The Capoeira Blog

The Capoeirista’s Identity
September 4, 2007, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Capoeira Life

Photo by culiculicz (Flickr)

The nickname (or apelido, or nom de guerra) is an integral part of capoeira. Originally, nicknames were used by capoeiristas when capoeira was outlawed in Brazil; in addition to taking capoeira underground, capoeiristas would give themselves (or would be given) one or more nicknames in order to escape persecution or arrest.

This tradition continues today, because all capoeiristas are given a nickname. The nickname can be given during a ceremony at a batizado, or in response to something unique in a class. Usually capoeiristas are named by a mestre or instructor, as opposed to something self-imposed. The name can refer to many different things: hair color, style in the roda, a person’s size, a person’s personality or interests, etc. The possibilities are endless (as long as you know Portuguese!). I really don’t think it matters how one gets their capoeira nickname, as long as it is a reflection of them.

The Portuguese for “Wicked Cool Combination of Words” does not cut it in my book.

Sometimes, capoeiristas are known by their nickname better than their real names. Many of the people I know in the capoeira world don’t know my real name, and neither do I know theirs.

To others, I am Faisca, and that’s really all that matters, because it’s my capoeira identity. I’ve even gone so far as to introduce myself as Faisca when I meet non-capoeira people (moreso in college). While I was in college, everyone knew me as Faisca. People would be surprised to learn that my name was actually Mike, or that my last name wasn’t Faisca (Mike Faisca, I got that a lot).

The story behind my capoeira name is untraditional. Faisca means “spark” in Portuguese, which doesn’t really apply to me at all. I wouldn’t consider my style “sparky” or anything remotely close to any connotation of that word. So when I try to explain people why I’m called Faisca it can get a little confusing.

I chose to call myself Faisca when I started to train capoeira on my own. At first, it was nothing more than that I “borrowed” the name from Eddy Gordo. Since then, I feel the name has grown to signify my humble beginnings in capoeira (I learned in part by copying the video game character). I love the name, and I’m glad that my mestre decided to keep it when I started training with him. He even calls my brother Faisquinha (roughly, “little Faisca”).

So how did you get your capoeira name? What does it mean? I like the feedback I got on my How I Became a Capoeirista post, so let’s continue that trend on this one!


41 Comments so far
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Yo Faisca,

here is my little story hehe…

My apelido is Maritaca and was given to me back in 1996 when I couldn’t speak well Brasilian. Maritaca is a parrot who can just be found in South america. The Maritaca does has the ability to speak just in his own way… so back when I got it I had my own way of speaking brasilian. A second thing is, in Brasil it happens alot does little children throw with little stones at Maritacas, but it is a kinda calm bird so it doesn’t even goes away after someone threw a stone or so…

Today, I grew into my apelido, I speak brasilian like my native language and the don’t run away thing and stay calm… well ya I guess that’s me… it happens more then once does guys “throw” with martelos, but I stay calm, let them have theyr fun and play my game… ya that’s me… another thing we all know is, parrots like to speak… hahaha ask the guys in my classes! Yup the maritaca loves to speak!

Abraço & muito Axé


Comment by Maritaca

My first nickname I got was juventude, which meant youth, because I was the youngest in my class, even though I was 17, then I started to always moan and complain about how I hurt my back doing something, or whatever thus came, Fragil, which I frankly hate, I’ve been trying to get a new name, but it’s hard. I think I might actually have to deal with it.

-Phil “Fragil”

Comment by Phil

Mestre Cicero called me moleque because I was homeless and scrawny. Still homeless, little less scrawny. I let the world know about my graffiti orientations, and Mestre Papiba named me Pixador. Like Faisca said, many times I’m Pixador and nothing else. Gets all kinds of looks when I introduce..

Comment by Pixador

Great comments guys.

Maritaca, I love hearing your stories. Keep them coming, and stay calm!

Phil, I’m sure there are many people out there who didn’t like their apelido at first, but with time I bet you’ll grow to love it. It’s a sneaky name, because people will think you’re “fragile” and can’t kick any ass, but you can show them otherwise.

Pixador, what does that mean exactly? Is it like, “artist” or “painter?”

Comment by faisca

Yeah it’s like painter. Spraypainter. That’s what I mean by “writer” see…?!?
Although I do write, like text also. You get what I’m sayin’ Faisca?

Comment by Pixador

yeah, i got the whole “relampago” (lighting, i know it sounds sexy as hell, right?) thing cuz my teacher says i move to fast and i can get a lil bit too aggressive without. knowing.

so i was being taught how to do “Au”, i kept on going fast and fucking up my balance when i landed (on my ass) because of it. so my teacher says “hey, why dont you go slower, cuz your takeoff is just as important as your landing. so i go slower (or i thats what i tricked myself into believing.) and still land on my ass. so my teacher says “Yo! go slower!” and i reply “yeah! I am going slower!”

he also used my name to describe my angola game, cuz i was relying too much on my aggression and speed and not puttin any emphasis on grace or finesse. so he said that lighting can also be graceful and elegant but still retaining the aggresion and speed its known for. so besides the “malandragem” the whole “graceful flow is what im workin on right now, which is one of the reasons why i love capoeira, cuz it makes you deal with yourself and work with your strengths and weaknesses to ultimately refine the individual that practices capoeira.

so yeah.

Comment by Relampago

I got my apelido after a freestyling exercise in class… It was unexpected, it sounded nice and everybody was excited! It felt like a celebration 🙂

When I was told the meaning – Mariposa means butterfly – I was curious to know why Mariposa?! My instructor told me that it’s because of the way I fight and the way I am. I have to say that everyone in our group has got an apelido that suits perfectly and it has had a positive influence on Capoeiristas.

Comment by Mariposa

Hey my capoeira name is also Mariposa, but unfortunately, it doesn’t translate to butterfly. Instead it means moth.

Comment by Vanesilla

At my first batizado, one of the instructors, who is now a professor and my current teacher, gave me the name highlander because I had long hair, a beard and I looked like somebody who came from the Scottish highlands 😉

I like it, even though the hair and beard are now gone and I have never even been to the Scottish highlands!


Comment by Highlander

Highlander, that’s great. There can be only one!

Mariposa is a beautiful name. Can you do the move you’re named after? (The butterfly twist). I’ve been working on that for so long…

Comment by faisca

My apelido means “mirror”. When I first started Capoeira (a year ago) I would hang out with the other Capoeiristas after class. They noticed that I would mimic the gestures, etc of some of them (especially one who is very energetic). I started doing that in my game, too. So one of my instructors named me Espelho.

Comment by Espelho

Espelho, that’s quite the unique and interesting name. It’s one that seems to really fit (given your description).

Comment by faisca

My apelido is Tocador.. which means player of an instrument, at least thats what i’ve been told 🙂

i got that name because everytime i used to go training, i’d have my guitar with me (i came straight from school) and i’d play (normally something cool like master blaster, or tears in heaven, etc). and so one day my instructor, C.Mestre Nei, told me my capoeira name is Tocador.

thats really it nothing fancy 🙂

Comment by Tocador

My apelido is Serpent. ( Don’t know if it’s spelled correctly in portugese) I got it from Contra-Mestre Joao De Deus, from Sul da Bahia Quebec. I got it just recently. He gave me the name because i wear a bald head, and he said i’m agile and inspire fear just like a snake in the long grass. I didn’t like my apelido at first , because i never really liked snakes..i felt they were creepy, sneaky and mean. So i can understand those of you who don’t like your nicknames.. Just try to see the positive about your nickname and forget the rest.. And if you really really can’t stand it, talk about it with your mestre. Peace be with you all !

Comment by Jamrock da Serpent

I am called Caneta. It means ball point pen. I thought they were gonna call me sonrisinha (spe?) because I couldn’t stop smiling, but they found out I am an author too, so it fits. I actually like it, and it’s similar to cinnamon, (canela) and I can remember it.
I’m not used to hearing it yet. In fact, today,l my teacher, Graduado Queixo called me and it took him twice to get my attention.

Comment by Michelle

Hi, all…

Can someone here give idea Capoeira names for a girl? With the meaning, of course.


Comment by Silvertear

My names Busca Pe and it means rocket, my instructor named me that because he said my style reminded him of rockets and fireworks going off, I didnt like my name at first but Ive grown more to like it as time went on and now it almost feels the same as my regular but im starting to like it more the only problem is my friends have a hard time with it and dont take it serious

Comment by Busca Pe

Busca Pe?

My apelido is Foguete (Rocket). I don’t speak Portuguese, but google translator isn’t working for “Busca Pe” are you sure that’s the spelling? I know from experience that there isn’t much chance to see it written down in class. For the longest time I thought my apelido was pronounced Foo-jetty until I figured out the spelling and took it to

Either way: Ache, my rocket brother(or sister?)!

Comment by Foguete

My apelido is Perna de Pau, which means Wooden Legs and is usually given to those who are bad at Futeball. I got this nickname after my Mestre was told about a story where I had broken a bottle over my shin. After he found out about this story he came up to me and started hitting my shin with a bottle and it made a sound like hitting a table. 😛 I also did Iron Bone training while training Shaolin do.

Comment by Perna de Pau

A friend told me that a nickname will only stick if you complain. The majority of Brazilian Capoeiristas I know hate their nicknames! For me it was ironic cos I always wanted a nickname, and liked the ones I was given, but they never stuck, so my “apelido” is my actual name. It’s just funny when every Capoeirista (including Brazilians) asks “what does it mean?”
The other thing is that sometimes, like with any nickname, they get shorter and shorter, like my friend who started as “Aquinderrê”, became “Kinderê” and is called “Kind” (Kin-gee) by alot of people these days.

Comment by Futa

Just got mine last night..instructor Jensen of the Sinha Bahia de Capoeira Cebu Chapter decided to call me Dançarina for my dance-like moves while doing the ginga. Can’t be happier! ^_^

Comment by pachuvachuva

I got my apellido, Maluco(Crazy person, or nutcase), when I spent a week in a mestres academia in germany.My profesor had a thing where he’d bang on the drums a couple of times and scream:MALUCO!!!

Afterwards he tried to pin it on another student, but he already had the apellido Cobra.So basically I got pinned with a second hand apellido.I hated it at first, protested(stupid move on my part 😛 ) but now I love it and wouldn’t part with it for anything in the world.

I love cracking jokes about it:

Q:Are you crazy?
A:Don’t you know what my apellido is?

Comment by Maluco

mine is Gaivota which means a seagull. i started when i was about 8 years old but since i moved from the west coast, i haven’t done it in years. =[

Comment by gaivota

I got a couple of nicknames but I really think, and have always thought, that receiving nicknames is kind of juvenile. I have played Capoeira for a long time, and am an adult now. My name is John and this is what I want to be called. If I inform the teacher of this and he/she wants to call me something other than this thats fine, but I honestly think it is a tad disrespectful (and yes the nicknames Ive been given are cool and Ive no problem with them) and will think less of the teacher.

He/she can do it if he/she wants but I am not going to call another man “butterfly” or “popcorn” or “tinkerbell.” As Cedric the Entertainer says in the original kings of comedy, “Im a grown ass man, I aint gonna be calling no other man ‘Delicious.'” Just because it is not in English does not mean its different. Im sorry but this is just one part of Capoeira tradition I dont agree with, and yes yall can crucify me for it but really my name is John, or Jonathon, call me that.

The author talks about how Capoeira helps to define him as a person. This is all fine and dandy but I let myself define who I am, I need not be anything else. In essence, Capoeira is a part of me as I am sure it is for a lot of the readers. But it is not the only thing in my life as I am sure it is not for all of you. You work/study, have families, and hopefully have other parts of your life that help define you. Yes I know the origin of the apellido and its significance. But I mean really, how many college professors do you see calling their students “Batuta, Calango, Batata, or Leitao..” (Cool Guy, Lizard, Potato, or Piggy). They do this out of respect for the student. Now, how many of our so-called Mestres are college professors?

Comment by Curious Capoeirista

The tradition of apellidos is not about disrespecting someone’s “real” name, if anything its an affectionate thing, like a nickname only your family calls you. In Brazil its normal for people to be known by this kind of nickname, its not only a Capoeira thing. As you’ve probably heard, though, it protected Capoeiristas in the days when Capoeira was illegal in the same way that people involved in street life often have different names on the street than those that their parents gave them. But if you don’t like the idea of nicknames, that’s up to you.
What I thought was disrespectful was your comment “how many so-called Mestres are college professors?” Are college professors the only ‘legitimate’ masters of a discipline? Do you need a university qualification to have knowledge? Like they say in Rio: “nada a ver rapa”

Comment by Futa

I can kind-of see why you might feel persecuted as a John. Apelidos are partly about giving you a unique and personal identifier and as a John you probably get ribbed about being one of (rather than ‘in’) a million. But Apelidos also help foster an informal, relaxed group-attitude and a stronger sense of community. I feel a strong sense of identity with my real name but I still like my Apelido… Although not enough to use it out side of Capoeira (and thus have to explain it all the time).
It’s great that you have such a stable identity though.

Comment by Foguete

Mine is Touro; it means bull. One of my classmates came up with it after watching me a few times. He said he chose the name because of my affinity for the Bencao and Cabecadas, and because I tend to charge on in and go for takedowns/sweeps.

Comment by Touro

I just received my name last weekend: Tourinho (little bull). The person who came up with it noticed that I tend to charge in and that my most common golpe is the benção and that my favorite attack is the cabeçada. Also, there is a thing I do when someone does a meia lua de compasso where I try to charge in and grab their leg to trip them.
All being said, I think it is a good fit.

Comment by Tourinho

hi, im spanish guy, i am called caneta, i am an “alunno” but im very popular among capoeiristas. greetings to all capoeiristas people. leave your answer in mi e-mail…

Comment by caneta

He calls you Faiquinha? Umm, Faiquinh’a’ would mean you’re female, Faiquinho on the other hand is male.

Comment by Owen

hey there everyone. i got my name by cOntra mestre Malandro wen i was about 15. i got my nickname the first day at first he called me “tucano” (tucan) but it didnt stick rite away then out of nowwhere he says “BOM BRILLO” [bom bril-yo] which means (brillO pad) because my hair was so curly it looked like a brillo bad =]

– i been training for almOst 2 years nOw and im in lOve with thiS martial art and dont worry so much about your name love the sport for the sake of loving the sport.

Comment by BOm BrillO.

hi all..
anyone know what’s the meanning of
1. Cabore
2. Cabure

I got it from a mestre who visit from macau to singapore few weeks ago..

i don’t know how to write and spell it..

the way he talk is like “capure”


Comment by edwin

To respond to the above, I am a college professor and a Capoeira instructor and I teach Capoeira at a community college for Kinesiology/Dance credit. I proudly refer to my students as Onca, Curinga, Marionette, etc…

Comment by Montanha

Just found this blog… 🙂
Mine’s Cegonha, for “stork.” My instructor chose it because I’ve had two babies in the time I’ve known him, and I am always carrying them in cloth slings. It’s perfect.

Before that, my mestre called me Anjo, or “Angel,” just based on my real name, Angelique. I think it occurred to him to try finding a more creative apelido for me, but he was never known for having great follow-through. :p

We seem to have a thing about bird names among the capoeristas I know… there was Urubu (vulture…tall, slim but muscular, bald headed), Picapau (woodpecker… skinny, fast), Papagaio (parrot…talkative), and a few others.

Comment by mum mum

I have been training Capoeira for nearly two years now, and my appelido is ‘Noturno’ because I used to be active in Urbex, and my stories from those times intrigued my professor. I liked my appelido the first time he started using it, also, I think it sounds cool 😉


Comment by Noturno

[…] promised i owe you guyz a post on apelidos in capoeira. recently there have been some new apelidos given to certain people and it is indeed an exciting event for each capoerista. but first thing […]

Pingback by apelido | instrutora ursa

My nom de guerra is Leãozinho, it means tiny lion or lion cub; it was given to me by my mestre because I was one of the youngest capoeristas in my group and he said I moved smoothly like a wild cat, but that at the same time I tended to be “endearingly aggressive” just like a baby animal 🙂 And I love it! especially since I’m female and he still called me -inho because he said I was a man inside 🙂

Comment by Leaozinho

Many thanks for posting this, It’s just what I was researching this on yahoo. I’ve been comparing opinions from different people, rather than an biased news internet page, that’s why I like blogs so much. Many thanks!

Comment by Luba Gabaldon

I generally stick to all fours a lot if i have to move, even across the class space, my name is Sagui, meaning little monkey (tamarin monkey). I really do think my nickname suits, and it was really only kind of what i expected. The only thing i remember was me moving after some training to another spot and hearing, “Ooooh got that monkey step!” then my instructor comments that my nickname is already in his mind. I like it personally, its got a nice ring to it.

Comment by Sagui

Oi Capoieristas!

Stumbled upon this blog…

Enjoyed reading all your stories!

I am Cegonha as well.

Was given my Apelido as a result of having met my Teachers at the Birth of their first Child together. I was their Homebirth Midwife’s assisitant at the time and am also a Mother and a Doula (Doula is a support person). My Instructor chose “Cegonha” – which, as you’ve may have read above, means Stork – ’cause as he explained… “The Stork, helps bring the Baby”!

Was never intending to train Capoeira. After the Birth I was invited to come check out the class with the youngest of my three Children who I knew would be interested. My Son started training and the Teacher and his Wife kept coaxin’ me to join in the Roda. Quite reluctantly, I did, and began training alongside my Son who is known as “Menino Maluquinho” because of his exuberant style of play. “Menino Maluquinho” is also the name of a Brazilian comic book character.

Thanx to Faisca for creating this forum!

Peace, Playful Mischief & Joyful Chaos To All!


Comment by Loretta Jordan

I’m Perigosa.

It’s means ‘Dangerous’. Mestro Pedro (son of Gato) and my instructor Tim came up with it for me way before my first batizado. Why? Weeeeeeellll…I had a very horrible habit of my foot seeming to connect quite intimately with various parts of the body…Mostly between the navel and the knees (if you get my drift).

I never discriminated either – man, woman, a little in-between – didn’t matter. My foot still seemed to find that sensitive part of the inner thigh close enough to certain ‘bits’ that left most men breathless with relief it didn’t land half an inch to the left. (and some women full on…I’m so sorry ladies, that made me cringe even more than the men!!)

It was never on purpose, mind you. I never thought ‘I’ll win this roda by taking someone out with a swift kick to the jollies!’ or anything. It was more or less innocent, yet absolutely perfect timing of two various body parts being in the wrong place at the right time.

After a particularly close call with my instructor, he had to ask Pedro what to call me as there is not a Portuguese equivalent to ‘Ball Breaker’. Pedro said ‘Ah, man, she’s just dangerous’. and that was it.

And I remember the first time it happened – it was my second class, and Saci (who is about 6’3″, large, muscular afro-caribbean man and gentle as all outside the roda, but scary and ‘H-E-double-hockeysticks’ in the roda) and I were playing – the first time I met this guy, when we go for opposite compassos as the same time. Now as he’s a gentle giant, and I’m…well…not, his compasso flew right over me with room to spare, while mine seemed to fly …into… him. It wasn’t fast, so no one ended up on the floor cursing my name, but lets just say my aim was spot on, and I actually felt the heel of my foot ‘lifting and separating’ things only his wife should fondle. There was actually a moment where we both froze (longest moment in time) before I scuttled off giggling like a moron out of pure embarrassment and hiding behind the atabaque waiting for my blush to die down before I could show my face again.

Perigosa is now a part of me. Once I got the name, it just stuck. Even when I took a few months off to try out kung fu (*ptooey!) My name always remained. On FB, it’s my ‘middle’ name. i never took it off as it’s that much of a part of me. Even I sometimes forget it’s only a nickname, not a real name. When I went to my batizado, some of the Brazilians couldn’t pronounce my name (Courtney) so they just went “Ah, whatever, Ok, ‘Perigosa’ “. People call me Courtney, people call me Perigosa. I answer to both.

It’s who I am.

Comment by Perigosa

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