BJJ Gi and Kimono Buying Guide

It looks like the very same issues often appear when people start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu…


Everybody seems to ask the same questions.  Below, we'll answer the most commonly asked questions about buying and maintaining your gi.

 Can I just use any gi or kimono for BJJ?

Well, you could, however I highly instruct against it.

To the untrained eyes, they look comparable, but are all very different sorts of uniforms. For example, a judo uniform has a loose cut; the sleeves as well as collar will probably be much easier for your opponent to grab and employ against you.

And the tae kwon do or even karate uniform you are used to from grade school (c'mon, who didn't do karate? LIAR!) are extremely slim and will never survive in BJJ training, they’ll tear after a couple of grappling sessions. Most of all, you’re probably going to be turned down when you try to compete in tournaments; many businesses have tough rules on gi’s . . . especially the larger organizations like the IBJJF.

But I might be wrong.  You might be able to get away with using an old gi. This is acceptable in the event that this is OK with the instructor.

However in the event that a person is really serious regarding BJJ, buy any true BJJ uniform as quickly as you can.

“OK! I get it! I'll get a BJJ gi.  But what color?”

BJJ gi’s generally are available in white, blue, or black. Some crazier colors are becoming more popular like red, green, camouflage, yellow, or even pink. Many tournaments just permit blue, black, or white, so that is probably a secure pick. Also, some schools believe it disrespectful to put on a colored uniform that isn’t blue or white.

Another consideration with color is contrast stitching.

Many new gi companies are issuing solid color gis (in the traditional blue white, or black) with the stitching in a contrasting color.  This is very common and most look very nice.  They are becoming increasingly popular and, thus, less expensive.

Initially a gi with contrast stitching was very rare and would cost nearly three hundred dollars, but now they can be bought for the low price of around one hundred dollars.

To begin with, check with your school on what colors tend to be appropriate. Then look into the competitions in your town that you’re planning to take part in.

If both of those categories let you choose your uniform color freely, pick whatever you like. Be cautioned however, putting on a fancy gi might get you a few responses, and it may get you a few looks here and there, but be careful or risk somebody really calling you out on it.

In fact, unless it is extremely common in your area for people to wear non-traditional colors, don’t by a non- blue or white gi until you are no longer a white belt.  There's nothing that makes people want to wrestle with you a bit harder than they should like being in your first week of class wearing a $300 gi.

So, what’s with all of these different weaves?

Okay, okay. Don’t have a meltdown. I know it can be a lot at first. Let me see if I can straighten things out a bit. I’ve ordered them by weight. Lightest are listed first and the heaviest are listed last.

Ultra Lite / Pro Lite /Lightweight / Pearl / Summer – These are the lightest of all of the gis and kimonos. They are very easy for you and your opponent to manipulate (very high mobility) and definitely won’t last forever. They are, however, GREAT for IBJJF tournaments (as you have to weigh in with the gi on). They also offer the best breathability so if your gym is a sauna like mine is during the summer (and even the winter when classes get over 20 people), then this may be a solid choice for you.  Pearl weave is the best of these options if you're going to train in it every day.

Single – Let’s just use this gi as our standard. It will generally last a decent amount of time, has a moderate amount of breathability to it. It has a good balance between durability and mobility.

Gold / Platinum / Hybrid – These gis are in between the single and the double. They’re fairly popular because they are more durable than the single and a little harder for your opponent to grip, but not nearly as thick as the double.

Double / Iron – Suits of armor. These gis will last forever. They are at the opposite of the lightweight gis in that they aren’t as mobile (some double-weave pants are denim) and they are very hard to manipulate. They also weigh a lot more than a lightweight and are best suited for training, unless you can weigh in for a competition without the gi.  If you train in how weather, I'd advise against getting one of these.

Okay, so how do I keep from ruining these things?

First, don’t be gross. Wash your gi after each time you roll. Nobody is more disgusting than the guy who just takes off his sweaty gi and leaves it hanging in the locker room to dry for weeks at a time. Yuck.

This is also helpful because nobody wants to train with a guy who smells! Don’t get labeled as the MRSA or “Ringworm guy.” Every academy has one and nobody likes him (Note: It’s always a dude. Girls are much smarter and better at staying clean than we are).

If you don’t want your gi to shrink, wash it on cold and hang dry it. Hang drying also helps the gi last longer. It’s okay to dry your gi, just know that it wears out faster this way. The more processes you put it through, the shorter its durability.

If you bought a colored gi like all the other cool kids (just not yellow.. never yellow), make sure you wash it the first time in vinegar. They make sure to lock in the color as best they can at the factory before they ship the gi out, but it never hurts to do a little extra.

NEVER bleach your gi. Oxyclean and other detergents will get blood and other stains off the gi, but bleach will destroy the fabric and your gi will get torn to shreds in training.

So, what if my gi is “shrink to fit?”

Most gis, even those that are pre shrunk, will shrink when you get them to a small degree.  But some gis are not pre-shrunk and you shrink them until they fit you perfecty.  Here’s how one shrinks their gi to fit:

1. Wash your gi in hot water and put it in the dryer

2. Check it every few minutes and try it on to see if it fits

3. When you find that it fits perfect, do not put it back into the dryer

4. Hang in on a drying rack or hanger and never, ever, put it in the dryer again

This is a cool option because it will fit you perfectly in a way that a normal ‘out of the box' gi just cannot.

If my gi is already pre-shrunk, what size should I get?

Always defer to the chart listed on the manufacturers or the distributor’s website.  This is really important because every company is different.  Just like trying on gym shoes, one company’s size may be totally different than another.  Just because you’re an A4 in one manufacturer, doesn’t mean you couldn’t be an A3 or A5 in another.

If you’re in doubt, just give them a call or an e-mail.  I have never heard of a company that wasn’t happy to make a recommendation based on your measurements or description.  The phone call will also give you a good gauge of their customer support. If they don't care enough to return the initial call or mail, why bother with them?

Key point: When in doubt, order a size up and shrink it a bit.  Better to be baggy than too small.

 Okay, so I know my size, what’s the best gi out there?

This answer is different for everybody.  Some people prefer their rare 400 dollar gi while others would rather wear the cheapest gi they can find.

Gi’s aren’t like other things, you don’t always get what you pay for.

A 70 dollar gi may be the same, if not better, than an expensive gi.  Heck, some of the time, two gis are made in the same factory, branded differently, and sold for different prices.  It’s in your interest to find out if this is the case for the gi you like.

Pick your color, what weave you want, what size, and then go for it.  If you want a super cheap gi, grab there are plenty out there.  If you’d prefer a flashy gi, there are those as well.

If you want to start looking at what gis get great comments, then check out our reviews.

The best place I have found for gi selection is Budovideos.  You can check them out by clicking the banner below.  If you have somewhere else that you prefer, please LET ME KNOW!!

Best of luck to you in your new gi purchase! If you have any questions, please leave a note on our Facebook Wall!