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Capoeira Basic Vocabulary: Regional and Contemporânea

Here is a list of basic terms we will be using frequently in our current Regional block and will continue into our next Contemporânea block. This is not a complete list of terms, but will give a good basis to help you remember names and understand the vocabulary used in class!

Note that various Capoeira groups often use slightly different terms for the same thing, especially for movements. So if any of these terms differ from what you have heard, neither are necessarily wrong, it just means we have different vocabularies,

Basic Kicks:

  • Meia Lua de Frente: Translates to "Half Moon in the Front" and is very similar to Inside Crescent Kicks of Eastern Martial Arts.

  • Queixada (Kay-sha-da): Roughly translates to "Chin Attack" (queixa means chin) and is similar to Outside Crescent Kicks from other Martial Arts but with a turn prior to kicking.

  • Armada: This is out Spinning Outside Crescent or you can think of it like a pinning Queixada. The translation is the same as the English word armada (fleet of warships) and it is unclear why this name was chosen.

  • Meia Lua de Compasso: One of the most quintessential Capoeira kicks, it involves inverting your torso and putting hands on the ground before releasing a spinning heel kick. The name translates to "Half Moon of the Compass", again the exact meaning of this translation is unclear, but it could be a reference to the full circle that the kick passes through.

  • Martelo: Translating to "Hammer" this kick is identical to Roundhouse Kicks from Eastern Martial Arts. It is likely that the kick was incorporated into Capoeira in the early 1900's due to the arrival and influence of Eastern Martial Arts in Brazil.

  • Benção (Ben-sow): Translates literally to "Blessing", this kicks has a bit of a double meaning. Before you were to leave your house, it was tradition to get a "blessing" from your father (or in the case of slavery your "master") to leave. This kick is a Front Push Kick, and meant to send your partner on their way!

Basic Escapes:

  • Esquiva Lateral: "Lateral Escape", for this dodge we start in our middle base then lean to one side, making sure to protect our face with our arms.

  • Esquiva de Lado: Translates to "Escape to the Side", from the middle base, step back and pivot to your open side, keeping your hands up to guard. This escape is identical to the first step of Queixada.

  • Esquiva Baixa (Es-kee-va Bai-sha): Translates to "Low Escape", starting in our Ginga position, sink in your legs until you can put your hand on the floor, keeping your face protected.

  • Cocorinha (Coco-Reen-Ya): This simple dodge involves just squatting down and covering your head with one arm. It translates literally to "Little Coconut" which can be confusing, but makes a bit more sense knowing that "Coco" is another word for poop. So you can think of this name as meaning "pooping position"!

Other Movements:

  • Ginga: While ginga literally translates to "sway" there is a lot packed into this term. Ginga typically refers to the rhythmic back and forth motion that forms our Capoeira base, but it can also encapsulate any of the dance-like improvisational movements within the game. Ginga can also refer to the way or style of movement and even Brazilian soccer players use the term to describe their way of playing.

  • Au: The Capoeira cartwheel! The origin of this name is not certain, but some people think its as simple as "A" and "u" looking like upside down versions of each other!

  • Rolê (Ho-lay): Translating roughly to "roll" this is our basic movement for moving on the floor.

  • Ponte (Pon-chee): This directly translates to "Bridge" and that's exactly what it is, a simple back bend bridge on the floor.

  • Queda de Rins (Kay-da Jee Heens): This translates to "Fall on the Kidneys" and is a fundamental balance position on the floor in Capoeira. This involves stabbing an elbow into your side to use as a balance point, and lifting your legs off the floor. Breakdancers call this movement "Baby Freeze" and there are a near infinite amount of variations that people can do!

Instruments & Music:

  • Berimbau: The leader of the Capoeira "band", the berimbau is a musical bow that is among the oldest of instruments across many cultures. A metal wire is tightened by bending a long branch of wood, and a hollowed out gourd acts as a resonator. It is played by striking the wire with the Baqueta, pressing the Dobrao against the wire, and/or shaking the Caxixi (Ka-Shi-Shi), giving many rhythmic possibilities with a very simple instrument.

  • Atabaque: The drum of the Capoeira circle. Often times we will use a Conga drum in place of an Atabaque since they are lighter and easier to find in the US, but a real Atabaque has a wood body and base and the drum head is tightened with ropes and wedges.

  • Pandeiro: A mix between a tambourine and a hand drum, this instument is critical for many types of Brazilian music: Capoeira, Samba, Forro, and others.

  • Agogô: The Agogô is a form of double-bell instrument that is essential in African musical traditions. In Capoeira, we see it as either a metal bell (as in the image above) or made from hollowed out coconut husks.

  • Palmas: The Portuguese word for "clapping", when you are not playing an instrument it is important to still clap along to help support the energy of the Roda!

Roda Terms:

  • Roda (Ho-da): The Roda is where Capoeira happens! Translating to "Wheel" it is a circle of people clapping and singing to support the players on the inside.

  • Bateria: The "band" of the Roda that is positioned at the front or "mouth" of that roda and dictates the music and energy of the games being played.

  • Jogo: Literally the "Game" that is being played within the Roda.

  • Compra: This word means "Buy", and refers to how we enter the Roda while a game is underway. We wait for a break in the action, then put our hand in to let the players know we are entering. Once it's safe, we can jump right into the flow and begin a new game.

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