What to Look for When Buying a Gi?
What GI should I get?
Whether you have just started your BJJ journey or have been training since before it became the mainstream form of self-defense it is today... at some point, you will be in the market for a Gi. Obviously, the only exception to this is the exclusively No-Gi grappler (rash guards and rubber guard club - love you guys). But, if any of you decide to cross over to the Gi side, I hope this breakdown can help you navigate the endless sea of Gi brands, weaves, and styles.
Terms like lightweight, pearl weave, hemp, and women’s cut (which I will address at the end), can make the average Jiu-Jitsu student feel like the task of deciding which one to buy is more complicated than choosing ANY other piece of clothing you will EVER own! So, out of desperation, most of us just ask other people we train with for advice. This isn’t a bad idea. You can learn a lot about the quality of a brand by asking others how well their Gi has held up for them. However, this will only give one angle of information. Gi shopping is a little more complex than that...
Breaking it down simply - to really understand what type of Gi will suit you best, you have to look at what YOUR individual needs are. Are you an open guard player? Are you a pressure game player? Do you train in hot weather? Do you overheat easy? Do you want to make it harder for your opponent to grip your Gi? Taking a few moments to think objectively about how you train and what you are training for (competition of pure self-defense) can be your greatest tool in narrowing down the KIND of Gi that will make you happy. I won’t be talking about different name brands - that is a journey you must make alone... God speed. But, we can narrow the field by talking about a few main differences.
Knowing that the Gi you buy will also be the Gi that you use for the competition can sometimes play a part in the decision you make. Are you competing in an organization that weighs you in with your Gi? Do you cut it close on making your ideal weight class (no shame, most of us can relate). Then, a lightweight Gi may be important to you. A lightweight Gi can also benefit you if your strategy involves needing quick or explosive movements (open guard players and barenbolo guys and girls, for example). Some other perks to a more lightweight Gi are; less likely to not overheat, easier to move freely, more comfortable and dries faster (since hang dry is the preferred method, this can be huge for some people). The downside to lightweight Gi’s? They obviously won’t hold up as well in the long run. The thinner material will be vulnerable to rips, holes and showing wear and tear more easily.
However, if you compete at a more natural weight class for you and making weight is not normally an issue - a heavier Gi also has many benefits. A thicker Gi will be harder for your opponent to grab onto and easier for you to break grips (whether it’s lapels or otherwise). Think gripping onto a towel vs. rug. One is obviously much easier. Also, a heavier Gi will normally withstand more punishment and therefore have a longer life span. In a sport built on controlled punishment, that might mean a lot. Again, there are downsides here, as well. These types of Gi’s tend to shrink more over time. They can feel like an extra couple of pounds before an open mat and even more after some hard rolls. Hot weather or being prone to overheating can make these Gi’s pretty uncomfortable (but since being ‘uncomfortable’ is kind of what we do, maybe it’s not issued?). And, they definitely take longer to dry.
Self Defense Training:
So, if you’re not really interested in competing and train purely for self-defense and/or fitness, then most of the above still apply. The pros and cons can easily be relatable in a competition lifestyle or not. For the differences, you still need to look at how you train and where you train. For instance, a heavier Gi would be more suitable for a colder climate, not just for the comfort aspect, but to practice handling someone while you are wearing heavier clothes. So, using that logic, a lightweight Gi would be more beneficial in a warmer climate. If you really like to push yourself during your training, then a heavier Gi is going to make your work a little harder and give you that extra workout that a lot of us love about the sport. If you train hard more than two times a week than consider the wear and tear that your Gi will be getting. A lightweight Gi might need to be replaced sooner than a heavier one. Extra note: if you like to train without a shirt or rash guard, then a nice liner in whichever type you choose might up your comfort factor. Also, be aware that your gym may have rules on what colors are appropriate for certain belt levels. It’s always better to be respectful and ask before you make a purchase and regret it.
Lightweight to Heavyweight Scale:
Weaves listed from lightweight to heaviest - single weave, double weave, pearl weave (currently the most common), gold weave, other specialty weaves. ‘Weave’ is a similar idea to the ‘thread count’ in sheets.
Fabric - cotton, ripstop, bamboo, hemp and many different blends of these materials change the feel and weight of each Gi. Checking the weave and listed the weight of each Gi will help you decide if it is more lightweight or heavy.
Now, if I could just get my Jiu-Jitsu to be that consistent...