May 3, 2007

Capoeira - Mestre Bimba founder of the regional style.

Mestre Bimba (born Manuel dos Reis Machado November 23, 1900, Salvador, Brazil - February 15, 1974) was a mestre (a master practitioner) of the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira.

The son of Luiz Cândido Machado and Maria Martinha do Bonfim, Manuel he was born at the "bairro do Engenho Velho", Salvador. The nickname "Bimba" came up due to a bet between his mother and the midwife during his birth; his mother bet that he was going to be a girl and the midwife bet he would be a boy. After he was delivered, the midwife said... it's a boy, look at his "bimba" (male sexual organ).

He started learning Capoeira when he was 12 years old, with a capitão da Companhia Baiana de Navegação (Navigation Captain) from Estrada das Boiadas (present day bairro da Liberdade) in Salvador called Bentinho, even though, in those days, Capoeira was still being persecuted by the authorities. He would later be known as one of the legendary founding fathers of contemporary Capoeira. The other would be Mestre Pastinha, the father of Capoeira Angola

Mestre Bimba was a coalman, carpenter, warehouse man, longshoreman, horse coach conductor, but mainly Capoeirista. Unhappy with false promises and lack of support from local authorities in Bahia, he moved to Goiânia in 1973 by invitation from a former student. He died a year later, on February 15, 1974 at the Hospital das Clínicas de Goiânia due to a stroke.

Bimba managed to recover the original values within Capoeira, which were used amongst the black slaves centuries before him. For Bimba, Capoeira was a fight but "competition" should be permanently avoided since he believed it was a "cooperation" fight, where the stronger player was always responsible for the weaker player and helped him to excel in his own fighting techniques.

Mestre Bimba fought all his life for what he strongly believed was best for Capoeira and succeeded. After he died in 1974 one of his sons, Mestre Nenel (Manoel Nascimento Machado), at 14, took over his father's Capoeira academy. Mestre Nenel is still responsible for the remarkable cultural and historical legacy his father left him and he is the President of Filhos de Bimba School of Capoeira.

At 18, Bimba felt that Capoeira had lost all its efficiency as a martial art and an instrument of resistance, becoming a folkloric activity reduced to nine movements. It was then that Bimba started to retrieve movements from the original Capoeira fights and added movements from another African fight called Batuque - a vicious grappling type of martial art that he learned from his father (of which his father was a champion), as well as introducing movements created by himself. This was the beginning of the development of Capoeira Regional.

In 1928, a new chapter in the history of Capoeira began, as well as a change in the way black people (of African descent, brought to Brazil as slaves) were looked upon by the Brazilian society. After a performance at the palace of Bahia's Governor, Juracy Magalhães, Mestre Bimba was finally successful in convincing the authorities of the cultural value of Capoeira, thus ending its official ban in the 1930s.

Mestre Bimba founded the first Capoeira school in 1932, the Academia-escola de Cultura Regional, at the Engenho de Brotas in Salvador, Bahia. Previously, Capoeira was only practiced and played on the streets. However, Capoeira was still heavily discriminated by upper class Brazilian society. In order to change the slyness, stealthy and malicious reputation associated with Capoeira practitioners at that time, Bimba set new standards to the art.

His students had to wear a clean, white uniform, show proof of grade proficiency from school, show good posture and many other standards. As a result, doctors, lawyers, politicians, upper middle class people, and women (until then excluded) started to join his school, providing Bimba with better support.


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