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Agenor Moreira Sampaio

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mestre Sinhozinho
Agenor Moreira Sampaio

OccupationTeacher of capoeira, physical education teacher
Years active1930–62 (32 years of teaching)
Parent(s)José Moreira (father)
Ana I. de Moreira (mother)

Agenor Moreira Sampaio (Santos, Brazil, 1891-1962), most commonly known as Mestre Sinhozinho, was a mestre or master practitioner of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira. He was the main exponent of the fighting-oriented style known as capoeira carioca.[1]


Early life and training

Some sources name his second surname as Ferreira, but the rest of his life is well documented.[2] He was one of the eight children of Brazilian military officer and politician José Moreira, who descended from Francisco Manoel da Silva.[3] An avid athlete, Agenor trained formally in boxing, savate, Greco-Roman wrestling and arm wrestling since his childhood,[4] and also learned capoeira in the docks of Santos.[5] However, when his family moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1908, he switched the local style of capoeira carioca, an aggressive, violent variation strongly associated to policemen and gangsters alike. Moreira eventually became a master of the art, receiving the name of Mestre Sinhozinho (Sinhozinho meaning "Little Mister").[6]

He had his first national exposure as a fighter in 1917, when he accepted wrestling champion João Baldi's challenge to avoid being taken down for five minutes. Sinhozinho passed the challenge with shocking ease, lasting an impressive total of 40 minutes against the champion, though the money prize was revealed to be non-existent because the promoter did not expect the challenge to be passed.[1]

Carioca school

Like his contemporaneous Mestre Bimba, Sinhozinho opened a school in 1930 to teach capoeira to wealthy middle class citizens.[1] However, his carioca school was not based on a single terrain, as Sinhozinho taught in several sport clubs and terrains borrowed from his benefactors, usually around the rich neighborhood of Ipanema beach.[5] Also, unlike most capoeira mestres, Sinhozinho favored combat effectivity over artistic expression, ditching entirely the art's music and rituals and mixed it liberally with other fighting styles.[7] It has been proposed Mestre Bimba decided to emphasize the most traditional aspects of capoeira as an answer to pragmatic, combative variations like those taught by Sinhozinho and Anibal "Zuma" Burlamaqui.[5] Nevertheless, he is credited with having maintained the practice of capoeira in Rio de Janeiro.[5][1] He was also a hand-to-hand instructor of the Polícia Especial created by President of Brazil Getúlio Vargas.[1]

Moreira approached capoeira in a scientific way, tailoring his training methods individually for every apprentice.[2] He would even build his own training gear and tools to drill the art's movements,[5] and subjected his students to heavy weight training.[3] He modified the traditional ginga, making it more similar to boxing footwork,[7] and also introduced techniques from wrestling and judo, especially through his partnership with judo teacher Augusto Cordeiro.[1] Sinhozinho also cultivated the psychological aspect of self-defense, instructing his students to laugh at their aggressors before fighting in order to infuriate them and dissipate their own fear.[1] Finally, capoeira carioca also taught the use of weapons like the sardinha or santo christo (razors) and the petropolis (canes, sometimes tricked), and among its few traditions it preserved an ancient combat game similar to batuque named roda de pernada where capoeristas would exchange leg blows.[6]

Sinhozinho was known himself as an excellent athlete and fighter. Aside from his mentioned challenge with João Baldi, he was reportedly unbeaten in arm wrestling, and he often showed his trainees how to lift heavy weights by doing it himself at his avanced age. There's also an anecdote about how, upon witnessing a donkey being run over and left agonizing on Arpoador street, Moreira put the animal out of his misery with a single move.[1] However, as he never created a standardized way of teaching, his fighting style died with his own passing in 1960. Sinhozinho ended up being more influential as a physical education teacher whose training methods many Brazilian athletes benefitted of.[5] Among the students of his method there were future judo champion Rudolf de Otero Hermanny, wrestlers Reinaldo Lima and Paulo Paiva, athletes Paulo Amaral and Paulo Azeredo, musician Antonio Carlos Jobim and future Olympic Committee president Sylvio de Magalhães Padilha.[2]

Challenge on the Regional school

In February 1949, Sinhozinho launched a challenge to the rival capoeira regional school led by Mestre Bimba, who was touring Sao Paulo.[1] Bimba and his students had been forced to work only exhibition matches and were eager for real fighting (pra valer), so they quickly accepted to travel to Rio de Janeiro to answer the challenge. A two-day fighting event was hosted by the Federação Metropolitana de Pugilismo in the Estádio Carioca, including also a team a catch wrestlers who had similarly challenged the regional academy.[1]

Two bouts were fought between the two capoeira schools. In the first match on April 2, Sinhozinho's apprentice Luiz "Cirandinha" Pereira Aguiar fought Bimba's student Jurandir, knocking him out in the first round with a body kick. Jurandir claimed it to be a low blow, but as witnesses and the ring doctor stated otherwise, the result was kept.[1] In the second on April 7, 17 years old carioca fighter Rudolf Hermanny defeated regional Fernando Rodrigues Perez out in two minutes, dominating the bout and eventually injuring Perez's arm with a kick.[1] It's said Bimba was so impressed that he learned some movements he saw in the fight to absorb them into his own style.[2]

Challenge on the Gracie family

In 1953, Sinhozinho next challenged the Gracie family, inviting them to send two of their Brazilian jiu-jitsu representatives to a vale tudo charity event in the Vasco de Gama stadium on March 17. His own carioca fighters would be again Hermanny and Cirandinha, coached by his usual judo consultant Augusto Cordeiro, while the Gracies sent Guanair Gial Gomes and Carlson Gracie.[2]

The first match pitted Hermanny against the gi-clad Gomes, who was significantly heavier and had a wrestling background. The Gracie fighter dominated the first minutes, taking dominant position on the ground and executing ground and pound, but Hermanny escaped to his feet. However, when Gomes removed his gi jacket and took him down again, the carioca started defending actively from his guard with punches, hammerfists and heel kicks to the back, capitalizing on his superior conditioning to wear Gomes down.[1] After one hour and 10 minutes, with Gomes heavily battered and a fresher Hermanny looking to finish him off on the feet, the former's cornerman Carlos Gracie called for the match to be stopped and ruled a draw. Although Hermanny wanted to continue, the judges eventually conceded. The audience loudly chanted for Hermanny through the affair.[1]

The second bout had Cirandinha fight Carlson Gracie, featuring almost the opposite narrative. Dominating the early moments, the stronger Cirandinha punished Carlson standing with a variety of strikes and kicks, followed by a hard hip throw and a heavy hook that almost finished Gracie. However, Carlson managed to survive the beating, and gradually took over the fight with hit-and-run strikes over Cirandinha, who had become fatigued noticeably quickly. The jiu-jitsu fighter pulled guard and achieved dominant position, from which he landed punches and elbow strikes and looked for an armlock. Although Cirandinha did not concede the hold, his corner threw the towel due to his damage and sapped resistance, declaring Carlson the winner to the crowd's cheers.[1]

Praising the fights, the press considered the event to be a highlight for both schools. Newspaper O Popular called both winners "impressive" ("Rudolf Hermanny e Carlson Gracie -- Impressionantes!"), while magazine O Cruzeiro proclaimed, "brave men's blood soaked a concrete square in the Vasco estadium" ("O Sangue dos Valentes Ensopou a Quadra de Cimento do Estádio do Vasco").[1]

Late career and death

In June 1953, Sinhozinho's school was challenged by Artur Emídio de Oliveira, capoerista regional from Bahia and a popular vale tudo fighter himself.[2] Due to the ideological clash between Emídio's traditional capoeira and Sinhozhinho's utilitary version, a bout between Emídio and usual carioca fighter Hermanny was slated to be fought on June 29 in the Palácio de Aluminio. It was disputed under Burlamaqui's capoeira rules, only including a modification that allowed groundwork, and it featured Carlos and Hélio Gracie as spectators.[1]

Hermanny controlled the first round, landing roundhouse kicks and palm strikes while defending with a boxing guard, but Emidio crouched down and attempted rasteiras and kicks from the ground. At the second, however, after punishing further Emídio with kicks, Hermanny landed his own rasteira and timed a stomp on Emídio's face while the latter was getting up, which proved decisive. The carioca fighter then finished the Bahiano with a throw and more stomps, driving the referee to stop the match.[1]

Sinhozinho died in 1962. His cultural legacy was obscure, but he has been considered in modern times the mainstay of capoeira in Rio de Janeiro.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r André Luiz Lacé Lopes (2015). A capoeiragem no Rio de Janeiro, primeiro ensaio : Sinhozinho e Rudolf Hermanny. Editorial Europa. ISBN 978-85-900795-2-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Many Things at Once: An Introduction to Capoeira
  3. ^ a b Sinhozinho e Capoeira Carioca
  4. ^ Crônica da capoeira (GEM). O ‘Chausson/Savate’ influenciou a capoeira?
  5. ^ a b c d e f Matthias Röhrig Assunção (2005). Capoeira: A History of an Afro-Brazilian Martial Art. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-07-146503-1-9.
  6. ^ a b Gerard Taylor (2007). Capoeira. Blue Snake Books. ISBN 978-15-839418-3-6.
  7. ^ a b Nestor Capoeira (2012). Capoeira: Roots of the Dance-Fight-Game. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-15-839463-7-4.
This page was last edited on 1 March 2020, at 15:27
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