It was developed in Brazil mainly by African descendants with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century.
The early history of capoeira is still controversial, especially the period between the 16th century and the beginning of the 19th century, since historical documents were very scarce in Brazil at that time.
But oral tradition and evidence leaves little doubt about its African roots.
Each group tends to have their own specific views on the history of Capoeira.
Those such as Abada and Cordao de Ouro view the art form as a Brazilian art form while certain “angoleiros” such as Mestre Moraes, view the art as purely African. Other groups, such as Senzala de Santos, view the art form as a combination of not only African and Brazilian, but Native American too.
In its first century, the main economic activity in the colony was the production and processing of sugar cane. Portuguese colonists created large sugarcane farms called engenhos, which depended on the labor of slaves.
Slaves, living in inhumane and humiliating conditions, were forced to work hard and often suffered physical punishment for small misbehaviors.
Although slaves often outnumbered colonists, rebellions were rare due to lack of weapons, harsh colonial law, disagreement between slaves coming from different African cultures and lack of knowledge about the new land and its surroundings usually discouraged the idea of a rebellion.
By the end of the 19th century, slavery was doomed in the Brazilian Empire.
Reasons included growing quilombo militias raids in plantations that still used slaves, the refusal of the Brazilian army to deal with escapees and the growth of Brazilian abolitionist movements.
The Empire tried to soften the problems with laws to restrict slavery, but finally Brazil would recognize the end of the institution on May 13, 1888, with a law called Lei Áurea (Golden Law), sanctioned by imperial parliament and signed by Princess Isabel.
Capoeira survived the near extinction it faced from illegality, and it was Mestre Bimba from Salvador, one of the last cities where capoeira was still practised, who rekindled the popularity of this art form.
Presenting the cultural significance of capoeira while also highlighting the attention it gained from tourists,
Bimba successfully convinced Brazilian authorities of the cultural value of the art and was allowed to open the first capoeira school in 1932, although not under the name of capoeira as this was still illegal.
Bimba’s strict approach to the martial art created new movements and choreographed attacks, which became known as ‘Regional’. In the 1940s the official ban was lifted from capoeira, and this allowed for two main streams to develop in unison, ‘Regional’, which was influenced by Bimba’s teaching, and ‘Angola’ which looked to the traditions of the art before it was banned.
Centered on welcoming people from all around the world, this great institution is set in the birthplace of modern Capoeira, Salvador.
Its training focuses on Brazilian culture as a whole, and they offer classes with masters of both styles of capoeira, as well as lessons in the music of capoeira and the Portuguese language.\