Purchasing a BJJ belt is a big decision for any serious competitor because it’s going to be the one piece of BJJ gear you wear every time you train. That said, as with everything in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, there are a million different belts out there, all claiming to be the best. So how do you know which one is right for you?
Why Do I Need a BJJ Belt?
Belts are a tradition in jiu-jitsu and MMA. As you progress through the belt system it not only represents your rank but your commitment to training, time spent on the mat, and taking care of your body. You’ll need a belt for every class or competition that you attend, so having more than one isn’t necessarily a bad idea, especially if you do any seminars or travel. At the end of the day, though, just do what works best for you and your schedule.
Choosing a BJJ Belt
Belts are thicker than most other martial arts belts because it takes longer to earn one as Brazilian jiu-jitsu has so many more ranks than most other martial arts.
It’s important to remember that the belt system is not exclusive to Brazilian jiu-jitsu; judo, sambo, and aikido all use some form of the ranking system as well which can be worn on the BJJ uniform. As such an ‘orange belt’ may not be the same color as a ‘black belt’ as they represent different organizations and ideas.
Color vs Material
The first thing you need to decide when buying a BJJ belt is color. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu uniform has white, blue, brown, and black belts, although some academies use other colors for certain higher ranks. Higher-end belts will be black with either gold or silver embroidery. These belts tend to be stiffer, and thus break in slower than other belts, but they last longer.
The second thing you need to decide is the material. Your belt can be plain cotton, a rubberized cotton blend (similar to many gi pants), faux leather, or real leather. As with most things in jiu-jitsu, the more you spend the better quality you get. The downside of real leather belts is that they wear out very quickly on an active, sweaty body. If your belt gets regular use it will likely need to be replaced every six months or so.
Rubberized cotton belts tend to be more sturdy and will last a lot longer than their more expensive counterparts. Minor tears in the belt can be patched up with dental floss and super glue, but if it’s really bad you’re probably going to need a new one.
Choosing a BJJ Belt Size
This is where things get complicated. Most belts are measured from tip to tip but the width of your belt will be determined by your rank. For example, a white belt is typically 4cm (1 ½ in), a blue belt is usually 10cm (4in) and a black belt is 13-14 cm (5-6in).
Staying within these limits ensures that you won’t be straining any seams when you tighten your belt. If you’re a bit thicker around the waist, you might want to go with a larger width so that the belt will fit properly.
Also, take into consideration how long your BJJ career is going to be before purchasing a belt. Most academies have either raised or lowered their requirements for belts over time, so if you plan on spending a long time on the mat it’s probably worth investing in a black belt.