After you have trained jiu jitsu for a couple of months, and you feel that you have left the ‘I have no idea what I am doing’ stage, a strange sense of competence comes over you. Don’t be fooled though, in the grander scheme of things (jiu jitsu wise), you still have no idea what you are doing. However, you do know more than when you began your jiu jitsu journey. Though this jiu jitsu knowledge may be miniscule, why not look good while doing it. It is now time for you to upgrade your jiu jitsu uniform, but with so many brands and styles to choose from how can you make an intelligent decision? This brief guide will give you some insight into what you need to know.
I can offer you a quick list of gi companies that I know of now without having to drop my pen and do some research: Toro, Muaewear, Fuji, Keiko Raca, Shoyoroll, Gameness, CTRL, Vanguard, Storm, Venum, Origin, Moya, Red Star, Breakpoint, Adidas, Hayabusa, Lucky, Red Nose, Albino & Preta, Sanabul, Elite, Hyperfly, 93 Brand, Hypnotik, and War Tribe. That does not include brands that have come and gone since I first donned a Moosoolsa gi as a white belt. The market is flooded and the choices can be overwhelming to the first time buyer. The customer can make an excellent choice though using these five criteria (I’ve excluded price because it can vary country-to-country and internet site-to-internet site): look, fit, shrinkage, durability, and legality.
The look of a gi can be just as important as all other factors in determining a gi purchase. The look of a gi reflects the taste of the owner. Some people are flashy and prefer the frills that come with artistic, built-in rash guards found inside of the gi jacket. Other people prefer the large patches that adorn the lapels and shoulders of certain brands. Still others prefer to adopt the minimalistic approach and wear a gi that is almost devoid of all branding. Over the years more and more colors of gis have entered the market. Some gis sport a jacket in one color while sporting a lapel in another color. Some companies have (to my utter distaste) sold two-tone uniforms with different color jackets and pants. People are fickle and their tastes are ever changing. Luckily, most gi companies keep their ear to the ground and understand what the consumer wants. So, even if the look you desire is outlandish, a gi company probably has a product for you.
The fit of the gi is one of the most important factors in manufacturing a gi and also in purchasing a gi. Gi manufacturers need to understand the market that they are selling to and the current trends while also understanding that there are numerous, different body types. The ‘one size fits all’ method of business that may have prevailed years ago no longer flies with an educated market that is willing to do research in order to find the best uniform possible. I have discontinued buying one brand of gi because it fit me like a parachute. Despite claiming to be my size it was obviously made for a person much larger than myself. I also stopped getting gis from another company that seemed very concerned with getting the aesthetic cut of the front of the gi perfect so that the gis would look good while worn on a model or a mannequin. Once moving though the lapels were extremely long and were constantly in the way of the wearer and worse yet, easy targets for opponents who liked to play gi origami. Many brands these days though understand the market and offer gis that fit the tall and lanky crowd, the short and squat crowd, and everyone in between. Many fabrics and weaves are used to make the materials lighter and stronger. The consumer can even get custom-made gis if they are willing to spend the money in order to ensure the best fit possible.
It is amazing to me that in this day and age that my gi still can shrink dramatically when thrown into the dryer after a wash. My kingdom for an invention to prevent this from happening!!! Personally, I need to change my gis multiple times daily. This means they need to be washed and dried each and every time that I change and I do not have time to hang dry them nor can I bring all 30 of my gis to the academy to be in a constant supply of fresh clothing. Laundry is necessary and the dreaded shrinkage factor comes into play when determining which gi to purchase. At one point in time I consistently wore one brand to train and to compete in. A new year came and a new line of gis from that company was produced and introduced to the public. I was extremely happy to spend a bit more on a new gi from that company. They failed to tell their customers that they were using a new weave and a different brand of cotton than with their previous gis. I wore that expensive gi once, washed and dried it, and then was forced to give it away because it shrank to two sizes below mine. I have never purchased a gi from that company again. I never will. For certain gi brands that I like I may purchase up a size knowing that the gi will end up in the drier one day and by buying up a size I will guarantee the gi will fit in the long run.
I kill gis. I am not nice to them. I am on the mat between five to ten hours a day. I train hard. My partners train hard. My lapels, belt, gi skirt, and pants all take a regular beating. If my gi is not up to the challenge of taking that beating, then it will have a 3-4 month life. The wear and tear on the collar will lead to fraying, rips, and holes. Stitches and seams will stretch to their limits and break. I have seen countless pants ripped at the knee. Sometimes a solid grip on the lapel will rip a lapel straight off of a jacket. It is tough to determine the durability of a gi if you do not have any previous experience wearing that brand. Word of mouth, online reviews, and market research are going to be your most valuable tools in determining the right purchase. With time, and experience (and a lot of beaten up gis) you will find the right gi that can take the punishment you inflict upon it in the academy.
The final topic that guides your gi purchase will be the legality of that gi in competition. If you are a competitor, then you know that different tournament organizations have different rule sets. You may want that bright yellow gi that makes you look like the roughest, toughest jiu jitsu banana out there, but it won’t get by the gi check if that color is not allowed. If you plan to compete, then do your research. Find out which color gis are legal and which colors are not for the competitions that you would like to compete at. Find out if you are allowed to wear different color pants from a jacket if you are planning to make that purchase. Also, be mindful of the legality of patch placement if you are planning on putting sponsor patches all over your gi. You would hate to be forced to rip those patches off or have to purchase another (unwanted) gi at the venue just to get onto the mat.
As you can see many factors determine an intelligent gi purchase. It is the same as buying a computer, a car, or a house. With some time to research properly, some patience in making a smart decision, and some restraint in not jumping to purchase the first flashy gi that you see, you can own a jiu jitsu tool that will last you a long time and help your game in the long run.