I had planned to write the definitive article on the annoying subject of buying a Belt but it appears Meerkatsu has beaten me to it. By “beat me to it” what I mean is “I had the idea about 6 months ago and did absolutely fuck all about it and now that sneaky bastard has done it before me… DAMN HIM TO HADES!”. Ah well, you snooze you lose.
I really didn’t think too much about buying my first belt. I just got a Fuji one when I bought my first Gi. All I wanted from a belt back then was one that had a black rank strip so that it was a proper BJJ belt and I was happy to pay for the priviledge. I believe the term my instructor used for me at the time was “sad”. More fool him – considering the amount of time I had those strips on I reckon I more than got my money’s worth from the rank strip. Ha!
Times change though, and when I was awarded my Blue I decided to shop around a bit. The Black Eagle one I’d been given was waaay too long so I had a perfect exacuse. Also, considering you are tying the same piece of cloth around yourself for years I don’t think this is an outrageous thing to do. Unless you spend £200 on a custom one, nooch. Clearly the best belts are the old Atama ones: Good and thick, hard wearing, but still fray wonderfully around the edges. Sadly they don’t make them like that anymore so my quest was on to find something similar.
Buying a belt is a bit like buying new shoes. You spend ages finding the perfect pair, something new and exciting, despite knowing full well that after a while they’ll look and feel just like your old pair and you won’t remember why you bought the blasted things in the first place!* Of course, knowing all this didn’t stop me from spending hours on the internet trying to find the “perfect” belt and failing utterly: I am the procrastinator general when it comes to making descisions – as anyone who’s ever been to a resturant with me can attest – and the great wealth of choice the internet offers just compounds matters. Whoever thought a free market economy was a good idea obviously didn’t realise the impact it would have on my sanity!
The main thing I’d say about buying belts (as confirmed by Seymour’s chart) is that length can vary A LOT so make sure you check with the company before you end up buying something that will either fit your cat or end up hanging around your knees and tripping you up. Seriously – What on earth is wrong with the idea of standardising what A2, A3 is? It can’t be that hard, surely? And then there is the colour issue: Given that slight variation in shade is the only real difference between most belts, it’s enraging that you look at the same belt on various sites and it looks different on all of them. I originally bought an Ouano belt as it seemed to have a nice navy shade to it in the picture, but when it arrived it was almost exactly the same shade and build as my Black Eagle one. I only wore the blasted thing once, didn’t like it, and was debating either going back to searching online or just shrinking my Black Eagle one in the wash and being done with it. Import Fail.
Luckily before I managed to waste anymore time or money another of the guys I graded with gave me a spare Koral belt as he’d been sent two by mistake. Done and done. Given what I’ve just said previously about shoes this is going to sound silly, but as soon as I put it on I knew I’d found my belt. Just felt, I dunno, mine.
I really like the Koral. It’s nice and chunky, I like the colour better than the darker blues out there, and it’s the correct length for me. I think I’ve worked out all it’s features too: I’ve located the “smash white belts” button (though it must be faulty as it sometimes doesn’t work), and I’m very happy with the grappling hook, lock picks and thermite dispenser. I believe there is also a way to summon the Batmobile too – but I haven’t fiddled with that too much yet.
So what have I learnt from all this? Probably nothing. I think I’m going to start looking for my Purple Belt now. By the time I’ve earned one in 3 years time I may have found one I like.
* I say this as a male. I am perfectly aware women can recount, at great length, the entire life-history of every pair of shoes they own: Where they bought them, how much they cost, and why they have to buy a new dress to go with them. Ahhhhh, lazy sexist stereotyping. It’s so fun!