The Capoeira Blog

How Important is Rank/Cord?
August 10, 2007, 11:13 am
Filed under: Questions

There’s a reason that I haven’t been posting much lately: I have a series of posts brewing until they’re nice and ready.  Come back Monday for the first installment.  Until then, I thought I’d ask my readers a question to hold us over. 

In your opinion, how important is it to get a better rank or cord?  (This is pretty much for regional capoeiristas, but angoleiros can join in too.)

Do you feel that capoeira is like other martial arts?  That your skills should be determined by the belt you have?  Or do you feel that the belt or rank doesn’t matter, and all that matters is your ability?  Do you think that regional should not even bother with cords?  I’m not very familiar with the way angola does it, but is their way better?

Think about it, and let’s hear what you think!


14 Comments so far
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In capoeira angola there are five basic levels – student, trenel, professor, contra-mestre, and mestre. You basically move up to the next one when your mestre decides you’re ready; there are no fixed guidelines. But on average the levels take (more or less) 5 years each, and you wear no visible marker of your rank.

I personally think cords are completely unnecessary and they cause more problems than bring benefits, but that could be because I was brought up without them (even back when I played regional) so I simply never had any desire to get one. Plus, I always enjoyed being a sort of “wild card” in the roda, that no one had any idea how experienced I was. Plus… we mean angoleiros will pull on your cord in the roda if we get half a chance 😉

Comment by Shayna (Bahia-Capoeira)

coming from someone who use to train with a contemporary capoeira group that uses cords, and now trains angola. I have to say like everything in this world, this subject is two sided. There are negative an positives to everything. Just the way the world works i guess. So my opinion is this, Cordals are useful for determining who you can look to for answers and guidance in capoeira. The higher the cord ranking the more knowledegable someone should be in capoeira. On the surface i feel formal ranking seems helpful, but beyond that i feel alot of capoeiraistas, new or experienced can easily get caught up in Philosophical, & Political Issues that arise from Egos & Ideals that may or may not be directly influenced by cordals & a ranking system. I’m pretty sure it has been proven that any ranking systems influences a level of greed, and unhealthy egos for some. How much cordals & ranking effects capoeiraistas as a whole is unknowable i believe, unless someone decides to do a case study someday. My personal feelings about cordal overall i think is expressed through my action from switching from regional to capoeira angola.

Comment by compromisso

Ewww… you will hurt many guys with this question…

There are many pro’s and contra’s… since I don’t want to get anyone mad at me, I will just write my very own opinion, the opinion I do show clearly when playing in a roda…

For me the cord until you are professor or higher is a toy… we all know before a part of Capoeira was comercialised… I have to say it that way… most groups just had 7 cords… Capoeira became popular outside Brasil and outside everything is easier to comercialise… or to say it with other words, easier to make money… so now most groups have up to 20 cords… maybe more, so atleast in the first 5 years of capoeira you are sure to get each year a cord, waht means money for the ones… I know they had to make more cords to make it more interesting for the guys I use to call… wannabe-professor in 5 years… most don’t have the pacience to play 5 years with same cord, so they start to think they aren’ getting better and stop, others get professor cord here in europe and then never play in a roda in brasil, atleast not in the street…

so ya coming to my 2 cents, my very own opinion is, the cord is just to prevent does someguy pulls my abada down! I met enough guys who look first at your cord before enter the roda, but we all know the cord don’t tells nothing about you, just one day after professor, then it tells, you have done a long way and you have the ability to teach all you learned. I respect professor and above. Other cords who want my respedt, have to earn it ^_^ with other words, I won’t hold back my rasteira because you are monitor/graduado/instructor… even if you going to cry and tell the mestre… what happens also sometimes…

so ya again, cord till professor= colored-sweaty thingy who looks like belt to hold my abada at the right place!


PS: whoever takes this personal, well I don’t wanted to hurt your feelings/toughts.

Comment by Maritaca

Hey this is some great discussion.

I don’t think anyone should be offended by any of this, or take any of it personal. This is a forum for free discussion of ideas and opinions, and nobody is out to hurt anyone.

I personally couldn’t care less what cord I have. As long as I know what my abilities are, and that my mestre knows what my abilities are, that’s all that matters to me. I don’t need a new color on my belt to know how good my skills are.

It is good to hold the pants up, though!

Comment by faisca

As an Angoleiro my thoughts are as follows… i have no idea what the colours mean in the first place. so therefore irrelevent.. I also have played people with some coloured cord and can hardly Ginga.. I even once stepped on a guys cord in the middle of the game and he collapsed in a heep..
So to me it seems more of a hinderence than anything else. As was stated earlier hierarchy and commerce. Which, as a non Brazillian, i beleive just adds to confusion and envy.. I am certainly missing something but what do i know??
I s’pose in the long run it may seem to prove as an incentive to some but there again i think that motivation should come from another place and not ones rank seen and interpreted by others..
Any way i think i’m beginning to babble .. Just keep playing and enjoy that beer after training … tee hee

Comment by Curisco

The way I see it, cords aren’t so much for incentive or for your own pride but as a way of quickly identifying who is approximately at your skill level, so you know who would make a good opponent or teacher. As a novice, I hope that my cord tells more advanced players that I’m still new, so go easy on me, and give me advice. Like any system of measurement, it could be useful as long as everyone adheres to the same standard.

Comment by hieronymous

I think that a rank or a cord is an excellent means of motivation
i’ve yet to earn one lol

It gives me something to look forward; a goal to achieve. I don’t think that a capoerista’s ability or potential should be judged by his rank but the reaching the requirements of each rank definitely means that you understood your style or your ‘groove’ more

Comment by Fouda

well to me, i try to see the positive side of the cord system. for those angoleiros out there, each group has thier own system of cords. usually however, the cord color gets darker as the person has a higher cord(1st cord white, then yellow, then orange, red, blue, and so on) but not evry group and it can be confusing when you go to roda. as far as the political contreversy it can bring up, it does happen, as in life. i’ve seen people who are still aluno with one cord over another and feel as if thier way superior. as a capoeirsta i use it for malicia as much as i can. im still an aluno and still on my 1st cord and when i play someone i start purposely awkward almost as if its one of my first time and then i use that to my advantage. its harder or professores and higher, but wit certain graduados and higher ranking alunos it feels really awesome to see their expression when i trick them. as a mestre once told me, “a cord is only for holding up your abadas. remember, your cord says your rank, but your game in the roda is what confirms it”

Comment by Terremoto

I’m not against them or for them, I think the cords look cool at least. I remember seeing a pic of a guy flipping and his cord trailing behind him. I’d probably get one just to get one whether my rank was it or not lol.

Comment by Jonsul

I think that the color of a person’s chord doesn’t really matter. Each of us knows things about capoeira that some others don’t. It’s more about trying to learn more than showing off what you know.

Comment by capokid

I find cordas useful within my group as a way of broadly gauging a capoeiristas ability. I think they are partially subjective and don’t put much weight by them, but it is useful to see who has been playing for a while when you are just learning and asked to pair up – then I make sure I am always with someone of a higher rank than me so I can learn from them. I have found that if I am with someone at my own rank we just get confused (as you can tell I’m just starting out!)

Cordas also provide motivation. I don’t want to progress through the grades to look superior or to ‘prove’ my abilities, but it is a good indication that your instructor/mestre believes you are improving. Surely that can’t be a bad thing!

However they are very confusing, particularly when travelling. Terremoto stated that the first cord is white, but in my country the highest cords are white. Obviously this is a limitation, but cordas are a mixed bag of goodies like that.

Comment by Peishada

While I’m some what new to the actual practice of Capoeira, I have spent a great deal of time studying its history and traditions so I could get a greater appreciation for the style when I actually DID start practicing it. From what I gathered in my studies, there was never really a use for cords traditionally, and Capoeira was never really what I like to call a “rank-and-file” martial art like some of the others are.

There were titles that were used (Mastre being the one I read alot of in my materials) but I think the cords are ultimately a new, and probably unnesicary thing that is only there to make some of the more conservative martial artists out there happy.

So I’d say… No, I don’t think cords are needed in Capoeira.

Comment by J.C.

Glad i found this website..I’ve been doing capoeira for a month now but I’ve got some martial arts experience before…I tried to swipe a guy who has a dark blue corda then he kicked then we kept kicking each other back and forth and at the end they were saying I should respect the corda…I guess I come from the position that whoever steps in front of me its on regardless of color of corda but apparently that didn’t go over well..thoughts?

Comment by new_capoerista_tx

As stated many times and many ways, cords have their purpose, but don’t get caught up. Many groups use many themes, in my group the colors of the Brazilian Flag dictate where you are. The first belt you earn is green and the last being white after a decades of training. I know other groups where a green belt puts you at the instructor to professor level, so it all varies. Ultimately, it’s about your game in the roda. Often times, your level of play will come out with how well you respond in the roda. For instance a beginner may have only one or two kicks and dodges that they do well and do them whether the situation dictates or not, a more advanced student will have a good game, but can be taken out of their flow by an instructor or higher, etc. My advice is to keep training, keep playing and you will learn and gain the respect of those you play, regardless of the color of your cord.

Comment by James White

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