Mestre Bimba

Father of Capoeira Regional

Mestre Bimba was born Manuel dos Reis Machado in 1900; he was also born with the nickname "Bimba" as a result of a bet between his mother and the midwife about the sex of the baby. When he was born, the midwife cried "He is a boy! Look at his bimba [Penis]!". Bimba was taught Capoeira from the age of twelve by a ship's captain, an African named Bentinho.

Despite the intense pressure of Capoeira still being illegal, Bimba practiced and even demonstrated Capoeira, keeping the art alive. After performances for the governor of Bahía and even the president of Brazil, rather than being arrested, Bimba was given permission to open a recognized, legal school of Capoeira.

In the old days, there was just one style of Capoeira or it could equally be said that there was a style of Capoeira for every Capoeirista. Mestre Bimba codified what he called the "regional fight from Bahía, with the goals of bringing Capoeira to the middle and upper classes and gaining respect for the art from the people of Brazil. He ensured his students wore clean, white uniforms and performed well in school, and gave them coloured scarves to show rank, a system adopted after the Eastern martial arts' coloured belts. Bimba made all of his students observe his academy's rules:

  1. Quit smoking
  2. Quit drinking, alcohol is bad for your metabolism
  3. Do not show off your progresses to your friends outside the roda. Hold them back and surprise people with them in a fight
  4. Avoid conversation while training. Be quiet while in the academy and, by observing the other fighters, learn more
  5. Always practice the ginga
  6. Practice the fundamental exercises daily
  7. Do not be afraid to get close to your opponent. The closer your keep, the more you will learn
  8. Keep your body relaxed
  9. It is better to get beat up in the roda than on the streets

His students practiced choreographed sequences of attacks, defences, and transitions to learn the moves. Bimba also introduced for the first time flips, throws, and sweeps to Capoeira. He was strongly influenced in this by his father, a famous player of Batuque, a Brazilian game in which one player stands still, while the other dances around him and, whenever he is ready, throws any of a number of sweeps against the first, who must react and try to keep his balance. Before Bimba, there were no sweeps in Capoeira.

Mestre Bimba almost single-handedly pulled Capoeira from a lowly-regarded street fight of ruffians in the eyes of Brazil's government and empowered people up to a respected martial art form with new moves, an emphasis on athleticism, and - another important first for Capoeira - a rigorous and planned teaching method. The style he created is known as Capoeira Regional.