Whether you’re looking to get started in jiu jitsu or just purchasing equipment for competition or training, buying a new gi is one of the biggest decisions a jiu jitsu practitioner can make outside of choosing which gym or school to train at. Your jiu jitsu gi will serve as your uniform for all jiu jitsu-related activities, and thus it’s imperative that you know at least a little bit about the different types and varieties of gis before committing to one.
From sizing and colors to weaves and materials, here’s a rundown of everything you should be aware of before buying a new gi.
Arguably the most important part about choosing the right gi is finding one that fits you as it should. Although gis can fit as loose or tight as the wearer would like, it’s important to keep in mind that extra material means more space for a training partner or opponent to grab on to when attempting to use your own gi against you in the form of control or a choke. At the same time, a gi too tight can be constricting for your own movement — particularly in some of the positions you’ll be contorting yourself into.
On the other hand, the length of a gi is imperative if you intend to compete or train at a serious academy. Due to the unfair advantage it gives, having sleeves and legs that end much higher than your wrists and ankles is illegal under most competition rules, and a gi too long for your limbs will do nothing but cause problems and make it easier for others to submit and control you.
So how do you pick the right size gi? With sizes ranging from I (for “infant”) to A (for “adult”) and a numerical system from the smallest 0 to the massive 6, there are gis for all sizes and shapes. Aside from having options from I0 to A6 (with an average adult man being in the A2 or A3 range), many companies also offer half-sizes and/or extra long or short options for those who need a little extra or less length for their extremities.
Although each gi from each company may fit a little differently, many brands offer size charts to find exactly which option will likely work best for you. One other thing to keep in mind is that although many gis are at least somewhat pre-shrunk, they will often still shrink at least a little when washed and often quite a bit when machine dried. For that reason, it’s generally recommended to wash all gis with cold water before hang-drying them at least overnight.
You can buy a gi in pretty much any imaginable color, but there are limitations to what most competitions and some formal gyms will allow. As cool as a green, pink, or yellow gi may look, the safest choices as far as legality goes are black, blue, or the classic white. Occasionally, you may find an extremely traditional academy that only allows for a single color of gi (generally white), but you should be good for just about anything with one of the three traditional colors.
Also keep in mind when choosing the color of a gi that you may want(or be required) to add a patch or two representing either a brand or the school at which you train, so a brightly colored gi may look strange in combination with a patch designed for a white, blue or black gi.
Finding a gi with an appropriate weave is fairly simple. If you’re a beginner looking for your first gi, going with a normal single weave is likely going to be your best option. Single weave gis are common, cheap and light. They won’t last forever, but they’re easy enough to replace (possibly with something nicer) after you’ve been in jiu jitsu for long enough to tear them. Additionally, their lighter weight helps both with the heat of training during the summer and the scales at a competition if you’re near the top of your weight class.
Double weave gis are exactly what you’d think based on their name. They’re literally twice as thick and heavy as the single weave gis, which makes them much more durable, warmer, and much more expensive. One thing to keep in mind when purchasing a double weave gi is also that they tend to take longer to dry because of their thickness. If you only have one gi and want to train everyday, a double weave gi may still be slightly damp by the time you get to training for the second consecutive day.
Other weaves, such as pearl, honeycomb, and gold weaves tend to provide the durability and strength of a double weave but with the lightness of a single weave. Considering that these gis tend to be significantly more expensive and there’s no guarantee of consistency or quality between brands, they’re typically used by very committed practitioners who know exactly which brands they trust and the models most appropriate for them.
With many gis — particularly those marketed for competition — you may see them labeled as a certain GSM (usually somewhere around 450 or 550) and wonder what that means. Technically, it stands for “Grams per Square Meter” and measures the weight of the material itself, but because of a handful of other factors (discussed in the next section), it shouldn’t be viewed as a consistent way of measuring the weight of a gi. Yes, a lower GSM gi will pretty much always be lighter than a heavier GSM gi of the same model, but two gis with the same GSM won’t necessarily weigh the same amount.
While most gis will seem to be made out of the same material to people outside of jiu jitsu, there are some finer points and details that you should look for in any gi.
One of the most important aspects of a gi is durability, and — although that can be affected by the weave, how you train, and how you care for your gi — most of it comes down to a handful of weak spots in every gi. Spots like the cuffs of sleeves and pant legs, knees, armpits, inseams, belt loops, and the edges of the gi top should all be heavily reinforced with extra stitching and layers to prevent premature tearing. If even the cheapest gi doesn’t have that, it’s probably not worth it. Unless you’re just going to be wearing it strictly as a costume or for cosmetic purposes, getting a cheap reinforced gi is a much better option than saving a few bucks to get something that’ll rip within weeks.
One other aspect where material can matter on a gi is in the collar fill. As any jiu jitsu practitioner can tell you, the collar of a gi is one of the most important spots, and what the collar is filled with can change its size, shape, and durability. Most gi collars are either filled with fabric or a foam-like rubber insert, and while the fabric collars are much more traditional, some practitioners prefer the rubber insert because it’s thicker, faster to dry, and can be tougher to hold on to in a competition.
There’s a reason why many experienced jiu jitsu practitioners have entire closets full of different gis. Looking good on the mat is nearly as important as learning and performing well for some practitioners, so knowing the differences between gi styles is a major topic for certain people.
Some brands (such as Atama, Fuji, and Keiko) are known for sticking with traditional retro cuts and looks, while other brands (like Tatami, Scramble, and BJJ Religion) prefer a more updated look. As far as performance goes, it really won’t make much of a difference, but finding a gi that makes you feel confident is as much of a mental advantage as you can get in many jiu jitsu matches.
Of course, for those who are really interested in impressing their fellow practitioners, many companies make deluxe and limited edition gis that high-level competitors and collectors alike will seek out as often as possible. Some brands will even allow you to customize the colors, weave, and other highlights of a gi for a little extra money.
When it comes down to it, shopping for a jiu jitsu gi has no catch-all solution. The important thing when choosing a gi is realizing what’s most appropriate for what you need it for. If you’re a beginner looking to find your first gi, it’s probably best to find a cheap option that can get you through the beginning stages until you know enough to see what type of gi (or gis) you’d ultimately like to obtain. You’ll feel a lot better if you tear a $40 gi while learning and getting submitted than if you dropped $400 on your first kimono only to have a seam blow out.
It’s important to remember that your first gi may not be perfect, and thus it’s totally acceptable to pick one up through an online retailer with the help of a size guide. If you already know which academy you’d like to attend, you can also speak with the professor and others there to see if there’s a certain brand that offers a discounted rate to the academy or if there are any gis you can try on for sizing purposes.
For a gi you may be purchasing later in your jiu jitsu journey, it’s worth considering what’s most important to you in a gi. If you’re looking to compete and concerned with making weight, having a lightweight gi to throw on before weighing in can help on the scale. Do you need a reliable, durable, and stylish gi to practice in? Then go for a double or specialty weave in a unique color or cut.
Regardless of what you’re looking for, there’s a gi to meet your needs and price range. It just may take a little extra work to find exactly the right one.
Still need some help? We’d love to help you pick out your next jiu jitsu gi, drop us a line here.
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