Updated: Aug 13, 2022
So you found your way into the gym and had your first class. Maybe you did your first class in sweats and a tee-shirt, or perhaps you were able to borrow a Gi. Either way, chances are you now understand the importance of a good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gi. Now that your whistle is wet and you know you have to continue with this sport, it's time to go shopping!!
I'm one of those women who love shopping. Shopping for clothes, toys, home goods, gifts, just about anything that peaks my fancy. I know not everyone shares my love of the hunt, ideally finding my coveted item at less than retail price as I love the idea of a good deal. When it was time to buy my first Gi though, I got a little lost in the brands, sizes, and details. I was lucky as I had my husband beside me on the couch, to guide my online expedition. Hopefully, you will allow me to be your guide now and this will make your hunt a bit easier, as you are looking for your next little black (or blue, green, white) outfit.
Let's get down to business! (Does anyone else now have Donny Osmond's voice from Mulan, defeating the Huns, in their head now? No. Maybe it's just me.) It is time to buy a Gi. The first thing that you have to be aware of is how Gi's are sized. You need to know your height and weight, as all Gis are sized by a range of height and weight. There is some variance between brands but not enough that you'll find yourself wearing vastly different sizes. I'm essentially an A2 across the boards. I do find that some of the unisex brands are a bit long for me, which is why I tend towards brands for women unless I can try them on beforehand. By trying it on, I mean my husband has the brand and it is readily available. I couldn't even begin to tell you where a retail store is for Gis.
Here are a few examples of size charts that I pulled from the internet to give you an idea:
If you still aren't sure about what your size should be, especially if you have your eye on a certain Gi, ask the upper belts in your gym. There is a good chance that higher belts have gone through a number of Gis and can help you with sizing, pros, and cons. They may even have a similar Gi that you could try on before you buy it; just please ask BEFORE class starts so you don't look and smell like a complete swamp monster. I'm a pretty helpful person, but even I won't let your sweaty bum into my Gi after you work out.
Alright ya'll, we have conquered sizing! I hope you all feel accomplished. Now to move onto weave. It is easy to get bogged down in which weave is the best. Honestly, I don't think there is a "best" weave for people who are just starting out. Unless you are competing, I believe lightweight really is the best option. If you are competing, you will have to check to make sure your Gi is IBJFF regulation. Obviously, if you are purchasing a Gi with the intent of competing then you need to ask your professor about guidance so that your Gi is within competition regulation. I'm here for the more casual roll and training.
This is a cotton weave used on many entry-level Gis, but is not to be overlooked. Though it does tend to shrink a bit more compared to other styles, it is relatively light weight and soft as it is a looser weave.
The advantage of this weave is that it is very durable and comfortable, and it tends to be harder to grip than a thinner weave. The downfall is in the likely hood to shrink more than a tighter weave, such as a pearl weave.
This weave accounts for the vast majority of Gis on the market today. They are cheaper than gold weave, comes in a variety of weights, hardly shrinks and is very durable. Be warned, and inferior pearl weave is stiff and rough which can make training difficult.
This weave tends to be heavy and difficult to grip due to the thickness and stiffness of the material. It is expensive to produce and has tended to go by the wayside in the BJJ community though as people cross over from Judo we may see more double weaves.
This weave is standard for Gi pants. It is also used for Gi jackets, less frequently. The main benefit is that it is extremely light weight, however it was banned as Gi jacket material by most major tournaments.
My personal preference is for pearl weave with a ripstop pant. In fact, all four of my Gis are pearl weave jackets with ripstop pants. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit. I come by it honestly though. My husband has, we will say more than four Gis, and they are all similar.
What is the weight of your Gi? If you are talking in literal terms the weight is between 2 to 5 pounds (0.9 to 2.3 kilograms for our non-USA readers). Typically, the weight of a competition Gi is between 2 to 3 pounds. This isn't to be confused with the GSM or grams per square meter of a Gi.
The GSM is a different kind of weight which refers to the weight of the fabric used to create the Gi. Gis range between 350 GSM to 890 GSM, with the majority being from 350 GSM to 550 GSM. This is because of the current popularity of the Pearl Weave, which tends to be lighter than Gold Weaves or Double Weaves. What does this mean practically though?
The lighter the weave, the easier I find that I can move in the Gi. It is easier to grip, however I think that the mobility makes up for it. Personal opinion. I also tend to be hot-natured, so I prefer a lighter weave to not get overheated. My Gis typically are in the 350 to 450 GSM range. My husband has some that I believe are in the 550 range. I tend to lose elbow skin when I borrow his Gis, as they are definitely a bit rougher. If you don't mind elbow callouses ladies, go for it! Men don't seem to have the same issue from those I've spoken with.
Gi care is super important for the life of the Gi and maintaining its original length and shape. It is also super important to practice good Gi hygiene, or no one will want to roll with you. I bring my Gi home directly from the gym. I do not leave them in the car but bring them into the laundry room. I typically wash 2-4 Gis at a time. I will separate light-colored Gis from dark-colored Gis. The Gis all get washed on COLD cycle and HUNG TO DRY. This is important to prevent shrinkage. We actually put 2 inexpensive wall-mounted hanging racks in our laundry room for this reason. If you do want to shrink your Gi a bit I recommend short increments of placing the Gi in the dryer. If your Gi is particularly stinky, using laundry sanitizer (Lysol) and scent boosters (Gain) in addition to your laundry detergent makes a big difference.
Are you ready for my final thoughts on choosing a Gi?
When it comes to fit, ask. Chances are there are a number of different Gi brands represented in your gym. You will likely get good information about fit as well. For example, I like Fenom Apparel. It is solely for women, and the sizing takes into account ladies' curves (which I guess husky sizing does for men). Everyone will have an opinion but take them with a grain of salt when you decide which way to go.
When it comes to weave, most of what I have found is pearl weave. I like it. I don't have a strong opinion about searching for another weave as this is what is prominent in the market. I think weight probably factors more into wear and tear, but that is my own supposition.
I like a lightweight (lower GSM) Gi. I'm hot-natured and like my skin on my elbows. That being said, as my gym time is picking up, I reserve the right to change my mind. During my first 3 years of jiu-jitsu, I have barely put any wear and tear on my Gis. I also haven't, admittedly, been the most disciplined gym-goer. My husband has been in the gym regularly. I believe his Gis to be of a higher weight in the 550 range. These have withstood time and significant rolling. I suspect that my Gis will fare similarly, and time will tell.
Color matters! Training Gis are all about self-expression, in that there are no rules. As a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and BJJ wife, I despise white Gis. The sweat stains and random dirt that is on the mats get ground into the fabric, and no amount of Spray and Wash or OxyClean will get your Gi white again. I have rubbed fabric together, used white cloths, used brushes...to no avail. To that point, I have a grey, 2 black, and a green Gi :).
I hope that is helpful for you all! Happy shopping!!