Is Capoeira Effective in MMA?


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Capoeira is a fascinating Afro-Brazilian martial art that has gained a lot of popularity in the past decade. But can you fight with it, and is Capoeira effective in MMA?

Here’s what I know from training in it:

Overall, Capoeira is not a great martial art to learn if being an MMA fighter is the top goal. While some techniques are applicable in MMA, and core strength and flexibility are greatly enhanced, most styles of Capoeira are ultimately designed as a no-contact “play” art more than a fighting art.

But there’s more to know.

In this article, we’ll find out whether Capoeira even counts as a martial art, how many MMA fighters know Capoeira, and if Conor McGregor is one of those fighters who has used it.

Let the fun begin.

Does Capoeira count as a martial art?

Capoeira does count as a martial art. It was developed by African slaves in Brazil who blended it with dance, acrobatics, and music, to hide the fact that it’s a martial art from their slave owners.

With that said, I’ll put it in the same category as Tai Chi, in the sense that it is not a hardcore martial art and more of an expression of form and an internal practice than it is a self-defense style.

Now that being said, there are several styles of Capoeira.

But the style I have practiced, Capoeira Angola, was taught without any contact with other students. And it also focuses on playing musical instruments. And even when we weren’t playing the berimbau or other instruments, music would also be playing in the background.

So, if you’re looking for a combat system that you can employ to protect yourself, Capoeira is not what I would recommend.

But if you’re already proficient in one or two other hardcore martial arts, you can learn Capoeira to give yourself an edge. But as I mentioned, it also builds incredible core strength. My instructor, Etienne Vidal, could literally walk around the dojo on his hands multiple times without falling; he is amazing.

So just don’t make Capoeira the base of your martial art practice if MMA or self-defense is your main goal.

This is because even though it has some applicable and effective techniques, there are also some movements that are inefficient and downright dangerous in the heat of action.

This is not to denigrate the art in any way. In fact, those who are good at it have used just one single kick to knock out their opponents! I am not exaggerating.

It can be lethal.

It’s just that it’s highly delicate. If you miss while executing any of the moves, you could be at a great disadvantage or even hurt yourself. It’s best used against fighters who are not hip to it. Because it’s highly unusual, they would be confused!

Aikido is another martial art many people don’t really understand.

Naturally, they doubt its usefulness. So why is Aikido not used in MMA? This is what I addressed in a recent article.

In it, I spoke about Aikido techniques that are banned in MMA (if any) and the techniques that are allowed. And I shared info on some MMA fighters who know Aikido. But I also revealed whether any Aikido black belt has won in the UFC.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How many MMA fighters know Capoeira?

At least 7 well-known MMA fighters have trained in Capoeira, including such well-known names as Anderson Silva and Connor McGregor. But none of them use Capoeira as their primary art in UFC fights.

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss Capoeira, but just spend some time exploring it, and you’d see that it’s got some hidden gems.

Aside from the 2 I just mentioned, here are some notable MMA fighters who employ it now and then.

  • Marcus Aurélio
  • Rafael Natal
  • Anthony Pettis
  • Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira
  • Mestre Hulk

As you know, Anderson Silva and Conor McGregor are undoubtedly some of the most skilled and beloved fighters who ever graced the Octagon.

So the fact that these giants have trained Capoeira says something.

Does Conor McGregor know Capoeira?

Conor McGregor does know Capoeira in addition to boxing, Taekwondo, BJJ, and wrestling. Of course, Capoeira is not his dominant style. But he uses some elements of Capoeira now and then in his overall fighting style.

Conor McGregor is primarily a striker who started as a boxer.

In time, he incorporated other styles such as Taekwondo and Capoeira. But he’s essentially a striker who often knocks out his opponents. It’s a testament to his drive as a fighter that he’s also learning BJJ and wrestling.

But how does he use Capoeira?

A central element of Capoeira is evasion and not direct blocking. This is smart if you think about it. Instead of dissipating your energy, you conserve it by getting out of harm’s way. Conor does this a lot (and even adds a comical dimension to it).

And that “playful” aspect of his style probably does come from Capoeira.

Another example of how he employs Capoeira is what he does when he’s dropped. Capoeira fighters place a high premium on balance and movement. They are taught not to stay down or still when taken down.

They’re in motion, even when they’ve been dropped.

They often roll around till they’re able to get back on their feet or assume a dominant position again. They are agile and are always moving so that they do not become stationary targets.

He often employs Capoeira kicks to “position” his opponents in certain spots so that he can unleash lethal punches on them.

Is Capoeira hard to learn?

Capoeira is not hard to learn. But core strength and conditioning are crucial for being able to fully do many of the movements. Capoeira is a blend of acrobatics, gymnastics, and dance. And it doesn’t focus on punching or kicking, like other martial arts. But it still takes years to master.

There are four basic movements:

  • Ginga
  • Negativa
  • Role
  • Queixada

The Ginga is the most fundamental movement and must be mastered first before you transition into others. It requires balance and agility. With a great teacher, Capoeira is easy to learn.

The Ginga is the base, while the others are variations based off of the Ginga (“sway” in Portuguese).

Even though Capoeira is not as demanding as most other martial arts, it can also be intense. So, ideally, you want to check with your doc before picking it up, seeing as there are also some “weird” moves such as cartwheels and inverted kicks.

What about Karate?

Is it easy to learn, and can you use it in MMA? This is what I explored in a recent article where I showed whether any MMA fighter employs Karate and if it’s allowed in the UFC. And I shared the best style of Karate for the UFC. But I also revealed why Karate is not used much in the UFC.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Capoeira effective in a fight?

Capoeira is not effective in a fight. Capoeira helps with core strength, coordination, and flexibility; the constant unusual movements could also distract opponents. But without also knowing striking and/or kicking, a Capoeira practitioner would be at a disadvantage in a real fight.

So, on its own, it won’t suffice in an intense fight.

Of course, when employed by a skilled fighter, it could be devastating against an attacker. But it is physically demanding, and the techniques must be done exactly as they are intended, or they could easily become a liability.

It’s important to know that Capoeira is unlike most other martial arts where the focus is on striking and deflecting. To be effective, fighters adapt it to suit their objectives.

But on its own, it may not suffice in a real fight. And even if you were to become exceptionally skilled in it, I’d advise that the best thing to do if a fight is imminent is to flee.

Can you wear socks in martial arts like Capoeira?

This is what I explored in a recent article where I answered questions such as do you have to be barefoot for martial arts and what martial arts allow you to wear shoes. But I also revealed whether Capoeira is done with socks, and why many are taught barefoot.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

IS CAPOEIRA AN EFFECTIVE MARTIAL ART: Reaction to Ramsey Dewey on Capoeira in MMA

Conclusion

In the article, we considered whether Capoeira is a martial art and how many MMA fighters know it.

But we also found out if Conor McGregor knows it. Then, we found out if it’s hard to learn. Lastly, we wrapped up by finding out whether Capoeira is effective in a fight.


Photo which requires attribution:

Capoeira in Camden by Martin Laine is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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