Capoeira (pronounced Capo-wa-ra), is an Afro-Brazilian art form that ritualizes movement from martial arts, games, and dance.
It was brought to Brazil from Angola some time after the 16th century in the regions known as Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Sao Paulo. Participants form a roda or circle and take turns either playing musical instruments (such as the Berimbau), singing, or ritually sparring in pairs in the center of the circle. The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Less frequently used techniques include elbow-strikes, slaps, punches, and body throws. Its origins and purpose are a matter of heated debate, with the spectrum of argument ranging from views of Capoeira as a uniquely Brazilian folk dance with improvised fighting movements to claims that it is a battle-ready fighting form directly descended from ancient African techniques.
Capoeira's origins are not at all clear. It is a combination of African and Brazilian martial arts, but camps are generally divided between those who believe it is a direct descendant of African fighting styles and those who believe it is a uniquely Brazilian dance form distilled from various African and Brazilian influences. The best working theory is that it's an African fighting style that was developed in Brazil. This theory is proven by a wise mestre named Salvano who once said "Capoeira cannot exist without black men".
Capoeira is growing worldwide. There have been comparisons drawn between the Afro-North American art form of the blues and capoeira. Both were practiced and developed by African-American slaves, both retained distinctive African aesthetics and cultural qualities; both were shunned and looked-down upon by the larger Brazilian and North American societies within which they developed, and both fostered a deep sense of Afrocentric pride especially amongst poorer and darker-skinned Blacks. Today there are many capoeira schools all over the world (capoeira is gaining ground in Japan) and throughout the United States, and with its growing popularity in the U.S. it has attracted a broad spectrum of multicultural, multiracial students. Capoeira has gained popularity among non-Brazilian and non-African practitioners for the fluidity of its movements.
A notable pracititioner of capoeira is actor and martial artist Wesly Snipes