One of the things I really like about BJJ is the very loose idea of what is acceptable attire. I'm not a very fashionable guy, but for whatever reason, I like buying new gis. I like looking at the different styles that are out there, and checking out what everyone has going on.
The following article is primarily for any of my friends out there who either don't train in martial arts or who train, perhaps, in some other style and are curious about what differences exist.
What is a gi?
When most people think of a gi, they think of karate, and probably something very much like the outfit pictured to the left. A gi is simply a uniform made for training, most often made from a strong cotton weave varying from 8 oz up to some as thick as 30 oz.
Grappling arts tend to have sturdier gis made from thicker material, even at the student grade. Rolling around, grip fighting and the constant pushing and pulling will destroy an 8 oz gi very quickly. So, while you may find student quality Karate gis as light as 8 oz, the typical student grade Grappling gi, such as the Howard Combat Kimonos Single weave, will be 14 oz or more, with durable, reinforced pants.
Grappling uniforms will be reinforced at all of the stress points and will often include extra padding at areas prone to failure. This includes the collars, along the knees of the pants, in the crotch and places like that. For a detailed look at the different stress points, I would recommend reading this review of the Padilla and Sons Gi over on SmashPass. It's a good review, but for the purposes of this article, Jason goes into detail about what he looks for in a quality BJJ gi.
What about the weave?
Single vs Double weave refers to the actual fabric. A single weave gi is going to be thinner than a double weave gi, and while it won't be as long last, it will definitely be more comfortable during the Summer. Double weave gis are more expensive, heavier and hotter to train in. At the same time, they are desirable in competition because the collars are difficult to grip and hold. I know that, for me, it's rough on the fingers working for lapel chokes or grips when sparring with some of the guys who have double weave gis at my school.
In BJJ, you'll also see something called Gold Weave, which is as far as I can tell the most common and popular weave among Jiu-Jitiero. The Gold Weave is sturdy and thick, like a doubleweave gi, which makes it harder to grip and hold, as well as being durable. At the same time, it's lighter than the doubleweave, making it more comfortable to wear.
And then, of course, you have the proprietary weaves. Gameness has the Platinum Weave gi, as well as a super light "Pearl" weave. Lucky Gis, by far the most expensive gi I've seen on the market, includes the development of their own weave, too. I listened to the TheFightworksPodcastepisode #102, all about the adventures of producing the Lucky Gi and was amazed at the lengths gone to.
What makes a BJJ gi a BJJ gi?
There are some fundamental differences between the BJJ gi and other gis. Judo is a very close cousin to BJJ. Both are sporting derivatives of Kano's original version of Judo, which was itself derived from traditional jujutsu in Japan.
The Judo Gi tends to be made from thick material available in either a single weave or double weave. Sizing and condition of the Gi will, of course, vary from organization to organization, but the IJF publishes these guidelines (linked from judoinfo.com).
The fit of the judo gi tends to be baggier all around. The apron of the Judo Gi is often woven in a diamond pattern and hangs longer, as shown. The pants and sleeves are often looser as well.
BJJ gis, in contrast, tend to be more form fitting. The apron part of the gi is often shorter, and the sleeves and pant legs are tighter, although there are guidelines for how tight these can be in competition.
The picture to the right is of the official CBJJ gi checker tool. This tool is what is used to make sure that the gi is not too tight or too short in the sleeves or trouser legs for competition.
In Judo, patches are allowed only on the back of the uniform in competition, and there are rules regarding what these can be and how large, and the only two legal colors in competition are blue or white. I've only ever seen Judo Gis available in these two colors and in black, although there may be others.
In competition, the official gi colors for BJJ are white, blue or black, although it's not uncommon to see any number of different colors in class or in local competitions. Red is a relatively common color, with Army Green, Browns and even some pink sneaking into the women's classes. I've also seen available Gis in Yellow and other colors although never in real life.
Patches are also not uncommon, but believe it or not, there are rules here as well. You can see that there are guidelines outlined by the IBJJF about where and how the patches can be configured on one's uniform.
The patches can be advertisements from sponsors, but are just as often representations of the gi manufacturer or the school in which the competitor trains or is affiliated with.
There are guys who train at my school who wear simple, white BJJ kimonos, such as the HCK single. Very plain and unadorned, and this appeals to a lot of people. There are others who have some pretty darned exotic ones, from one female who trains in hot pink, to black, white, blue and army green. Each brand marks their gis in different ways, some with embroidery and others with patches. My Gameness Platinum Weave does both. I have a Koral MKM that is all patched up, too. What I like about BJJ is that both personality types fit right in.