Female Specific Gis
The standard gi for BJJ training is built using the male form as a template. This can leave some female jiu-jitsukas wearing a gi that is too baggy in some areas and too tight in others. Therefore, some Gi manufactures make gis that are made with the female form in mind and which feel and perform better for some women. The female gis will be a bit tighter in the shoulders and more generous in the hips compared to a standard 'A' sized gi. Female specific gis are typically sized starting with an 'F' instead of an 'A'.
Types of Common Gi Weaves
There are several different types of standard or common weaves to choose from: Single weave, double weave, gold weave, pearl weave and no weave. If choosing from these sorts of weave options, Pearl Weave is your best option. It is strong and light weight. Your cheapest option is single weave, and under normal BJJ training conditions it won't last long. Double weave tends to be too hot and heavy for most people, and for their price you're often better off going for a pearl weave.
Trying On a New Gi & Gi Shrinkage
Gis will shrink. In fact, the jackets of the common weave gis can shrink considerably. How much a gi shrinks will vary depending on the brand. As a general rule, when sizing a new student in a new gi I would like to see that when they hold their arms straight out in front of them, that the ends of the sleeves hit between their first and second knuckles on their outstretched fingers. From here, I can expect that the gi will shrink up to about their wrist.
Make sure the gi jacket lapels can cross over and cover your mid-section, if it can't, go a size or two up. When a gi shrinks in the wash it usually shrinks in the sleeve length more than in the torso circumference.
Gi pants won't shrink as much as the jacket will because they are woven much more tightly. Be sure to try on the pants when trying on a gi.
Do the Standard Sizes Not Fit You?
The two builds that have the most difficulty finding a gi to fit are the tall and skinny people, as well as those who are generous through the midsection. In these cases there are three possible solutions:
Washing and Caring for Your Gi
Rule #1: Always wash your gi after every training session regardless of how hard you trained or how much you think you sweated.
I always recommend to new students that they wash their gi on cold and then hang it up to dry. Do this prior to the first use and every use thereafter if appropriate. This will cause the least amount of shrinkage and deterioration to your gi. Deterioration? Yes. Putting your gi in the dryer will not only shrink it, but if you continue to do so it will shorten it's lifespan. Dryer lint is the erosion of our clothes by the drying machine process.
Do not bleach your gis as this will prematurely and rapidly degrade the fabric. Just normal wash, cold water and soap, then hang it up to dry. From time to time use white vinegar in the wash to help sanitize the gi and freshen it up.
Is the Gi Still Too Big?
After the first wash and hang dry, if the gi is still too big wash it again in cold water but without soap. Put in the dryer on medium heat. About half way through the drying cycle, pull it out and try it on. If it fits, hang dry it the rest of the way. If it's still too big, finish in the dryer. Most gis when properly fitted prior to washing shouldn't require this step. But, I once use to buy a certain brand of gi one size bigger than I needed to accommodate my shoulders, but would then purposely shrink it this way in order to take some length out of the sleeves.
Sizing & Washing Your Belt
Hopefully, the belt that comes with your gi fits you well. If you are a tall & skinny person, or generous through the midsection your belt may not fit well. You don't want your belt to be too long or too short, and as jiujitsuka we want to develop the sense that we care about how we present ourselves on the mats. This is why we want to have a belt that fits well and is tied correctly.
If your belt is too long by about a size, it can be washed and shrunk just like doing so to a gi jacket mentioned previously. Belts can shrink quite a bit when washed so be careful. If it shrinks too much tie one end to a fixed point and either pull on the other end or hang weights from it to stretch it back out a bit.
In some cases you may have to buy a new belt that fits better. I've had a few to several belts at each rank. I think at one point I actually had at least 10 brown belts. It seemed like they were everywhere in my house and at the academy!
It's a good idea to wash your belt periodically. Light to normal training sessions probably don't warrant frequent washing. Hard sessions where the belt is soaked with sweat, however, do require a same day washing. At a minimum wash your belt once a month if you want to keep it clean. After washing hang your belt to dry. Washing will fade and prematurely deteriorate your belt and this will strike fear in the hearts of your opponents and enemies. But seriously, it will degrade your belt some. If washing your belt causes it to fray to and look like a mess, buy a new one.
Own a White Gi
I recommend that all of my students have at least one white gi in good condition at all times. White is the traditional gi color and it is welcome at practically every academy and competition in the world. Some academies only allow students and guests to wear white gis. If you want to visit an academy when traveling you won't have to worry if they're one of these academies if you just bring a white gi with you on your trip. It would be quite a disappointment to get turned away at the front desk because your gi isn't allowed on the mats. Only a few academies that I know of are like this, but it's likely there are more. The reasons can range from having a very traditionally minded sensei, to not wanting to stain the mats. Certain mats, that are white or light in color can get stained or streaked by the dye in colored gis, so the academy may have a white gi only policy in order to preserve their mats.
What is more common are seminars where only white gis are allowed. The common reason for this is that at the end of a BJJ a group photo is often taken. These photos look much better when everyone is wearing the same color uniform.
Know Your Academy's Gi Policy
Before you buy a gi it's a good idea to know what your academy's gi policy is. What colors they allow, what are the patching requirements, etc. This way you won't waste your money on a gi that isn't approved in your academy. Some academies are strict and some are very relaxed. If you don't know what the policy is, then ask.
The gi market is constantly changing. I've been doing Jiu-Jitsu for almost 30 years and I've seen so many companies come and go. I prefer to stick with the strong companies and I'm no longer eager to try out a new start up or fashionable gi company. As for me, I've tried a lot, studied a lot, and have it narrowed down to just a few that I'm willing to work with. But I recommend that everyone find out for themselves what they like. Try everything out and see what you like the best. Maybe over time you'll narrow it all down to your personal top three.
I could list a dozen links for you to go buy gis at right here. Perhaps even a hundred more than that. But if you just want a list, why not just type in BJJ Gis in Google and go from there.
Instead of that, here are the two gi companies I prefer to use for my own gis because I believe they offer high quality products and customer service. Check them out.
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Jason Clarke. Owner & Head Instructor of Iowa City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.