Looking for a guide to purchasing your first BJJ Gi? You’ve come to right place. Selecting your gi is one of the few times in Brazilian jiujitsu were you will be bringing a physical product to your game. Jiujitsu does not utilize much in terms of equipment, unlike other sports like hockey or (American) football. In this way, selecting a gi is a real personal choice and can be a reflection of your game. While everyone wants to look like a million bucks, looks aren’t the only relevant factors in selecting a bjj kimono. Even if you are not looking for your first gi, you should spend time doing your research before deciding which gi to ultimately select. Here are some important factors to consider.
Every time you put on a Gi, you can’t lie. - Saulo Ribiero
This is a common mistake for many new players. Some gyms impose restrictions on the style or type of gi they allow on the mat. For instance, certain Gracie Barra affiliates are known to only allow branded team gis on the mat. You need to speak with your instructor if there are any restrictions before you go out and buy a gi. Before you spend over $100 on that pajama suit, make sure you can wear it on the mat! By the same token, finding a “plain-vanilla” gi does have its advantages if you are ever visiting a gym that has restrictions, they are more likely to let you on the mat if you have fewer affiliate patches and the like.
Beyond the formal restrictions of the gym, your teammates and training partners might also have an unspoken gym culture on what types of gis are acceptable. This is more subtle and hard to pick up on when your first walk into a gym. However, you can get a sense of it by just looking on the mat. If everyone is in a white gi with few patches, you are probably looking at a more traditional, conservative style uniform being favored. On the flip side, if you see black, purple and gray with patches galore, odds are that no one cares what gi you are wearing on the mat.
We advise that you don’t spend over $200 on your first gi. Buyer’s remorse is tough to swallow for a jacket that you will never wear again (although there are some gi resale options out there). Instead, find a reasonable budget that will allow you to select a good, basic Gi. Wait six months and then you can start considering buying your next shiny new kimono.
When you are looking for a GI it's important to ask yourself if you intend to compete in tournaments. If so, will you be competing in IBJJF tournaments? Most local tournaments will be less restrictive on meeting certain sizing guides, but the IBJJF standards are commonly followed. Of course, if you plan on competing at the IBJJF level eventually, then it will be important to select a Gi that meets the IBJJF uniform requirements. Instead, if you are like most folks, you may not care about competition and are fine with rolling at your home club or among other gyms without all the formalities of a tournament.
Lastly, if you are planning to compete its best to get a blue or white gi as these are commonly accepted at tournaments and competitions. Blacks gis and other colors may not be expected so know that with those colors you may only be allowed to compete in local tournaments depending on the rules.
There are several factors to consider if finding the right weights and material, but here are a few basics to consider.
A double weave is much heavier which generally means more durability. However, they take a lot longer to dry and they get really hot when rolling. Since these gis have thicker collars, they are difficult for your opponent to grip. Also, when wearing a heavier gi in tournaments, remember that you weigh in with the gi weight on. Thus, you may unintentionally have to adjust your true weight if you plan to use that heavy gi. You will have to experiment to see what you prefer. During the colder months, heavier gis can be nice, but on the flip side, wearing that double weave gi during the summer can be a real bear.
Lighter gis, on the other hand, are easier to maintain and much easier to deal with when rolling. While they might give your opponent slightly more favorable grips, the trade off in comfort might be worth it. They tend to breathe much easier and feel more open when rolling. Similarly, they take less time to wash and dry after practice. If you travel and need a gi to practice on the road, going light is a must for size and convenience. The convenience factor does come at a price however. Depending on the quality, lighter gis do wear down more easily and you can expect a shorter lifespan.
Unlike other traditional martial arts, BJJ practitioners have embraced the individuality as a hallmark of GI design. If you are a minimalist, looks for a gi that has few patches and logos. If you are maximalist, look for a gi with designs on the hems, and lots of patches pre-sown. Of course, there is no shortage of patches to add after the fact as well. The takeaway is don’t be afraid to take a few risks in finding a gi that reflects you. If you really want to spend the cash, which we do not recommend for a beginner, you can even get customized, personalized gis from certain companies, such as RollBliss and Killer Bee.
It goes without saying that you should do your research. Of course, we like our reviews here at BJJ Motivation, but don’t stop here. Surfing the reviews on Amazon.com is a great place to continue your research. Our favorite tip is to check the three-star reviews for any given gi (or any product for that matter) because these reviewers usually provide a balanced overview of a gi’s strengths and weaknesses.
We especially like the Youtube channel the GI Experts, which provides solid recommendations on gis and other gear.
Perhaps the best source for reviews is to simply ask the people at your gym. They will know what is up.
Do your best to determine how well your Gi is constructed. Of course, your mileage will vary on how well your gi will hold up in the long run, but you need to understand the various ways to clean and maintain your gi to maximize its lifespan. Does your Gi have a shrinkage problem? If so you will have to air dry over the course of owning it. Heavier gis use more detergent to clean, which adds to the wear. With colored gis, some colors fade faster than others. For instance, black might look great but after a dozen or so washes it will typically start to fade. If there is one tip to remember it is this: do not bleach your gi!
BJJ Gis typically follow a letter + number format. “A” is used for men’s sizes, “F” is used for women sizes and “M” is used for kid’s sizes. The sizes correspond to a standard weight and height combination selected by the brand. The size breakdown usually is as follows:
Some brands also do specialty sizes such as a A0 or A5. M000 and M00 are also sometimes available for children. Many companies are now using the “L” size, such as A2L. This is basically for those persons who are a little lengthier and thinner than “normal.” These sizes will follows slightly different weight/height combinations.
Remember that Gi sizing guides are neither universal nor are they usually right. One brand's A2 is another brand's A3. Try to find reviewers that share their own measurements so that you can compare against your own. This is probably the most difficult aspect of finding the “right” gi, and also the most elusive.
Beyond the basic sizing guidelines, there are some practical tips to finding the right a gi that has the best fit. These include checking the overlap of the collars and ensuring the back has very little flap in the back. Travis Steven breaks down these sizing tips in the following video.
While there are many gis to choose from for your first gi, in our view there are probably three that are worth your consideration. The first is the Fuji All Around, which offers a great price and fit. Second up is the Kingz Basic 2.0 which has great comfort and quality in a classic fit. Lastly, the Tatami Nova is a great lightweight choice. For more in depth discussion on the best, affordable BJJ gis, see our beginner bjj gi reviews.