BJJ Gi Buyers Guide - Things you should know before buying a BJJ GI
For most people who are starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (commonly referred to a BJJ) means they need to buy a BJJ Gi, and you often really need to buy one before you attend the first class, which given the fact you are likely to know absolutely nothing about BJJ Gi's in general, sizing, how they fit, differences in the brands etc., then you might feel you are facing an overwhelming amount of choices when you first start to investigate.
One quick online search will throw up literally thousands of options, in fact nowadays it can be quite overwhelming, so what really is the right BJJ Gi for you?
Well, after many years of both doing BJJ (amongst other martial arts) and selling multiple brands of martial arts equipment in my UK based store www.fightstorepro.com I think it’s fair to say I have a decent perspective on how to get it right for most people. Every week we get asked largely the same half dozen questions from BJJ Beginners and often hear the same issues of how people bought the wrong thing on a shopping channel then sought us out because they realized they needed some advice.
Some Schools produce their own Gi's which at least takes the decision process out of it but many absolutely don’t and most BJJ instructors are not necessarily experts in the equipment, they’ll know what is right for them but potentially have not given it that much thought beyond the legalities in competition, after all their job is teaching technique not investigating gear.
I made a video on this subject a little while ago which goes over many of the points in this article. Watch Choosing the right BJJ Gi Video here
SO JIU JITSU BEGINNERS FEAR NOT! We have created a comprehensive BJJ Gi GUIDE to help walk you through the options, avoid the pitfalls and to make an informed choice on which is the right Gi to buy.
Okay so many people, in fact the vast majority of those new to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, simply will have no idea about differences from one Gi to another, even less of an idea as to why it matters. Let’s examine the things you actually need to be aware of.
BJJ Gi Sizing conventions
I bought this on Amazon/Ebay/unknown Website and now I need another one
BJJ GI SIZING
The first part of this buyer’s guide is sizing. It is worth noting that BJJ Gi sizing is not absolutely universal. Across different brands there can be quite big differences in sizing, for instance there is a marked difference between a REVGEAR BJJ Gi and a Fuji. On the whole Revgear or KINGZ Gi's tend to be about a half size larger than Fuji or Tatami in the same size labeled Gi.
This chart is a general guide but a slimmer guy may need to go a size down where a heavier guy may need to go one up. Also see the notes below!
Gi Sizing Conventions Originally BJJ Gi’s started with 4 size options back in the day. A1 (small) A2 (Medium) A3 (Large) to A4 (Extra Large). In more recent times some brands added A0 (XS) and A5 (XXL) as well as some brands adding in additional options such as W or H for broader people and L for longer slimmer folk. More on this later!
Certain brands produce L and H suffixes EG A2L meaning A2 Long fit. As mentioned in the video, this is less than a perfect system and an A2L may be largely the same as an A3 in other brands. The answer goes back to trying one on, as your body shape is going to be the true defining feature of whether it fits right or not regardless of the label on the Gi.
Most brands have Gi’s that cater to children, male adults, and female adults. Right now, this article is focused on the male adult sizing, but the differences between the female sizes will be the same rules as for male sizes, EG largely the cut and fit of the Gi for the female body structure will vary from brand to brand in exactly the same way.
BJJ Gi Fit
Sizing and fit are two different things. The hidden Gi knowledge here is that most gi manufacturers have a template or pattern for their Gi range that largely doesn’t change within their ranges. Going back to our earlier comparison, If you compare two excellent Gi brands such as Fuji versus REVGEAR then you will discover Fuji largely has a slimmer fit whilst REVGEAR has a roomier fit. Both have pros and cons which are completely down to your body type.
Some brands like to have wider sleeves, some tighter, some stitch one pattern (which affect the movement of the gi) some stitch another. There is no right or wrong, only right for you! Having worked in the industry for over 15 years I can tell you that generally speaking, it is the case that finding the brand that fits you best remains key in getting your Gi to fit well.
BJJ Gi Jacket Materials
Most Gi jackets are made from 100% cotton, with a small amount of BJJ Gi’s being made from Hemp or ripstop material. Ripstop is usually confined to the Gi Pants but there have been full gi's made in ripstop which have been banned from many competitions. I personally would advise sticking with 100% cotton Gi jackets unless you are certain you want something else and know why. For those who don’t know, ripstop is a mix of cotton and polyester/nylon material. For the Gi Jackets there are a whole range of different 100% Cotton weaves available.
The common weaves are:
High Tech Weave
The weave is how the Gi material is put together, and whilst there are differences the choice is largely down to personal preference. There will be differences between various brands in cuts, sizing, weaves and styling, but mostly when it comes to BJJ Gi’s this is all down to personal preference.
Another thing that you’ll see when shopping for a Gi is the weight. Gi weights are measured in GSM and range from 250GSM to 700GSM, going from very lightweight single weave to big, bulky double weave. GSM stands for ‘grams per square meter’ and is the weight of the fabric.
If you are uncertain of which weight you want I would recommend going in the middle. A 450gsm Gi gives you a good level of durability but will not feel too heavy. The weave will also have a bearing on this. Hi Tech weave is a blend that feels stronger than its weight would suggest.
Very light Gi’s are generally for competition only and will not be as durable as heavier ones. My early Gi's from Brazil were around 550 GSM and 14 oz cotton pants
The other basic idea that you need to watch for is that a lot of the Gi’s available on the market are pretty much equal. Any Gi priced much beyond the £80/$100 mark is mainly priced beyond that for the cosmetics and not necessarily the performance.
A very important part to the Gi worth mentioning is the sleeves. The IBJJF is very clear about the correct length from the end of the sleeve to the wrist. Read the full rules here.
The sleeve length is an important thing to consider. If it’s too long, or too short, it’s illegal in competition. Even if your Gi is not being used in competition, sleeves too long or short can be an issue to yourself or to your training partners. The Gi jacket will usually shrink during the first few washes and you need to take that into consideration when buying one, essentially leaving some shrinkage room when you buy a Gi!
The first major choice for Gi pants is materials. 100% cotton and Ripstop are the main two options for modern Jiu Jitsu Gi’s. 100% cotton pants are warmer and often softer but Ripstop is lighter and airier, therefore if you want summer pants then get Ripstop, if for winter then choose cotton. If you are somewhere in the middle then choose what feels best to you! Reinforcements over the knees is almost a must, especially if the pants are under 12oz which many nowadays are. Gi pants usually have a belt cord for fastening, and a useful tip to keep in mind is to tie them against one of the belt loops to avoid slipping.
The fit of the pants can be a major thing. Which just like the jackets will make a big difference to your comfort depending on body type. Some brands make wider roomier pants, some make slimmer. Someone with big muscular legs may not be particularly tall but will appreciate a roomier fit, you can get people with big shoulders and skinny legs…..Yet again, find the brand that works for you!
All Gi's shrink in the wash. Some more than others. Rule one is to obey the washing instructions. But an even better rule is wash the gi cold and drip dry it on the first wash, then gradually raise the temperature up to its wash label max. Do not tumble dry a Gi unless you are confident of where it will shrink down to. Buying a Gi slightly bigger than a perfect fit on day one is often a good move until you are certain on your size, fit and feel.
This is all to do with the weave and the GSM. 250 is very light, 700 very heavy. This is pure preference. Heavier Gi weights are harder wearing, lighter Gi's are often considered more comfortable, especially in warmer climates.
I could probably have done a line or two separately on the lapel but the weight of the Gi will often dictate the feel of the lapel. A fatter heavier lapel often feels better on the hands. In Jiu Jitsu grips are massively important and a comfortable lapel is important for both you and your training partners. One feature of cheap Gi's is often a poor quality lapel. This is something to look out for when choosing a first Gi.
"I bought a Gi on Amazon/Ebay/Etc. and now I need another one"
We say this quite often on Fightstorepro. UNLESS you really know what you are talking about then avoid simply shopping channel sites. Websites and stores like the one we run are manned by people who actually do the sport. If you can’t visit a store then you can at least call the staff and get the right advice. Amazon in particular whilst having good options also has many factory direct options that are often not refined nor developed by genuine BJJ people.
Jiu Jitsu Gi Pricing
To round off the video and article combo, the final piece to the buyer’s guide is that of pricing. It’s common to see most brands that sell BJJ gear to offer three types of Gi’s; a bottom of the range/starter Gi, a mid-range/club style Gi, and a top of the range Gi. It is very important to know that while the top of the range Gi will retail at, in some cases, double the price of the starter Gi, there isn’t much of a difference in terms of the build quality and performance you’ll get from it. At that point, you’re paying for the bling and the patches like on the Fuji Sekai Gi, the Revgear Venice BJJ Gi, or the Rolls Royce pricing of Shoyoroll Gi’s.
Alex Wright Alex has been practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu since the early 2000’s and currently holds a brown belt under Professor Angel Lopez of Halo Jiu Jitsu, Fresno CA. He owns Fightstorepro.com in the UK and is a well known figure in the Mixed Martial Arts Industry working with many major combat sports brands over the last 20 years.