Exploring the art of Capoeira

Capoeira is a martial art which combines elements of dance, music, and acrobatics. Capoeira has its roots in Brazil where it was developed by enslaved Africans. This martial art helps the practitioner – the capoeirista – build strength, endurance and develop a flow of movement using capoeira techniques. Just as in any martial art, sparring is an important part of building skills and testing them against opponents. These sparring matches are called rodas, wherein the goal is not to destroy your opponent but to practice techniques and combinations and apply them in offense and defense.

Plus One Defense Systems is one of only a handful of CT martial arts academies which offer this art. Our local chapter is is part of the international group Capoeira Ginga Brasil. The head instructor for Capoeira at our academy is Joel Melendez a.k.a. Suave.

Origins of the Capoeira Martial Art

Capoeira started in South America, in Brazil, in the beginning of the 16th century.  Many of the slaves who used to work the sugar cane fields were brought from Angola where there was a traditional dance/martial art called N’golo (Engolo). As time passed, slaves began developing this art as a means of weaponless defense. This enabled them to face an unknown environment and armed colonialists who were charged with finding and returning escaped slaves.

Traditional Capoeira continues to be practiced today. It was “granted a special protected status as ‘intangible cultural heritage’ by UNESCO” in 2014. [1]

Unique Aspects of Capoeira


  • Ginga – the word literally means “to sway” and is a side-to-side constant motion which prevents the capoeirista from being a static target.
  • Esquivas – to avoid being struck through an evasive maneuver; preferable to using a block in this art.
  • Rasteiras – leg sweeps.
  • Tesouras – cuts.
  • – cartwheels
  • Floreios– acrobatic and artistic movements

Note: typical components of other martial arts such as punches, kicks, and head butts are also included in Capoeira.


The practitioner is taught many Portuguese terms which are part of the heritage component of learning Capoeira.


As you train in Capoeira, your instructor may eventually give you an apelido (“nickname”). This special moment is is a mark of respect and accomplishment for the Capoeirista. Our head instructor, Joel Melindez was given the apelido Suave, which translates to “soft”, in English. The apelido will often be a word or phrase to characterize your personal style when engaged in Capoeira or your personality.

All are welcome!

We highly encourage you to sign up for a FREE capoeira class if you are interested in learning more about this wonderful Brazilian martial art. Classes are lively, fun, and culturally educational.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira