Google today pays tribute to Mestre Bimba. The capoeirist was born 119 years ago, he played a major role in the history of this discipline.

[Updated November 23, 2018 at 5:15 pm] The origins of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art, remain today a mystery. There are now several versions of the appearance of this martial art. Nevertheless, it seems that it takes root in the methods of combat and dances of the Beninese people at the time of slavery in Brazil. Origins that can be found in the movements of capoeiristes: indeed, the practice of this martial art rests much on the feet because the hands of the slaves who practiced it were chained.

They can also be found in the very etymology of the word capoeira. In Portuguese “capoeira” means the place where one “park hens” that is to say in French, a henhouse. It would also be a reference to the “capa” basket on the head worn by slaves. But its origins mingling with the history of slaves, the Brazilian government has banned for a long time the practice of this martial art. The slaves would have added music to their movements to disguise their gestures of combat and struggle in dance movement.

Mestre Bimba, the figure of capoeira

Cadet of a family of 25 children, Mestre Bimba is the first to have legitimized the practice of the martial art by founding a school. He was born on November 23, 1899 in the Engenho Velho district of Salvador (Brazil) and his father practiced Batuque, an old form of Brazilian wrestling. He owes his nickname -Bimba- to a bet between his mother and the midwife who gave birth to him. His mother was convinced that she would give birth to a girl and a midwife, a boy. The midwife won the bet and little Manoel Dos Reis Machado was nicknamed Bimba, which refers to the genitals of boys.

He began learning capoeira at the age of 12 with an African teacher, captain of the Companhia Bahiana de Navegacao. He took classes for 4 years and will practice capoeira in this way for 10 years before deciding to add batuque movements. Meanwhile, Mestre Patinha, a lawyer has been striving to defend the “later” capoeira. The two have thus built themselves into rivals while remaining respectful to each other.
Mestre Bimba, at the age of 18, will codify the capoeira of a new dress style and christen it “Luta Regional Baiana”. The “Luta Regional de Baiana” will then become the “Regional Capoeira”.


In 1928, Mestre Bimba was invited to give a demonstration of regional capoeira before the governor of Bahia (Brazil), Juracy Magalhaes. The governor was very impressed by his performance. Following this demonstration, he decided to authorize Mestre Bimba to found his own school and to lift the capoeira ban in his area.

This ban was introduced by the government in 1890, the latter expressing concern about street violence. In 1932, Mestre Bimba then founded his first regional capoeira academy. He is then declared “father of the modern capoeira”. He died on February 5, 1974, but made history in 1996 when the Federal University of Bahia awarded him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa .

He imposed a regulation on his students

In his academy, students were subject to a regulation. They should not smoke or consume alcohol. The capoeirist justified this rule by the fact that “the consumption of alcohol harms the muscular metabolism”. Under the pretext that “surprise was the best allies against an opponent in a clash”, they also had to never show their progress to people outside the academy and not speak during class. Thus, Mestre Bimba thought that “the more capoeirist apprentices observed others, the more they learned”. Finally, the students of the academy had to practice daily the basic exercises imposed by the martial art and not be afraid to approach the opponent. “