What To Expect in Capoeira | A Martial Arts Overview

Capoeira is martial art blended with dancing and acrobatics and can be lively and creative. If you want to practice a martial art that blends combat and dance capoeira should be considered.

When training capoeira you can expect a blend of martial arts, acrobatics, and dance. It is often practiced with music and has deep roots in Brazilian culture. Learning capoeira is a great form of exercise and builds flexibility, fitness, and strength. 

This article will give you an overview of capoeira, how it’s practiced, and address some frequently asked questions about the art.

A Brief History of Capoeira

Capoeira originated in Brazil as a form of self-defense for Portuguese slaves in the 16th century. It’s rooted in the cultural styles that the West African slaves brought with them to South America. Capoeira is rooted in aerobatic movements with violent kicks and is very physical. 

When Brazil achieved freedom from the Portuguese, capoeira thrived amongst the criminal community.

This caused the Brazilian government to outlaw it in 1890. In the next few decades, capoeira would survive in the form of “Regional” and “Angola.” Both involve similar movements, but Angola is perceived to be closer to its original form. Nowadays, Capoeira is practiced as a martial art, a dance, and a way to express Brazilian culture.  

What Do You Wear for Capoeira? 

You should ideally wear the uniform of the martial art school where you’re learning capoeira. Capoeira uniform consists of a simple T-shirt and stretchable pants. If the capoeira school doesn’t require a uniform, then you can wear your regular gym clothes or loose-fitting t-shirts.  

Do You Wear Shoes in Capoeira? 

You don’t wear shoes in capoeira, and most capoeira schools require you to train barefoot. Shoes should only be worn if you have permission from your instructor to protect an injury in that area.

What Equipment Is Required for Capoeira?

Capoeira is based on naturally flowing body movements and doesn’t require any equipment. Weapons training is absent from modern capoeira lessons, although it historically featured the use of knives, sticks, and blades.

You may need musical equipment if you’re practicing traditional capoeira, although it’s not directly linked to martial art. 

Do I Need To Be Fit To Start Capoeira?

You don’t need to be fit to start capoeira. You should be able to work on basic similar movements that are being taught in most cases, and a good instructor can scale the difficulty to your current fitness levels. However, becoming fit will happen with consistent training and should not be neglected.

Most instructors only ask that you come with dedication and willingness to learn. After some time of doing capoeira, you’ll start getting fitter and more flexible. 

Do I Need To Be Strong for Capoeira?

Strength isn’t necessary to start learning Capoeira. Capoeira is about using your body in a free-flowing motion. If you are not strong enough the movements that you can use are more limited. You’ll need to have strong arms, legs, and core muscles to perform Capoeira at the highest level.

Do I Need To Be Flexible for Capoeira? 

Getting started in Capoeira does not require flexibility, but being flexible and mobile are vital skills to become skilled at Capoeira. Your body will gradually become more flexible with regular training, but concentrated training to maximize your mobility is a good idea.

A good capoeira class will incorporate stretching and mobility training, and anybody with dreams of doing backflips and high-level acrobatic kicks that capoeira is known for should not neglect training mobility directly.

Is Capoeira Good for Self-Defense? 

While capoeira may resemble a dance more than a method of self-defense, it’s a relatively effective form of self-defense. It was initially developed for street fighting and hand-to-hand combat, so these roots are still present.

The sparring dance blend is actually great for building awareness and flowing movements that are quite helpful in self-defense, even if it is not necessarily the most self-defense-oriented martial art.

What Style of Fighting Is Capoeira? 

The capoeira fighting style is based on fluid body movement, inverted kicks, and unpredictable movements. It often includes backflips and acrobatic evasions, and many of the techniques are designed to confuse opponents. Some methods involve choreographed movements, although these are limited to training. 

Most combinations will have counters, and sparring is a great way to learn these. Often, you may spar to the beat of traditional Brazilian music. 

Does Capoeira Include Live Sparring?

Advanced capoeira students will spar frequently in Capoeira. In most cases, sparring will include music that makes it more playful and rhythmic. Generally speaking, sparring is done more playfully and may even be choreographed.

Sparring in capoeira is usually a collaborative experience to improve technique and is often more akin to dancing than combat.

Are There Capoeira Competitions or Tournaments?

The World Capoeira Federation is a body that regulates capoeira tournaments on regional, national, and international levels. These tournaments are based on an ‘elimination’ style with quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals. 

Each match consists of two 45-second rounds to get points through light touches. As such, regulated capoeira tournaments don’t involve full-contact fighting. 

Is Capoeira Dangerous To Practice?

Capoeira is one of the safest martial arts to practice. The typical training involves practicing moves without contact. Capoeira sparring is also light contact with the aim of “touching” the opponent instead of hitting them with full contact. 

However, just as with any other martial arts, there’s always a minor risk of getting injured during training. 

Is Capoeira Hard To Learn? 

Capoeira is not hard to learn, although mastering techniques and becoming skilled at improvisation may be difficult. Beginner moves involve heel kicks and sweeps, which are relatively simple. As your fitness and flexibility improve, you’ll start to master more complex techniques. 

How Long Does it Take To Learn Fundamentals in Capoeira? 

For most students, feeling comfortable with fundamentals can take up to a year of training 3 to 5 hours a week. Fitness, mobility, strength, and general athleticism will play a major role in how quickly you progress toward mastery. People with dance backgrounds also do well in capoeira.

How Long To Reach Black Belt Level Mastery in Capoeira?

Capoeira doesn’t have a belt system, but it can take anywhere between 5-10 years to reach the equivalent of a black belt level. Of course, this depends on your natural talent, level of dedication, and time commitment to training.

Other times, there may be a ranking system, but the order and levels of the ranking system tend to vary from group to group. 

Can You Learn Capoeira at Home?

You can’t effectively learn Capoeira at home. You’ll need to practice techniques with a partner and have an instructor teach you movements to progress. Solidifying Capoeira skills that you have learned in person is definitely doable and you can practice these at home.

All that being said, turning on some music and practicing Capoeira is a great form of individual exercise that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

What To Expect at Your First Capoeira Class? 

Your first Capoeira class will usually involve a “feeling out” process where you get to observe the training methods and atmosphere. You may learn the simple stance, rules, and even a few simple kicks. 

You’ll get an opportunity to participate in training to the best of your ability with the other students, and the instructor may help scale down techniques to your beginner skill level. 

An intro capoeira class might look like this:

  • Warm-ups: You’ll typically begin with a light warm-up that might involve some stretching to prepare for class.
  • Basic movements: Your instructor might direct you to perform basic, isolated movements in repetition. 
  • Combining moves: After learning some basic movements, your instructor might show you how to combine certain moves in a sequence. 
  • Sparring or roda: The end of class might include some light sparring or what they call “roda” with another classmate. 

What Does Capoeira Cost? 

Capoeira classes may cost anywhere between $100-$200 a month, depending on which school you visit and the number of classes per week. Some training schools charge per class, which is usually around 15-20 dollars. 

Often, paying per month is more cost-effective if you plan on going regularly. Once you know how frequently you plan on going, you can do the math to determine which route is cheaper. 

Is Capoeira Good for Kids? 

Capoeira is good for kids and can improve their flexibility and confidence. Kids are also naturally flexible, and learning capoeira at a young age is ideal. Capoeira classes also have a fun learning atmosphere, improving a kid’s social interaction skills and self-confidence.

Capoeira is also safe for kids since there’s no full-contact sparring.

Is Capoeira for Physically Smaller People?

Capoeira is good for physically smaller people. It isn’t based on sparring or combat but instead focuses on dance, acrobatics, and deception, which can often be done more effectively by smaller people with better strength-to-weight ratios.

Is Capoeira Good for Women? 

Capoeira is good for women. While it may be difficult to compete with men in many martial arts as a woman, Capoeira training is based more upon mobility, acrobatics, and dance. Often, women can pick up skills in Capoeira faster than their male counterparts.

Final Thoughts

Capoeira is a fascinating blend of acrobatics, dance, and martial arts. The sparring or “roda” is very unique and promotes body awareness in a way that many martial arts lack. It is an entertaining form of exercise and it has some self-defense and combat benefits while not being a full-contact form of combat and often has a fun, warm, and welcoming environment.


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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