Buying a BJJ Gi is a fun but sometimes confusing experience. There are many options out there, and not many explanations that make sense. This goal of this buying guide is to inform you of all the things you should consider when choosing the right Jiu Jitsu Gi for you.
First it is important to know that there is a difference between Jiu Jitsu Gis and Gis from other martial arts (Judo, Karate, Taekwondo, etc). Jiu Jitsu Gis are made to be much more durable because they are constantly being grabbed and pulled. The thinner materials found in gis from non-grappling martial arts would likely tear the first time on the mat.
A common mistake is thinking that a Judo Gi can be used for BJJ. While the material itself is probably durable enough, Judo Gis have wider sleeves. This extra material gives your opponent more to grip onto. In fact, they can even grip the sleeve in such a way that your hand is trapped inside - not good. In BJJ, you want to give your opponent as little to grab onto as possible. This is why Jiu Jitsu Gis are more form fitting than Judo Gis.
Okay, so how do I choose a gi?
The most important attribute of a BJJ gi is the weave. The weave of a gi determines how much material is used and how it is sewed together. This determines the gi's weight, thickness, and durability.
There is some standardization around BJJ gis with single weave, double weave, and gold weave (click here for more on jiu jitsu gi weaves). However, there are an increasing number of manufacturers that are creating their own special gi weaves. This is a good thing because they are innovating to create better weaves, but it makes the shopping experience harder as it is difficult to compare the gis from one manufacturer to another.
To simplify the Jiu Jitsu gi buying process, we have created our own gi categories. Note that this is based on our own evaluation, and is not specified by the manufacturers. Here is what goes into our evaluation:
We created 5 categories for Gis: Value Gis, Ultra Light Gis, Hybrid Light Gis, Premium Light Gis, Premium Heavy Gis
Ultra Light Gis-are the lightest gis on the market. These gis are great for training in warmer weather as they are very light and breathable. Also, they are great for weighing in at BJJ competitions if you are close to the limit of your weight division. Ultra Light Gis are made of special weaves that add durability so that less material can be used to make the gi. They are similar to the weaves found in the Hybrid Light Gis, but the material is lighter and sometimes less cotton is used. Due to the special weaves, Ultra Lights can be more durable than Value Gis, but they tend to be less durable than all other categories. Also they tend to be very thin, which makes it easier for your opponent to grab (like Value Gis).
Hybrid Light Gis-in this category combine the lightness of the Value Gis with the durability of the Premium Heavy Gis (usually gold weave or something similar). The lightness and durability of these Gis make them extremely popular for competition and everyday training. The special weaves here also enable them to be thicker without weighing a lot.
Premium Light Gis-Similar to the Hybrid Light Gis in that they focus on lightness and durability, the Premium Light Gis have additional quality and features. These additional features improve the gi's performance, functionality and/or looks. Here are some examples:
Premium Heavy Gis-The Gis in this category use more material to create a very thick weave (double weave or something similar). Gis in this category are the thickest, which means you get the most advantage in making it harder for your opponent to grip and manipulate your gi.
Premium Heavy Gis are also the most durable due to the extra material. The extra material is what makes them cost more.
BJJ Gis typically come in sizes from A0 to A6. The 'A' stands for 'Adult' sizing and the number just represents different sizes for adults, with the higher number being for the bigger size. Kids Gis follow different sizing, sometimes M0 - M4 and sometimes 000, 00, 0, 1, etc.
Note that each manufacturer uses these sizes differently. For instance, you can be an A2 with the Vulkan Pro Light Gi but an A3 with the Gameness Pearl Weave Gi. You should always check the sizing chart specific to the Gi you are buying.
BJJ Gis come in many colors - white, blue, black, red, yellow, purple, pink, camouflage and more. The most important thing to consider when selecting a color is what is appropriate for competition and training:
BJJ gi collars/lapels either use cotton or rubber to fill them (it is always cotton on the outside). Cotton gi collars are more traditional, but rubber collar fills offer certain advantages: they are lighter weight, more difficult to grab (because they are less flexible), and faster drying because they do not absorb sweat. Due to these advantages, rubber collars are becoming increasingly popular for both training and competition.
Jiu Jitsu Gis these days are usually made with pre-shrunk cotton, which means you don't have to worry about the material shrinking. However, there is the option out there for shrink-to-fit gis. For these you wash them and dry them until they fit just right, after which you never dry them again (periodically take the gi out of the dryer and try it on for size). If you want a gi that is more exact to your size, go with shrink-to-fit. However, this is a bit higher maintenance and you run the risk of over-shrinking!