BJJ Gi Guide
A BJJ gi or kimono may be just about the coolest piece of apparel one can own. It’s worn for one purpose – to train jiu-jitsu. It’s made to be extremely durable and is really nothing short of armor for the mats, albeit it’s armor that can be used against you if you're not careful. We put together the ultimate BJJ gi guide to help those in the market for a kimono understand exactly what to look for. Whether you purchase a Rolljunkie BJJ gi or one from a different manufacturer, we hope this guide will be helpful for finding the right gi.
The cost of kimonos can vary widely, but in general you can expect to pay between $75 - $200 for a kimono. There are some kimonos that fall out of this price range including those you will find on the secondary ebay market, but for the most part kimonos are usually within this range. So what’s the difference between a $100 gi and a $200 gi? There are a lot of different things that can affect price including fabric, weight, brand, where it is manufactured, and even color. We’ll cover most of these variables later on in this guide.
Most adult men’s BJJ kimonos come in sizes that generally range (going smaller to larger) as A0 – A6. There are also variations available depending on brand such as A2 Slim or A3 Heavy that are made for body types that may be slim or heavier than the standard sizes. Standard sizes will vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer so make sure to review the sizing chart before purchasing.
Women’s and kids sizes will often use a different variable substituted for the A such as W or C followed by the number.
It is also important to note that there are some other manufacturers that just use sizes 0-6 (no ‘A’ prefix). Often times you will see this size convention with academy kimonos. Sizes in this convention do not usually correspond to sizes using ‘A’ in the front. For example, because you are an ‘A3’ in a Rolljunkie kimono does not mean you will be a ‘3’ in another brand. In most cases you will be several numbers different. A size A3 may actually be a size 5 in another brand.
In addition, some BJJ gi manufacturer’s pre-shrink their kimonos while others do not. Knowing how much shrinkage to expect on your kimono will help you purchase a kimono that will fit properly even after several washes.
Durability is big factor when selecting a BJJ gi. The more durable, the longer your kimono will last. Durability will vary between manufacturers so you will want to find a brand that has a good reputation. Generally, kimono tops will out last your kimono pants as tops are made with thicker fabrics than the pants. There are even some websites dedicated just to selling pants because they rip so often. For the kimono top, most will find that the heavier the weave, the more durable they are. You will also want a top made without a seam cut down the middle of the back. Most are made this way now, but it’s still worth mentioning. The seam may be uncomfortable when playing guard from the bottom. Some may also consider using a judo gi for training jiu-jitsu. Judo gis should do the job if you do not have any other options, but the skirts on the kimono tops are usually of a lighter fabric that may not last under constant BJJ training. In addition, judo gis are cut much baggier than a typical jiu-jitsu gi which really puts you at a disadvantage since your opponent has more fabric to grab ahold of. We certainly would not recommend using a judo gi for bjj competition. Depending on the competition, it may not be legal either.
Fit will depend largely on your own body type and will vary widely from brand to brand. For competition, you will usually look for a fit that is as snug as possible while still being IBJJF legal. The looser your kimono, the more fabric your opponent has to grab ahold of. However, there are some offensive techniques that make use of grabbing your own gi. If you’re not sure on the rules for IBJJF competition, be sure to check them so you can make sure your kimono meets their requirements.
Skirt length is one of the biggest variables between manufacturers when it comes to fit. Some gi companies have really long skirts while others are shorter. The best length for you is really a matter of personal preference. We have made our Rolljunkie kimonos with an average skirt length.
For those with lanky or heavy build, there are some manufacturers that provide tall/slim and heavy fits designed for these body types.
Gi Fabric, Weight, and Weave
The majority of kimonos on the market today are made from cotton. However, there are some manufacturers that make kimonos in other material such as hemp or bamboo. For this purpose of this article, we’ll focus on kimonos that are made from cotton.
Weight and weave of a kimono describes how heavy the fabric is that the kimono is made of. Kimonos in recent years have been trending toward lighter and lighter materials. Lightweight and ultra-lightweight kimonos are becoming increasing more popular, especially for competitions.
Some manufacturers will provide a measurement on the weight of the cotton material by providing the GSM or Grams Per Square Meter in addition to the type of weave. Single weaves are the lightweight kimonos and typically range between 350gsm and 550gsm. Often they are described as pearl weave or may be called by other proprietary weave names. Gold weaves are heavier and stronger than single weaves and are typically made with around 550gsm. Double weaves are the heaviest and strongest type of fabric used for kimonos. They come in at around 750gsm and are extremely durable. Of course they are very heavy so be prepared to sweat if you opt for this type of weave. Different weaves typically have different patterns on the fabric as well. Most Rolljunkie jiu-jitsu kimonos are pearl weave made from 450gsm.
Some manufacturers will also use ripstop in their kimonos. Ripstop can be made from a variety of materials including cotton, polyester, and nylon. The material is woven together to produce a strong and lightweight fabric. You can identify ripstop by the small square patterns on the fabric. The squares are designed to prevent a rip from spreading by isolating it to a particular square. However, BJJ is very demanding on all fabrics and even with ripstop, rips can still occur and expand.
Washing your jiu jitsu gi
Washing your jiu-jitsu kimono is an important part of maintaining proper hygiene for both you and your teammates. Kimonos should be washed after every training session to ensure they are bacteria free.
Manufacturers, including us, typically recommend washing your kimono in cold water and hang drying in order to get the maximum life out of your gi. This will also prevent your kimono from shrinking. Line drying in sunlight when possible will help kill bacteria. In addition, bleaching your gi is not recommended by manufacturers as this will actually weaken the fabric of the kimono. Hang dried kimonos may sometimes feel stiff like cardboard. To resolve this, some recommend tossing the dry kimono in the dryer for a few minutes with no heat to air fluff the gi.
Manufacturer’s recommendations are nice, but not always practical. Not everyone has the time to hang dry kimonos or lives in an area where kimonos can be line dried in sunlight. For many, washing your kimono in hot water with bleach and tossing it in the dryer works just fine and is much more practical. If you go this route, then you may shorten the life of you kimono somewhat, but you will always know that your kimono is clean and bacteria free. Just be sure to size for expected shrinkage from drying. You may also experience things like “bacon collar” due to the shrinking of the fabric around the kimono lapel.
Colored gis typically require special care when compared to white kimonos. In order to hold the color of the kimono, manufacturers may recommend soaking the kimono in water and vinegar as this will help the dye color to set. If you are not concerned much with fading, then you skip the vinegar soak. There is also some debate over how much the vinegar soak actually works.
Buyers should also note that colored kimonos usually cost slightly more than the same kimono in white due to the higher cost of the colored fabric.
Pants Belt Loops And Drawstring
The number of belt loops on a kimono will vary by manufacturer. Almost all have at least 2 and some have as many as 6. In our opinion, the more belt loops the better although you can easily get by with less. It helps secure the pants more and helps prevent too much stress on any individual belt loops. Belt loops will sometimes rip from the pants, so having the extra belt loops available just in case is always nice.
Drawstrings are usually made of cotton. There are a few different types available. We prefer a cord drawstring that stretches. We feel this helps tighten the pants around the waist a little more than a non-stretch drawstring or flat drawstring.
Most kimono manufacturers make lapels out of EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) with fabric stitched around it. The foam makes for a durable and sturdy lapel. There are claims that the EVA foam has anti-bacterial properties which obviously would be a good thing, but how much of this is marketing is not really certain. EVA may also be faster drying than all fabric lapels. All fabric lapels were in use before EVA foam lapels became popular. Fabric lapels are a bit more flexible. Some will claim these lapels are actually less prone to bacteria than foam lapels. We have made kimonos with both types of lapels and really have not noticed too much of a difference between foam and standard cloth lapels. It’s hard to go wrong with either.
When to Replace Your Jiu Jitsu Gi
Gi's can last a long time, but at some point it will need to be replaced. If your gi rips beyond repair, then you will obviously need to replace it. Some people will get extra life out of a BJJ gi by having rips sewn up so they can continue to be used. Other gi’s may shrink beyond usability or develop a odor that just wont seam to go away completely. Both are good reasons to replace a gi.
Rotating gis will help all your gi's last longer. And if you train a lot, it gives you time to clean and dry one kimono while you use others in your rotation. Besides everyone knows that gi hoarding is not a crime.
About This Guide
We hope you found this guide useful. If you liked it, please share or link to it. In addition, we’d love to hear your feedback on how we can improve it. We’ll be updating the guide from time to time with even more information that may be useful when it comes to jiu jitsu gis.