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Belt System and its meaning

I am currently working on kids and youth programming such as expectations and belts levels and I'm left thinking about our Batizado last month and that my kids always ask me what the belts mean. As in many martial arts, Capoeira uses a color coded belt system to represent the skill level of students. Between each step of color there is a half step to represent progress toward the next full belt. Belts are awarded at community events called Batizado and Encontro. For a more complete explanation on these annual events, check out my blog post "What is a Batizado?"

While the cord color signifies the ranking within the group the student belongs to, the cord does not make the Capoeirista. Each new belt means more expectations and responsibility within the group. The promotion of students from one belt to the next is a complex decision between your teacher and Mestre Preguiça. One's technique in music, leadership, commitment to training, and ownership of the craft may all taken into consideration for promotions.

Like many martial arts, Capoeira also has standards for belt promotions but in Capoeira, promotions are not earned by passing a test with a set of movements that are memorized every few months. Instructors may have very different goals and specific expectations for each Capoerista, as each Capoerista is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses and may need to work on different skills. Assessments and promotions are thus specific to the student and individualized. For example, in order to achieve my orange cord, I needed to be able to perform and perfect my back tuck. To achieve my blue cord, I had to organize and hold my own batizado. My peers had different goals set for them by our teacher and were not necessarily tasked with the same things.

Here is a brief explanation of the standards in Omulu Capoeira as well as what the color of the belt symbolizes to me in my combined 20+ years of training.

White: (Purity) This is the belt given to students along with their uniforms. You are a blank slate and it symbolizes your introduction to Capoeira

Yellow: (Sun) This belt is earned by students who show a good comprehension of basic kicks and defenses. Also a basic knowledge of Capoeira etiquette such as when to buy. Students must be able to play pandeiro and atabaque.

Orange: (Fire) This belt s earned by students who demonstrate good reflexes and speed, and a knowledge of some floreio and basic Angola games. Basic corridos should be worked on and occasionally leading songs in the roda. At this level they begin helping the teaching new students and playing the berimbau.

Blue: (Water): This belt is earned by students who exibit a good understanding of the game, strategy, and rhythm. Students must be able to utilize takedowns and carry on aggressive games. They display good floreio playing iuna and basic Angola games and can sing a ladinha. They can lead the roda at begin their own classes. Learning portuguese should begin around this level.

Until graduate level, each belt can be seen as stages in skill that are cultivated over time. Past the blue belt, every color becomes their own league. The skill of a purple cord and of a green cord are vastly different.

Green: (Grass/Growth): This belt is earned by students who display more advanced abilities than that of a blue cord. A teaching methodology is beginning to form as well as how one conducts and has his/her students conduct themselves in a class. Song composition is usually starting at this level.

Purple: (Spirit): This is the belt earned by students who show a solid knowledge of Capoeira that is beyond the physical. A methodology is and maintained. In the game, they are a force of nature that dominates while helping unlock the potential in any/all beginners. Instructors at this level usually go out to other rodas/batizados from other groups.

Brown: (Earth) This is the belt earned by students who demonstrates maturity, leadership, and excellent gaming skills at every level. They are very grounded in their methodology and are capable of uprooting and starting a group where ever they go.

Red: (Blood): A mestre is recognized the Capoeira community first before anything. Through many years of dedication and sacrifice, they make concrete contributions to the art and produce good students. It is the highest level that can be achieved in Capoeira, growth within the art continues for a lifetime.

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