Capoeira is a martial art form that originated in the sixteenth century among slaves brought to Brazil from African nations such as Angola, Congo, and Guinea. The New World slave masters, anxious to keep their captives under their strict domination, imposed harsh prohibitions and restrictions on parent forms of capoeira, often referred to as "N'golo".
To ensure their survival, the traditional forms were infused with dance and a new musical accompaniment. Capoeira's deadly potential was hidden from the slave-masters by its dance-like elegance, baffling acrobatics, and the engaging rhythms of its music.
For the African slaves, capoeira was a literal and symbolic means of survival. It became a tool of escape and defense, making freedom attainable and affirming strength, self-reliance and self esteem. Subsequently, it was banned in Brazil for 400 years, yet flourished underground-reinforcing its ritualistic elements and its African substructure. In 1937, capoeira was legalized and recognized as a national folkloric art by the Brazilian government. Capoeira is a testimony to the indomitable spirit, ingenuity, and unique expression of Brazilian culture.