Some capoeira groups have a ranking system (cords – cordas or cordões in Portuguese – are used rather than belts). Capoeira regional and capoeira contemporânea groups tend to use cords, whereas capoeira angola groups do not.
The cord system in capoeira is not standardized; every group has a different order of colors. Some follow the colors of the Brazilian flag – green, yellow, blue, and white – and others introduce other colors, such as red, orange, purple, and brown. Many have mixed-color belts that are in between the main color levels. Check out The Capoeira List’s collection of various groups’ cord systems.
Different groups also have different requirements for advancement to the next cord level. The strictest groups actually test their students in fitness, movements, game, music, and knowledge of the art’s history and philosophy. However, most capoeira groups either have loose “requirements” for each cord level, or leave it up to the instructor to simply decide when each student is ready to receive the next cord. Students usually receive their cords at an event called a batizado (baptism) and/or troca de cordões (changing of cords).
The cord ranking system did not exist in capoeira until the 20th century. Mestre Bimba, the creator of capoeira regional, used to give out colored handkerchiefs in order to distinguish the graduated students from the novices. Mestre Carlos Senna of the group Senavox created the first colored cord ranking system in 1955.