How to Find the Perfect Jiu-Jitsu Gi
Finding the perfect jiu-jitsu gi can be challenging. How do you know what’s a good “fit”? What size is best for your body type? What’s the deal with all the different fabrics?
Whether you’re new to the gentle art, or a long-time BJJ veteran, these are important questions. You want a jiu-jitsu gi that fits right, performs well, and fits your style and preferences… you want to find the “perfect jiu-jitsu gi.”
Admittedly, finding the perfect gi can be a bit of a trial and error process. But there ARE some things that can help you narrow down the field. What are they? Read on…
How Should my Gi Fit?
A good gi should fit like a well-tailored suit: not too baggy, but also not too tight.
A jiu-jitsu gi that’s too tight will restrict your movement, diminishing your ability to retain or regain guard, move around your opponent, and even pass quickly and efficiently. You want to be able to move your limbs freely in all directions… at least to the limit of your natural flexibility. On the other hand, a BJJ gi that’s too baggy is also a detriment. It will get in your way, get caught up in your or your opponent’s movements, and make it that much easier for your opponent to catch and retain grips.
When trying to find the perfect jiu-jitsu gi for you, keep these in mind:
- Your sleeves should hit at or slightly above your wrist with your arms stretched out in front of you.
- Your jacket should have plenty of room around the shoulders and armpits. Rotate your arms to check for any restriction.
- You should be able to a full squat without fear of splitting your pants.
- Your pants should be slightly baggy around the thighs and knees, allowing room for flexion.
- Your top should be able to fully close around your torso, with one lapel comfortably overlapping the other.
What Size Should I Get?
Now that you know HOW a gi should fit… how do you choose the appropriate size?
Luckily, many gi companies now offer a wide range of sizes, as well as in-between sizes. Gone are the days were A1 to A5 was it, and tough cookies if they didn’t fit you.
For those on the small size, many gi companies offer down to size A0 or even A00, and up to size A6. For those lankier practitioners, consider “L” sizes to fit your longer limbs. For the huskier fellows, several gi companies have “H” sizes, which offer a bit more room in key areas. Many companies also offer women’s cuts. But take these with a grain of salt, as they’re often just the same unisex cut, just sized down. The best women’s gis account for wider hips and narrower shoulders, but women come in all shapes and sizes, so a unisex cut might even fit you better than a “women’s” cut.
Keep in mind that the length of your sleeves and pants can always be adjusted by a tailor. In fact, unless your jiu-jitsu gi fits absolutely perfect straight out of the box, you should really consider getting all of your gis tailored. When your gi fits good, you’ll feel good, and you’ll perform better (even if it’s just the placebo effect, it works, believe me).
A final point to make on size: jiu-jitsu gi brands don’t use standardized sizing charts. You might be an A1 in one brand, and an A2 in another.
What Fabrics make up the Perfect Jiu-Jitsu Gi?
Unlike your regular wardrobe, jiu-jitsu gi fabrics are limited to just a few very durable fabrics. But there are critical variations within that range that could be the difference between a “meh” jiu-jitsu gi and a perfect jiu-jitsu gi.
First of all, let’s consider the jacket. With very few exceptions, most jiu-jitsu gi jackets are made from a durable cotton fabric, typically in some variation of a pearl weave. There are some gis jackets made from canvas or rip stop, but these are not IBJJF legal, so they’re few and far in between. There are several different types of jacket weaves, which we’ve already covered in THIS BLOG.
More important than the weave, is the fabric weight. This is typically given in the gi description with some number followed by GSM, which stands for “grams per square meter.” Lighter weight jackets will be between 375 and 425 GSM. Any lighter than that and the jacket is more prone to ripping. Mid-weight gis range from 425 to 480 GSM, and heavyweight gis – so called, double weaves – can go all the way up to 800 GSM (or more).
Jiu-jitsu pants typically come in two different types of fabric: drill cotton (kind of like a lighter and more flexible canvas) and ripstop (which is a tactical fabric made from nylon or nylon blends). Like gi jackets, pants come in different weights; usually between 8 oz to 12 oz. Cotton pants tend shrink in the dryer, stretch when wet, and get softer over time. Ripstop pants are incredibly tear-resistant, but as a result, don’t stretch or shrink at all, even if you want them to.
Finding the Perfect Jiu-Jitsu Gi…
Choosing the perfect gi for you really comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the lightest gi they can get, while others like weightier and more durable gis. Some people like a baggier, more traditional fit, while others prefer a slimmer, more sport-friendly fit.
Whatever your preference, make sure that you can easily return and exchange your gis to avoid being stuck with an ill-fitting gi.