Before I started training Muay Thai, BJJ was my first love. Back when I was a kid watching the original UFC that featured Royce beating all kinds of massive giants, I knew that BJJ was a special sport. Today, BJJ has grown to become one of the largest martial arts in the world.
I started training BJJ back in 2005, and fell in love with the sport. BJJ is such a dynamic martial art that has so many different elements involved. What I loved the most about BJJ was the fact that a small little guy, could dominate a big guy if he had the right skill.
While Muay Thai requires you to have gloves, shin guards, headgear, Thai pads etc., the only thing you need in BJJ is a Gi (also called Kimono) and a belt. This makes choosing your equipment very simple. Besides a mouth guard and a groin protector, the Gi is your uniform for BJJ.
The Basics of the Gi
The BJJ Gi is the standard apparel that is worn when you practice BJJ. Using your Gi, there are countless chokes, holds and techniques you can pull off. This is what separates BJJ from No-Gi submission grappling. In submission grappling you wear MMA shorts or compression pants, which change the way you control your opponent when you grapple.
When I first started training BJJ I couldn’t afford to buy a new BJJ Gi. Instead of buying a BJJ Gi, I used my old Karate Gi that had been gathering dust in the closet. Not a good idea.
My thinking at the time was that a Gi was a Gi, so the Karate Gi must be just as good as a BJJ Gi. Little did I know how much of a real difference there is between a Karate Gi and a BJJ one.
Only when I started to roll with guys on the mat, did I start realizing that my Gi felt a LOT different than theirs. Karate Gis are made from light cotton fabric and are not designed to be grabbed or held. Once your opponent has a hard grip on your Gi, good luck getting rid of that grip. In addition to the easy grip, regular martial art Gis will tear easily because the fabric is thin.
BJJ Gis are designed to be roughed up and abused. Similar to Judo Gis, BJJ Gis are built for endurance and grappling.
With hundreds of different Gis available on the market it can be difficult to choose the right one. Fortunately for you, I am an equipment nerd and love doing my research when it comes to buying training gear. This article is going to break down everything you need to know before you purchase your BJJ Gi.
Choosing the right BJJ Gi
Most of the BJJ Gis on the market are made from cotton. While there are a couple higher end Gis that are made from hemp, cotton is the standard when it comes to BJJ Gis. Manufacturers of hemp Gis claim that their Gi is much stronger than cotton, but they also charge a premium for that strength.
If you are looking for a new Gi I would recommend you stick with cotton Gis. I’ve never used a hemp Gi, so I can’t comment on how it feels compared to cotton. What I do know is that cotton Gis are excellent and the majority of manufacturers produce cotton Gis.
Besides the material used to make the Gi, there are different weaves of Gis that you can select. Some weaves are designed to be light and more breathable, while others are thicker and more durable. While it would be nice to think that your Gi is going to be the difference maker when you are rolling on the mat, as long as you get a decent Gi, it won’t make that much of a difference.
A skilled BJJ guy is going to beat a guy with a better Gi 10/10 times, so don’t think that your Gi is going to make a difference in your ground game.
At the higher levels of BJJ, yes, a better Gi will make it more difficult for your opponent to grip and the weight can plan a role when you enter competitions. However, it all comes down to skill on the mat. If you don’t have the skill, you won’t win regardless of your Gi.
Types of BJJ Weaves
When it comes to choosing the right BJJ weave it is important to understand the different weaves that are available. If you go with a thicker weave, it is often harder to grip, but the tradeoff is that it is heavier. This can be an absolute deal breaker if you need to make weight for a tournament and are over the weight by a few hundred grams.
The following are a breakdown of some of the Gi weaves you will see. Each Gi you purchase will say what type of Weave they use for the Gi.
Common Gi Weaves
The single weave is probably the most popular weave out there for beginners because it is affordable and a great Gi to start with. Single weave Gis use less cotton in the weave, which makes these Gis lighter. The downside of the single weave is that the lighter materials make it easier for your opponent to grip onto you.
The single weave Gis are great because they give people an affordable option that isn’t going to break the bank. If you are looking to buy a few pairs of cheap Gis, these Gis are usually under a $100 and provide good bang for your buck. Single weave Gis are also comfortable to use as the fabric is often softer than some of the other weaves that take time to break in.
The double weave uses the same weave as the single weave except it is double (makes sense, right?). By doubling down on the weave, it makes the Gi more durable than the single weave. The increased thickness of the Gi will make it more difficult for your opponent to grip the Gi, which is something that can benefit you in training.
The downside of course is that the extra fabric causes this Gi to weigh more than the single weave. Due to the thickness of the Gi, it is important for this Gi to fit properly otherwise you may have a hard time maneuvering on the mat. Because these Gis require more fabric, they are more expensive than single weave Gis. These Gis used to be popular, but they have gone out of fashion by some of the weaves listed below.
The Gold weave is a cross weave that fits in between the single and double weave Gis. This weave used to be very popular a few years back, but have generally been replaced by pearl weave Gis. However, I’ve seen more manufacturers starting to sell these Gis on the market recently.
Gold Gis are very durable and feel very soft after you wear them down. Think of this Gi as a ‘hybrid’ that offers more durability and thickness than the single weave, but isn’t as heavy as the double weave.
The Pearl weave is a weave that looks a bit look small pearls on the Gi. These weaves are designed to be light, but provide great durability than the single weaves. These are better than single weaves and are probably one of the most popular weaves you see in tournaments because of their light weight. Overall these Gis are very durable, dry fast and are lighter than a lot of the other Gis.
There are also variations of the pearl weave that are available as well. I’ve seen the name Pearl Weave Extra used, to indicate a slightly different pattern of the pearl weave. These other Gis advertise that they are softer than the regular pearl weave Gis.
Other Gi Weaves (less common)
The ripstop weave is the thinnest and lightest of all the Kimono Gi weaves out there. Due to the lightness of the Gi, these are great Gis to bring with you traveling if you are worried about trying to shed some weight. This material used to only be used with BJJ pants, but they also have jackets that have been produced as well. When you purchase a ripstop Gi, make sure the Gi is certified as IBJJF legal in case you plan on competing with them.
This material used to only be used on Gi pants, but have made their way over to Kimono jackets as well. I’ve never used a ripstop weave Gi so I can’t comment on how it feels when you compete with it on. This is a niche Gi that only a few brands carry.
The crystal weave is another popular weave material because of its softness. This is a very loose looking weave that is also easy to grip. The softness of the Gi makes it easy on the skin and doesn’t rub and burn as much as some of the stiffer Gis. These are light weight Gis that tend to shrink if you wash them too much. After a wash, you are required to pull the sleeves and sides straight to maintain the size of the Gi.
Honey Comb Weave
Is another Gi materials that resembles a series of honeycombs in the Gi. It is a soft Gi fabric that doesn’t have too much stretch. The Gi breathes well, dries faster than the thicker Gis and is thin. This is another light weight Gi that some manufacturers offer.
Size and Measurements
Now that we understand some of the Gi weaves that are used, it is important to understand how to choose the right size Gi. Size is important because there are actual size restrictions in BJJ tournaments. If your Gi doesn’t fit the size description, they will not let you compete in the tournament.
Most guys come in a size chart between A0-A6. The A stands for Adult and the number after represents the size starting from the smallest size 0 to the largest size 6. If a Gi is made specifically for a female it will be marked with the F before the number.
It is important to know that Gis can easily shrink up to 10% in size. If you get something that is tight when you first buy it, it will probably be too small after a few washes. Each brand of Gi has their own size charts, so it is important for you to keep an eye on what are the best sizes.
Kids Gi sizes will range depending on the manufacturer. Each brand has their own system of determining the right kids sizing, so make sure you see what their recommendations are if you are buying a Gi for your child.
A lot of Gis come with pre-shrunk cotton, but there are also many Gis that are shrink to fit. If you want the best size you should go with a Shrink to fit option, but you also run the risk of over shrinking the Gi.
Here is a general outline of the typical sizes you can expect
A1: under 1.70m (5’8”)
A2: under 1.80m (5’9”)
A3: under 1.90m (6’2”)
A4: under 2.0m (under 6’6”)
A5: over 2m (over 6’6”)
This is just a general chart. Make sure you check your brands specific outline because they may vary from one size to another.
If you plan on competing it is important that your Gi meets the officially requirement for tournament.
Here is the official word on the proper Gi measurement from IBJJF.com
“The GI top should reach the athlete’s thigh and the sleeves should come to no more than 5 cm from the athlete’s wrist when the arm is extended straight parallel to the ground.
GI pants should reach no more than 5 cm above the tibial malleolus (ankle bone).
The inspection will verify whether the following official measurements are met: GI lapel thickness (1.3 cm), width of GI collar (5 cm), opening of sleeve at full extension (7 cm).”
Keys can cost anywhere for $50 to $300+ dollars depending on the brand and quality of the Gi. Gis that come from more specialized brand that are made from other materials like ‘Hemp’ and ‘Brazilian Cotton’ often get marketed more.
If you buy a Gi made in Pakistan it will cost a lot less than Gis made in Brazil. The Brazilians have done a great job of making sure people know that their Gis are the best, so if you buy a Gi made in Brazil expect to pay more for the Gi.
The price of the Gi is going to depend on the weave, the thickness of the collars, the color, the materials used, and the brand. Brand can often play a huge factor in the pricing of the Gi. Some of the specialty brands charge a lot just because they have a big name in the BJJ community.
If can’t afford to buy a regular BJJ Gi you can look at buying a Judo Gi. Judo Gis are a baggier than BJJ Gis and tend to be a bit looser overall. This may be because Judo fighters need something to grab on when they are making their throws. If you buy a Judo Gi, you should make sure it is tournament regulation, otherwise you won’t be able to compete in it.
Collars and Sleeves
The Gi collar is something that a lot of people don’t think about. A thicker collar usually makes it harder for you partner to submit you with a collar joke, while thinner collars are more comfortable to wear when you are rolling around.
Most collars are made from cotton, but there are a few Gi brands out there that do use a rubber filling inside the collar. Rubber collars are faster to dry and can reduce the growth of mold on the Gi.
Gym Policy and Tournament Rules
If you plan on competing it is important that you buy a tournament ready Gi. Most tournaments only allow white, blue or black Gis in competition. If you decide to buy a yellow or red Gi, you won’t be able to use it if you plan on competing. Similarly, some gyms only allow specific colors to use inside the class so check with your instructor.
Another thing you should know is that men are not allowed wearing a shirt underneath your Gi when you compete. Women must wear a tight fighting shirt under their Gi top. The use of any thong type of undergarment is also prohibited in tournament rules. You must wear regular boxer/brief underwear in case your brief pants get pulled down.
Women are allowed wearing tight fitting elastic pants under their Gi pants, but men are not permitted to wear pants. The Gi pants that you wear also must be the same color as your top. For example, you are not allowed wearing a blue color kimono with a white colored Gi pants. The colors must be the same.
Gis must be in good condition if you want to compete. If you have a Gi that has tears or is dirty and smells, they will probably bar you from entering the tournament. Wearing a Gi that is properly washed and clean, is a habit that is good for you and the people around you. Nothing is worse than having a guy at the gym with a dirty Gi that he NEVER washes. It’s disrespectful.
BJJ Gi Brands
There is a lot of debate about branded Gis and the difference in quality that they offer over cheaper options. As I mentioned before, some people claim that the cotton is ‘better’ in Brazil and that Gis made in Brazil are better.
What it comes down to is the weave of the cotton and the neck and collars. Most of the brands get their Gis made from the same factories and they just end up changing the labels on the Gi. Pakistan is by far the biggest producer of Gis, with some factories in China also making their Gis.
At the end of the day, the price will often determine the quality of the Gi. If you buy a cheap Gi, it probably won’t be as thick and durable, but it will get the job done.
Here is a list of some of the more popular brands you will find on the market:
- Combat Corner
- Do or Die
While you might prefer wearing one brand over the other, it comes down to the weaving of the cotton. You can find quality Gis manufactured in any country.
Gi Color and Weight
When it comes to choosing a Gi color it is important to remember that tournaments only allow White, Blue and Black colors. This means that you will not be able to compete in your fancy pink or yellow Gi.
I should also point out that adding color to Gis will increase the weight of the Gi. This only matters if you compete. Buying a white Gi could end up helping you shave a few hundred grams of your target weight for competition.
If you are going to buy your first Gi I recommend you stick with a classic white or blue Gi. As I mentioned before, some gyms don’t allow specific colors in class, so check with your instructor to see what their rules are.
If you want to add patches on your Gi, it is important that you understand the regions of the Gi that patches are allowed. If you place a patch in an unauthorized region, you must remove the patch or you will be barred from entering most competition.
Below you can see an image of the restricted regions of the Kimono. Notice how the sensitive areas are near the sleeves of the shirts and pants, at the knees and elbows and at the back of the arms. If you want to load yourself up with patches, make sure you put them on properly and know where they go.
WASH YOUR GI AFTER EVERY CLASS
This is something that most gyms will emphasize to their students, but there are always a few people who ‘forget’ to wash their stuff and stink.
Let me give you a few facts.
BJJ Gis are thicker than normal Gis and you will find yourself constantly soaked with sweat. All of that sweat will absorb into your Gi and make it a great place for bacteria to grow. If some Gis that are washed properly can maintain some of the bad odor, unwashed Gis stink and can spread bacteria.
Nothing is worse than rolling with someone in training who has a Gi that smells like it hasn’t been washed in weeks, because it probably hasn’t. It is extremely disrespectful to your partner who is exposed to your stinky Gi combined with the new sweat that you have.
If you train BJJ twice a day in the morning and night, you need to own two Gis or wash it twice in a day. Do not use the same Gi in the afternoon that you already soaked in sweat and hung up to dry. That is how you can get a permanent stench into your Gi.
Smart Cleaning Tip
If you have a Gi that have a terrible odor that you can’t get rid of, try adding vinegar and baking soda to the wash and let it soak. This can kill some of the bacteria that is on your Gi. Another word of advice is if you don’t wash your Gi right after you use it, hang it up to air dry, that way it won’t sit in a pile of sweat and stay moist longer.
If you don’t want other students at the gym to talk behind your back, make sure you always train with a fresh Gi every training session. If you only have one Gi that you use, you will run into issues if you forget to wash the Gi before you train.
Therefore, I would recommend you buy a couple cheaper Gis, then buy a premium Gi if you are just starting off. That way you can have a few BJJ Gis in the rotation.
Having two or three different Gis can give you the option of washing your Gi every few days, instead of having to wash your Gi after every class. If you can’t afford to buy multiple BJJ Gis, then purchase a few cheaper Judo Gis.
This will ensure that you are always walking around with a fresh smelling Gi.
Top BJJ Gi Picks
There are plenty of good Gis on the market and here is my selection of picks you should consider. While there are better premium Gis out there, I wanted to make sure I recommended Gis that you can actually afford to buy, rather than ones that would be good if you had extra money sitting around.
Top Overall Pick
Fuji Kassen II BJJ Uniform
For around $140, the Fuji Kassen II provides the perfect balance of durability and comfort in a Gi. The pearl weave design is thick and strong enough to prevent your opponent from easily getting a grip on you when they hold the Gi, but comfortable on the inside of the Gi.
This Gi is IBJJF approved, which means you can compete with it at any BJJ tournament you enter. It comes in White, Blue, and Black colors and has a Fuji patch across the shoulder, lapel, and pant leg of the Gi. There is also special reinforcements along the knees of the patns to prevent rubbing and tearing.
Fuji is a quality brand that produces good Gis. If you want a great Gi that offers good value, this is one that you should definitely consider picking up.
Buy It…. This is a great Gi for the price
The combination of Pearl weave and price make this the top pick. It is a comfortable Gi that is built to last you.
Best BJJ Gi for Beginners
Fuji BJJ Uniform
Starting at around $82, the Fuji Gi uniform is a great starter Gi for people who are looking for a cheap option that will last.
The Fuji Gi is a basic single weave Gi that is soft and comfortable to wear. The color thickness is decent, but not as thick as some of the other brands you might expect. One of the strenghts of the Gi is that it has excellent reinforcing throughout the Gi.
Along the cuffs, interior jacket, and the base of the jacket there is reinforcing tape that is applied to the jacket. This helps make the jacket last much longer because the you won’t have any thread coming loose.
The single wave Gi is much softer than the pearl weave counterparts, which make them feel softer and more comfortable when you put them on.
Buy It…… This is a great starter Gi for beginners and pros alike
For the price point under $100, you can’t complain too much about this Gi. The extra reinforced seams ensure that this Gi will last you.
Best Competition Gi
Atama Mundial Model 9 Gi
If you are looking for a Gi used by some of the pros you should consider the Atama Mundial Gi. The Atama Gis are made in Brazil and have a great reputation as being one of the top brands on the market. This Gi comes in at a price range just under $200, which would be considered a higher end Gi.
While you can still find more specialties at the $300 + range, this price is affordable for people looking for a premium Gi. This Gi is modeled after the mundial #7 model, with the same cut and material used. The only difference for this Gi is the colors and the embroidery that is on the Gi.
This Gi uses a Carioca Weave that has no seems on the back of the Gi and is one piece construction of the Gi. The collar and pants of the Gi are made from a rip stop material, to ensure that it doesn’t tear during hard use.
This is a great option for people looking to buy an additional Gi to add to their collection. It is the perfect Gi for training or competition and is very comfortable to wear.
Buy It…… If you already have a few Gis and want to upgrade to a premium Gi made in Brazil
Atama is a brand that is known for their quality Gis. If you choose the right size, you will be very happy with the over quality and feel of this Gi.
Another Top Pick
Hayabusa Stealth Pearl Weave Jiu Jitsu Gi
The Hayabusa Stealth Pearl Weave is probably one of the best looking Gis on the market. This is a clean looking Gi that has has Hayabusa embroidered on the back of the jacket and on the shoulders. If you want a Gi that looks and feels great, this is your pick.
Hayabusa have established themselves as one of the top MMA brands on the market, and their entry in the BJJ market continues this excellence. This Gi is made from a Pear weave to ensure it is comfortable and very light.
The Gi pants are made from a rip stop material to ensure that they don’t tear or rip after long use. The stress areas of the Gi are reinforced throughout to help prevent tearing also.
Coming in at under $150, this Gi is a great option for people looking for a comfortable Gi that is well priced and looks great. The Gi comes in white, black and blue, which are all allowed in tournament.
Buy It……. If you want a mid range Gi that offers good quality
Hayabusa Gis are starting to gain more popularity among BJJ practitioners. The pearl weave cotton material is comfortable and provides the combination of durability and light weight.
There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing a BJJ Gi. I would recommend that you start off with two cheaper Gis first, then buy a more premium Gi after that. That way you have a few Gis that you can rotate and don’t have to do laundry every night after training. Having one Gi will increase your electric Bill as you will be constantly doing laundry every single night.
With dozens and dozens of brands out there making BJJ Gis, it can be hard making the right decision. Gis made in Pakistan usually come from the same factories. What is important is the weave of the Gi, all the other cosmetic stuff comes after the material used to make the Gi.
Whatever Gi you choose, make sure you choose a size that is appropriate for tournament regulation. Keep in mind that if you buy a Gi a little bit bigger, you can shrink it to size in the drying machine. While most Gis come with preshrunk cotton, you should still expect some shrinkage in your GI.
The best way to find a quality Gi is to look up some of the online reviews that are available. People often leave a lot of valuable tips about shrinkage, size and how the Gi feels in the comment sections.
At the end of the day, choosing a Gi comes down to what you want. Are you looking for a name brand or something that is reasonably priced? The factors that are important to you are going to dictate what Gi is the right one for you.