Almiro lives in Portland, Oregon where he continues to share the legacy of Capoeira Regional. Almiro studied Capoeira from a young age in his home town of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, the birthplace of the art, first studying the older form of Capoeira de Angola - and also cross-trained in Hapkido. He began training at the Academia do Mestre Bimba- the original school of Capoeira Regional that still operates in Salvador under his contemporary, Mestre Bamba. Almiro headed the school for several years, where he was discovered by visiting dance instructors and offered sponsorship in the U.S. by Portland State University in 1986. Almiro created the Bahia Brazil Art Center in Portland to share Brazilian culture through movement, music and art.
Capoeira Regional Hawaii hopes to bring Mestre Almiro to visit and share workshops and events with us soon! For more information about Mestre Almiro and related projects, please visit: www.BahiaBrazilArtCenter.com
Ro lives off the grid in the Puna region of the Big Island of Hawai'i and works as a Substitute Teacher in the Kea'au-Ka'u-Pahoa area. At age 19 she obtained her first degree black belt in Traditional Taekwon Do, later discovering Capoeira while studying in Japan (where there is a large Brazilian population). She began training with Mestre Almiro in 2008 in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. During high school, Ro spent a year in Argentina as an exchange student, and has lived and worked with immigrant and refugee communities ever since, focusing on the arts, education, and social justice. She is a potter, a singer/songwriter and enjoys Brazilian and Cuban dance.
*Note that Ro does not use "Professora" as a title but rather meaning "teacher", as indicated by her teacher, Almiro, who does not typically use titles or ranks in his practice. Almiro has expressed that even his own title of "Mestre" which was earned from the academy of Mestre Bimba himself, is not something he feels is important to focus on.
In our highly structured classes, emphasis is placed on becoming "prestativo / prestativa" a Portuguese word that means helpful/versatile/prepared or able to easily adapt and lend oneself to various practices, environments, and skills.
Students are encouraged to embrace a traditional learning style of: Observe, listen, do it, revise; find your "voice" in time naturally with increasing commitment and reverence for humanity, Spirit, and the art itself. This can be challenging and jarring at first! Rest assured that capoeira is not simply a bunch of movements or words in a song, but rather a way of life and can be developed by anyone who desires to learn. No two peoples' capoeira will look exactly the same. It takes patience and time.
Capoeira naturally develops an individual's strength, flexibility, self-control, self-esteem, confidence, respect for ones environment, empathy and camaraderie with others, and can help provide a sense of purpose and community, as well as connection and a greater understanding of history. In addition to physical training, students learn to play all instruments, to follow and lead songs (in Portuguese), to perform and to help teach class as they advance.
Manuel Dos Reis Machado, a famous master of capoeira from Salvador, Bahia, was nicknamed "Bimba" at birth due to a bet between his mother and the midwife who delivered him. His father was a champion of batuque, a now extinct fighting style which resembled leg wrestling and, like capoeira, was also created by enslaved Africans in colonial Bahia, Brazil. Bimba created the first school of capoeira and regional culture in 1932, contributing to its recognition (and name) as the distinct style of Capoeira Regional and an organized art made accesible to wider audiences. Previously, capoeira was only practiced in the streets and was criminalized by a racist society and authorities. Mestre Bimba created new rhythms on the berimbau (the main instrument of capoeira music which directs the action), strict behavioral guidelines for his students, sequences of movements as well as other training methods, and is widely considered the father of modern capoeira. He opened his second school in 1942 in the city center of Salvador, which is still in operation today.
Capoeira today- a rhythmic, circular, acrobatic martial art, way of life, and cultural legacy- is practiced all over the world by Brazilians and non-Brazilians of all ethnicities. Many appreciate its unique combination of physicality, music, discipline, creative expression and community, among other qualities.
Capoeira's oldest form, "Capoeira de Angola" or simply "Capoeira Angola" is generally more ritualistic, less rigid, slower and lower to the ground than Capoeira Regional and other modern forms of capoeira.
The history of Capoeira is largely debated, and many written records relating to African descendants in Brazil which could have potentially offered insight, were systematically destroyed (burned) by the authorities. This was around the time when Brazil (one of the last countries in the Americas to do so) abolished the violent, dehumanizing institution of slavery in 1888. By that time an estimated 4 million people, 40% of all enslaved Africans brought to the Americas, had been brought to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, the birthplace of Capoeira.
Salvador, Bahia today is a brilliantly vibrant city lined with beaches and bursting with music, dance, capoeira, theater, and many other artistic and cultural expressions. With a population of nearly 80% African ancestry, musical performing groups such as Ilê Aiyê, Olodum, and many others have helped shed light on the insidious racism and social inequities still prevalent in society, and provide powerful, positive opportunities for young people.
Informed by history and present day reality in Salvador (as well as other places where racial, economic and social inequities are pervasive), that vision and mission of freedom and humanization, spreading truth and light, and focusing on educating young people is still at the center of many capoeira groups' philosophies and practices today.