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Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art, which combines fighting, acrobatics, dance and music. It was created during the16th Century, during the Portuguese colonial period. African slaves developed this martial art camouflaged as a dance with the hopes of rebelling against their captors. Development occurred mainly in the states of Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Over the years Capoeira has progressed from a forbidden and marginalized art form to an accepted and revered part of Brazilian culture practiced by all classes, genders and races of people.
Participants form a roda (circle) and take turns playing instruments, singing, and sparring in pairs in the centre of the circle. The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, subterfuge, and extensive use of groundwork, as well as sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Technique and strategy are the key elements to playing a good game. Capoeira has two main styles, known as "Regional" and "Angola."
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Portugal shipped slaves into South America from western Africa. Brazil was the most common destination for African captives containing 42% of all enslaved peoples shipped across the Atlantic. The main Portuguese colonies were Angola and Mozambique. These Africans brought their cultural traditions and religions with them to the New World. The homogenization of the African people under the oppression of slavery was the catalyst. Capoeira was developed as a way to resist oppression, secretly practice art, transmit culture, and lift spirits. Some historians believe that the indigenous peoples of Brazil also played an important role in the development of Capoeira.