Capoeira is an African Brazilian art form, developed by African and indigenous slaves in Brazil about 400 years ago. Capoeira is self-defense disguised as a dance because slaves needed to hide it from their slave masters. The combination of body movements, trickery, music, and songs make it not just a martial art, but a ritualized way of combat. Two capoeiristas (capoeira players) must follow the traditions and rules of the art. They must play capoeira, not fight.
—Samoel Domingos, Mestre Urubu Malandro, Capoeira Ijexa
Capoeira is one of many art forms created to embody, preserve, and share cultural traditions, values, beliefs, and stories. All of our stories are connected to a larger story and we contribute to the unfolding of these stories through our interactions and communication with everyone and everything around us. Capoeira is an example of how a history and culture can be told through more than words: it is like an oral storytelling tradition passed down through movement. We embody, explore, and share information, feelings, and experiences. Through this process we heal and grow, and this is amplified through group participation. I urge everyone to move more and to move together.
My name is Jarrel “Chumbinho” Phillips. I am a native San Franciscan and I am a student of Mestre Urubu Malandro. I began with Mestre Urubu at age seven. I received my first belt from him in 1994 and after about two years I took a long break. I came back as an adult in 2008 with the intention of moving forward and never stopping again. Capoeira, like movement, is an integral part of my life.
Thank you to my Capoeira Ijexa crew, Mestre Urubu Malandro, Jian Giannini, Susan Osterhoff, Javier Briones, 32K Productions, Claudia La Rocco, and SFMOMA for making this possible. And especially to my parents, Renata and Firdi Phillips, who introduced me to Capoeira. Everything I do I was exposed to through you.