I review eight leading British brands of BJJ belt and see how they fare against my hand made, custom embroidered Kataaro belt - which I have dubbed the world's most expensive BJJ belt (see my old post about the Kataaro here).
A wise man once said: "the belt only covers two inches of your ass, you gotta do the rest". Or words to that effect. Yup, it sure is true that the only job a belt has to do is keep your jacket bits together. But it might help if your BJJ belt was built to last for the long haul. Unlike a lot of other martial arts, our rank progression covers just five measly belt colours and it's perfectly normal to remain the same belt colour for many, many, many long years. So it really helps to have a belt that does not fall apart after six months, unless that is the effect you want - which I'll also discuss in this 'ere essay.
Anatomy of a BJJ Belt
What's the difference between one belt and another then? Well, let's take a look under the bonnet of a typical BJJ belt - in this case, I stripped apart a white belt made by MMA Universe:
As you can see, there's quite a bit of filler - in this case, three layers of filler. The thicker the filler and quality of it will determine how flexible or thick your belt is. The MMA Universe belt is kinda ok in this regard. Not too thin or flimsy, but not the thickest.
The cotton cover - which obviously shows the colour of the belt, can be made from cotton twill or canvas. I think canvas is a bit more hard wearing but some people like the edges of their belts to fray and wear down over time - and twill will do this job a little better than canvas I think.
One end of the belt is usually stitched with a company logo or patched and the other end of the belt has the black rank patch - the bit where your instructor afixes those little sweeties known as stripes.
The whole thing is then stitched together using mutliple rows of thread. My Kataaro belt boasts a total of 11 rows of stitching, using heavy duty thread. Most belts make do with just 8, or even less.
|Twill (left) v canvas|
|Some belts are very thick, some very thin|
British BJJ Belt League Table
Here it is. The stats and data that you really do not need but I'm telling ya anyway. Who has the thickest belt? Who is the longest? Or the widest or the fanciest? Check out the table and then see what I think below:
Based on my data, the thickest belt is the A2-sized K2 FightGear belt at 0.7cm, but the heaviest (and widest) belt was the A2-sized Malvado blue belt which weighed a whopping 308g. Compare this to the anorexicly thin A2-sized Black Eagle white belt which weighed a mere 213g and measured only 0.4cm in thickness. The thick or heavy belt is certainly sturdy but the thin light belt might be enough to shave those extra few grams you want at a tournament, so worth thinking about. Ironically, for a light and thin A2, the Black Eagle belt was also the joint longest belt, at 294 cm long. The Malvado belt is also overly long at 294cm. Cutting a belt to suit your own personal size is fiddly and annoying so I would defo check with the company for the EXACT length of the belt you are ordering - as my stats show, the length stated on the label is not always accurate.
You might also want to consider thickness when it comes to bulk. Basically a thick belt is gonna create a chunky knot at the front and this can be irksome for techniques where your belly is in contact with your partner or on the floor. A thick belt also takes longer to 'break in' so you'll be standing there in class for ages looking like the freshly promoted dorky blue belt that you most probably are. Having said that, thicker belts look cooler, feel more substantial around your waist and probably last much longer than skinny belts.
Other belt differences
So apart from size and weight, what other differences are there between the belts? This is where the small design details in the look and appearance of the belt might influence your decision. The Grab and Pull belt has constrast coloured stitching running through the rank patch which looks kinda neat (all the other belts have the patch sewn over the entire belt). It also comes in a cute little plastic wallet. The MMA Universe belt is offered free to all gi purchases and their logo is patched on both sides of the belt. The Malvado belt has the words jiu-jitsu embroidered into the belt is also the only one in this review made from canvas cotton which in my opinion is harder wearing.
|Contrast stitching - a bling belt!|
On the subject to hard wearing materials - as alluded to in the intro - some users like to have their belt fray and wear down over the years. Some belt materials are more prone to this than others. If you want the Ronin look, then all you need is a bit of sandpaper. Alternatively, just train five times a week for around four to five years and yor belt will start wearing down nicely during this period.
On another 'quality' note, I've no idea why the number of rows of stitching would make any difference to the overall quality of the belt but my Kataaro, with its 11 rows, seems a tad overstitched compared to the Faixa Rua, with is economical 7 rows. Everyone else seemed content to have 8 rows.
Only the Malvado belt came with embroidery. This is good because who wants to look like the self-obsessed show-off who embroiders their own belt forchrisakes! Ahem:
Further information and links:
MMA Universe and MMA Gear
Grab and Pull
Credit and Disclaimer:
Thanks to all the companies mentioned above for sending me their belts for review. I am not sponsored by any one company nor do I endorse any one brand. I am no expert, I just write what I observe based on my personal experience. If you like something having read this or any other review, please feel free to pop a message on the comments page and tell the company you heard of them through the Meerkatsu Blog. It helps me get more reviews. Ta!