“Game, fight or dance, what exactly is Capoeira? This is a question that people frequently ask. If you look into the history of Capoeira, you will find that these three definitions all apply.”
Capoeira or the Dance of War by Johann Moritz Rugendas, 1835
The history of Capoeira begins in the 18th century. The oldest known descriptive text on Capoeira was written by Melo de Morais Filho, who documented the popular traditions of Brazil. The slaves in Brazil created Capoeira during their battle for freedom. Since then Capoeira has developed and today there are two main styles of Capoeira; one called Capoeira Angola and the other called Capoeira Regional.
Capoeira Angola is the closest form to the Capoeira that was played amongst the slaves, and does not have a specific founder. Mestre Pastinha (Vicente Ferreira Pastinha, 1889-1982) is among the mestres of Capoeira Angola. Mestre Pastinha created a Capoeira Angola school in Salvador, wrote a book about Capoeira Angola and also recorded an album which was called Mestre Pastinha e sua Academia.
Capoeira Regional was created by Mestre Bimba (Manoel Dos Reis Machado) who was born in 1899 in Salvador, the capital of Bahia. He was the first Mestre to open a formal school of Capoeira in 1932. This changed the history of Capoeira because his academy was recognised by the Brazilian government through the office of education and public assistance. He created a specific method of teaching Capoeira that included sequences and grading.
Both Mestre Pastinha and Mestre Bimba are very important for the history and the philosophy of Capoeira. Also a third a form of Capoeira has developed over the course of time, which is different to the styles mentioned above. The style that some people refer to as Contemporary Capoeira includes for example acrobatic movements that you would not find in the pure Capoeira Angola or Capoeira Regional.