Mestre Bimba was born Manoel dos Reis Machado on November 23, 1899 in Salvador, Bahia in Brazil. He was one of several sons of Luiz Candido Machado and Maria Martinha do Bonfim. A bet by his mother at his birth is how he got the name "Bimba," a popular Bahian name for a boy's penis. With a name like that, you gotta be tough.
Like his father, he was a champion of "Batuque," a type of fighting brought by Africans during their enslavement in Brazil. At 12 years old, Mestre Bimba was initiated in Capoeira at the Estrada das Boiadas, today known as Liberdade, in Salvador. His mestre was an African known as Bentinho, captain of a shipping company called the Companhia de Navegacao Bahiana.
He later mastered Capoeira Angola, combining these two art forms to produce a capoeira form called Capoeira Regional. Regional differed from Angola in many ways: It downplays the importance of music and song, has a sequential learning process, and a system of colored cords ( think Karata belt ) as a sign of a student's advancement in the art.
In 1936, Mestre Bimba challenged any opponent of any fight style to compete in a match. He had three challenges and all were soundly beaten. His longest opponent was able to last one minute and ten seconds. Mestre Bimba was then crowned the champion of capoeira and remained undefeated until his death.