Floreios loosely translates into flowery movements. These are often acrobatics that take a basic movement like a cartwheel and expand on it until you have something that is beautiful to watch. Capoeiristas are masters of moving their momentum around and can perform many of these acrobatics by efficiently transferring around their weight. On their own, these movements look impressive enough, and the goal for any capoeirista is to implement these movements in a game of Capoeira.
Not every Capoeira game has floreios. Some of the more dynamic floreios will not serve you well in a fast regional game where kicks are thrown fast and a floreio could put you in danger. At the same time, an Angola game will have less floreios to make room in the game for clever use of more foundational attacks and counterattacks. When you see floreios used in a roda, they are done to impress the crowd, challenge the other person to do something as cool, or just for fun.
The roda (where you play Capoeira) is a place where you are free to express yourself so long as you follow the direction of the berimbau. The berimbau directs the mood of the roda. If the berimbau calls for a tough game, then you must put away your floreios for the moment. However, if the berimbau allows for it, then floreios are a great way to challenge and express yourself while playing the game of Capoeira.
While going through this list of floreios, keep in mind that floreios are fun, but what counts the most in Capoeira, are the fundamentals.
Au is one of the most basic floreios you can do in the game of Capoeira. The capoeira cartwheel is done differently than a cartwheel in gymnastics. In gymnastics, the cartwheel starts in a forward facing lunge position. The Capoeira au starts with one foot pointing forwards and the other pointing about 45 degrees to the side. The foot that points to the side is the side you will perform the au. Always make sure to face the person you are playing and keep your chest facing them, to keep aware of any attacks.
There are many ways to do a cartwheel, however the most fundamental variation is with the legs and arms fully extended throughout the movement. The au can be done for many reasons, including evading kicks and gaining a better position in the roda.
Au de cabeça (Cartwheel on the head)
Au de cabeça is the lowest to the ground au variation available. This variation is considered very safe because it is low to the ground and tucks your head safely away behind your body. Au de cabeça usually starts from negativa, and swings both legs over from one side to the other. If you want to keep low, but still want to move around, this is a great option.
Au de cabeça is seen in a lot of Angola games where both players stay low to the ground. The movement is rarely seen in faster regional style games where speed and fast kicks are more normal. Doing an au so close to the ground is a really great option if you’re looking to do different floreios on the ground.
If you’re new to Capoeira floreios, then this is a great starting point to build strength and coordination.
Au fechado (closed cartwheel)
Unlike the normal Au with outstretched legs, au fechado tries to close the chest off from attack by bringing in the knees. As soon as you take off from the ground, you want to start bringing in your legs towards your chest. Many people lose their balance here, so it’s important to practice this movement by slowing down your au as much as possible. The strength and coordination you gain will lend itself well to other au variation and bananeira(handstand).
Although you can do au fechado in many different scenarios, the two reasons capoeiristas opt for this au is: 1. for protection, and 2. to do an au in a smaller space. Both of these needs come up regularly in a Capoeira game, which is why it is rare to see a capoeirista do a very large au. Unless the person is very comfortable and feels safe, they’ll usually opt for an au that exposes them less, like au fechado.
Au de Frente (frontal cartwheel)
Au de frente is another variation of au that moves forwards instead of side to side. This move ties in very well with many of the circular kicks. Combining au de frente after a kick like armada, meia lua de frente, queixada, or meia lua de compasso is common. This is a great combination that can be used in many middle and fast paced games. However, use this floreio with caution. In a fast paced game where kicks are flying left and right, au de frente does expose your chest and chin as you come up. This applies for many of the floreios on this list and is one of the reasons you need to use your floreios intelligently.
One difficulty people have when doing this au is not being able to land without falling on their butt. Most of the time, the reason this happens is that you’re not able to keep the landing leg straight and extend the hips up sufficiently. When people are scared, they tend to drop their hips, crumpling up their bodies. This is a response that you have to fight when doing this movement. I recommend trying au de frente on a downhill. Using the downhill allows you to drop your hips slightly and still completely the movement.
Au de Costa/ Macaco em Pé (backwards cartwheel)
Similar to au de frente, macaco em pe can be used after most round kicks. This floeiro is very beautiful and can be strung together back to back. Like any other kind of au, macaco em pe is commonly used as a stylized esquiva.
One of the most common problems people have when learning this movement is not feeling confident while going backwards. If you want the macaco em pe to look good, when you have to have some faith that your hands will support you. What you can do to avoid this fear is to try the following: Instead of placing the first hand directly behind you, place it slightly out towards your side so that it is still in your field of vision. This is a good way of building confidence until you can confidently place your hand behind you knowing that it will support you. From there, it is a matter of doing the au to the side until you feel comfortable going over your body. Remember that your second hand will lead your body. So if you throw your second hand to the side, that is how your body will move.
Helicóptero: Pronounced: “Eh-lee-kop-te-roo”
This is a really fun test of your spine’s and leg’s ability to rotate while upside down. Many movement lovers practice this movement because of its complexity and beauty. The floreio gets its name from the motion of the legs, which imitate helicopter rotors. Applications for this movement are less concrete than other movements. Like many floreios, their use can’t be stated in a simple phrase such as “you dodge the kick with X movement”.
There are two main issues people have when learning this movement. The first one is being unable to rotate the legs around properly and the second is not extending the body enough through the movement and falling on your butt.
A simple way to overcome the first problem is to place a small object for you to kick on the ground as you swing your legs around. The objective of the au is to have your legs make large sweeping motions up in the air and then close to the ground. Use the object you put on the ground as a marker that you can use to kick with your leg. The second problem can be alleviated in most cases by placing your hands on an elevated surface as you attempt the helicoptero. Using a high step can work. The idea is to give you more time in the air to rotate the spine. Once this feels natural, you can begin doing the movement on a smaller and smaller step until you are doing the movement on the ground.
Au de Coluna (Spinal cartwheel)
Au de Coluna: Pronounced “Ah-oo jee ko-loo-na”
In my opinion this is one of the most misunderstood au focused floreios. The movement itself is conceptually pretty simple. Instead of the au with your legs moving directly over you, your legs will move behind you. This is done with coordination, confidence, and a decent amount of shoulder mobility. Many people see the word coluna(spine), and immediately think they have to bend their backs as much as possible to do this movement. This is part of a big misunderstanding of the movement.
One of the best ways to get injured doing this movement is to try to bend excessively at the lower back. The concept of everyone’s body looking different applies here. The person you see on social media might have very flexible shoulder and spinal segments that make this movement look a little different. Au de coluna is a very difficult movement to teach, even for capoeiristas with experience, so I will not try to explain it here. I will mention however that having a strong bridge is helpful when starting your au de coluna training. Overhead shoulder mobility is very helpful and goes a long way with making the movement smooth and applicable in the roda.
Au Trançado (Woven cartwheel)
Au Trancado: Pronounced “ah-oo Tran-sa-doo”
Similar to au de coluna, this movement breaks a lot of the rules of a conventional cartwheel. The main difference between the two floreios is which leg that pushes off the ground. For the au de coluna, if the movement is to the right, then the right leg will push off. Au trancado pushes off on the opposite leg. If the movement is to the right, then the left leg pushes off. This difference creates a much more dynamic movement and adds to its complexity.
Before trying this movement, you should become comfortable with au de coluna. Working on your overhead shoulder mobility will also benefit you greatly. Although the movement does depend on flexibility at the spine, you also will also need mobile hips, shoulders, and wrists.
One way to train both au trancado and au de coluna is to use the wall for support. Start with your feet on the wall and your hands on the floor. Face the wall and move your hands about two feet away from the wall. Once here, you will take one hand and bring it over your body, and place it parallel to the wall. As you do this, the same side leg will also move over your body and land back on the wall. You should now be facing away from the wall. From here, you can turn around to start again or walk down to the floor.
Au Pesado (Heavy cartwheel)
Au Pesado: Pronounced “Ah-oo Pe-sa-doo”
Another great test of your control in a cartwheel. Au pesado starts like a normal cartwheel. The difference between this floreio and a normal au, is that the legs land perpendicular to the hands. As soon as the au reaches its apex, the hips turn and the legs come down in a controlled manner to the ground. Although Pesado means heavy, this cartwheel variation should be very light.
If you want to do more advanced cartwheel variations like Au CDO, then this variation is a must. Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the movement to make sure as your legs come down to the ground, that you bring them down in a controlled way. A good way to know if you’re doing this floreio well is to try it on a wooden floor. If you hear a loud sound, then you need to control the descent of your legs more.
Au CDO (Cordão de Ouro Cartwheel)
Au CDO: Pronounced “Ah-oo Se-de-oh”
This is one of the signature moves of the group Cordão de Ouro. In fact, the name of this kind of au comes from the name of the group. Cordao de Ouro or “CDO” for short. Au CDO requires a lot of balance and coordination as you bring your legs in at first. Once you reach the apex of your au, you will then push your legs up so they are straight like in a handstand. As soon as the legs come up, you will bring the knees back towards your chest and legs on both legs for the landing.
You can say that Au CDO is a combination of Au fechado, bananeira, and au pesado. This combination of three different movements all in one demands a lot of control. Make sure you have a foundational understanding of Au Pesado, Au Fechado, and Bananeira (handstand) before trying out this variation.
In the clip above you can see a more stylized entrance into the Au CDO, however this movement can be done from many different positions. Au CDO can be started from standing, negativa, or while giving a rasteira (sweep).
Macaco: Pronounced “Ma-ka-koo”
This floreio is another favorite of people outside of Capoeira. This isn’t necessarily because it is “easier” to learn, but perhaps because it is very common in the world of Capoeira. I have no doubt that many onlookers saw this move and thought about how they could copy it in their own practice. Macaco resembles a back handspring, but without the jump backwards. Instead, the movement starts from a squat position. The macaco has a hand supporting your weight almost throughout the entire movement.
From the squat position, reach the right (or left if you want) hand behind you. The further back you reach, generally the easier the movement will be. From here, push hard off of your legs, supporting yourself with the hand you planted on the floor. From here, the free hand needs to be whipped over your head, guiding your movement up and over your supporting hand. Make sure to keep your core tight throughout the whole movement. This will make sure the momentum is kept throughout the macaco.
Similar to macaco em pe, many people feel fear when moving backwards, so a common regression is to do macaco a bit to the side instead of straight back. This makes the movement less scary and more familiar at the same time. This is another movement that might benefit from being done on a slight downhill. This will give you more time to coordinate your landing and learn how the movement works. Once you feel more comfortable you can start to do this on a flat surface and eventually use it in the roda.
There are so many macaco variations that it’s difficult to describe them all in one video. The movement is very well explored in the world of Capoeira. There is an endless amount of creativity that you can generate from this movement. Landing on one leg or two legs is one idea. Landing into a headstand as shown is another. Landing into queda de rins is a more advanced variation once you get more comfortable with the movement. If you enjoy floreios and want to get started learning them, then macaco is a great starting point.
S-Dobrado (Folded “S”)
S-Dobrado: Pronounced “Es do-bra-doo”
Although they look somewhat different, S-dobrado and macaco are very similar moves. Both act like back handsprings with a hand supporting you throughout the movement. The big difference between these two floreios is that the lift off for S-dobrado is done with one leg instead of two. If you’re familiar with the pistol squat, then you’re familiar with how much power is needed.
The set up for S-dobrado is usually different from macaco. A common set up is to transition from esquiva baixa to negativa, swing the leg to the side and up for the s-dobrado. This setup is one of many ways to generate the power required for this movement. Although bute forcing S-dobrado is an option, most people opt to generate a lot of momentum and allow that to carry them over.
Queda de Rins (Fall on the kidneys/Baby freeze)
Queda de Rins: Pronounced “Ke-da jee heens”
Queda de rins is a fundamental floreio movement. There are tons of florieos that stem from this one, and here we can see three variations. The first with the legs tucked, the second with the top leg touching the floor, and the last with the bottom leg touching the floor. Although these variations vary in difficulty, the most difficult part of Queda de Rins is balancing on the elbow. “Rins” refers to the kidneys and how the elbow is placed near the kidney for balance.
The elbow is in fact placed by the hip, although this will depend on your body type and your center of gravity. People with a higher center of gravity will need to place their elbows higher on their hip. Those with a lower center of gravity will place their elbow lower on their hip to gain balance. Balance using your two hands, head, and two feet on the floor. Once you are able to balance well in this position, try bringing your feet off the floor by pulling your knees closer to your chest.
From here, there are many different variations including the ones shown. Queda de rins is a great movement that is a challenge on its own, but also leads into many different floreios including reversao, volta de lado, and macaquinho to name a few.
Reversão da Queda de Rins (Reversal of Queda de Rins)
Reversao : Pronounced “He-ver-saw”
Reversao is a transition of queda de rins from one side to the other. In order to do this, the legs swing outwards and make a big circle as they transition. At first glance, the movement may look limited in its application, but there are many different movements that can follow reversao. This includes many attacks, esquivas, and an almost infinite amount of floreios. Reversao is an explosive movement that functions great as a workout tool to build strength in the hips, back, and arms. You can try to include this movement in your workout routine.
Macaquinho (Little Monkey)
Macaquinho: pronounced “Ma-ka-keen-yoo”
Macaquinho is a fun movement with a lot of variations and creative entrances and exits. Unlike some of the more basic floreios, macaquinho has an interesting use that makes it a favorite in small rodas. This floreio has two interesting properties: 1) it is low to the ground, and 2) it’s a compact movement that shields the head. In a very close Capoeira game, you can have a roda that is no more than six feet in diameter. In many cases it can get even smaller than this. Working in these tight spaces does not necessarily mean that the game slows down, or that you have to simplify the game. There are people who can still flip and play incredible games in small spaces.
Macaquinho can be thought about as a movement tool. If you don’t have a lot of space, but still need to move, then this might be what you need. For example, in a small roda, a macaco might not be possible. There might not be enough space, but a macaquinho could work.
Macaquinho is usually done from the negativa position. From negativa, macaquinho can actually be done from either side – turning towards your outstretched leg or the bent leg. Either way works as you bend backwards, supporting yourself on both arms as you bring your legs over in a compact ball. The movement itself requires a lot of coordination and similar to some of the other more advanced floreios, is not easy to describe in a few sentences. That said, it’s a great floreio option that can be used in big and small rodas alike. It all depends on your needs and what you’re trying to do.
Ponte (High Bridge with Rotation)
Ponte: pronounced “pohn-chee”.
Ponte is a bridge or wheel pose, depending on the movement art you reference. The main difference between Capoeira and other arts is the focus on movement and this is reflected in the use of ponte. In Capoeira, ponte is used rotating from a quadruped position, into ponte, and then back to the quadruped position.
Rotating into a bridge can be challenging, so the best place to start is on the wall. Start facing the wall, standing about 2ft away. Place both hands onto the wall and simulate the rotation on the wall. Make sure to limit bending at the knees and try to exclusively bend at your back, shoulders, and hip. Once you feel comfortable, try this on the ground.
Although ponte is a fundamental movement for many different floreios, it is in fact an intermediate level floreio and can be challenging for many people. Most people have difficulty opening up their hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine. If you want a strong bridge you should first focus on exercises that improve these three parts. If you feel comfortable laying on the floor and pushing up into ponte, then the next step would be to work on rotating with the drills described.
Ponte Baixa (Low Bridge)
Ponte Baixa: “pohn-chee bai-sha”
Another way to approach the ponte is to use the ponte baixa. Ponte baixa is a bridge which limits the bending at the hips, back and shoulders. This is a much easier option for people who are stiff in any of these areas. The main difference between these two movements is the position of the knees and hands. The knees are pushed outwards away from the arms, while the hands are placed above you to create a frame.
This modified ponte is still challenging to do, however is a good alternative for those who are not yet at the level to do the high bridge version with the rotation.
Volta por Cima/Volta de Lado (Turn over the back/Turn at the side)
Volta por cima: Pronounced “vol-ta por see-mah”
Volta de lado: Pronounced “vol-ta gee la-doo”
A low bridge variation that can was popularized by the students of Mestre Suassuna, creator of Cordão de Ouro. Volta por cima is another intermediate floreio that requires a strong bridge to get started. Without this, it will be much harder to do the movement. To use this movement in the roda requires a lot of creativity. At the highest level, some capoeiristas can use this move as a last minute esquiva. When an attack comes from practically any direction, the capoeirista receiving the kick will fall into the low bridge position and use volta por cima to get back into the ginga. The move is not easy for the majority of people to do, and applying it in the roda adds another layer of difficulty.
Start Volta por cima from a low bridge position. From here, raise your hips high off the ground so only the balls of your foot and shoulder are touching the floor. If you want to do volta de lado to the right side, place the right hand to your side, similar to queda de rins. Push up your hips so the elbow can come directly below your hip bone. If you’re familiar with queda de rins, you should have an idea of what this should feel like. If you’re unable to do this, it could be for a number of reasons, with the most common being unable to lift the hips up high enough. Once in this low bridge + queda de rins position, you need to swing either one of your legs over towards your right side. Gaining fluidity with this movement will take some time so don’t’ forget to practice!
There are many variations and regressions for this movement, meaning that no matter what your skill level, you will be able to practice different elements. Similar to au de coluna, this movement has been evolved by many capoeiristas who’ve tried to make it more interesting, more dynamic, and more complicated. The result is that there are many variations to volta por cima/volta de ladob that you can explore.
Corta Capim (Cut the Grass)
Corta Capim: Pronounced “Core-ta ka-peeh”
Mestre João Grande is currently one of the oldest living mestre. He’s a living legend and has inspired many of the movements on this list. The reason I bring him up is because when Mestre João Grande was a child, he saw someone doing cota capim, and when he asked the man what he was doing, he told him about the art of Capoeira. Mestre Joao’s Grande’s interest in this one movement was what propelled him to learn Capoeira and become one of its most influential icons.
Corta Capim starts from a crouched position on the balls of the foot. A single leg will extend forward and swing it around in a circle, hopping over it with the other leg. The movement is very simple to do and very beginner friendly. You might be wondering when would be a good time to use this movement as it might not seem to do much at first glance. Corta Capim works like many Capoeira movements. By doing it, you store up momentum that you are able to use for attacks, dodges, or other movements. Think about corta capim as a battery, charging up momentum for the next movement.
A fun challenge to do once you’re learning to do corta capim is to swing the leg in the opposite direction as shown in the clip above. For whatever reason, this is a lot more difficult to do than swinging the leg to the inside direction. Have fun with this one!
Pião de Mão (Hand spin)
Pião de Mão: Pronounced “pee-ao jee mao”
This move looks like it came straight out of a break dancing circle. The idea is fairly simple. From a handstand position, spin on the pinky side of the palm as many times as you can. Of course this is more difficult than it sounds. There are many techniques for doing a hand spin properly. Here are some tips that could help give you more rotations out of your hand spins.
Make sure that when you’re spinning, you’re not spinning on the entire palm. This is a very common mistake. You want to make sure you’re spinning on the pisiformis. This is the corner of palm that is closest to your pinky and your wrist. The less surface area you place on the ground, the more you will be able to spin. The second tip is to shrug the shoulder up as high as you can and keep the head into your shoulder. Many people do their hand spins with their shoulder down and their heads looking down at the ground. This creates an unstable structure. The head also stays close to your armpit to keep your weight evenly distributed and make sure you don’t get disoriented.
Relogio: Pronounced “he-lo-gee-oh”
Relogio is another hand spinning technique. The main difference between relogio and Pião de Mão is that the spinning in relogio is parallel to the ground. Most Capoeiristas will enter this movement from rolê or queda de rins. The technique can be challenging and if you don’t already have a decent hand spin, and queda de rins, it might be difficult to perform. Balance here is key, as is having the strength to keep your body parallel to the ground throughout the movement.
Pião de Cabeça (head spin)
Piao de Cabeca: Pronounced “Pee-aow gee maow”
Another break dancing looking move. It’s not clear who influenced who here. Maybe the capoeiristas influenced the breakdancers. It’s also possible that these two groups developed the move independently – it’s not known. Regardless this is one movement that is shared amongst the two arts. Head spinning is also a simple movement to understand, but less so to do. This move is quite easier to do than a handstand, but many people who have done this have ended up with bald spots on the top of their heads. Consider this fair warning to wear some sort of head protection like a beanie or a skull cap!