BJJ has a lot of strange traditions from bowing to photos of Gracies, wearing strange uniforms and performing secret handshakes the martial art is filled with odd cultural rituals. One of those strange rituals is known the gauntlet.
What Is A BJJ Gauntlet?
A gauntlet in BJJ is an initiation ritual used in some gyms after a student has earned a new belt. The students will line up in two lines and the newly promoted student will walk back and forth between the two lines as the other students whip them with their belts.
Here Is The Jiu Jitsu Gauntlet In Action
The gauntlet is a very controversial ritual in Jiu Jitsu. Most gyms do not practice it and most of the ones that do make it clear that the ritual is purely voluntary.
A lot of Jiu Jitsu athletes view the gauntlet as completely unnecessary and bordering on hazing. I mean what does being whipped by your teammates have to do with Jiu Jitsu?
It seems older BJJ athletes are much less likely to support the idea of the gauntlet. When you are 35 or 40 your childish pranks and hazing days of high school and college are typically long behind you. When you have a wife and kids you aren’t really interested in stupid rituals.
It is unclear when and where the gauntlet in Jiu Jitsu originated from but supposedly it was a tradition that started in Brazil and made its way to academies all over the world when Brazilians starting spreading the martial art across the globe.
There are some die hard supporters of the gauntlet who argue that it builds a strong team spirit as all athletes have a shared experience of going through something tough. While others argue it is just something fun and silly that can be entertaining for the students.
Young and eager BJJ students view the gauntlet as a source of pride. That 20 years old who has earned his blue belt looks forward to running the gauntlet and showing the upper belts how strong and tough he is. Younger BJJ students view the gauntlet as a way to ingratiate themselves within the gym’s inner circle.
Like all stupid rituals many of them continue because the older students who had it done to them want to continue the cycle and do it to the younger students. While the younger students who look up to the upper belts want to please and impress them so are often eager to practice all the rituals.
While the gauntlet causes a lot of controversy schools that practice it are in the minority. I would estimate maybe 10% to 15% of BJJ schools have newly promoted students run the gauntlet.
But don’t worry if you train at one of these schools and are very against it, coaches ensure it is optional. If you don’t feel like running the gauntlet you can just tell your coach you don’t want to do it and they will understand.
Some Jiu Jitsu schools instead of the gauntlet have their own rituals for newly promoted students. A common one is the coach or all students will throw the newly promoted student. This ritual is borrowed from Judo where it is commonplace.
Another popular ritual is known as the shark tank. This is where a newly promoted student will spar against all students back to back with no break. The shark tank will finish only once they have sparred with everyone in the room.
The shark tank is often much tougher than the gauntlet but at least it is BJJ related and results in the newly promoted student getting in some quality training.
The gauntlet in BJJ is a controversial ritual where a newly promoted student will walk back and forth between two lines made up of other students who will whip the newly promoted student with their belts. Only about 10% to 15% of gyms actually practice this ritual and it is voluntary.