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Mestre Bimba

Manoel dos Reis Machado, Mestre Bimba was born November 23, 1899, in Salvador, Bahia, a bit more than a decade after the Abolition of Slavery. Son of Luís Cândido Machado, a famous champion of batuque from Bahia, and Maria Martinha do Bomfim.

He worked with charcoal, in the docks, as a carpenter, but mainly worked with Capoeira. His Status of Mestre of Capoeira was acquired through popular recognition and respect from society at a time when the persecution of the manifestations of the black culture was very intense and perverse. Mestre Bimba was to become one of the most well-known and revered men in Bahia


At the age of twelve, Bimba began practicing Capoeira in a time when it was seen as a lower-class activity, because it originated from manifestations of the African people enslaved in Brazil. His teacher was the African Nozinho Bento, known as Bentinho, Captain of the Bahian Navigation Company.

Due to the intense persecution that capoeira practitioners experienced, it became obvious to Bimba that the art form was dying. As it was becoming increasingly folkloric, it was also losing its original fighting aspect. A man ahead of his time, Bimba envisioned a renewed capoeira and he set out to make these changes, transforming the old capoeira into what he called Luta Regional Baiana, the Regional Fight of Bahia

Drawing from his skills in the old capoeira and in Batuque (which he learned from his father), Bimba created his capoeira, believing strongly that it could become as respectable as the other martial arts that had come to Brazil from Asia. In 1932, Mestre Bimba founded the first ever capoeira academy. He wanted to show it to all the segments of the society in Bahia; He was determined to rescue Capoeira from persecution and extinction. He decided to fight, challenging the most important fighters at the time and Bimba defeated them all!

On June 9, 1937, Bimba officially registered his capoeira school with the Secretary of Education, Health and Public Services – his became the first legitimate academy of capoeira in Brazil. Bimba eventually taught capoeira in the military, and then, in 1942, he opened his second academy.

It was on July 23, 1953, when President Getúlio Vargas watched a capoeira presentation at the Palace of Acclamation and declared it – “Brazil’s only true national sport” – and Bimba’s capoeira entered a new phase. Mestre Bimba’s capoeira quickly gained notoriety – he had his share of critics, many of them from the older practitioners of capoeira who criticized Bimba’s creative initiatives. He was denounced as having “whitened” the art of capoeira and thus betrayed its past. Ironically, Mestre Bimba was well-versed in Afro-Bahian culture, having drummed in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé houses for many years and having married a mãe de santos, the head of a Terreiro. He revived many of the folkloric dances that were being left by the wayside, such as maculêlê, puxada de rede and samba de roda, taking pride in the Afro-Bahian heritage and presenting them to a middle and upper class public for the first time. Today, almost every academy practices one of these art forms and presentations are common, thanks to Bimba’s efforts.

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