The Gauntlet Is Pointless And Ridiculous: Why I Agree With Professor Fabio Gurgel

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Recently, one of Alliance Jiu-Jitsu’s founders, Fabio Gurgel, came out against the gauntlet. In a blog post Professor Gurgel opined that the gauntlet was his “biggest mistake.” An English translation of Professor Fabio’s blog post is at the end of this article.

For those of you unfamiliar with the gauntlet, it’s “rite of passage” done to BJJ practitioners after they receive a new belt. It involves a practitioner walking between two lines of his or her fellow practitioners, who smack then smack the person walking through with their belts.

Here’s a video of the gauntlet:

Some people defend the gauntlet as a cherished rite of passage. They feel it is some type of sacred tradition that must be preserved simply for the fact that it’s…well, a sacred tradition.

However, not only is “tradition for tradition’s sake” a terrible argument, it ignores the fact that this tradition was started as a joke. As Professor Fabio points out in his article:

It [the gauntlet] all started as a joke in my gym at the Federal Club where I began teaching classes alone in 1988…

But perhaps the gauntlet has some type of practical value. Perhaps it toughens people up.

I find this hard to believe. There’s no evidence that getting hit toughens you up. If it did, every kid who got spanked growing up would be a warrior.

Furthermore, jiu-jitsu does a fine job of toughening people up without the gauntlet. Having to wrestle other — who in some cases are much bigger than you — and dealing with the fear that comes with competition give us all the toughening up we need.

Thirdly, not everyone does BJJ to toughen themselves up. As contradictory as it sounds, there are people who are interested in self-defense for reasons other than self-defense. Some people just practice the art for the art’s sake. Others are simply looking for a fun way to keep in shape.

The final reason, and perhaps the strongest reason, to throw the gauntlet in BJJ’s scrap heap is it’s potential to chase students away. Professor Gurgel points out in his post that the gauntlet “must have cost me hundreds of students.” Why would any BJJ instructor, especially one looking to build up her body of students, want to chase those students away.

Are there any reasons for keeping that gauntlet around. From what I can see, no. But I want to hear your opinions on this issue. Do you agree with me and Professor Gurgel, or are there reasons for keeping the gauntlet as part of your school’s graduation. If so, what are they?

Sound off below or in this article’s Facebook thread:


Perhaps my biggest mistake and that must have cost me hundreds of students was The Gauntlet .

It all started as a joke in my gym at the Federal Club where I began teaching classes alone in 1988, (my master’s gym did not have this custom), I’m not sure where I got this terrible idea but the fact is that I used it for a long time and it has spread in jiu jitsu at a frightening speed, possibly other teachers like me started on their own and maybe as many others I have somehow influenced, to those I ask my sincere apologies, however the fact is that this ritual became part of the jiu-jitsu academy’s environment, the students endured it and even liked it because it seemed like a test like the ones we see in war movies where military barracks prepare their soldiers to face the difficulties that are to come,the students felt worthy of that new belt for having endured that beating that in the end had no purpose.

Time passed and jiu-jitsu academies turned increasingly to the competition and always prioritizing the participation of tough students felt no need to change the promotion party after all being tough was almost a must, and what was a simple beating for a guy accustomed to suffering in jiu jitsu training for competition?

One fine day I had an experience that made me rethink everything in this respect, I had been studying and every day more understanding that we were moving away from what jiu jitsu needed in terms of offering jiu jitsu for everyone and not just for the class but at a promotion party we had the presence of the mother of a student who would be promoted on that day, she was at the beginning all proud probably expecting a glamorous ceremony (alias as it should be) when suddenly the “Gauntlet” was formed , shouts of “Uh he will die” were chanted by all the almost 100 students who were on the mat, and there was the kid going through that insanity, his mother was terrified and told his father that they should report it in a police station! The father was torn between the pride of seeing his son win the situation and conquer the dreamed belt and the one of calming the mother, the son was promoted and his happiness caused that the mother gave up to launching a complaint and only accepted to congratulate the son, but that for me was the straw and the proof that something very wrong was happening and that it was necessary to change.

Never again did I allow this to happen in my gym, but now the test is not resistance but technical, the belt exams have taken the place of the gauntlet and the result is arguably better, my students are submitted to a fair test and which confronts them with what really matters if my school is managing to teach them a good jiu-jitsu.

This change has not happened in isolation and therefore I can not attribute the growth of my academy to her alone, I have already told you about some changes that I have implemented in my school and that all together produce the result I have today, but I have a certainty, the gauntlet should be abolished from all jiu-jitsu schools in the world.


  1. I mentioned on a comment that i agree that its not for everyone, just like certain jokes and pranks. I think it can be fun, and it should be entirely voluntary to keep it that way.

  2. Yeah I can’t even watch it. I always leave the room. Looks a little too much like my childhood. On the other hand people seem to like it a lot. It appeals to that bloodthirsty part of the human psyche that isn’t assuaged by jiu-jitsu. My instructor said that back in the day in Rio they used to tie garbage bags on people’s heads and stuff. He said it was bad. I don’t know. I hate to legislate jiu-jitsu. It’s getting to the point where even going for a submission is being deemed “ego” by the kumbayah crowd. You break somebody’s grip and they write a 500 word Facebook post crying about how you were mean to them. So even though I think the gauntlet is ridiculous and awful, and I agree that people train bjj for different reasons and being tough isn’t always one of those reasons, I also see a movement to take the tough out of bjj and I don’t like it. I mean there’s always Zumba. So for me let’s keep the gauntlet voluntary.


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