I review belts from four well known BJJ brands - ranging from cheap to premium prices. I noted how the belts not only differed in price, but also in width, thickness, length, colour and durability.
When I was promoted to brown belt last year I realised it was a good opportunity to update my previous belt review - here and here.
Over my duration as a purple belt, I pretty much settled on wearing my customised embroidered Kataaro belt each training session and, if I was in a hurry and couldn't find it, then I would wear my KII purple belt. Those two served me very well. Over the two and a bit years of being purple, the Kataaro belt softened up a lot. It also wore down and faded, giving it that old beaten up belt appearance. I imagine if I was wearing the belt for several more years, it would wear down to the point of being unrecongisable...which is cool, right?
Anyway, the four I chose here included the one given to me on my grading day (Blitz), one that I had designed (Kataaro/Modern Flow Chess belt) and two brands that are popular off the shelf models - Scramble and KII.
The first thing I noted when examining all the belts together is the very different shades of brown available. The KII is the darkest and the Kataaro is the richest tone. The Blitz one is the lightest.
The branding tags are pretty decorative on all four. Both Scramble and the Modern Flow version of the Kataaro belt includes on belt embroidery.
The second instantly observable difference between the belts is the thickness. Both KII and Scramble belts are hefty wodges of thickness. The Kataaro and Blitz are paper thin by comparison in this visual text.
Other aspects also differ between the belts, for example the rank tag. In order, the photo below shows: Blitz, KII, Scramble and Kataaro:
Looking at the table of figures, the high cost (in USD) of the Kataaro belt is apparent compared to the other off the shelf brands. Bear in mind however that this is a custom hand made belt made to order. Of the off the shelf brands, the cheapest is the Blitz and the most expensive is the Scramble belt.
Length is roughly all the same (based on ordering a size A1) though the Scramble belt is a few centimetres longer than the others. Kataaro is the widest by far but interestingly, the cheaper Blitz belt does have the longest rank patch, by quite a margin.
The number of rows might indicate the strength and durability of the belt. If this were the case, both the Kataaro and the Blitz have an extra row compared to the others. Though this does not take into account the quality of thread being used.
I wore each belt for a week then rotated to another brand and so on over a period of around 3-4 months. This was ample opportunity to ensure the belts softened up and took a bit of a beating during rolling. A longer duration testing phase would probably be better to highlight durability but for now, it was enough to see which belt stood up to daily BJJ training.
A note on washing. I found when I washed my old purple belt Kataaro that it shrank by a huge margin - to the point where it would not fit me anymore. Kataaro actually state: We recommend that you don't wash your martial arts belt due to possible shrinkage (up to 8%).
Blitzsport Lutador Pro Star Belt
Buy it here.
This was the belt handed to me on my grading day. It's paper thin and really floppy when you put it on. The plus side with the thinness is that when you tie it on, it stays tied. Over time, it did fade and fray a lot. Great I suppose if you want to cut a few extra grams of weight at a tournament.
Scramble 'Tanren' Belt
Buy it here.
This belt is pretty chunky. It took a while to soften up and stay tied together - even now it does still come apart occasionally no matter how tightly I apply the knot. I noticed there was a lot of loose excess threads on the belt. They did not seem to be part of the main construction of the belt, but does look a wee bit tatty nonetheless. When it is tied, it does have the cool effect of the ends lying horizontally, a bit like a pair of outstretched wings! (see photo at end of article). Even now, it doesn't seem to have lost that effect. Overall, it has a nice quilted, weighty feel and looks solid.
Buy it here.
This belt is the chunkiest. Similar to the Scramble belt, the chunkiness means it's a great feeling when you put the belt on. It softened quickly though. I noticed it was the first to lose the out stretched wing effect - as it softened, it became more floppy. I prefer the rich darkness of the belt colour. It did come untied a fair bit during rolling sessions - no more so than the Scramble belt.
Kataaro Modern Flow Chess Belt
Buy it here.
This in theory is the same belt as the one I ordered for my purple belt. Compared to the other three, it is ridiculously stiff. Even after several weeks of rolling, it was still a bugger to stay tied together. Produces a neat outstretched pair of wings effect when knotted together (see photo at bottom.) The slightly wider size of the belt doesn't help matters either. The colour is a gorgeous rich shade of brown. The embroidery is absolutely beautiful. I am sure, like my purple, that if I persisted in wearing it, over time, it will slip on and stay tied like a well loved pair of socks. But it's not my go to belt. I'll probably save this for seminars and photo ops.
BJJ is a sport with few belt divisions. Most belt holders can expect to be at their current rank for at least a year. It makes sense therefore to invest in an amply made high quality belt. In these rolling tests, I really liked the KII and the Scramble belts. I would like to give the Kataaro more of a chance to wear in, but it's not a belt I feel immediately drawn to right now. There's nothing wrong with the cheaper Blitz belt, it does do the job, so if aesthetics are not a concern but cost is, then the Blitz belt is absolutely fine. When the time comes to shop for a black belt, I'll probably investigate the customised options available from other brands such as Eosin Panther and Isami.