Nothing's worse than an ill-fitting gi. It's one thing to have ill-fitting street clothes, but you don't normally have people grabbing and pulling you into Del la Riva guard on the street.
In jiu jitsu, it's important to have a gi that fits well. If it's too baggy, your opponent has plenty of material to grab and wrap you up in. If it's too tight, it restricts your movement and you won't be able to pass, sprawl or invert as freely. Simple enough... but when the vast number of gis are sold online, finding a gi that fits well right out of the package is no easy feat.
Of course, there's no substitute for trying a gi on before you buy. That's when physical store fronts (Fighters Market has one in San Diego) and pop-up stores at the major IBJJF events come in handy. But if you're not in San Diego or a competitor, you have few other options than to shop online.
Here are some tips to help you out:
Don't Let Your Ego Get in the Way
Just as with your regular everyday clothes, it's easy to think you're a size smaller or bigger than you are, based on how you'd like to see yourself. But as I mentioned before, you don't want to make this mistake with a gi. How do you know if it's the right fit? For one, your gi pants should be large enough that you can do a full squat in them without the material stretching too tight around your thighs or your backside, but not too large that the hems go well past your ankles. Likewise, your gi jacket should be roomy enough around the shoulders that you can easily rotate them, and the lapel ends should be able to cross when you close the jacket around your middle. However, you don't want the sleeves to be too long that they cover your hands, or too wide that your opponent can easily grab them.
Check the Sizing Guides
Almost all gi brands will have a sizing guide that you can reference to find the right size. Most of the time, these guides are limited to height and weight, which - as you can probably guess - isn't always the best. If you're an average body type, yeah, these sizing guides will be fairly useful. But how many people really fit the average? So take these sizing guides with a grain of salt. There are some gi brands that also include arm and leg length, and others that include even more specific measurements. Especially if you're shopping on an e-commerce site like Fighters Market, it's wise to check both the sizing guides posted on the site, as well as the sizing guides that the brands post on their own websites. And know that these days, a lot of gi brands offer alternate sizes, like L and H (for long and husky) body types.
Know that All Brands are Not Equal
If you've already bought a gi or two, and you're looking to buy more, maybe from another brand... you must know that all brands are not created equal. If you're a size A1 in one brand, you may not be a size A1 in another. And if you are a size A1 in both, one may not fit exactly like the other. This is because most brands have their own pattern that they use, which is sized up and down accordingly. So when you're buying gis, keep this in mind and don't get upset when the gi you've ordered online from a new brand doesn't fit exactly as you're used to.
Return... But Wisely
To accommodate the inconvenience of not being able to try on a gi, online gi retailers offer returns - sometimes free, sometimes not. Before you purchase a new gi, it's important that you check the website to see their return policy. Of course, you definitely want to avoid the lengthy and irritating process of having to buy a gi, find it doesn't fit, return it, and wait for a new one to arrive, but if it's unavoidable, it's unavoidable. Just practice wise returning, as I've already detailed in a previous blog post.
Finding the right size gi is a pain, especially when you're just starting out on your jiu jitsu journey and you don't have as much experience doing it. But hopefully this article has given you some useful guidance.
Train on... Oss.