Monday, February 17, 2014

Afrakans in Amuraka: Black History Month Profile - Manuel dos Reis Machado

Manoel dos Reis Machado was a  grand master practitioner who brought to world prominence  the Brazilian Afrakan martial art known as Capoeira. He is the "true" father modern Capoeira Angola.

November 23, 1899 – February 5, 1974

Commonly called Mestre Bimba, Manoel dos Reis Machado, was born the son of Luiz Cândido Machado and Maria Martinha do Bonfim. Manoel 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).

Manoel started learning Capoeira when he was 12 years old. Capoeira was considered illegal and those caught practicing it persecuted by the authorities.

By 18, Manoel felt that Capoeira had lost all its efficacy as a true martial art designed as an instrument of resistance to colonial rulership. He saw Capoiera evolving more as something akin to a folkloric activity, it complex movements and postures reduced to a mere nine manuevers. It was then that Manoel started to restore movements from traditional Capoeira, introducing movements created by himself as well adding movements from the Afrakan fighting style called Batuque. Manoel learned Batuque from his father, whom was a champion practitioner. This style later became known as "BimbaAngola"

Manoel was the 1st to create a method of teaching to help facilitate learning because until then, Capoeira was only learned by watching and participating in the roda. In 1928, a new chapter in the history of Capoeira began, as well as a change in the way Afrakan people brought to Brazil as prisoners of war were looked upon by Brazilian society. After a performance at the palace of Bahia's Governor, Juracy Magalhães, Manoel successful in convincing the authorities of the cultural value of Capoeira, thus in the 1930s ending its official ban, in effect since 1890.

Machado founded the first Capoeira school in 1932, the Academia-escola de Cultura Regional, at the Engenho de Brotas in Salvador, Bahia. Capoeira was still heavily discriminated against by the white Brazilian society. In order to change the pejorative reputation of capoeira and its practitioners, Manoel instigated new standards to the art.His students had to wear a clean, white uniforms, show proof of grade proficiency from school, exercise discipline, show good posture as well as many other standards. The result, doctors, lawyers, politicians, upper-middle-class people, and women (until then excluded) started to join his school, providing Machado with legitimacy and support.

In 1936, Machado challenged fighters of any martial art style to test his regional style. He had four matches, fighting against Vítor Benedito Lopes, Henrique Bahia, José Custódio dos Santos ("Zé I") and Américo Ciência. Machado won all matches. On June 9th 1937, he earned the state board of education certificate. and officially registered the 1st Capoeira center. In 1942, Machado opened his second school at the Terreiro de Jesus on Rua das Laranjeiras. The school is still open today.

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