Capoeira is a fast and versatile martial art which is historically focused on fighting outnumbered or in technological disadvantage.
The ginga (literally: rocking back and forth; to swing) is the fundamental movement in capoeira, important both for attack and defense purposes. It has two main objectives. One is to keep the capoeirista in a state of constant motion, preventing him or her from being a still and easy target. The other, using also fakes and feints, is to mislead, fool, trick the opponent, leaving them open for an attack or a counter-attack.
The attacks in the capoeira should be done when opportunity arises and must be decisive, like a direct kick in the face or a vital body part, or a strong takedown. Most capoeira attacks are made with the legs, like direct or swirling kicks, rasteiras (leg sweeps), tesouras or knee strikes. The head strike is a very important counter-attack move. Elbow strikes, punches and other forms of takedowns complete the main list.
The defense is based on the principle of non-resistance, meaning avoiding an attack using evasive moves instead of blocking it. Avoids are called esquivas, which depend on the direction of the attack and intention of the defender, and can be done standing or with a hand leaning on the floor. A block should only be made when the esquiva is not possible. This fighting strategy allows quick and unpredictable counterattacks, the ability to focus on more than one adversary and to face empty-handed an armed adversary.
A series of rolls and acrobatics (like the Cartwheels called aú) allows the capoeirista to quickly overcome a takedown or a loss of balance, and to position themselves around the aggressor in order to lay up for an attack. It is this combination of attacks, defense and mobility which gives capoeira its perceived ‘fluidity’ and choreography-like style.