Years ago, capoeira was chaotic and fragmented. Students learned as disciples of a capoeira master who could only teach if both parties could find the right time and space to do so.
After Mestre Bimba worked to legalize capoeira in the 1940s, he developed a pedagogical system to teach capoeira more efficiently. The explosion of capoeira across the world, aside from the beat of its own drum, has to be in large part due to this work that Mestre Bimba did.
Along with a formalized system of instruction, Mestre Bimba developed a simple ranking system to help his students develop faster. The corda is a form of motivation, as a recognition of achievement.
One of Mestre Bimba's rule was, "Protect the opponent's physical and moral integrity (during the practice, the stronger will protect the weaker player)." The easiest way to separate stronger capoeira players from weaker is through the corda system.
What your corda means
Ultimately, you define the value of your own corda, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
In a sense, the corda itself is has no value. Cordas can't do capoeira movements, play capoeira instruments, or sing capoeira songs. They're trinkets.
That said, no serious capoeira teacher, in any group, issues cordas to his or her students haphazardly. It's a symbol of the hard work, dedication, and commitment that a student has demonstrated over time. In this sense, the corda is the most precious compliment that your capoeira teacher can pay you.
Treasure your corda and wear it proudly to class and rodas.
Taking care of your corda
To preserve your corda, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
- Washing your corda will clean out the dye, making it dull. To keep it fresh, be sure to never machine wash it.
- Do not step on your corda. You worked hard to earn it. Treat it with respect.
- Never grab another capoeiristas corda. Again, he or she worked hard to earn that corda. Touching it without asking is often seen as disrespectful.
While each individual corda represents one step in the hierarchy of Capoeira Maculelê, the cordas also bundle into groups.
Here's a list of the general groups to keep in mind:
- Iniciate: Undyed, raw corda, not shown above.
- Aluno iniciante: 1st through 4th corda.
- Aluno intermediário: 5th corda through 8th corda.
- Aluno avançado: 9th and 10th corda.
- Aluno graduado: 11th through 15th corda, called Graduado 1°, Graduado 2°, Monitor, Estagiario, and Estagiario Chegada above.
- Instrutor: 16th through 18th corda, called Instrutor 1° through 3°.
- Professor: 19th and 20th cordas, called Professor 1° and Professor 2°.
- Mestrando 21st and 22nd cordas, called Mestrando 1° and Mestrando 2°.
- Mestre: 23rd and 24th cordas, called Mestre 1° and Mestre 2°.
- Grão-Mestre: 25th corda. This corda is specially reserved for the eldest and most respected capoeira mestres