Abolish the Gauntlet – Belt Whippings in BJJ

You’re standing in formation at the end of class and your instructor announces that there are a few belts to be given out. You’re heart flutters at the thought of your name being called out, and when that belt is put around your waist, your excitement soon turns to dread, not because of the new target on your back but the sound of belts being undone and the rowdy mob forming a queue looking to get the loudest crack on your back.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the Gauntlet, or in Portuguese “Corredor Polonês” (Polish Corridor) is a traditional hazing ritual where the person who has received their new belt is whipped by his fellow training partners using their own belts as the whip

Although the “Polish corridor” is regarded as traditional its starting point does not trace back to Brazil, and was not common practice in any Brazilian academy prior to the mid/late 1990’s. Instead, the Gauntlet is attributed to one of the original dirty dozen (first 12 non-Brazilian black belts) Chris Haueter. “Having returned from some military training, and being kind of young and dumb, I thought we needed some sort of hazing ritual,” Says Chris, in an interview with BJJ Heroes, “Many, including some Brazilians, will disagree that it started at the Machado Academy, the brothers were not there as they were filming a movie. For a while, it got out of hand.”

However, over the last few years this belt ceremony has been snubbed by a few well known figures in BJJ including Keith Owen and Caio Terra,who both spoke against the ritual through their social media profiles, hinting to it being a brutal or unnecessary act.

Recently Darren my instructor abolished the act of belt whippings saying” This is not what i want for our academy, Jiujitsu is for everyone and Fightworx is about providing that service in a safe and friendly environment so everyone can enjoy it.” This was accepted with rapturous applause within the UK BJJ circle with many well-known instructors voicing their support, saying they have not allowed belt whippings in their clubs for years.

Personally, I accept this decision with open arms and think that other clubs should follow suit. I have personally seen brand new students never come back after they witness a belt whipping. With Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA becoming more and more popular, plus with the inclusion of professional industries, such as Google and LinkedIn offering classes, when they say that Jiu-Jitsu is for all, it can only be for all when the ritual hazing ends. The sport is becoming more professional every month, and hazing is not professional.

I know, a lot of clubs say that the whipping is voluntary, however there is always an underlying sense of that person is not fully part of the team if they say no.

So what does it really say to someone who’s achieved a life goal they’ve potentially been working on for years?  Congratulations on all your hard work, now we’re all going to hurt you!  Maybe it’s like a gang initiation, where the new gang member gets beat up by all members of the gang for 2 minutes.  The new member feels they’ve earned their way into the gang.  With a new bjj belt, hasn’t the student earned their belt with tons of frustration, injury, disappointment, and mat time?

About the author

Richard Presley

A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Richard is the owner and primary writer of Attack The back. Check out my About Me Page to learn more!