Capoeira Styles

Regional or Angola? This question is often asked in the world of Capoeira, but there is more than meets the eye, and, Capoeira cannot be constricted to merely these words.

Historically, these two styles emerged with the advent of Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha respectively. The former, seeing the decline of Capoeira, its deterioration and a possible loss of interest from the Brazilian people, who were drifting toward new martial arts derived from other countries, wanted to reaffirm the martial aspect of Capoeira. He therefore incorporated certain movements from batuque (his father was a batuque champion) and from jiu-jitsu, in order to make Capoeira more effective and give it some authenticity. The efforts taken by Mestre Bimba not only helped create a new style of Capoeira, but also made its training legal as long as it was practiced within the premises of an academy. This led to a partial recognition of Capoeira by the Brazilian people. On the other hand, Capoeira Angola is Mestre Pastinha’s “expression”, who wanted to preserve the authentic form of Capoeira. The word Angola comes from the African country, where Capoeira originated.
Capoeira already existed before these two Mestres. If we go back to the time of slaves, and if they did, in fact, already practice Capoeira, it would be easy to understand that the art form practiced then, was different. At the time, the slaves were brought from various coastal countries in Africa, and different tribe members were mixed among each other. If we believe that Capoeira originated from slaves, we then have to admit that slaves from diverse background created this blend of fighting styles that were unique to each of them. Since each slave group was different, we can go even further, and assume that each slave group had its own style of Capoeira.

This brings us back to the question, Angola or Regional? Let’s add another complication. It is becoming more and more common to hear about Capoeira Contemporanea. This phrase is ever increasingly being used in the world of Capoeira, and it represents groups that play Capoeira Angola and Capoeira Regional. There are also groups that no longer trouble themselves with such categorization, and they can be regarded as having adopted a Stylised Capoeira where the ginga no longer holds any real importance and in which the aesthetics and the spectacular aspects of movements (often acrobatic) become a priority. In that case, how does one characterise oneself? It is difficult to obtain a clear-cut response, because, in the same way that everyone has their own opinion, everyone also has their own style…
We can therefore essentially say that each Capoeira group has its own style and can consequently be called by its group name. Angola or Regional? No, no, Abada…
Things can become a little complicated when certain groups have various Mestres under them, and they each have different styles…. That’s a puzzle that is not easily solved. Some prefer to simplify things and stick to the classic response: “I am an Angoleiro/I practice Capoeira regional/Capoeira Contemporanea”, others respond by the name of their group or of their Mestre….
There is however an alternate solution to these questions and it may be much simpler than one would think. That is, to be part of those that play Capoeira. In the end, whatever may be the style used or the name given to it, the essence is to play Capoeira and to be able to play with others. It is therefore important to know the different styles of games played by the berimbau, because in the end, the berimbau is the only master. It is also important to respect the rules associated to each style so as not to mix everything, and to be able to fully appreciate each game and do justice to it.


Mestre PastinhaThere is presently, a large number of mestres who practice Capoeira Angola who employ very different styles. Some are quicker, others slower, some play closer to the ground, others prefer to vary, some are calm, while others push more…

However, the common elements that bind them all are:

  • The bateria, which constitutes of three berimbaus, at least one pandeiro (often two), one agogo bell, one reco-reco and one atabaque. There may be variations, but the ensemble remains quite harmonised,
  • The main rhythms played by the berimbau gunga, are Angola and Sao Bento Grande de Angola. Even though the latter is rarely used, it’s a rhythm that one learns in the academies of Capoeira Angola,
  • Using chamadas during the game,
  • Specific songs (in fact, the majority of songs are specific),
  • Capoeiristas remain seated in the circle (roda) until it is their turn to play,
  • Recognising Mestre Pastinha as a prime representation of Capoeira Angola.
  • There is no colour chord identifying the rank of the capoeirista, and there is no chord graduation in which a capoeirista passes from one level to the next,
  • Acrobatic movements are rarely used,
  • The mestres adhere to the form of Capoeira Angola,
  • Capoeiristas wear short-sleeve t-shirts, tucked in pants,
  • They often play and train with shoes,
  • They wear pants with a belt

Then, with regard to other elements, such as the colour of the clothing used, the rhythms that the different berimbaus (medio and viola) play, and the different movements used to play the game of Capoeira, few things remain the same. Even the ginga varies (here too!) in different groups, and that’s also the case for students who have trained under Mestre Pastinha.

Since Capoeira Angola is regarded as the natural continuity of the original form of Capoeira, it evidently incorporates some elements not often found in other styles of the art. These mostly involve rituals and religion. We can therefore sometimes hear the Mestres express or validate their religious affiliations or their beliefs through a song. This propels a force into Capoeira which is then embellished by actions that have been created and that have gradually become rituals since centuries of practice.

What ultimately defines Capoeira Angola is not only the elements involved in it, but essentially the energy that it creates. No word can describe this energy; it is necessary to feel it, to experience it.

With regard to Capoeira Regional, things are more precise. It’s a style created by Mestre Bimba and its rules have been specifically defined. This form of Capoeira is played on rhythms created by Mestre Bimba.

To enable the players of Capoeira Regional to interact with players from Capoeira Angola, Mestre Bimba effectively created the rhythm of Benguela. It is, in fact, based on the rhythm of Angola from Capoeira Angola, but a player from Capoeira Regional will never do the same movements as a player from Capoeira Angola. For instance, there will be no chamada, they won’t do any head movement; they will not be called back by the berimbau for a brief stoppage of the game that can emanate due to various reasons…
Nevertheless, the Mandingua is still present even if it may be demonstrated in a different form.

Since Angola is mainly played close to the ground, its energy is intense, concentrated, fluid and vibrant. It is also more primal and originates directly from the earth.


With regard to Capoeira Angola, it chooses to abide by tradition and does not maintain a chord system.
In Angola, Regional or Contemporanea, there is, however, one point in common: i.e. the title of Mestre. This title is awarded after a certain number of years based on various processes. In Contemporanea groups, the title of Mestre is identified by a red chord (this is the case in various groups). Before this title, a Capoeirista is awarded different titles; the most common among them is the title of Contra-Mestre. This title is recognised by all groups and by all styles.
The title of Professor is also common. The knowledge required to obtain these titles differs from group to group, but the principle remains the same: a Professor is someone who is authorized to teach and a Mestre is recognised by his students as well as his peers.

The graduation system is a new development; it originated with the advents of Mestre Bimba and has been transformed since. Originally, only the title of Mestre existed, and it was given within the Capoeira community to a Capoeirista who was regarded as having mastered the art of Capoeira.

Academies / Groups

  • FICA (Mestre Cobra Mansa, Mestre Valmir & others)
  • Angoleiros do Mar (Mestre Marcelo & students)
  • ECAIG (Mestre Curio)
  • ACANNE (Mestre Rene Bittencourt)
  • Filhos de Angola (Mestre Laercio & others)
  • Escola de Capoeira Filhos de Angola (Mestre Camaleao)
  • Semente de Angola (Mestre Jogo de Dentro)


Mestre BimbaMany groups consider themselves to be a Capoeira Regional group. Although this is not completely untrue, the style in the majority of these groups is far from the style created by Mestre Bimba. One of the last groups that trained Capoeira Regional is the group from Mestre Nenel (one of the creator’s sons). Many old students of Mestre Bimba also belonged to this group.
What differentiates this style from the others is that the games are fast and close, the blows are direct, the bateria is simple but concise, and it gives a clear idea of the game to be played.
Bimba strongly believed that Capoeira possessed extraordinary value as a self-defence martial art, and therefore put in efforts to develop a structured and methodical training technique.
He defined certain commandments, principles and traditions that should be followed along with his training method, which still form part of Capoeira Regional up to this day. Some of these commandments are as follows:

  • Do not smoke or drink because this may affect the performance of players;
  • Avoid showing one’s progress outside the Capoeira academy (surprise is a crucial factor);
  • Train the basic movements everyday;
  • Do not fear approaching the adversary (the closer the better to develop defensive and attacking movements) and keep the body relaxed;


Bimba also adopted a few principles which were specific to his teaching method:

  • “Gingar sempre” (always ginga in order to be in constant flow during the fight); “Ginga” is the basic Capoeira movement;
  • “Esquivar sempre” (always dodge);
  • All the movements must have an objective (the attacking and defensive movements should correspond to each other and should not be purely decorative);
  • Always be firm on the ground (jumps and acrobatic movements make us vulnerable);
  • Play according to the rhythm of the berimbau;
  • Respect the integrity of the player in case he/she can no longer defend an attacking move;
  • Protect the physical and moral integrity of the adversary (during training, the strongest player protects the weakest).


Many traditions and rituals have become a part of his methodology:

  • A chair was used to train the beginners;
  • “Charanga” is the Capoeira orchestra, consisting of one berimbau and two pandeiros;
  • The songs (Quadras e corridos) are composed by Bimba to support the game;
  • The “batizado” (baptism) (first time the student plays Capoeira to the rhythm of the berimbau).


The thing that makes Capoeira Regional so specific is its method:

  • There is an entrance exam (a physical test with Capoeira movements to identify the abilities of the students);
  • The “sequências” (sequences) are based on 17 basic Capoeira attack moves and the corresponding defence moves;
  • Learning the different rhythms of the game;
  • Training specific movements: traumatic moves, projection moves, connected moves and instability moves
  • “Formatura” (Capoeira diploma);
  • “Especializacdo” and “Emboscada” (specific advanced exams).


There is a passage to the next level involved. However, the students do not wear a chord, but certain groups associated to Capoeira Regional do wear one. Mestre Bimba decided to have one graduation exam for his students. Once trained, these students could go from one level to the next and this was identified by the colour of the handkerchief worn around the neck. Mestre Bimba didn’t emphasize on time, but instead thought that a student needed to be ready to receive training.

Academies / Groups

  • Filhos de Bimba (Mestre Nenel)


This style was initiated in the 60s after Mestre Bimba’s influence. The ones that developed this style, felt the need to find a way to merge Capoeira Angola and Regional, by including both of them in their Capoeira but also by using lost elements of Capoeira from older times, such as acrobatic movements. In a certain way, they tried to unify Capoeira.
At present, this style is the most practiced Capoeira and the most well known by far. We can see it on TV, in movies and in shows. The biggest groups of Capoeira train this style.
Contemporanea is mostly played on the rhythm of Sao Bento Grande de Angola at a higher pace and in a more clarified manner. The technical bases are similar to the training given by Mestre Bimba but with a different method of training. The games played are quicker, very technical and often include acrobatic movements. As a consequence, the players play at a distance from each other.

Two main groups that have contributed in the expansion and the creation of this new style of play are:

  • Capoeira Senzala (created by Mestre Peixinho),
  • Abada Capoeira (created by Mestre Camisa Roxa and his brother Mestre Camisa).


Every Contemporanea group has its own way of organizing and playing in a roda, but the following points are usually singular to them:
Each Capoeirista is standing during the roda (as in the case of Capoeira Regional, some Capoeira Angola groups and as in the case of the old type of Capoeira),

  • The two main rhythms are Sao Bento Grande and Angola (or Banguela),
  • The games incorporate floreios,
  • There is a graduation system,
  • Many of the groups play with white abadas and barefoot,
  • The bateria is very similar to the one in Capoeira Angola: 3 berimbaus, 1 or 2 pandeiros, 1 agogo, 1 reco-reco, 1 atabaque,
  • The games are often quick, dynamic, short, striking and aerial,
  • Evidently, each group is different and we will always find exceptions and similarities.


The chord determines the level of a Capoeirista according to its colour. Depending on the groups, the colour code may vary; some use the colours of the Brazilian flag (green, blue, white and yellow) and others use traditional martial-art colours (off-white, yellow, orange, blue, green, brown, black, red and white). Sometimes, purple or other colours are also included. This colour system therefore varies from one group to the other and its sequence of allocation changes too; hence, an orange chord won’t be identified as the same level from one group to the other. There are as many systems as there are groups.

Here are three examples of chord allocation classification.
For the group Senzala:
White, yellow, orange, grey, blue, green, purple/yellow, purple (Professor), purple/brown, brown (Contra-Mestre), red/yellow, red (Mestre).


For the group Abada:
Natural colour (Iniciante), natural/yellow (Estudante), yellow, yellow/orange, orange, orange/blue, blue (Graduado), blue/green, green, green/purple, purple (Instrutor), purple/brown, brown (Professor), brown/red, red (Mestrando), red/white (Mestre), white (Mestre), without chord (Grão Mestre).

Note that in the group Abada, each colour has its own meaning and a mixture of colour identifies a transformation in the student. It’s also interesting to note that the Capoeirista reaching the highest level in this group has no chord. The title of Grão Mestre can only be held by one person who manages the entire group. This title has been awarded to Grão Mestre Camisa Roxa (founder of the group) since its creation.

Academies / Groups

  • Abada Capoeira (Mestre Camisa & others)
  • Capoeira Senzala (Mestre Peixinho, Mestre Gato, Mestre Rafael Flores,…)
  • Capoeira Brazil (Mestre Boneco, Paulao Ceara, Paulinhio Sabia,…)
  • Cordao de Ouro (Mestre Suasunna & others)
  • Grupo Axe Capoeira (Mestre Barrao)
  • Grupo Capoeira Gerais (Mestre Mao Branca)