When I first started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the Gi (kimono as it is called in Brazil) was such an enigmatic piece of clothing, part Samurai Hakama, part knight suit of amour and part pajama… the Gi seemed to be as strange as the jiu jitsu training itself.
This weirdly crafted jacket top, belt and pants was so foreign to me, wrapped in mysterious weight and heft seemingly ready to unlock the secrets to choking unsuspecting dangerous braggarts, ne’er-do-wells and sluggards of the world.
Little did I know this fool was I who would be on the receiving end of my jiu jitsu uniform, at least in the beginning… getting gripped all around like a rag doll and finally collar choked into submission (or oblivion if I didn’t tap fast enough).
Since then I have come to love (and hate a little) the Gi… the way it felt, the simple looking piece of fabric that transforms any man or woman into something a little more dangerous.
Even after years of training and progressing through the ranks, I still feel like a kid opening presents on their birthday when getting a new BJJ Gi delivered… It is the perfect companion and accessory to what we call the “gentle art”.
So how does one pick the right Gi and what should you consider before buying?
There are many factors to consider so to help, I created this buying guide for you….
If you have browsed the myriad of options online, you will start seeing terms such as… gold weave, rip stop, canvas, GSM and IBJJF legal etc.. What does all this mean?
This official BJJBuddy Gi buying guide to help you navigate the endless options to come to a reasonable choice that you may love (or hate depending if you on the receiving end of your kimono).
Generally buying a gi means buying a gi jacket (top) with matching gi pants (bottom) and sometimes a matching white belt. The original BJJ gi is derived from the Judo Gi (as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was developed from a Judo) and the original Judogi comes from the Japanese kimono and other traditional Japanese garments around the turn of the 20th century that Judo founder Jigoro Kano developed for practice in his dojo. The judogi was the first modern martial-arts-training uniform.
STOP – If you are brand new or buying for someone else you MUST consider these 2 questions before purchasing a Gi.
Does your academy have a Gi policy or require that you buy a Gi from them?
Does your academy have a policy on the COLOR of the GI?
If your academy requires you to buy the GI from them then your best bet is to go ahead and buy from them (shocking I know). This is a point of debate within the BJJ community and for a lot of people it is not ideal and a lot of jiteros would balk at this BUT it is not uncommon for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms and associations (like Gracie Barra) that have this requirement.
If you really like the gym, you are excited to train there and you are buying your FIRST Gi you are better off buying from them. Hey look at it this way… you are supporting your gym when buying the Gi from them and they can set you up with the correct size right off the bat. Win Win!
This is key as most Gi manufacturers will have (mostly) standardized sizing. If you are an A4 in one brand you will likely be an A4 in another. There are very few places that sell Gis like in a clothing store so your local gym will be your best bet on getting the correct size.
So maybe your gym is fine with you buying a GI outside of the academy supplied Gis BUT they do want you to buy a certain color of Gi. Most often this color will be an all white top and bottom Gi. This is something that would be good to know before buying.
Great now that we have those considerations out of the way on to what really matters… Your Budget, Goals for Gi (what? More on the later) and Training Room/Local Weather.
What do your goals mean exactly in the context? Simple… If you are buying a Gi for competition you must make sure your Gi is IBJJF legal… meaning it is the right cut, fit and color before stepping onto the mats to compete. Also you may want a lighter Gi to make weight easier.
Or similarly you may want a Travel Gi. A Gi that is also lightweight and free from branding from your Gym. It can be a sign of disrespect to other gyms to train with gym patches not of their own.
Also you may want a Gi that is white for example to travel with. White is a universally appropriate color for most Gyms.
If you are not competing or traveling with the Gi, you can be more relaxed in your choice provided it meets your Gym policy on Gis.
Overview of Gi fabrics, fit, materials, and weight and why that matters to you!
Often when reading over you may read a description like “
- “Lightweight 350g Pearl Weave Gi Jacket”
- “Triple Reinforced Rip Stop Pants with Bungee Drawstring”
- “made from a light-weight 400gsm Pearl Weave preshrunk fabric”
- EVA collar
- This BJJ Gi is IBJJF approved. It meets IBJJF Standard and may be worn at tournaments.
What does all this mean? What is GSM and Pearl have to do with choking someone? Read on….
Fabric Material & Material Composition
Cotton is king when it comes to BJJ Gis. Cotton is pretty standard when buying a BJJ uniform as it is a throwback fabric to the original Judo gi and is a staple of the garment industry. The abundance and quality of cotton itself in relation to its use in clothing and specifically Jiu Jitsu applications is standard at this point.
Cotton fabric has an edge over synthetic fabrics in breathability and ease of care when washing. Although in the fitness markets synthetic fabrics make up the significant portion of performance apparel cotton is still the top choice when buying a gi. There are some companies that use a cotton/synthetic blend but cotton will be the majority of the fabric blend.
Cotton application in BJJ gis has many reasons but chief among them is widely available, cost and the breathability when wearing the BJJ kimono in training and competition. BJJ is essentially wrestling in street type clothes therefore it is a high energy expenditure sport and breathability is key. This is one reason (of many like MMA) the popularity and rise of No Gi Jiu Jitsu has exploded.
Hemp is an alternative source of fabric material that has seen some usage in Gis.
Weave will be another consideration when buying a Gi. Weave will dictate how strong (or weak) a Gi will be and a Gi weight. Judo Gi will typically be a single weave, while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gis will have a heavier, stronger weave like Pearl or Gold.
Single, Pearl, Gold Weaves and Ripstop
Single Weave Cotton: This is lighter and typically less expensive. It is often used for hot weather training. Being lighter weight (typically between 300–550 g/m2), this weave is not as durable as a heavier fabric.
Pearl Weave: This is the most common form of weave used in BJJ Gis. Pearl weave is strong and very durable thus it is the perfect choice for Gi Jackets. Pearl weave name is derived by the weave pattern used to create an appearance of strings of pearls aligned together (by the use of thin and tight yarns on the loom).
Gold Weave Cotton: This material is in-between the single and double weave with regards to weight and durability. Gold weave is a standard that was originally required for competition by the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Confederation, although this has now been relaxed to allow different jacket weaves.
Ripstop Fabrics: Ripstop fabrics are made of many different materials (cotton, silk, polyester, and nylon) woven together to produce an extremely strong and lightweight material that is difficult to tear or rip. Typically Ripstop is used in pants. Pants either have a form of cotton canvas or denim fabric or ripstop.
Often when reading over product descriptions you will often see a term GSM when describing the unique attributes of the gi fabric. What does GSM actually mean and why does it matter for a BJJ Gi?
GSM is an apparel manufacturing term and it means grams per square meter. Grams per square meter is a measurement of the fabric’s weight and the higher a fabric’s GSM, the thicker and more hard-wearing it’s likely to be. For example, a Carhartt denim pants has a much higher GSM than a chiffon sheer fabric dress.
Great but why should I care about Fabric weight?
Weight will be a factor for a slew of reasons.
Your daily training comfort
Are you going to use the Gi in the summer? Is it hot where you train? Does your gym even run the AC when it’s hot? Do they just want to make you suffer under oppressive heat? Then you would want a lighter weight Gi anywhere around 275 to 425 GSM.
Conversely if you are training in the winter, or you live in a colder environment having heavier weight would be ideal. The main advantage it is said of having a heavier weight is that your opponent will have a harder time getting grips on YOU. I think this is a wash when considering your training room environment and your comfort level when factored in.
Put it this way I have a beautiful gold weave Gi that is 550 GSM fabric and when I put it on I feel like a knight ready to battle in my armor. However where I live, it’s extremely warm (and downright wicked hot) and my gym does not believe in AC (or maybe it’s too expensive to run) and that beautiful 550 GSM Gi rarely sees the light of day. Only a few months out of the year does that heavier weight Gi make my training rotation.
A heavier weighted Gi will be more durable by nature of the extra fabric weave. Something to keep in mind if you are on budget as you will want to have at least 2-3 Gis to rotate through during a training week.
Cut and Sizing
IBJJF is the top BJJ Gi Competition Association thus they have certain rules over the GI including color, fabric, cut and fit on the competitor. You can read about them here https://ibjjf.com/uniform but most BJJ Gi brands have this in mind when manufacturing the Gi.
In fact more often this will be included in the selling description that a Gi is “IBJJF legal” or “IBJJF Approved”….
Standard Adult sizing for will run from A0 to A6 and the sizing runs in scale from height and weight. Some Gi brands will offer variations on sizing with L,T and H designation which denote types of Gis that are longer/taller with similar cut as the original size (for lanky folks) and Heavier Cuts which account for shorter stocky body types.
The industry standard for Gi brands is to denote their scale of sizing by weight and height and usually this is listed on as a chart with Height and Weight as the corresponding X and Y axis.
If you are not sure on your sizing, you can always ask your gym partners that match your body type their Gi sizing, maybe try your team mate’s Jacket before training or try and buy your first Gi from your Gym.
Yes we briefly mentioned color considerations but this may factor again if you need a travel Gi. Most often when traveling it is respectful when dropping in on a different gyms tatami that you wear a Gi FREE of other gyms patches. Also the gym you drop in at may have a color Gi policy.
Therefore when traveling get a Gi that is white (safest bet) and with minimal branding (no patches).
Typically IBJJF requires white, royal blue or black Gis to step onto the mats.
Tip: I buy non – IBJJF colored Gi for training sometimes as they can be had for less cost than standard color Gis.
If your academy requires you to wear the team patches on your Gi, especially if you are going to compete it is ideal to have relatively clean and logo free Gi or you may look like a Brazilian Cup Mundial Competitor circa 2003.
Gi Pricing and Branding
Some really love to spend $$ money on branded Gi like ShoYoRoll and others but at the end of the day as it is with High Fashion paying a lot more doesn’t mean your Gi is vastly superior than other lower priced Gis… is all a matter of personal preference (with one notable exception explained so read on).
So does paying more actually mean you get a better Gi?
To answer that question first let’s define the actual pricing points (tiers) typical of BJJ Gis.
Lower tier pricing < $80
Mid tier pricing $80 – 150
Upper tier pricing > $150
However there are differences between low tier, mid tier and upper tier pricing.
The difference between 140$ dollar Gi and $220+ Gi will be very minimal. The only Gi in this upper tier pricing that offers anything substantially different (outside of unique branding) in the market place is Origin Gis. Origin, a Jocko Willink apparel company, has an ethos of all American made clothing from thread, fabric and construction.
An Origin Gi will be at the upper tier pricing and will have a substantially different feel with their unique fabric options.
Pretty much all Gis at upper tier pricing will be well constructed, made with premium fabrics and materials, better stitching for durability and unique branding and logos.
The weaves, interior of the Gi lined with unique art, the embroidered logos and patches will all coalesce into a synthesis of premium product.
These upper tier Gi are for those with a love of the game and want to express themselves in a more unique way.
At the upper tier it’s about something unique and what appeals to the buyer. You will hardly go wrong with quality issues at this price point and the uniqueness.
Upper tier Gis are mostly about branding and brand loyalty.
Difference between mid tier and upper tier pricing
Usually the main difference comes to the way the Gi itself is branded. Usually the Gi itself is construction and material is premium but with more muted branding. Whereas the upper tier Gis may strive to go over the top with the embellishments and branding, Mid tier is business casual with an emphasis on business.
Difference between lower tier pricing and mid,upper tier pricing.
The difference between a $60Gi versus a $120 dollar is much more dramatic (Of course you dummy the Gi is twice as much!!! … Yes however context is needed).
There will be clear deliberation between these 2 price points in type, weight and construction of fabric used and the Gi itself.
The 2 biggest factors in the pricing of a garment will be the fabric input and the construction needed.
Furthermore to break down construction costs this depends on how fast a sewer can sew each garment PLUS the type of stitching of the sewing machine and the thread type and quantity of spool used to piece together the garment.
A sewer can sew faster a pair of simple shorts than an intricate evening dress thus the pricing will reflect that.
Essentially Time + Material = Cost of Goods sold for each article of clothing.
Clothing brands go to manufacturers with what is called a Spec Sheet, listing all the fabric, cut and stitching options for the construction of the garment. In the case of a BJJ Gi this means the stitching of the collar, sleeves of the jacket and pants.
Ok ok I got it but what does this mean in regards to a low tier and mid, upper tier priced Gi??
Yes before I explain that, let me talk about pricing/ costs from a manufacturer and wholesale perspective.
In this very over simplified example…the manufacturer will usually mark the price of the garment double then what their costs…so if a garment costs $5 dollars to manufacture then they will charge clothing brands $10 dollars.
The clothing brand then will need to cover their margins as well so that $10 will jump to 2x-3x more, in the case of the $10 dollar costed garment will whole sale to apparel store for $20-30 wholesale pricing and finally the apparel store will include their 2x or more markup…so eventually a garment the costed $5 dollars to produce in a factory will be bought by a end consumer for $40 dollars or more.
In the case of the Gi brands they will have 3 overall distribution points that will be direct to consumers (via the brand’s website), Amazon and wholesaling to Gym and third party websites like Fighter’s Market. Amazon will typically take a 30% cut or more of the pricing.
All that to say when you are buying a lower tier priced Gi the quality will reflect that versus the Mid tier priced Gi.
To have more durable Gi requires better, stronger fabric inputs combined with more intricate manufacturing thus the price will reflect that.
However at the end of the day you will need multiple Gis to train in, your will over time absolutely destroy your Gi’s as you progress so it is always good to have lower price Gis in your training Gi rotation. Lower tiered Gis will still overall have a decent quality and will have their place.
If you are in doubt between spending a little more above an entry level or lower price tiered Gi go for mid tier as the construction and overall quality of the Gi will be better. Upper tier Gis will be when you want something a little more different with branding you resonate with.
Don’t sweat your choice of Gi and its costs as throughout the life of your BJJ journey you will be going through a lot of Gis. Each Gi will be related in terms of sizing and material choice. Sometimes it seems the only difference between the Gi choices you see online is the logo and patches sewed onto the Gi itself… at least on the surface.
However if you dig deeper the the differences between lower tier to mid and upper tier priced Gis will be significant such that if you were not sure spending more on a Gi worth it.. It is to a point.
For a lot of jiteros the Gi (and its branding) in and of itself is much a part of the fun of the gentle art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Each priced tiered Gi serves a purpose in your training…. And each BJJ gi is an extension of the fashion choices we choose daily… Have fun with it!