When Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu first came to the US and UK, there was no online shopping for BJJ gis. You simply bought whatever some guy brought back with him from his trip to Brazil. There was no choosing between colours or sizing or contrast stitching. Thankfully, in recent years, access to jiu-jitsu gis has become much easier. But now the pendulum has swung the opposite direction with people endlessly debating what the ‘Perfect’ BJJ gi is.
What is the Best BJJ Gi?
Here’s the deal: First, we have to come to an understanding that there is no perfect BJJ gi. It doesn’t matter how much you debate it on the mats or in the forums, there is no such thing. But fear not young grappler! There is a perfect gi... for YOU. For me, the perfect gi is based on three factors: company, cut, and design. Personally I find it important to only buy from companies that I believe in, I want the gi to fit perfectly and I really enjoy a flashy and bold design. As you can likely guess, some of my favourite gis come from Scramble and Bull Terrier (among others). In fact, I love them so much that I even made my own brand with some uber-loud designs: Ok! Kimonos. The more bling on the gi, the better! These may be important factors to you or you might not care at all about them. Perhaps you are concerned about durability because you train 10-14 times per week. Or maybe the main selling point for you is the design and rarity of the gi. Here’s a good list of things to 8 steps to consider when trying finding the best gi for you:
1. Cut / Fit
In my opinion, the cut and fit of a gi is the most essential part of enjoying wearing it. I’ve had gis that were too tight in the back, too tight in the crotch (laugh if you will, but not being able to play guard or pass properly because you can’t do the full splits really sucks), and too short in the sleeves. You have to ask yourself if you prefer slimmer/bagger/shorter/longer cut gis? What may be a perfect sleeve length and width for me (I prefer them shorter with enough space for Ezekiel chokes), other people might hate because it’s not tournament legal or some such. I also prefer to have enough skirt length to do certain chokes but also not so much that my white belt training partner wraps me up in some sort of crazy worm guard tomfoolery (curse you Keenan Cornelius!). Every company uses a proprietary cut so make sure to look at reviews and recommendation seriously. Just because somebody says its perfect based on your height and weight, they may be really off in terms of what a properly fitting gi is. No matter how cool it looks, if it doesn’t fit, you’ll never want to wear it.
Okay, so I have to own up here. I’ve worn a TON of gis that were horrible fits for me because I thought they looked awesome. As I said above, I’m a HUGE fan of the massively blinged-out jiu-jitsu gi; the more patches and embroidery, the better. But what do you like? Do you like your gi plain? Blinged out? Totally unique? With so many new brands popping up, consider what you like to wear based on what you’ve seen around. I have friends that de-patch all of their gis to make them totally plain, and others that (like me) put even more patches on their gis in an effort to be a walking race car-esque billboard.
This really doesn’t matter to a lot of people, but I think it’s one of the most crucial parts of choosing a gi. Does your company give back to the sport? Do you like their owners? I’ve been really lucky that GiReviews.Net and Ok! Kimonos have allowed me to form personal relationships with a lot of brand owners. Our sport is truly unique in that we can contact the people who run our favorite brands and get a genuine response. No matter how cool I think the new Nike Free Trainer 5s are, I can’t shoot Mark Walters a Facebook message and get one back in a day. But I sure as heck respond to every single message I get on all of our social media channels and I know the majority of other brand owners do as well. Shoot the brand owner an email or Facebook message and see how responsive they are. Follow their social media and get a handle of the type of athletes they sponsor, charities and tournaments they support, and how they give back to the sport. Do they hold the same values as you? It’s definitely worth considering.
Do you like your jacket to feel like sandpaper or extremely soft? I love mine to be incredibly soft when I’m training, which is why I use gold weave exclusively on all of the gis that my brand makes. But, I love a brutally tough pearl weave when I compete. Know which you prefer and ask around on forums and social media (or you can even ask me personally!) as to what gis feel like when worn.
Would you prefer a heavier gi with more durability or a lighter gi that won’t last as long? I use weight as a determinant here because, typically, a thicker / heavier weave is going to last longer in terms of jackets and pants. But, both types of gis have their pros and cons. If your goal in getting a new gi is to compete in tournaments where you have to weigh in with the gi on, then you might want to go with a lighter gi (less than 450 gsm for jackets, 10 oz or less for pants). But, if you want a solid gi that’ll last for years and years, then you might want to consider something a bit heavier (550 gsm and up for jackets, 12oz or higher for pants).
Are you willing to pay more for a gi that nobody else has? Do you want a rare gi from another country? I love to look different than everybody else I train with and I appreciate owning things others don’t have. Some of my favorite gis are my Alma gis from Japan and my Full Metal Jiu Jitsu and MVNT gis from Australia. I’ve never ever seen anybody else in my area with them and I’m willing to pay a bit more for them. If you could care less about this stuff, don’t get caught up in the hype of rare gis and focus more on the other aspects of this list.
Can you get this gi any time or do you have to pre-order? Do you have to order it from another country? I know a lot of people who HATE trying to score gis that are limited release or pre-order only. One of the great things with BJJ gis now is that you can always find gis in stock somewhere and the bigger brands tend to always have some in stock without you having to spend a day online trying to order or waiting 8+ weeks for a pre-order to arrive.
Jacket materials (gold/pearl/ripstop/etc weave) are very different from one another. And the same is true with the weight and material (ripstop/cotton/poly/etc) of the pants. It’s okay if you have no idea what a single-weave, double-weave, gold-weave, platinum-weave, ripstop-weave, unicorn-weave, supreme pizza-weave or basket-weave is. Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry answer for most of the proprietary names BJJ Gi companies use out there for their weaves. The most common weaves used today are:
With many members of the BJJ community focused on competition, demand for lightweight gi’s has grown rapidly. To many, it feels more comfortable than any of the other Gi’s normally as it is usually the softest and lightest. Expect companies to advertise Pearl Weaves in the 450-550 gsm range but regardless they vary greatly in strength and weight. I’ve worn Pearl Weaves that are extremely light and easy to grip and pearl weaves that are thicker, heavy and harder to grip.
Originally, Gold Weave was the BJJ standard at competitions. Fortunately this has surpassed and Gis of virtually all types are allowed now. Gold Weaves have a unique ladder arrangement at each weave. Not as debilitating as the Double Weave, the Gold Weave is still on the tougher end of Gis to grab and is troublesome for anyone trying to grip it. These are all reasons why it’s my favourite weave.
This weave is usually quite smooth and as the name suggests, very light as well. This Gi won’t last as long as a Gold Weave but for the summer months and individuals just starting out, this could be a great option as it won’t break the bank and having a lighter Gi that is easier to grip means you will have to focus on grip breaking and proper escapes sooner.
This weave is the bane of any opponent’s existence. Trying to play spider guard against an opponent wearing a double-weave gi will leave your fingers scraped and in living in fear. It is thick, doesn’t allow for much breathing and is known for its heavier weight. When my opponent is wearing a double weave gi, I gave found myself looking for other ways to defeat them that does not involve grip fighting. The thickness of a double weave can even make it more difficult for you to move around in and may slow you down. If you like inflicting pain on other people and you also live in Antarctica, this might be the gi weave for you.
Ripstop can be a great choice for those of you who live on the equator, or Texas (same thing), or other places where it’s hot. Specializing in the lightest of light, ripstop was designed to not tear even at paper-thin levels. I’d like to see more of these Gi’s on the market as I find them to be some of the best out there but as of right now a rarity.
I would suggest that you do not try to use a judo suit for jiu-jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu gis have tighter cuffs on the trousers and sleeves. This allows the practitioner to benefit from a closer fit, providing less material for an opponent to manipulate,
Care of Your Gi
I wash my kimonos after 1 or 2 training sessions. If I have finished training and I am not going to wash it, I will hang it up, preferably outside. The worst thing you can do is leave a damp gi in your gym bag. The dark, unventilated space will turn it into a breeding ground for bacteria and it will smell like death. You want to knock your opponent out with your moves, not with your stench. So, whenever possible, try to hang your kimono outside in the fresh air and the sunshine. This will help keep it smelling and looking decent. I would also advise against using fabric softener when washing your gi because I feel this weakens the fabric and makes them tear more easily.
Submission Grappling / No–Gi Training Apparel
T-shirts are acceptable for no-gi training, but rash-guards are far superior. They don’t tear as easily, and they don’t stretch and get caught in your opponent’s limbs. Just as with gis, there are many, many good grappling rashguards available. However, if you don’t have the money for a well-known brand name, an inexpensive surf-style rash guard will suffice.
‘Sprawl’ was the original fight short company, but there are now many decent brands on the market. If you're on a budget, I have found that most boardshorts function perfectly well - just make sure that you don’t get ones with baggy pockets, which might cause difficulties when training. Protective Equipment All you really need to train is a gi, but as a beginner, you might want to consider embracing these extras.
I don’t train with a gum-shield anymore, although I probably should and I would recommend that as a beginner you should seriously consider wearing one. You have a number of options, but the best is always one that’s been professionally moulded by the dentist. Otherwise, the inexpensive boil-and-bite ones will do fine.
Cup / Jock Strap
Again, I don’t use these anymore. I find that they just get in the way. I also found that they promoted poor technique when doing armbars and kneebars. They are illegal in competition too, so you probably shouldn’t get in the habit of wearing them.
Although these are a bit of a bitch to get on, and require frequent washing, they will save a lot of wear and tear on your knees. I haven’t seen a jiu-jitsu specific pair on the market, but in the meanwhile, I use the Nike Volley Ball ones.
Train long enough and your knuckles and fingers are going to take some serious strain. Many BJJ players, including famous fighters and teachers like Keenan Cornelius, Kurt Osiander, Mackenzie Dern, Kyra Gracie and Michelle Nicolini are known to use tape to protect fingers that have been damaged from overuse. I personally prefer not to use it as I believe that it stops fingers from strengthening naturally. Tape Armour is a good brand.
I used to wear these but ultimately found that they were more hassle than they were worth, and ultimately decided I could live with cauliflower ears. If this is not an option for you and you are going to get some, I would recommend the Asics brand of wrestling ear-guards. Make sure you wash them frequently because they reek after a few heavy training sessions.
So What’s Your ‘Perfect’ Gi?
Taking all of the above 8 steps into account, what’s the best gi for you? Leave a comment below and let us know. I sincerely hope this guide has been helpful and I’m incredibly thankful you’ve taken the time to read it. If you ever have any questions about Jiu-Jitsu gis, take a moment to message me on our Facebook page.