Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an intimate experience. One where you share your body indiscriminately, and trust your training partner not to hurt you even though that is the goal of the technique, and one that you will share with your training partners for a long time before you are promoted.
As you line-up and your instructor calls out the name of your team-mate to be graded up or promoted, whether you yourself are a beneficiary or not, you’ll feel a sense of happiness and bonding for your team mate. I’ve never known anyone be unhappy that one of their team mates got promoted.
And then the moment comes when you get to walk the gauntlet and all of your team-mates can share in your happiness. They take off their belt and provide you with a memory you’ll never forget. You walk along the corridor and each time the belt touches your back you feel the support and appreciation of your team.
At the end of the gauntlet: bruises heal, and pain goes away, but the training and the team is what counts. In my team, Gracie Barra, we have a motto: “Train like a team, fighting like a family”. Everyone around you has invested in your development, and it is right that they share in your promotion.
I’m currently a white belt with three stripes and I’ve been involved in a few promotions during my time training, and as each day passes where I’m getting closer and closer to being promoted to the Blue Belt I wait with anticipation until the day I can walk the gauntlet.
For me: I understand that there will be pain and I’m OK with that. If I’m OK with someone actively choking me unconscious or hyper-extending my arm why wouldn’t I be OK with someone whipping me with their belt? Neither are permanent and both should be memories that I cherish and learn from. Walking the gauntlet is tradition and I want to respect the traditions of my school and my sport.
Would I advocate everyone is whipped? No, and I don’t think they don’t have to be. I’ve seen promotion videos where instructors perform takedown’s on their newly promoted student and I think that’s great for them.
Each student’s journey should be personal to them and if they would prefer a gauntlet or a takedown then they should be able to choose. The key here isn’t to abolish the gauntlet’s but to understand what your team wants.
Some will be like me and look forward to the day where they get to walk the gauntlet and there will be others who would rather a takedown or a handshake following the award of their new belt. Whichever way you prefer: your Jiu-Jitsu journey is about you.
We shouldn’t abolish a tradition some don’t like when there are many who do like it and actively look forward to it.
An example of walking the gauntlet: