Technique, rescue and superstition: the BJJ belt’s myriad uses

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Amarrando a faixa-preta. Foto: Gustavo Aragão

More than meets the eye. Gustavo Aragão

What does the belt mean to you? A band used to tie your gi and whose color indicates how far you’ve come? A piece of cloth sewn eight to 12 times, up to 320cm long and 5 to 7cm wide? A gift earned through blood and honor, and passed on from father to son? Or is it like the samurai’s sword, which must always be revered and never washed? To many masters, it is all of that — and more, as you can learn from the following paragraphs.

Summer of 1998. Future three-time BJJ world champion Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro decided to take his car and go with a group of friends to the Lakes Region of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Shaolin, who always brought his black belt and gi in his trunk, noticed something weird with the car and pulled over.

“A truck driver offered to tow us to a gas station,” Shaolin said. “But no one had a rope or chain. So the belt was our salvation. We folded it to make it stronger, and it worked. The problem with the car was quickly fixed, and the vacation was great.” Now that is some high-tension BJJ.

Someone who also treats his belt as an amulet is UFC star Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza. This Amazonas native was promoted black-belt on the world championship podium after he won the 2003 brown-belt absolute title. As a present, he got the black belt of his friend Fernando Tererê, who had also just won a world title in style, against his rival Marcelo Garcia.

“That belt is lucky,” Jacaré told us, “because it was with it that I won my two absolute golds, in 2004 and 2005. After that, I started not wearing it anymore, so as not to wear it out too much. It became a museum item, framed on my wall. It’s my special belt.”

Roger Gracie also has a good story. “My dad, Maurição, bought in Japan a beautiful belt — a black one from Mizuno — when I was still a blue-belt,” he said. “It went five years put away — that expectation. When I was finally promoted, Filipe Jerry took the belt and started wearing it. Summing up: after a long five-year wait, the belt is around a friend’s waist.”

He went on to point to even greater versatility: “The belt is part of the gi. In the 2006 Pan’s final, I used my opponent’s belt to sink a triangle. It’s always useful.”

Ronaldo Jacaré is similarly dangerous in this regard. “There are times when I’m passing guard and I keep an eye on the belt,” he said. “If the guy lets me put my hand on his belt, he’s done — I pass.”

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