Home Science Education Capoeira: The Power Behind The Dancing Kick

Capoeira: The Power Behind The Dancing Kick

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Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that specializes in hiding its punches and kicks.

When the Brazilian government forbade the afro-brazilian slaves from practicing martial arts in fear they would use them to rebel, the slaves disguised their fight training in Capoeira dance. The movements conceal deadly punches, strikes and kicks in what appears to be a very lively form of dance.

The art is known for its speed, balance and constant movement. The attacks can come from anywhere, at anytime.

Today, Capoeira focuses on fighting numerous opponents or in a technical disadvantage. The constant movement makes it hard for an opponent to get a clear shot. Most of Capoeira attacks are made from the legs with direct or swirling kicks.

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One of the most powerful kicks in this martial art is known as Martelo De Negativa, a round house kick disguised in a crouching position on the floor. But how much power does a kick like this possess?

A test was done on by Fight Science on the National Geographic Channel. Lateef Crowder, someone who has practiced Capoeira for 25 years, had a wireless accelerometer placed around his ankle to measure exactly how fast his leg moved when he kicked. In addition a heavy bag was outfitted with a similar accelerometer. By multiplying the mass and acceleration of the bag and the fighters leg, it allowed them to measure the exact force generated by the strike

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Crowder’s kick came in at 99 Mph, faster than a major league baseball. The impact force of the kick registered 1,800 pounds of force. That amount of force will do major damage to  internal organs, cracking ribs and possibly stopping the heart.

When compared to a Muay Thai roundhouse kick, Capoeira’s most devastating kick is slower but produces more pounds of force, making it very effective at both surprising someone and doing a ton of damage.

Since the art involved indirect attacks (unlike other traditional martial arts) researchers asked where does the extra force come from?

The answer was found within the style. Capoeira enables a fighter like Crowder to recruit more mass from the rest of his body. In Muay Thai the kick’s force is generated as the fighter pushes off the ground with the rear leg, rotating his/her hips propelling mass in a lateral direction somewhere in the range of 45 degrees from start to finish. The emphasis in Muay Thai is more on speed than force.

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While the Capoeira kick is much slower, by crouching down, the fighter compresses his/her body like a spring, anchors their left arm to the ground and releases the mass of their entire body into the strike. The result being almost a ton of force is released onto the opponent.

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The Capoeira kick produces one of the highest ratios of force to velocity, 18.18 and, while it may appear flashy and benign, it is a very effective technique because of physics involved. As force is the result of mass and acceleration, even a slower kick that can recruit more mass into the momentum of the movement will produce a stronger blow with a better mass to acceleration ratio for every well executed strike.