A decade ago martial arts movie buffs began spying a new technique in those tournament scenes that pit masters of diverse styles against each other until Jean-Claude Van Damme or another hero prevails. Capoeira, a dance-like martial art developed by Brazilian slaves, pulled into the fast lane.
Capoeiristas appeared in "Blood Sport II," "Kickboxer IV" and "The Quest." The sport made its debut as a headline style a few years back in "Only the Strong," starring Mark Dacascos. Documentaries exploring the genre are popping up in Brazil and abroad.
"There's a beauty to it," says multifaceted martial artist Orearl White, the capoeirista in "Blood Sport II." "It is so different from the arts that originated in China and Southeast Asia. Because of the music and the movement, it grabbed a lot of people (in the U.S.), especially in the dance community."
Capoeira encounters typically are accompanied by the twangy sound of the berimbau, a single-stringed instrument.
"In the next few years, you're going to see the same sort of explosion you saw with kung fu," predicts Santa Monica-based teacher Amen Santo. A Brazilian from Salvador, capoeira's hotbed, Santo appeared as a fighter in "Kickboxer IV."
Capoeira boasts a long history in Brazilian movies. Fighters were seen in "O Pagador de Promessas," a Cannes award winner in 1962, and in Glauber Rocha's 1961 "Barravento."
"Only the Strong" was the genre's Hollywood breakthrough. The son of international martial arts masters, Dacascos won his first tournament at age 9. He had only recently begun studying capoeira with Santo when the audition call came for the lead role. After capturing the part, Dacascos brought Santo on board as an instructor and supporting actor.
"People all over the world have seen that movie and like it," Dacascos notes. "It is not just an action movie. It is a feel-good movie. I'd like to do the sequel."
Abadá Capoeira São Paulo - where BrazilMax does capoeira
Amen Santo’s academy Capoeira Batuque
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