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Developed in the 1500’s by African slaves in Brasil, Capoeira, the thrilling Afro-Brasilian martial art concealed as dance, was introduced to the United States almost 30 years ago. Capoeira has become one of Brasil’s top national sports (second only to soccer) and it has become firmly established in the U.S. Performed with a joy fully improvised spontaneity, Capoeira combines floor movements resembling breakdancing with agile acrobatic movements and kicks of grace and beauty. The “Soul of Capoeira” is the trance-like music of the berimbau, the musical bow of African origin.
On January 14th, 1989 in Rio de Janeiro, Grupo Capoeira Brasil was founded by Mestres Boneco, Paulao, and Paulinho Sabia. The inauguration, sponsored by a council of legendary mestres from various organizations, began an amazing capoeira dynasty, which today is one of the largest in the world. The “padrinhos,” or godfathers of Grupo Capoeira Brasil include Mestres Suassuna, Itapoan, Peixinho, and the late Ezekiel. Since its founding, Grupo Capoeira Brasil has grown internationally with centers and academies in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Antonio, St. Louis, Gainesville, Boston, Amsterdam, Sydney, Paris, Marseille, and all over Brazil.
Founders of Grupo Capoeira Brasil:
Mestre Paulao (Ceara/Amsterdam), Mestre Boneco (Rio/Los Angeles), Mestre Paulinho Sabia (Niteroi/Paris)
Students develop differently over the years. Promotions are not only based on the amount of time a student spends in class, but also on the skill level of that student. So, two students who have trained for the same amount of time may not receive the same corda/cord, at a Batizado. This is why there are overlaps in the number of years it takes to receive a cord in the following table.
Beginner level: Up to 1 year of training
Students begin their Capoeira training at this level. The phrase Corda Cruda, translated as Raw Cord, signifies that rather than being seen as inexperienced, = students are seen as being full of potential for growth.
Intermediate level: 1 to 2 years of training
Intermediate level: 1 to 3 years of training
Students begin to demonstrate an understanding of the Capoeira game, and have a basic knowledge of the movements, such as kicks and ground techniques, as well as music. Students know the choruses to many songs and can play a few instruments.
Intermediate/Advanced level: 2 to 4 years of training
Intermediate/Advanced level: 2 to 5 years of training
Students have a much deeper understanding of the Capoeira game. They now begin utilizing many different kicks and acrobatic movements. At this level, students are also capable of singing solos during a roda and playing many different instruments.
Monitor – Advanced level: 3 to 6 years of training
Students earn the title of Monitor at this level. Monitors study class from an outside perspective as they themselves begin learning how to teach, and may even be able to teach under the supervision of their instructor. They also aid any lower-ranked students in need of assistance. As Capoeiristas, students at this level now fully incorporate a large variety of kicks and acrobatic movements, have a large repertoire of songs, and can play= any instrument.
Once Blue/Red Cord status has been reached, student assessments made by their instructors are still based on their skill level and the time they spend in class, but these now become secondary to their devotion to the group, as well as their ability to help other students and teach class. For this reason, it is difficult to surmise the amount of time it will take Capoeirist as to move from one level to the next.
Graduado or Instrutor
At this level, students earn the title of Graduado, which means “Graduated”. In a sense, this is a new beginning for students, a new “Corda Cruda”, because, as mentioned before, assessments are based more on teaching ability, which is a new step for students. They must learn to share their own knowledge with other students. It is for this reason that students at this level are encouraged to begin teaching a class of their own. A Graduado who begins teaching class earns the title and respect of an Instrutor (Instructor).
At this level, Capoeiristas continue to= improve on their skills overall, which now includes the ability to teach. They are very strong in the roda, and are equally as strong when teaching a class. Their strength comes from their ability to incorporate Malicia, or deviousness, into their game. It’s malicia that gives Capoeirist as their ability to surprise and confuse their opponents.
To reach this level, Capoeiristas must not only have proven themselves to be skilled martial artists, but also proficient teachers. Professors are regarded very highly, as they have come very far and have devoted their lives to being part of Capoeira. Their malicia skills continue to increase, since they now have the ability to apply the knowledge they’ve gained within the roda to their dealings in the outside world, and vice-versa.
Contramestres are not only some of the most important figures of their group, but in the world of Capoeira itself. They are the right hand of the Mestres within their group, and are so esteemed and honored that, even at this level, they are respected as Mestres. Formidable players in the roda, Contramestres can seemlessly combine all of their skills into a fierce and relentless game.
This is the apex for students of Capoeira; the highest and hardest level to achieve. This cord has the right and responsibility to oversee and supervise the on-goings of the group they lead. Mestres are legendary for their skill, wisdom, and tact both inside and out of the roda. They have mastered their Capoeira by forging all of the physical skills, training, cunning, and experience into their very presence. Mestres comprise the top echelon of all Capoeira groups.
About the Instructors
Mestre Caxias (Alex Filadelfo) has been playing capoeira for over twenty years. As a youngster, he played capoeira in the streets of Rio de Janeiro well before beginning an eight-year period of formal training with Mestre Bodinho. In 1988 Caxias traveled to Puerto Rico to perform with the Plataforma Company. Five years later, he begain training with Mestre Boneco of Grupo Capoeira Brasil. In just six years, his original classes of three have expanded to nearly one hundred students. As he built the group in New York, Caxias also started other Capoeira Brasil groups in several U.S. cities. Currently Caxias devotes his time to teaching and performing around the world.
Instrutor Brucutu (Jarvis Broom) has been playing capoeira for 10 years under the supervision of Mestre Caxias. He started Grupo Capoeira Brasil at the UNC-Chapel Hill/Duke University Capoeira Club. Today he resides in Chicago, IL where he leads the capoeira classes at the Japanese Culture Center.