Brazilian slaves Capoeira Q

I've always been told the emphasis in kicking in Capoeira comes from the fact that slaves in Brazil had their hands chained. I never thought much about it since I don't think much about Capoeira in general. However, due to an injury, I'm off weights for a while and it looks like I'm gonna try Capoeira to keep fit. So here's the Q- in my experience, to do the manual labor slaves were forced to do, your hands could not be bound. If your hands were bound, you would not work safely or effciently if at all. So were their hands really bound? Any thoughts?


It's a myth.

I used to believe this, but Jason Couch pointed me towards an excellent source (a PhD thesis on African and African Diaspora martial arts) which refuted it. In reality, the emphasis on high kicking came from two main sources:

1) The Africans who first developed Engolo were influenced by the way a zebra would use kicks to fend off or even kill lions. They hence decided to emulate the zebra.

2) It's a Bantu tradition that "the hands are to create; the feet are to destroy". They strongly prefer to kick people rather than using hand strikes. Hence they focussed on kicking people in the head rather than punching them, and so dynamic high kicks became a standard part of their art.

Thanx, is the Thesis available online?

Not unless you go to an univeristy library, some have subscriptions to dissertations services. You may also be able to order it from UMI-Proquest, but that can get costly. If you just want that page or two, email me and I'll send it.

The one theory is briefly discussed on the International Capoeira Angola Foundation website,

It is interesting to note that there is little use of offensive hand techniques in capoeira. Some have attributed this to the belief that slaves had to fight with their hands immobilized by chains and therefore emphasized foot and leg techniques. It is more likely however that the absence of hand techniques is based on an ancient kongo tradition in which the hands should be used for good work, i.e, creative activities, while the feet should be used for bad work, i.e, punishment and destruction. Fu-Kiau explained one relevant proverb in kikongo "Mooko mu tunga, malu mu diatikisa" (Hands are to build, feet are to destroy).


Candomble is the religion that the Bantu people associate with, namely those who were brought over from Angola as slaves to Recife, Bahia in Brazil. Candomble is the religion you guys are talking about where the hands are meant for work, not necessarily for fighting. The feet were looked at as their means of fighting and self defense.

You also have to look at whether a person who is training in Capoeira comes from either the Angola or Regional styles, because there are differences in each style.

Angola by nature is played slower than Regional, and most people believe the common misnomer that Angola is the more "traditional" game of Capoeira. It can actually be played at any speed, but, is normally played slow. Angoleiros (those who play Angola)don't
normally play with the hands, but at times they will. I've seen only a few Angola rodas, and the emphasis is placed moreso on headbutts (cabecadas) and sweeps (rasteiras).

Regionalistas (Regional students) will use both hands and feet when playing. Regional is the more combative of the two styles, where strikes with the hand are used more often. You will see galopantes (punches/slaps), telefones (ear slaps), elbows (I forgot the name in Portuguese), chokes, etc.

The majority of the time you're using feet to kick, block, counterattack, and sweep. However, there are various strikes using the hands that have been incorporated into Capoeira.

I'm at work, so when I get home tonight, I'll be able to post a more thorough explanation of how they are used and in what situations you can use them. I figured I should post being that I train in the art and can give some insight into the use of hand techniques in Capoeira.


Takedown- Both styles are available in my city (a few blocks from each other). I got a small tear in my LCL (outside of the knee) from lifting weights, so they are a no-no for a few months. The physio said I can do anything that doesn't but signifigant stress on the pattelar tendon (no deep squating) or put emphasis on the outside of the leg. Which style do you think is better for staying in shape while not taking my leg to the extreme.




Unfortunately, Capoeira puts quite a bit of stress on the knee joints due to the GINGA (Basic Capoeira stance). I injured my ACL/MCL from Capoeira training. It tends to build up your quads, while simultaneously neglecting your hamstrings, which my ortho said was called "sprinter legs." After 3 years of training, it finally caught up to me, and I built up enough thigh muscle to where it pushed my patella outward and out of alignment from the rest of my knee. I did about 2 months physio on my knees to strengthen up the cruciate ligaments. I've trained a few times since then, but have done more BJJ lately.

If you are still interested in training after my warning, it really doesn't matter what style you train in. Either Angola or Regional will give you an incredible workout. But as I mentioned earlier, there is stress involved in the GINGA, and also when you're ducking under kicks to avoid them, and other movements involved in Capoeira.

What city are you in? I can point you to a good school in your area or I may even be familiar with who the Mestre(Master) or Group in your area is. Maybe once your ligaments heal, you can check out the school and train. You may even want to check the schools out ahead of time and see which one has a good vibe. Most groups are cool and will totally invite you in, even if it's just to watch.


I probably won't train after that warning. I'm in Montreal and know of (regional style) and (Angola style). I'll speak with my physio again, see if this stuff is safe. If she says ok, I'll give it a shot, but from what you say- it sounds like I should avoid it.


I believe there is also an Axe Capoeira group (Regional) in your area. They cross train Capoeira w/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I like how they train because they use the combative side of Capoeira to train, not just playing Capoeira. You can find their school site at

Thanx, I'll let the physio know and see what she says.

I checked the website but I don't see any mention of BJJ, only Cap.

They don't come straight out and say the cross train in BJJ, but trust me, I know some people who train w/them. They actually do some BJJ in the roda. The main Master teaches them the fighting aspects of Capoeira, which includes BJJ. Pretty crazy, but that's how they train. My school trains along the same lines.

Cool, I'll check it out.

martial_shadow, you're in Montreal?My favourite self-defence instructor is based there. His material is by far the best I've ever seen. If you're looking for self-defence training, you might want to check his school out:

Getting back to the original question of this thread, being whether you use handstrikes in Capoeira? Yes, you can.

You normally only see it done in Regional, and is very rarely done in Angola. Most of the time, the only reason you will use hands is to block an attack you aren't fast enough to dodge.

As I mentioned earlier, you will see a small variety of handstrikes that were incorporated into Capoeira by Mestre Bimba. There are alot of slaps and open hand strikes, very similar to Vale Tudo. You can also use boxing strikes like hooks, jabs, uppercuts, and there are also elbow strikes once you get in tight with the other person, or when you take them down to the ground. I've done a knee strike on a couple of people who got too close or tried to shoot in for a double leg, they didn't come close to me after that.

One of the things my instructor does is prepare us to go full contact with someone in the roda, because different schools teach different philosophies. We are prepared for any type of game in the roda, whether it's just a nice, flowing game, or if we have to fight with someone in the roda. The masters usually stop the game if it gets too rough, but they also allow it to go just long enough to where you have the chance to do some full contact w/the other person.

Alot of people think Capoeira is classified under the "traditional" MA's and therefore, has no signficant fighting techniques that can be used. On the contrary, there are quite a bit of practical techniques a person can use in Capoeira to fight.

That's what has kept me from picking up capoeira yet. All the schools I've looked at (the closest are in Wash DC) look a little too touchy-feely/light-to-no contact for me, b/c I'm not really looking to learn dance. I mean, I'm willing to accept the art in its gestalt, but I want to be able to punch and kick other people, too. Otherwise it just ain't worth the drive for me.

It is really a shame b/c the Int'l Capoeira Angola Foundation is down there, but I suspect my conception of martial art and their conception is a little different.


I know there is a Regional school in the DC area, but I'm not very familiar with their philosophy of teaching Capoeira. I believe the group is called Chicote Africano, under Professor Abutre. Mestre Cobra Mansa's school, ICAF, is strictly Angola, so you won't see much contact with them either. He plays a mean game of Capoeira though.

Most schools unfortunately do not teach or train Capoeira here in the U.S. like they do in Brazil for the mere fact of liability. Also, most of the Mestres and Professors who come up to the U.S. to teach Capoeira are either here illegally or only have a specific type of Visa that allows them to be here for 6 months. If something happened to any of the students injury-wise, the Mestre or Professor would be shipped out of the country. Fortunately, that's not the case w/my instructor, but he is selective w/who he teaches full contact to, and who he doesn't. Most students are into it only for the sport aspect, not the fighting aspect. It cracks me up when I get knicked or barely touched by someone and they start apologizing for barely even touching me during a game. After we finish, I usually tell them I train full contact in other arts, and also, they don't have to apologize to me for something that is already an inherent part of Capoeira.

They teach Capoeira as a fighting art in Brazil, and more often than not, cross train in BJJ because so many Capoeiristas are into Vale Tudo fighting down there. The mindset for training in Capoeira is totally different down in Brazil than it is here in the U.S. When people ask me to show them some things, I usually show them streetfighting or Rua Capoeira techniques, not the normal flowy stuff.

IBI- I've trained with Rich and Helen for 4-5 months. I'm trying to get back there but $$ is tight. BTW, I also trained with Tony.

thanx everybody