27 Sept 2010

The Great British BJJ Belt Review

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:

Belt size
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:

But just in case you do fancy having something custom inscribed, some companies offer an in-house belt embroidery services. Just ask.

Further information and links:
Tatami Fightwear
Black Eagle
Malvado Fightwear
MMA Universe and MMA Gear
K2 Fightgear
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!


About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Ishak said...

Nice review Seymour.

What's your opinion on washing your belt? Some people are very much against the idea as it washes away their jiu jitus power.

Meerkatsu said...

Hi Ishak,
My belt makers, Kataaro, state quite clearly that I must NOT wash the belt because it would shrink. One person on the US forums washed his Kataaro belt and it shrunk so much he could not tie it around him anymore.
However, with my previous, cheaper, white and blue belts, this was not a problem. For hygiene reasons, itmakes sense to wash the belt. The only 'power' you would lose, is the powerful stench of stale sweat LOL!!!!

André said...

Great idea and great review Mr. S.

A great addition would be a montage of you wearing every belt (one at a time, lol) for us to see the effect of the specs on the practical aspect.

With that said, I hate flimsy cheapo looking belts but I don't really like the very stiff ones.

AndrewWrites said...

So, I have a quick confession to make... when I saw that you had posted a new blog entry and that it was about BJJ gear I stopped reading so that I could come back later tonight with a drink and a snack and just sit and enjoy the article. Does that make me sad?

But I do love the reviews. Still love to hear more about your no-gi stuff, products you'd recommend or anything. Also, how do you organise the rotation of your gis (a favorite for the hard rolling classes, just take whatever comes off the rack next, etc etc).

Love your work, man!

Meerkatsu said...

Sad? No way Copland LOL! It makes you one of the elite new wave of online readers who see BJJ blogs are the new coffee table magazines - only less about coffee, more about BJJ Ha!
I will be doing a rash guard review soon, don't think it will help you much as they will be UK brands, but I'll try to write about common issues to all brands eg print coming off, waist riding up too high, too tight, too baggy etc.

@Andre, thanks a lot! I did consider doing a on the mat test but it would take weeks to break in each new belt and with 7-8 belts I couldn't wait. So a simple measurements and dimensions plus detailing review was the best compromise.

Georgette said...

Lovely article. I admit to wearing a sadly frayed and frazzled belt... honestly I wish it looked newer and more pristine to match the skill level of the wearer. However, it is what it is-- for the record, it's an Atama A1 and it weighs .4 lb (whereas I have a cheapskate karate belt I use for IBJJF tournaments which weighs .2 lb.)

I also wash my belt, maybe every other month or every 6 weeks in the heat of summer when it stays soaked with sweat from day to day... of course I do tumble dry it as well. I'd rather lose the magic AND the bacteria/stench.

Anonymous said...

I love my Fenom A3 belt. Here are the stats in case anyone is interested:

285.5 cm length
4.5 cm wide
.5 cm thick
Rank patch=10.4 cm long
8 rows of stitches

I really love the thickness. It just feels like a higher quality. I don't care about a fraying belt, either. Though ask me again in 2 years ;)

I love your review articles! They're amazing and some of my very favorites.

Jadon Ortlepp said...

The thickest belt Ive seen is the the atama. Do like the faixa rua one though, dont forget the cool buckle belt they do.

Junior Familia said...

Great review again seymour!

i would never wash my belt! you would lose all your powers!

AndrewWrites said...

Rash guard review?

If you are after a good rashie, make sure you check out the atamas. I know they are not from the UK, but man they are the gear!

Super thick waist band to stop riding up, think material, goo but minimal patches. Just great all around.

Looking forward to the reviews.

André said...

O, hai Seymour!

I meant just strapping them on and show how they sit on the waist out of the box. Using and breaking them all in would be crazy :D

Meerkatsu said...

@Copland - yes I did have an Atama rashguard but I lost it in the changing rooms once and it was never 'found' again. I did like that rash guard actualy, you're right it's a good 'un.

@Andre - yes good idea, the review seems incomplete without a wear on my body test. Oh well, I can't be bothered now. I'll remember next time I do a belt review, thanks!

d henwood said...

just thought this would make your day mate though youve probs already seen them http://www.tatamifightwear.com/product.php?id_product=121

a bjj belt for every day wear? interesting idea

loving the reviews btw :)

Unknown said...

really loving your blog, found you when I was looking for a new gi and now a belt! keep up the good work

André said...

O hai, it is I, the grave digger.

Anyhoo, just checking in to say that unfortunately MMA Gear's belt has decreased in quality. Just received three blue belts in my mailbox today and their once wide and thick belt which transpired quality above the average is now a pretty normal belt, thinner and narrower.
Too bad.

David said...

does anyone know where I could get a black eagle white belt A2?? CHeers

Anonymous said...


even if the makers say not to.

google : MRSA

Franz said...

Meerkatsu, so you've never washed your custom Kataaro belt? did the colors never bleed into your gis?

Meerkatsu said...

Franz I did wash it once and it shrunk by a large amount but I just stretched it back to size when it was still wet. No it did not blees.

Unknown said...

I wash my Kataaro belt about twice a month in cold water and hang dry it. It didn't shrink. I did the same with my privious Kataaro belt and never had a problem with it.


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