel Adriana Lima – it’s the Brazilian bombshell’s “favorite” exercise. And people wonder how she keeps such great shape!
So, what is this capoeira? It is an Afro-Brazilian martial art created by the African slaves during the slave trade. It combines attacks, escapes (as there isn’t much blocking), music, dance, and acrobatics to create a deceivingly beautiful, yet deadly art, all put in the realm of a game. Each attack has corresponding escapes and counter-attacks, meant to confuse the other “opponent” and opening the other for a strike. It is typically played in a circle, or “roda”, of practicioners with the main musicians at the mouth, or “boca”, of the roda.
Towards the end of the 90s, capoeira was featured in the movies, “Only the Strong” (1993) and “The Quest” (1995). It was actually music videos where it started to gain its popularity in pop culture: “Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes and The Black Eyed Peas, “Maria, Maria” by Carlos Santana and Wyclef Jean, “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani, “We Trying to Stay Alive” by Wyclef Jean (which featured a short b-boy fight/ capoeira scene), and “Dirty” by Christina Aguilera. Aside from the music videos, many movies and video games have featured capoeira. In the gaming side, one popular (but widely underrated) game featuring the art was the Def Jam sagas. This was a story fighting game that starred many artists in the R&B and Hip-Hop world. Dan-G, Lil Flip, Sean Paul, and Crazy Legs were all characters in the game that used capoeira as their fighting style. An even more popular series of games, the Tekken series, has three characters (after the third game) that all use capoeira: Eddy Gordo, Christie Monteiro, and Tiger Jackson. In film, aside from the two films previously mentioned above, films such as “Ocean’s Twelve”, “The Protector”, and “Undisputed 3” have all featured characters that use capoeira, the last two of which feature a capoeirista named Lateef Crowder, who trains with Capoeira Batuque in California.