Exploring the gauntlet place in Jiu Jitsu…
In Morton H. Fried’s 1975 study, The Notion of the Tribe, Fried explored a variety of tribes. Each tribe would often speak its own language and have its own rituals. To those who train, Jiu Jitsu is considered a tribe. Grappling is its own language. I can explain a move in a minute to another grappler but it may take hours to explain the same move to a non-grappler. Additionally, we have our own slang. Osss is one common example. The Jiu Jitsu tribe has its own rituals. One common ritual that many in the tribe of jiu jitsu are now abandoning is the gauntlet.
The gauntlet is a traditional ritual after promotion. Fellow team members whip the back of the promoted person.
According to the website, Jiu Jitsu Heroes The gauntlet only dates back to the 1990s. It was created by Chris Haueter. Chris has the distinction of being part of the Dirty Dozen; the first 12 non-Brazilians to earn a black belt in Jiu Jitsu.
Chris is quoted on BJJ Heroes website, “…having returned from some military training, and being kind of young and dumb, I thought we needed some sort of hazing ritual. 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.”
Advocates for the gauntlet states that it promotes team spirit and is part of tradition. They would argue that if you trust your life to someone on a daily basis, it should be no big deal to trust them not to go overboard with a gauntlet. Beyond that, the attempt to remove it is a symptom of the underlying issue of softening up Jiu Jitsu for the masses.
Proponents of the gauntlet state that it is a legal issue and form of bullying. Certainly, it is easy to imagine an injury from a botched gauntlet as a lawyers dream.
Why wouldn’t we want to attack the wrists? They are a very small joint on the body and can easily be overpowered with a basic 2 on 1 grip.
Fabio Gurgel released this statement on the gauntlet, “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.”
Caio Terra shared a similar position on social media,
“Tonight we had belt promotions and for the first time, we did NOT do the gauntlet. In this day in age we should not condone hazing or impose it on people who don’t want to do it IMO, we are too smart for that. If people want to do the gauntlet it’s their choice. Congrats to everyone who got promoted, for those who did not keep training and keep working hard. Your time will come! Sometimes decision of implementing this decision can be made depending on the composition of people attending your class. If you have a lot of females and especially kids in your class, you should consider removing the gauntlet. Imagine parents reactions seeing their kid “whipped” after promotion.”
But perhaps the issue with a gauntlet is a culture issue with your tribe. If at your school, running a gauntlet has become hazing or bullying then the practice should be abolished. Jiu Jitsu is a beautiful thing and it should not have the stigma of abuse. In a similar fashion, if the gauntlet is there as an outlandish advertisement of toughness, then it should be abolished. The internet is full of examples of gauntlets becoming spectacles of people taking stupid risks. These gauntlets often make gang initiations look civilized in comparison. If there is a culture issue with your tribe then a gauntlet is just a symptom. The larger issue should be addressed.
However, if running a gauntlet is done a good nature among consenting adults that we trust our lives with on a daily basis then it may be okay. We prove our toughness daily on the mats. No additional test should be required. But it is nice to have a way to show brotherhood of our tribe to outsiders.
Travis Stevens is widely regarded as one of the best grapplers on the planet, and uses wrist locks as a great equalizer in his training and competition. He uses wrist locks to create openings, as well as submit his opponents – even BJJ black belts – in positions that they would never expect