Capoeira, the martial art form combining acrobatics, dance, music and song, is as integral to Brazil’s identity as its football team.
Friday’s Google Doodle celebrates just that by honoring the 119th birthday of Manuel dos Reis Machado, known as Mestre Bimba — the master credited for legitimizing the martial art form and founding the world’s first school to promote it.
Born in Salvador in 1899 to a champion in batuque — another Brazilian fighting game — Bimba was the youngest of 25 children.
He went on to work odd jobs before dedicating his life to capoeira — which was periodically banned by the Brazilian government.
“In those days, when capoeira was spoken of, it was in whispers,” Bimba said, according to Google.
Capoeria is an acrobatic mix of martial arts and dance, performed to the twangy music of a berimbau — a single-string percussion instrument.
It was developed by African slaves in the 16th century as a way to practice fighting disguised as a dance to avoid punishment by the slave masters.
As in other martial arts, participants are granted belts of differing colors as they advance.
Bimba went on to develop his own style — known as capoeira regional — which instituted a set of rules and a strict dress code, according to Google. Bimba also opened the first capoeira school in Salvador in 1932, Academia-escola de Cultura Regional.
In 1953, Brazil President Getúlio Vargas was so impressed by Bimba’s style of capoeira the president declared it a national sport, according to Brazilian newspaper Correio 24 Horas.
This, according to Google, legitimized the martial art and in 2014, nearly a century after the demonstration, UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, gave capoeira a special protected status.