The green Brazilian flag. The black African slaves. The orange of a rising sun. You cherish your corda–train with it, don it before every class, and no matter what you tell people, at some level you aspire for the next one; but do you know exactly what you’re wearing around your waist when you tighten that hand-dyed knot?
We all know that nearly every group in capoeira has a different corda system. What I wanted to discover was: Why? How? It’s hard to imagine that each mestre just wanted to distinguish their school from the rest and so decided on a random order of colours merely by virtue of no one else having used it yet! Unfortunately, I have never heard of my own grupo’s corda colours symbolizing anything in particular (so people, please enlighten me if I’m wrong!), but thought it’d be interesting to see what kind of meanings are given to corda colours in general.
Before I continue, let’s take a brief detour through Portuguese 101: Colours!
off-white/”raw”/undyed – crua
red – vermelha
orange – laranja
yellow – amarela
green – verde
blue – azul
purple – roxa
brown – marrom
white – branca
black – negra
You might have noticed that all the colours are in feminine form; despite what you may think, this was honestly for no more reason than that the word “corda” itself is feminine. Can I help it if I want to you use proper grammar? (I don’t rig things, I just take advantage of happy accidents 😉 )
Now, apparently many grupos do base at least part of their corda systems on the colours of the Brazilian flag, which is where cordas verde, azul, amarela, and branca come from, as well as the different combinations between them found in single cordas. Grupo de Capoeira Lutaxé actually bases their entire adult graduation system on just these four colours, plus black and brown, which according to their website represents “the black race and time of slavery”.
Filhos da Bahia Capoeira gets particularly creative in terms of colour placement, with nine variations of corda amarela/verde, followed by six variations of amarela/azul. There are only so many ways you can dye one rope, and they seem to have come up with them all! Their system intricately follows the process of nature, starting beginners off with corda verde and adding more and more amarelo to it in several stages, representing a blooming or ripening fruit.
Finally, we have what seem to be more standard symbols for each colour, the particular order here taken from Abada Capoeira. Get ready to feel inspired 🙂
Raw, undyed, colourless–this one pretty much explains itself! The true, unt(a)inted beginner, with no knowledge, no experience yet.
Represents the formation of a capoeira base as solid as gold, as well as the value of the student (yup, we’re worth our weight in it!) and their future.
The rising sun – the quest for knowledge – the awakening of consciousness.
The sky, which opens into an infinite path towards knowledge. Also the ocean, indicating the vastness and depth of ground there is to cover.
The forest: at this stage, the now-advanced student is expected to begin contributing back to the group, the way trees give oxygen to the earth.
Continuity… … … … … … … … … … … …
The soil of the earth, the source of life. Marrom represents being grounded in the earth, and grounded in all aspects of capoeira.
In Abada, fairness. In Sinha Bahia, symbolic of the blood shed by the slaves who started it all, as well as the blood we all share. True understanding of all.
The colour of diamond–resistance, longevity, timelessness, and the colour that reflects all the rest.
Obviously, the rank of each colour affects the meaning the group will give to it, so it will be different for everyone, but this gives you a good idea of what’s out there! What do you think? Does your corda already have a symbol within your group? Or do you think that symbolism stuff was all just claptrap made up after the fact? Either way, I don’t think I’ll be looking at my corda quite the same way again!