VIVA BIRA ALMEIDA! One Saturday morning in October, while checking out the Berkeley Farmers Market, I stumbled onto a Brazilian Festival happening at the adjacent Martin Luther King Jr. Park. It was a celebration of capoeira practitioners from around the Bay Area, who paraded into the park for a celebration of Brazilian music, dance and food, but also to honor Bira Almeida (Mestre Acordeon), who was celebrating his 60th birthday, including 50 years devoted to the study of capoeira.
WHO IS BIRA? The Internet's Wikipedia tells us that "Bira Almeida, better known as Mestre Acordeon, is a native of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and a recognized master of capoeira. He studied with Mestre Bimba and won several Brazilian national championships in the 1970s. Acordeon founded the Grupo Folclorico da Bahia in 1966, an influential capoeira school. He is instrumental in introducing capoeira to the U.S. West Coast, where he maintains a school in Berkeley, CA. Almeida has recorded seven capoeira CDs and is the author of various magazine articles and books on capoeira, including 'Agua de Beber, Camará: ABate Papo de Capoeira' and 'Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form' (one of the few capoeira books in English)." Bira has taught the folkloric art form to over 5000 students since his arrival to the U.S. in 1978.
CAPOEIRA is an Afro-Brazilian art form that ritualizes movements from martial arts, games, and dance. It was brought from Angola, some time after the 16th century to the Brazilian regions of Bahía, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Sao Paulo. Participants forma roda of circle and take turns; either playing musical instruments (such as the berimbau), of singing, or ritually sparring in pairs in the center of the circle.
The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, and extensive use of groundwork, including sweeps, kicks, and head butts. Less frequently used techniques include elbow-strikes, slaps...