The art form combines circular and straight kicks, acrobatics, takedowns and creativity with mesmerizing music and universal spirituality. Capoeira brings health and balance to the life of its participants, whatever their age. The martial art is ideal for building awareness of body and mind, teaching fast reflexes and self-defense tactics. Capoeira is graceful and challenging, a life-tool encouraging all those who train to grow and invest in physical as well as mental well being.
The game of Capoeira is a fluid series of agile, acrobatic, and martial movements linked together to form a unique corporal conversation. The gracefully strategic physical dialogue happens in the Roda, the circle where training manifests into games between two Capoeiristas (practitioners of the art). These games are an intricate exchange of circular and straight kicks, escapes, sweeps, takedowns, and gymnastic flourishes. The spirit and energy of a Capoeira Roda is contagious.
At the head of the roda is the orchestra consisting of three berimbaus, two pandeiros and one atabaque. The berimbau is a mono-chord instrument from Central Africa, it dictates the flavor and speed of the Capoeira game inside the roda. This lead instrument can play over 10 different traditional rhythms with countless variations. The berimbau's unique acoustic sound is accompanied by the atabaque, a drum much like a primitive conga. The atabaque is the heartbeat of the Capoeira roda and is accentuated by the pandeiro (tambourine). The Capoeira orchestra is completed by the chorus, the ring of voices echoing from the roda in a call and response style song lead by one of the Capoeiristas. Capoeira songs tell of the art's powerful history, stories of legendary mestres, and of playful anecdotes. These stories, true and legendary alike, are colorful, inspiring, funny, and sometimes sad. Above all, Capoeira songs illuminate the intensity and vision of the art. Songs are sung in poetic, rhythmic Portuguese, Capoeiristas of all races and ethnicity are inspired to learn the language.
Angola: Considered the oldest and most traditional toque. Used for the Angola game, a slow performance where players demonstrate balance and corporal expression. Used with the São Bento Pequeno toque. Tempo can range from slow to moderately fast.
Sao Bento Pequeno: Also known as Inverted Angola (because it replaces the high note of the Angola toque with the low and vice versa). A close, fast game. São Bento Pequeno is also sometimes played as a contra-toque (an inversion the gunga) by the medio berimbau.
Sao Bento Grande: This is a very fast game played with ample movements. Leg sweeps and take downs are common in this game. The toque is identical to São Bento Pequeno, except that the 1/4 note pause is replaced by an additional solto note (i.e. the open note struck below the level of the coin) and the tempo is faster.
Santa Maria: A toque used for the not often seen 'money', game where the players try to pick up a coin purse placed in the center of the roda with their mouths, the melody imitates the corrido Santa Maria, Mãe de Deus. The corrido Apanha Laranja no Chão Tico Tico (não leva com mão, só com pé ou com bico) gives general rule for the game: use your mouth and feet, not your hands.
Cavalaria: Originally used to alert players that the police were coming, the toque imitates the galloping of horses (and some say it sounds like a police siren)
Samba de Roda: This rhythm comes from the traditional Sambas de Roda of Bahia and is perhaps the oldest of the toques listed. It's used as a toque variation for the berimbau viola, as well as for a post-roda celebration.
Rhythms created by Mestre Bimba
Sao Bento Grande de Bimba: Often called São Bento grande de Regional or just Regional. Mestre Bimba’s fast, explosive game seen often in exhibitions.
Iuna: Iúna is an old viola guitar toque used in the sambas of the Recôncavo, Bahia. Bimba, who himself was an accomplished master of the viola de samba, brought it into capoeira as a toque on berimbau. Some say it is also in imitation of the Iúna bird's song. This toque may signal a medium paced game with emphasis almost entirely on acrobatics and usually played with ample distance between partners. Traditionally this game is only played by graduados (experienced students) and in many schools may only be played when a Mestre is present.
It usually switches between one of a set of variations and a repeated common measure.
Benguela: In many schools played extremely close and with much deception. Some schools play this as a slower, safer Regional game.
Idalina: A slow, but powerful game. Another of Mestre Bimba's toques, the accompanying game is played with knives/razors.
Amazonas/Santa Maria de Angola: Amazonas: A welcoming toque used to greet visiting Mestres and guests in some Regional and Contemporânea schools. It has no traditionally associated game though Mestre Camisa is currently developing a game that mimics the movements of Amazonian animals. This toque is also called Santa Maria de Angola in some circumstances and is identical to São Bento Grande de Mestre Bimba. What differentiates toques in instances like this is the particular purpose for which it is being played. Three Versions Below:
Rhythm created by Mestre Suassuna
Miudinho: Like Angola, but faster. There is only sometimes clapping or singing. Mestre Suassuna: "The game of miudinho is generating controversy because it is being misinterpreted. People are thinking it's a new capoeira, and it's nothing like that. I simply rescued an older capoeira, modernized the manner of playing it, changed the sequences... the name miudinho arose because I was observing that capoeiristas were playing very distant from each other and in our time we played very close; thus, I said to people, 'I want the game more minute, closer, play very tiny.' Then, I created a toque on the berimbau. Miudinho is not a new capoeira, it's a different manner to display capoeira. Just like the games of Iuna and São Bento Grande exist, the game of miudinho exists."
There are two ways a Capoeirista can enter the Roda to play a game...
The first way is when two players kneel at the foot of the lead berimbau, shake hands and au (cartwheel) into the roda. When their game is over, they shake hands and back quickly out in to the ring of Capoeiristas making up the roda. It is important to note you should never turn your back to the center of the roda, whether you are standing on the perimeter, or especially when you are leaving the center after a game. This is a safety issue - other players may not notice that you haven't completely left the roda before they start throwing kicks and flips. And from the other perspective, be conscious of the other players who are leaving the roda before you enter.
The second way to enter the roda is to buy the game. This is when a player "buys out" the person who has been playing longer. During a practice/training roda (no live instruments and singing), all cord levels can buy the game. During an official roda only higher cords may buy the game. A lower cord may not buy out a higher cord unless the instructor in charge of the roda gives permission. When you enter the game in this way, the most important thing is to make sure both players can see you. Go in from the side, and be assertive.
There is an etiquette to buying in the roda that is difficult to explain ...observe the higher cords, and don't be afraid to ask questions.