When the Portuguese first arrived in Brazil in 1500, they brought with them many African slaves to supply the labour force needed for the development of the new colony. These Africans had a strong culture steeped in traditional expressions, and despite their captivity in the "senzalas," the slave houses, the Africans continued to practice their chanting and dance rituals. Such traditional practices afforded them a forum to express their need for freedom, and their chanting and singing became symbolic of a spiritual form of combat.

Gradually their movements transformed into stronger techniques that could be used for physical combat. There is no doubt that the Portuguese would not have condoned any combative practices, but the Africans fooled their oppressors by giving the techniques the appearance of a dance. So began the beginning of Capoeira through the elusive singing, dancing, and clapping of hands.

Eventually, following the fight for abolition of slavery in 1888, the Portuguese came to realize the threat this disguised fighting style posed, and the practice of Capoeira was then banned. Despite its repression, however, Capoeira’s original form was clandestinely preserved.