Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of dance, music, acrobatics, and martial arts created in around the 16th century Brazil mainly by descendants of African slaves with Brazilian native influences. Capoeira has a long and controversial history, since historical documentation in Brazil was very scarce in its colonial times. Evidences, studies and oral tradition leave little doubt about its Brazilian roots, but it is impossible to precisely identify the exact Brazilian region or time it began to take form. It is known by quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for leg sweeps. The word capoeira probably comes from Tupi, referring to the areas of low vegetation in the Brazilian interior.
Manuel dos Reis Machado, commonly called Mestre Bimba, born November 23, 1899, Salvador, Brazil – February 5, 1974, was a Mestre (a master practitioner) of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira and one of the legendary founding fathers of capoeira regional. The nickname "Bimba" came up due to a bet between his mother and the midwife during his birth; his mother bet that he was going to be a girl and the midwife bet he would be a boy. After he was delivered, the midwife said: “it's a boy, look at his bimba!” (male sexual organ). He started learning capoeira when he was 12 years old, with a Capitão da Companhia Baiana de Navegação (Navigation Captain) from Estrada das Boiadas (present day Bairro da Liberdade) in Salvador, called Bentinho, even though in those days capoeira was still being persecuted by the authorities.
Feeling that capoeira had lost it's purpose, Mestre Bimba began to rejuvenate capoeira by creating new movements for capoeira and incorporating movements from Batuque, an African martial art.
After a performance for the governor of Bahia and the president of Brazil, Mestre Bimba was able to convince them of the cultural value of capoeira and officially removing the bans on capoeira. In 1932, Mestre Bimba founded the first capoeira school, Academia-escola de Cultura Regional, in Salvador, Bahia. Prior to this point capoeira was practiced in the streets and was looked down up by the upper class. To change the perception of capoeira, Mestre Bimba added a ranking system and set strict rules for his students and his academy, which helped changed the perception of capoeira of the upper class and allowed for capoeira to become more accepted in Brazil. This lead to doctors, lawyers, and other of high society to become practitioners of the martial art. Mestre Bimba even taught capoeira to the army and police officers.
Mestre Bimba was determined for capoeira to be viewed with the same respect as the martial arts. Today capoeira is recognized as the national sport of Brazil and is practiced all over the world. Mestre Bimba died in 1974 in Goiânia, Brazil. Mestre Bimba's persistence for the development and growth of capoeira greatly helped the art form become what has today. Mestre Bimba's influence in capoeira can still be seen today.
Throughout his lifetime Mestre Bimba was a coal miner, carpenter, warehouse man, longshoreman, and horse coach conductor, but mainly a capoeirista.
Vicente Ferreira Pastinha (commonly called Mestre Pastinha) (April 5, 1889, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil – November 13, 1981) was a mestre (a master practitioner) of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira angola. Pastinha was born to José Pastinha (born Pastiña), a poor Spanish immigrant who worked as a peddler and Eugênia Maria de Carvalho Ferreira, a black Bahian homemaker. He was exposed to capoeira at the age of 8 by an African named Benedito. The story goes that an older and stronger boy from Pastinha's neighborhood would often bully and beat him up. One day Benedito saw the aggression that Pastinha suffered, and then told him to stop by his house because he was going to teach him a few things. In his next encounter with that boy, Pastinha defeated him so quickly that the older boy became his admirer. Pastinha had a happy and modest childhood. In the mornings he would take art classes at the Liceu de Artes e Ofício school where he learned to paint; afternoons were spent playing with kites and practicing capoeira. He continued his training with Benedito for three more years.
For several years, Mestre Pastinha taught capoeira to his colleagues at the School of Sailor Apprentices. Around 1912, Mestre Pastinha stopped teaching capoeira and didn't return to capoeira for about 30 years. In 1942, after an invitation to a roda that was often a frequent hangout for many well-known mestres, Mestre Pastinha was inspired to open the first school for capoeira angola, Centro Esportivo de Capoeira Angola, located in Pelourinho. Students of Mestre Pastinha wore black pants and yellow shirts, the colors of his favorite soccer team, Ypiranga.
Despite his efforts in capoeira, his academy did fall on hard time and health began to decline. The government asked Mestre Pastinha to vacate his school with the promise that it would be returned to him once they had completed renovations. This promise was never kept. Instead the property was renovated and turned into a restaurant. In 1981, Mestre Pastinha died and his work was continued by his students including is his most well-known students, Mestre Joao Pequeno and Mestre Joao Grande. Mestre Pastinha is highly respected in the capoeira community for his efforts and persistence in the growth an development of capoeira.
Reinaldo Ramos Suassuna also known as Mestre Suassuna (born 1938 in Ilhéus, Bahia, Brazil) is the founder and head of the international capoeira organization Cordão de Ouro. Mestre Suassuna was raised in Itabuna and began practicing capoeira, in the early 1950s. Initially because it was prescribed to him by a doctor, as treatment for a physical handicap in his legs. He graduated under Masters Sururu, Abine in Itabuna, and later studied under Masters Waldemar, Canjiquinha, and Bimba. In 1967, Mestre Suassuna and Mestre Brazilia, formed Cordao de Ouro ( translated golden cord) which is one of the largest capoeira groups in the world. Mestre Suassuna is internationally known and respected in capoeira and is well-known for his powerful voice and musicality. Mestre Suassuna continues to promote the growth and evolution of capoeira around the world.
Grupo Cordao de Ouro (CDO)
The Association de CAPOEIRA CORDÃO DE OURO was founded by Mestre Suassuna in the year of 1960, more exactly in September 1, 1967, along with Mestre Brasilia, at a time of major festivals of Brazilian popular music. To listen to the chorus of the song on the radio, the two, already with the idea of opening an Academy, decided to use the name CORDÃO DE OURO, Beetle Cordão de Ouro, a capoeira Angola and Regional Division earlier. Mestre Suassuna taught Capoeira Regional and Mestre Brasilia taught Capoeira Angola within the same space. After a short period, Mestre Brasilia decided to found his own group, São Bento Grande. Always restless Mestre Suassuna never settled, keeping his work fresh, and looking for new ways to improve capoeira and after many years created the game of Miudinho. A new team of capoeiristas "turma" became Mestre: Boca Rica, Habibs, Mintirinha, Kibe, Denis, Saroba, Coruja, Chicote, Chiclete, Kino, Pintado, Esquilo, Romualdo and many more. Regents of a new game and rich in plastic movements.
Today, with numerous branches in Brazil and abroad, the Group CORDÃO DE OURO has prominent role among all groups of capoeira, not only by representing the Mestre Suassuna sport and culture, but also by the effort undertaken by him and his supporters in order to keep capoeira in a highly technical level, interacting speed, agility, resilience, creativity, music and malice, without forgetting their roots.