Marcelo Backes Navarro Stotz (Mestre K.B.Lera)
Agenor Moreira Sampaio (Sinhozinho) was born in 1891. He was one of eight children of Anna Isolina Moreira Sampaio with Lieutenant Colonel José Moreira de Sampaio, political chief and briefly mayor of the city of Santos (1899). Self-taught in the study of Physical Education, he excelled in several sports from the 1910s to the 1950s, coaching champions in weightlifting, jumping, rowing, boxing, soccer and other sports.
In an interview with the newspaper Diário de Notícias (in “Clube Nacional de Gymnastica: Uma grande Promessa” – Rio de Janeiro, September 1, 1931), Agenor Sampaio is presented as “the great animator of the youth of Brazilian sports” and talks about his career:
I started my sporting life – said Sinhôzinho, preliminarily – in 1904, at the Club Esperia de S. Paulo; as a member-student. […] with the arrival of Edú Chaves from Europe, new teachings were passed to us, out of which the Greco-Roman fight, French boxing (savate) and gymnastics with equipments were the most important. […] In 1907, I joined the Club Força e Coragem (Power and Courage), which was directed by Professor Pedro Pucceti. […] I obtained my first successes in this competition and had the chance to win the tournament of my category. […] In 1908, I moved to this capital, from where I never left.
He exercised many professional activities in Rio de Janeiro: He was one of the founders of the Centre for Physical Culture Physica Enéas Campello in Rua das Marrecas, coach at the Hellenic Athletic Club (1924), at the America Football Club (1926), at the Regatta Club Boqueirão do Passeio (1926), Flamengo Regatta Club (1934) and Fluminense (1936), teaching gymnastics, fights, athletics and soccer (America FC). He also served as coach, trainer, technician, masseur, and won several weight and weightlifting championships and fencing disputes. Sinhozinho knew several styles of fighting and acted as referee in several fights.
In the “Marvellous City” (Brazilian nickname for Rio de Janeiro) he maintained gyms and training centres in different venues, notably in vacant lots. The backyard of his home on Redentor Street was the first gym to open in Ipanema. In the adjoining land to his apartment on 270 Almirante Saddock de Sá street, also in Ipanema, the well-known “Clube do Sinhozinho” functioned, where weight lifting, gymnastics with equipment, boxing, wrestling, and more were practiced. He also worked at the “Barreira do América”, near América F.C.; at the corner of Raul Redfern Street with the Ipanema beach; next to Colégio São Paulo, on Vieira Souto Avenue; at Visconde de Pirajá, next to Bar Progresso; at Barão da Torre, in front of Notre Dame College; and, finally, at Alberto de Campos Street.
When he arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Sinhozinho probably lived near the house of Zeca Floriano, son of former president Floriano Peixoto, training for some years with this excellent capoeirista and martial artist of several ring fights (Silva and Corrêa, 2020). He soon became known in the sports and bohemian circles of the city, next to people like Bororó, Antenor da Praia, Lincoln, Zenha, Silvio Pessoa, Beijoca, Elite, among others. After watching the famous fight at the International Pavilion on May 1, 1909, in which the capoeira Cyriaco beat the Japanese Sada Miyako, Sinhozinho tried to learn capoeira in Rio, probably on the hill of Santo Antônio, but also in the conviviality with bohemians, rogues (malandros) from Lapa, and workers from the port area.
The friendship with sportsman Jayme Martins Ferreira, adept of Capoeiragem (and later an important character in the implementation of the “Bahian style” in Rio de Janeiro), suggests that Sinhozinho had contact with the project of a national fighting style, a project defended at the time in the Federal Capital by various intellectuals, military officer, politicians, etc. In 1916, Mário Aleixo, who knew the method of Capoeiragem systematized by Raphael Lothus, invited him to teach Greco-Roman wrestling in the recently opened gym of the Trade Union of the Retail Trade Employees (União dos Empregados do Comércio), in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. In the same year Agenor Sampaio joined the Portuguese Gymnastics Club, where he became a weightlifting champion for several years.
In 1920 Mário Aleixo and the journalist Raul Pederneiras opened a Capoeiragem school in one of the classrooms of that club. Agenor Sampaio is part of the group that made exhibitions of Ginástica Brasileira (Capoeiragem), as described in the newspaper O Jornal (13/03/1920):
The sports programme of the festival also includes the presentations directed by teachers Mário Aleixo, Gustavo Senna and Agenor Sampaio, sure to achieve complete success. Personal defence and attack – teacher Mário Aleixo versus Ernesto Goétte. Boxing – Waldemiro vs. Rubens, directed by champion Gustavo Senna. Brazilian gymnastics (Capoeiragem) – teacher Agenor Sampaio x Lincoln Coimbra.
In 1930, Agenor Sampaio created the ” National Gymnastics Club”, located at Rua do Rosario nº 133, 2nd floor. The classes were free for a group of private students who learned his own style of Capoeiragem, different from the ones known until then, without musical accompaniment and specifically focused on combat. In the following year, the defeat of Mário Aleixo’s project of capo-jitsu, as well as of other capoeiristas to Jiu-jitsu fighters in the ring, where they were forced to wear a kimono, may have contributed to the construction of his version of Capoeira that tried to get closer to the warlike gestures of the old capoeira gangs (maltas) in Rio de Janeiro, as well as incorporating techniques of other fighting styles, such as the Greco-Roman wrestling and French savate.
Clothing was standardized with shorts and a type of padded trainers, using a soft material similar to boxing gloves to cushion the blows. The athletes practiced on tatami, to avoid injuries and make it possible to apply the capoeira techniques with greater vigour. The ginga was adapted to the leg work of boxing and the training with a razor (called “sardine” or “Santo Cristo”) and a cane (known as Petrópolis), as well as the Cariocan pernada, the latter without music, just using kicks and unbalancing blows. Sinhozinho used all kinds of gadgets, devices and protective equipment for the training of the sports he taught. This differential, added to the social prestige that came from the practice and teaching of other sports, attracted the attention of the youth of high society, and facilitated the insertion of Capoeira in the Cariocan sports environment.
Sinhozinho was the main character of a range of episodes, from the murder of an aggressor to killing with his hands a donkey just run over by a car. He was frequently mentioned in the articles of the newspaper Diário de Notícias, not only in the sports section, but also in columns such as “humorous homeopathy” and “what was said yesterday” that commented picturesque facts in Rio de Janeiro. In the edition of Wednesday, September 23, 1931, under the title “The Resurrection of Capoeira”, the newspaper announced:
Diário de Notícias will sponsor the interesting tournament among the students of coach Agenor Sampaio (Sinhozinho). The great and justified interest that exists around Capoeiragem is resurfacing with vigour, thanks mainly to the advertisement of the press, notably the Diário de Notícias, and the activity of Agenor Sampaio (Sinhozinho)…
The highlight of this first generation was André Jansen, goalkeeper of Botafogo Football Club, champion of capoeiragem in Rio de Janeiro, considered by the Rio press the best capoeira of his time in Brazil. Jansen visited several states demonstrating his effectiveness as a fighter. On October 30, 1935, at Parque Boa Vista in Salvador, Bahia, he faced Ricardo Nibbon, a student of George Gracie, a jiu-jitsu and catch-as-catch can champion from Rio de Janeiro. In this master event, Bimba and his students demonstrated the Bahian Regional Fight. Rudolf de Otero Hermanny stood out among the last generation of Capoeira fighters trained by Sinhozinho. A physical educator, called the Bear, Brazilian and Pan-American Judo team champion, in Mexico, in 1960, Hermanny was a lecturer at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and coach of the Brazilian Football Team in the 1966 World Cup.
Sinhozinho defended the idea of Capoeira as the official Brazilian fight, a technique of personal defence, the National Gymnastics, highlighting its combined aspects of fighting, sport and gymnastics. However, after being involved in a brawl during a carnival parade in Copacabana, Sinhozinho declared to the newspaper Diário da Noite on January 21, 1949: “in my academy there are no capoeiragem classes, a sport I have never practiced. I only teach wrestling, weightlifting as can easily be checked”.
Paradoxically, on April 1, 1949, the newspaper A Noite brought the news of the “Capoeira Challenge – Sinhozinho of the Federal District against Mestre Bimba from Bahia”, reporting that Sinhozinho, when he learned that “the capoeiristas from Bahia currently in Rio, presented themselves as the best in the country, soon challenged this statement, since he also considers himself a great capoeirista and has extraordinary students”. In fact, his pupils Rudolf Hermanny and Luiz Pereira de Aguiar (Luiz Ciranda or Cirandinha), “Brazilian capoeira champion” and weightlifter, were victorious in the fight against Perez and Jurandir, representatives of capoeira Regional. The fighting match was organised by the Metropolitan Federation of Pugilism and held over two days at the Carioca Stadium, on Avenida Passos, in downtown Rio.
The same duo represented Sinhozinho in 1953, when he challenged the Gracie family for a fight during a charity event at the Vasco de Gama stadium on March 17. Hermanny and Cirandinha, also trained by judoka Augusto Cordeiro, faced Guanair Gial Gomes and Carlson Gracie. In the first fight Hermanny showed superiority, but after one hour and ten minutes the fight was interrupted and declared a draw. In the second fight Cirandinha dominated the first moments, but got tired quickly and, when he suffered an arm wrench, his aide threw the towel, consecrating Carlson the winner. In June of the same year, Artur Emídio de Oliveira, a Bahian capoeirista and all-round fighter, challenged Sinhozinho’s school under the rules of Burlamaqui, including a floor fight. With Carlos and Hélio Gracie in the audience, Hermanny won against Emidio in the second round.
Alongside his sporting life, Agenor Sampaio became part of the first group of the Special Police created by Getúlio Vargas, where he also was an instructor. From 1935 he served as a policeman, and then as gymnastics teacher for the secret police during the Vargas dictatorship (1937-45), where he retired as a Vigilance Officer. Sinhozinho died in 1962 in Ipanema, where he was honoured with a statue. His name was also given to a street in Ilha do Governador.
And the veteran Brazilian athlete bade farewell, who, were it not for his modesty and disinterest in the glories that sport bestows, would today be a name of worldwide reputation, such is the affection and caprice with which he dedicated himself since his first youth, to the practice of the most diverse branches of sports. (Diário de Notícias, Rio de Janeiro, September 1, 1931).
Sinhozinho had an outstanding participation in several sports modalities, especially in combat sports. He got more notoriety than other contemporaries who also worked with capoeira and in Freestyle figthing, possibly due to his role as educator, physical trainer and coach of several renowned athletes. But there is still much to be discovered about his Capoeira exclusively focused on combat. Here is the challenge to the researchers.
Newspapers from Rio de Janeiro, consulted at Hemeroteca da Biblioteca Nacional.
LOPES, André Luiz Lacé. A Capoeiragem no Rio de Janeiro, primeiro ensaio – Sinhozinho e Rudolf Hermanny. Rio de Janeiro. Editora Europa, 2002.
_________. A Volta do Mundo da Capoeira. 1ª edição, Rio de Janeiro: Coreográfica Editora e Gráfica, 1999.
LUSSAC, Ricardo Martins Porto (Mestre Teco). Agenor Moreira Sampaio, o Sinhozinho, 1891-1962: uma vida pela capoeira e pelo esporte da cidade do Rio de Janeiro Caminhos da Educação: diálogos, culturas e diversidades , v. 1, p. 159-162, 2020.
Accessível em https://revistas.ufpi.br/index.php/cedsd/article/view/9911
MARINHO, Inezil Penna. Subsídios para o estudo da metodologia do treinamento da capoeiragem. Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, 1945.
SILVA, Elton e Eduardo Corrêa, Muito antes do MMA: O legado dos precursores do Vale Tudo no Brasil e no mundo. Kindle edition, 2020.