I review five BJJ belts, all quite different from one another. There's the flashy one, the cheap one, the hemp one, the gi material one and the cool one. Which one did I like the best? Find out here!
Quick glance information
|Peel Gi - Shinobi||19 Euros (£15)+12pp||peelgi.com|
|Valor - elite belt||£15||valorfightwear.com|
|The Green Gi||$45 plus $25pp (approx £48)||thegreengi.com|
Disclosures - all views in this review represent my own opinions. I have no personal or business history with Peel Gi, Keiko Raca, Green Gi or Valor. I have worked for Scramble in the past on freelance design assignments.
When I was promoted in December last year I was given a belt far too long for me. It was an A3 belt! Perfect I thought, because this gave me the excuse to go out and buy a whole bunch of belts to test for review purposes. See my previous belt reviews for purple belt and brown belt.
For my selection this time, I chose five belts that each offered something different from the rest. The Peel Gi is the expensive show off model, the Keiko Raca is the budget model, Valor is made from gi material, Green Gi is made from hemp and finally the Scramble belt because it was brand new and I was rather fond of their V1 belt. Side note: even though these are all black belts, apart from the colour, the other ranked belts from each brand should all follow the same feel, measurements and appearances.
I wore a different belt for every training session and rotated them over the period between December to the end of February and washed each of them twice in warm water and air dried. Let's have a look at some measurement stats...
|Brand||Length brand new||Length after washing||Width||Weight||Rows of stitching||Rank bar length|
|Peel Gi - Shinobi||268cm||263cm||4.7cm||300grams||9||10cm|
|Keiko Raca||256cm||256cm||4.6cm||190 grams||6||11cm|
|Valor - elite belt||267cm||254cm||4.2cm||277grams||8||10cm|
|The Green Gi||243cm||249cm||4.1cm||266grams||6||10cm|
|Scramble (v2)||259cm||261cm||3.8cm||300 grams||8||10+2|
All the belts were bought at size A1. The most notable disparity first of all is that no two A1 belts are exactly the same length when new. The longest belt in my sample set is the Peel gi at 268cm long (105.5") while the shortest is the Green Gi belt at 243cm (95.5"). After washing, the measurements showed some odd behaviour - both the Green Gi and the Scramble belts actually increased in length post washing. The other belts shrank or stayed the same. Length of belt is clearly an important measurement as it affects the manner in which it stays tied on your body.
Belt width (not to be confused with 'thickness' which I describe later) is another important factor that affects the way the belt is worn. At 4.7cm and 4.6cm the Peel Gi and Keiko Raca belts are both much wider belts than the other three, with the Scramble belt being the narrowest by far. Narrow belts arguably have a slight advantage over wider belts as they crunch into a knot a bit easier - of course many other factors come into play that affect the knot (more about that later).
A couple of other points worth noting - the weight of the belt might be something to consider if you are on an extreme limit of a weight category. In this case, the Peel Gi and Scramble belts at 300grams each are the heaviest, while the Keiko Raca wins the feather light contest with a weight of just 190grams.
The number of stitching rows varies slightly. I doubt this reflects in any way on the quality of thebelt construction - but the Peel Gi belt leads the pack with 9 rows while at the minimal end, the Green Gi manages with just 6 rows. The rank bar in all the belts were consistent at 10cm long. The Scramble belt was the only one that did not offer the option of non-instructor red bar (ie without the white bars).
The photo above is a visual example of the relative belt thicknesses. Given the rounded edges, it was hard to provide a precise thickness measurement. It is also worth noting that some belts were harder while others were spongier (more on that later in each belt chapter). That being said, the Keiko Raca and Valor belts are the thickest, with a very chunky leading edge. The Green Gi belt was thinnest while the other two seemed more or less the same thickness.
Peel Gi - Shinobi belt
Peel gi are from France and made a bit of a sensation when they released their octopus themed embroidered belt. The Shinobi is not as flashy as the octopus one, but it still offers some unusual aesthetics with contrasting double side patterns. The photos below looks like they are two different belts, but in actual fact, it is the same belt. Overall the visuals are very eye-catching but not overly garish, especially when tied onto ones body.
The belt colour brand new was a deep and rich black but after only two washes, the colour faded a fair amount - an effect that was only most visible on the 'plain' side of the belt. It was also very stiff brand new and reminded me of my Kataaro belt, but after washing, it softened up considerably.
Being the longest belt in the set, the 'wings' of the belt are noticeably longer when tied on the waist using regular knot. But when using the 'judo' knot, the length came in handy (since it is a knot that uses up a bit more belt length than the regular knot).
During class, using regular knot, this belt would come undone with every roll, sometimes several times within each roll. With judo knot, it was more durable, coming undone perhaps every third or fourth roll. I think the main reason for this is the fact that it is a very wide belt (4.7cm, the widest of the bunch) which makes it harder to attain a very tight knot regardless of tying style. The resulting knot is also very chunky and I found that on the odd occasion I found myself in belly-down position, the knot felt very prominent.
|Peel Gi in regular knot formation - note upward pointing 'wings'|
|Peel Gi in judo knot formation, note downward pointing 'wings'|
The Keiko belt is made in Brazil and is the cheapest belt in my selection at £9.99 from keikoraca.co.uk. Brand new, the belt is very soft and spongy when pressed on the surface, it feels as if it is totally devoid of any core such is its flexibility. The colour of the belt retained its rich blackness, even after washing. I noticed several loose threads on the red rank bar which, I think over time, will continue to unravel but the rest of the belt stitching seemed fine.
What made me really like this belt was the fact that it stayed tied to my body throughout the lesson and for each and every roll. It seemed that the very soft and spongy nature of the core meant that I could tie the belt (judo or regular) very tightly and it would not come apart. Quite a considerable feat that all the other belts in my review failed to match.
|Keiko Raca - even in regular knot formation,it stays tied very well|
Valor - Elite belt
Valor are a UK based company that is growing fast and now offers a huge range of gis, rashguards and of course belts. This belt, the Elite, is slightly unusual in that it is made from pearlweave style gi material. The result is that it feels very solid and thick yet at the same time quite pliable. Construction quality is great and the black colour did not fade one bit after washing.
It did shrink though and ended up at 254cm which meant it was more difficult to get the judo knot tied together. Despite this, using regular knot, the Valor Elite belt proved quite good at staying tied during rolling sessions. It came apart perhaps 2 or 3 times over the duration of the whole class.
|Valor Elite belt was very solid and stayed tied quite well|
I really feel that the Valor belt will last a long time. At £15, it's not the cheapest, but it does represent great value if you consider how solid it is.
The Green Gi
Green Gi are from the USA and offer products made only from hemp - and hemp that is grown in North America, as opposed to hemp grown in China or Pakistan. It wasn't cheap, I ended up paying around £48 including the postage, but at their base cost of $45, it's not a bad price considering the special nature of the material. Straight out of the bag the belt looks somewhat ragged and faded, like it was already been worn a hundred times! According to the Green gi website, that's all part of the hand made appeal of the product. I actually think it looks pretty cool.
But A1 brand new, measured a waist pinchingly small 243cm - compare that to the Peel Gi belt which was 268cm. Bizarrely however, the Green Gi belt actually got longer after washing. It ended up gaining 6 cm! Despite the post-washing extension it still fell short of the promised 254 cm on the website. Judo knot was not really feasible when tying the belt on my body, but regular knot (if I breathed in while tying) was just about fine - albeit with tiny 'wings'.
The belt seems to lack much of a core, it sort of hangs very limp with tied together. But being so thin and narrow, the knot was consequently very small and was harder to come untied (once every 2 or 3 rolls). The small knot also meant it did not impede me with belly-down techniques. After washing, I observed that the already very faded black became even more grey. Again, a cool effect, unless you prefer to wear belts that look brand new.
|Green Gi - shortest belt in the set, I did have to suck my belly in a bit|
Scramble - V2 belt
The first version of the Scramble belt was pretty much my regular everyday belt back when I was a brown belt. This, their version two belt is a very different beast. Brand new out the bag, the first observation is that it looks already faded. It is also much plainer than their first belt model.
There wasn't the option to buy this belt without the white instructor bars (I'm not an official instructor at the place I train) but my coach said it was fine to wear in class.
In terms of length, weight and overall quality, the Scramble belt shared much in common with the Peel Gi belt. But it is narrower and softer, which meant it stayed tied together much better. The generous length also meant I could tie a proper judo knot and keep it together almost to last the whole training session (it comes apart on average once a lesson).
|Scramble belt - no more flashy, but wears very nicely|
Overall this is a great belt, the moment you put it on, it feels like it has been your personal belt for many years. I do miss the flashy embroidery of their previous belt though.
I have attempted to sample a set of belts that each have different properties. Given the sparse number of times that a BJJ student will become promoted, the need to buy a new belt isn't very frequent. Therefore a BJJ belt has to last a long time. From the sample set I tried, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed wearing the Keiko Raca belt. I mean it really stayed tied together much better than almost all the other belts, yet it costs less than ten pounds. I worry about durability however and for this, it falls just short of being my number one belt in this review.
The winner is a tie between the Valor Elite belt and the Scramble v2 belt. These two belts will be my every day rotation belts with my Keiko as the spare that I leave in the gym in case I forget my belt. I did try to love the Green gi belt, but it's just too short for my preferences and the Peel Gi belt is nice, perhaps one to wear at promotion ceremonies and other photo opportunity events.