Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art developed in the 1500s by slaves. It is marked by deft, tricky movements often played on the ground or completely inverted. It also has a strong acrobatic component in some versions and is always played with music. The word capoeira has a few meanings, one of which is an area forest or jungle that has been cleared by burning or cutting down. Alternatively, Kongo scholar K. Kia Bunseki Fu-Kiau thinks that capoeira could be a deformation of the kikongo word kipura, which means to flutter, to flit from place to place; to struggle, to fight, to flog. In particular, the term is used to describe rooster’s movements in a fight.
Breakdancing, developed in the 1970s, has many analogous moves; thus, many believe that capoeira is its root. Indeed, many Brazilians had immigrated to the US, and particularly to New York, by that time, and would practice capoeira in the streets where it was able to influence, and probably be influenced by, this new dance form.
There are two main styles of capoeira that are clearly distinct. One is called Angola, which is characterized by slow, low play with particular attention to the rituals and tradition of capoeira. The other style is Regional (pronounced ‘hey-zhow-nao’), known for its fluid acrobatic play, where technique and strategy are the key points. Both styles are marked by the use of feints and subterfuge, and use groundwork extensively, as well as sweeps, kicks, and headbutts.