Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art that doesn’t require much equipment. If you have a pair of bodies and a mat, you have almost everything you need. But unless you’re planning on only ever practicing no-gi jiu-jitsu, there’s one more item you’ll need: a jiu-jitsu gi. Whether you’re brand new to jiu-jitsu, just dipping your toes into gi jiu-jitsu, or a seasoned practitioner looking for the best gi for your needs, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the variety of gis available on the market. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this complete buyer’s guide for choosing the right jiu-jitsu gi.
First things first: not all jiu-jitsu gis are equal. Gis vary in weight, materials, fit, aesthetic and more. You should take each of these factors into account when purchasing a gi. To help you narrow down your options start with several key questions:
- Am I looking for an everyday training gi or a competition and special occasion gi?
- Do I have a unique body type that would require a specially fitting gi?
- Will I be using this gi in a sweltering hot training room?
- Do I like a flashy, eye-catching style or am I more understated in my fashion?
- How much am I ready to pay for my gi?
Keeping these questions in mind will help you sort out which gi is right and which gi is wrong for you.
What are the IBJJF gi requirements?
Before we dive into specific gis and the differences between them, let’s first take a look at the requirements of a properly fitting jiu-jitsu gi. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is the world’s largest competition organization and sets requirements for gi fit. Essentially all gis on the market today adhere to these regulations, but it’s important to keep them in mind and they’re a helpful guideline to determine if your gi fits you properly, even if you have no intention of ever competing.
The full IBJJF gi requirements can be found here. Those requirements include restrictions on where patches can be displayed on your gi, but with respect to gi fit, here’s what you should keep in mind:
- “The GI top should reach the athlete’s thigh and the sleeves should come to no more than 5 cm from the athlete’s wrist when the arm is extended straight parallel to the ground.
- GI pants should reach no more than 5 cm above the tibial malleolus (ankle bone).
- The inspection will verify whether the following official measurements are met: GI lapel thickness (1.3 cm), width of GI collar (5 cm), opening of sleeve at full extension (7 cm).”
What weight of gi should I buy?
With those requirements in mind, we can move forward to perhaps the biggest difference among gis: the weight of the gi. A jiu-jitsu beginner might assume that the best gis, no matter what, are lighter in weight. They are, after all, much more comfortable in hot temperatures, dry quicker and we are conditioned to believe that lighter is better.
But don’t jump to this conclusion too quickly. There are a couple of downsides to purchasing a lightweight gi. First, in order to save on weight, these gis are typically made with with thinner, less durable materials. Accordingly, these gis tend to wear out quicker than heavier gis made with more substantial materials. Additionally, because these gis are made with thinner and lighter materials, they are easier for opponents to grab and grip. For that reason, we don’t recommend using lightweight gis in competition, unless making weight with a heavier gi is an issue.
Of course, there are downsides to purchasing a heavier gi as well. For obvious reasons, these gis are hotter to train in. If your home gym is in South Florida and the air conditioner only works half the time don’t choose a heavy gi for your day-to-day training. However, if you’re in the market for a competition gi or a training gi that is built to last for years (and you don’t mind sweating a little bit extra), invest in a heavier gi.
Gi manufacturers often refer to the grams per square meter, or “GSM,” of a gi’s material. As the name suggests, this measurement indicates the weight of the gi material. The higher the number, the heavier the gi. Heavier gis will have a GSM of around 450 or higher, while lighter gis will have a GSM of 350 or lower.
Gi weaves explained
In broad terms, the type of weave used for the gi determines the weight of the gi. Single weave gis tend to be lighter in weight but are less durable. Double weave gis, as you’d expect, are heavier and more durable. Additionally, single weave gis are often less expensive, and would be a good entry-level gi for a practitioner just dipping his or her toes in the water of gi jiu-jitsu.
You’ll also run into other weaves, such as honeycomb, pearl, and gold weave. These weaves refer to differences in the look and feel of the material, but for our purposes, they are typically similar in weight and durability to a double weave. If you see these types of weaves, know that the gi will generally be heavier and more durable.
How do I choose the right size of gi?
When choosing a gi, proper fit might be the most important overall factor. It doesn’t matter how durable or beautiful your gi is, if it doesn’t fit your body type, it’s of no use. This is more than just fashion: a gi that is too short in the sleeves or pants give you an unfair advantage because your opponents will have a harder time gripping you. Conversely, if your gi is too big and baggy, you’ll be easier to grip. You want your gi to be somewhat form fitting, but also allow you freedom of movement, all while complying with the IBJJF requirements listed above.
Gi sizes range from “I” (infant) to “A” (adult) with a number between 0 and 6 following that letter (for example, “I4” or “A1”). Some gi companies also provide sizes for specific body types, such as “short,” “long,” “fitted,” or “heavy.” You will see these sizes listed as something like “A2L” for an adult sized 2, long. Pay careful attention to each company’s sizing chart to find the gi that most closely matches your body type and measurements. If you can’t find a company’s sizing chart, don’t buy that gi — it might not fit you properly, resulting in a waste of money.
It’s worth noting that most jiu-jitsu gis come pre-shrunk, but you can expect to see your gi shrink ever-so-slightly with normal use and care. Take this into account when choosing your gi.
What color options are available?
Jiu-jitsu gis come in a variety of colors, but the three traditional options are white, blue, or black. Importantly, these are the only colors allowed for IBJJF competition. So, if you’re planning to compete make sure you get a gi in one of these three colors.
If you haven’t already, you should check to see if your academy has any restrictions on gi color. Many schools require their students to wear white gis to every class or on special occasions.
If you’re a bit flashier or want a gi that will draw some attention, you might be interested in a more unique color option, like orange, pink, camouflage or even tie-dye. Again, check with your academy first to make sure non-traditional gis are permitted. Also, remember you won’t be able to wear these gis in any IBJJF competition.
How should I clean/care for my gi?
Once you’ve purchased a gi, it’s important to protect your investment to get the most out of it. Do not wash your gi like all of your other clothes; this will break down your gi much quicker and cause colors to fade. Instead, always wash your gi on cold and hang it dry. While you might be tempted to put your gi in the dryer, don’t; you’ll run the risk of shrinking your gi to the point it’s unwearable, and it will break down the stitching and fabric of your gi at an accelerated rate.
You will also want to be cautious of your gi carrying the dreaded “funk” — nobody wants to be the stinky partner at the gym. For the most part, you can avoid your gi carrying any unsavory smells simply by washing it (in cold water!) with a quality detergent immediately after every training session.
Still, your gi will, over time, pick up smells. If simply washing with detergent is no longer working, add a cup of vinegar to the wash; the vinegar will kill the odor-causing bacteria. If that still doesn’t work, we recommend putting your gi in the freezer for at least 12 hours; the cold temperature will also kill this odor-causing bacteria.
However, if you forget your, used, sweaty gi in the trunk of your car over a long holiday weekend and it has sprouted a bouquet of exotic mushrooms and smells like aged mozzarella cheese please douse it in gasoline and set it ablaze. Rest assured your training partners don’t want to finish their roll smelling like an aromatic, brick oven, pizza…especially when they are trying to cut weight.
Our jiu-jitsu gi recommendations:
1. Venum Power 2.0 – Best overall gi
The Venum Power 2.0 is the gi that gives you everything you need and want in a high-quality gi. With a 450 GSM pearl weave jacket and ripstop pants, this gi is made to hold up under the rigors of years of training. It’s simple aesthetic will look great in competition and give you plenty of space to add gym patches or sponsors. The gi is reinforced at the sleeves, pants, and inner knee. This feature ensures the fabric and stitching won’t fray at those high-stress areas.
Moreover, Venum has long been a trusted name in jiu-jitsu. The Power 2.0 is expertly made. This gi will match the sizing specifications exactly.
2. Tatami Classic BJJ Gi – Best value
The Tatami Classic BJJ Gi is our pick for best gi when considering value, durability, dependability, and aesthetics. The top half of the gi jacket is made with a heavy 550 GSM pearl weave fabric. The bottom half of the jacket is a lighter 350 GSM. This means the jacket will be lighter on your body while giving you extra durability where it is most needed. The pants provide a lighter feel with 250 GSM “anti-grip” grip fabric and 550 GSM pearl weave gussets to ensure your pants won’t rip where they stretch the most. Tatami has long been one of the most trusted names in jiu-jitsu. Importantly, you get all these features of a premium gi for the cost of a budget gi.
In terms of look, there’s nothing flashy about the Classic, and that’s exactly why we like it. The stripped-down aesthetic of the gi gives it a timeless (or even “classic”) look while giving you plenty of space to add gi patches.
3. Fuji Submit Everyone Jiu Jitsu Gi – Editor’s pick
In a crowded field of excellent gis, Fuji’s Submit Everyone comes out on top. The gi has the perfect amount of aesthetic touches. From the words “submit everyone” written around the stitching to the classic mountain logo on the pants the attention to detail is top-notch. The jacket is a lightweight 350 GSM pearl weave. The pants are made of lightweight ripstop fabric. This makes this gi perfect for hot training sessions. Unlike many other lightweight gis the Submit Everyone has a thicker collar to make gripping more difficult as well as numerous reinforcements in the jacket and pants to ensure this gi’s durability. In short, this gi has the comfort of a lightweight gi with the benefits and durability of a heavier competition gi.
Fuji is also a brand that we’ve grown to trust as one the most reliable in jiu-jitsu. Expect a high-quality product that matches the specifications to a T.
Unique and non-traditional gis
Whether you’re looking for a gi that’s a little more eye-catching or you’re simply a massive comic book fan, the Hayabusa Marvel Hero Elite is an excellent choice for grapplers looking to make a statement with their gi. While this gi comes in the traditional options of white, blue, and black, each color corresponds to a specific Marvel character (white for Venom, blue for Captain America, and black for Punisher). Each gi has a unique design on the outside, as well as unique artwork on the inside of the jacket. The jacket is a 350 GSM pearl weave, and the pants are 8-ounce ripstop cotton-polyester.
The Sanabul NASA gi is one of the most unique gi concepts out there, and just as the name suggests, this gi is an homage to space exploration. The gi comes in three options: orange, white and red, or white and black. These gis use iconic NASA logos and lettering on the jacket and pants, making this a must-have for “out-of-this-world” jiu-jitsu players. The gi top is lightweight and single weave, so don’t expect this gi to last for light years into the future.
Other lightweight gis
The Gameness Air Pro 2.0 is an ultra-light gi with a minimalist design. With a 350 GSM jacket and cotton pants, it is perfect for the jiu-jitsu player that puts a premium on a lightweight gi. The knees are reinforced to ensure durability, but the gi is otherwise short on additional features. To that end, the gi is extremely light in weight, but beware, you may be sacrificing durability for weight. With that said, Gameness is a trusted brand in jiu-jitsu, and you can expect the gi to be made to exacting standards.
Tatami’s Elements Ultralite 2.0 is the lightest of lightweight gis. With a 250 GSM jacket and 7-ounce cotton pants, this gi will weigh just around three pounds total for an adult. Whether you’re training in a garage in the summer, in a gym with no air conditioning, or you simply can’t stand wearing a heavy gi, this gi is for the grappler that wants the lightest gi possible.
They typical disclaimer on lightweight gis: they will simply not be as durable as heavier gis. Additionally, because this gi is so lightweight, its fabric is easier to grab and grip, making it a liability in competition.
Venum’s Contender 2.0 is an excellent budget-friendly gi choice. It features a 350 GSM pearl weave jacket, 230 GSM cotton pants, as well as reinforcements on the inside leg and around the ankle to minimize wear and tear. A no-frills gi from a trusted brand, this would be an excellent starter gi that won’t break the bank. Also, we like that this gi comes in white, in addition to non-traditional colors grey and navy blue.
If budget is the most important factor for you, we recommend the Sanabul Essentials V.2 Ultra Light. This is a no-frills, lightweight gi featuring a 350 GSM jacket. The gi comes in a variety of color options, including grey and green. With its price tag, it may be hard to pass this gi up, but don’t count on it lasting for years to come; when shopping for gis you will generally get exactly what you pay for. Nonetheless, if your only barrier to starting gi jiu-jitsu is the cost of the gi, this budget option is an excellent choice.