Techniques in Capoeira

By Kay Tang

Capoeira is a Brazilian art form blending combat, dance and music. It involves an interaction between players via movement or a physical game called "jogo de capoeira." While performing ritualistic moves of the capoeira art form, players conduct attacks and self-defense maneuvers in a fluid exchange. By practicing these techniques, you can explore your strengths, weaknesses and fears, enabling you to express yourself, self-reflect and evolve.

The Jogo

In contrast to traditional martial arts, music plays a key role in capoeira. The jogo, or the game of dance and combat, takes on the tone and pace of the music played during the session. Instruments include the berimbau, a bow with one string, tambourine, drum, double bell and the reco-reco, a piece of bamboo that is scraped with a stick. Called the roda de capoeira, which translates as "capoeira wheel," the session’s physical perimeter is defined by a circle of participants. While combatants fight within the circle, onlookers sing as a group to percussive rhythms.

Basic Movements

A certain vocabulary of movements, such as the ginga, aú, negative, rolê and ponte, serve as a foundation for capoeira. In the ginga, or swing, perform a swing in which you sway your body from side to side. The ginga helps you to capture the beat of the music and establish pace. The aú is a cartwheel in which you gaze at your opponent while upside down. Use the aú as a preparation for other movements. In the negativa, you move forward in a crouched position, extending one leg forward while balancing on the heel of the other foot. To come out of a negativa, perform a rolê, or roll. A ponte is a bridge or back bend, which is used in moves to escape your opponent, according to the Start Playing Capoeira website.


There are two types – straight and spinning – of capoeira kicks. An example of a straight kick is the ponteria, or forward kick. In this move, you kick your leg straight up and in front of you. Another basic kick is a cross kick, or Martello, which resembles a classic round house kick. Begin with a forward kick and then perform a sideways pivot with your body and leg. The pivot allows you to kick the side of your opponent’s body or his head. The benção is a forward thrust kick that enables you to shove your opponent back. An example of a spinning kick is the armada. Perform a 360-degree turn with your body, using the momentum to kick your leg up and around in a forward arcing movement.

Escapes and Takedowns

To counter capoeira attacks, which consist mainly of kicks, you learn various ways to escape an opponent’s strike. The simplest form of self-defense is the cocorinha, a crouching move in which you shield your face with your arm. Another nimble maneuver is the resistência, or resistance. If your opponent attacks with a kick, fall back and catch yourself with one arm behind you. You can also lean to one side in an esquiva lateral to dodge a front kick, placing your hand on the ground for support. In a take-down, you make contact with your opponent to knock them down. In a popular move, the rasteira, sweep your leg close to the ground to strike your opponent’s standing leg while he’s performing a kick. A second type of take-down is the tesoura, in which you use a scissor-like movement with both legs to catch your opponent, knock him off balance and twist him to the floor.

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