Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Kimono Buyer’s Guide
By Josh Simon
Last Updated: Jan 19, 2012
As Luciana’s business has continued to grow over the years, it is becoming increasingly difficult for her to answer every customer’s questions, every day. In an attempt to get answers quickly into the hands of customers, I have attempted to roll up the most common questions into the buyer’s guide below.
While I am obviously biased towards Luciana’s products, I tried remembering what it was like as a beginner, before I met Lu. What kind of questions did I have? What was I confused about? What would help me understand what I needed? What information did I need to make an informed decision?
I began training Sep 30, 1995. A full four years, before I wore my first MKimono and five years before I met Lu. I had worn Pro Force, the Gracie Academy gi and Krugans. Thanks to Lu, I have learned a tremendous amount about gi’s and the business. However, I still see the regular student at the academy struggle with the lack of quality information publicly available.
While there are now several gi review websites, most are seriously lacking quality information. Most reviews focus on aesthetics and fit. While these are two important components of gi’s in BJJ, they are entirely subjective. Either you like how a gi looks or you don’t. There is no right or wrong. It is not necessary for a reviewer to spend 75% of a write up discussing how he likes the embroidery on a sleeve.
Fit is a similar situation. Most gi companies make four distinct sizes. Some make as many as ten. Imagine trying to fit every single person on the planet into 10 standard sizes. Some people will fit perfectly into a size, some people will not fit into any size correctly. So discussing how a gi fits you in a review never made sense to me. Just because it fits you or does not fit you, does not mean another customer will have a similar experience.
A gi review or buyer’s guide must focus on tangible, objective evaluations. And the problem is, most reviewers, have no idea about what makes a good gi or a bad gi. It is not their fault, it is just that they do not have the background. It is like car reviews. The people that review cars are experts on cars and can tell you all the details about the car and how they impact quality, reliability and performance. They do not spend the review saying how they liked the color of the car and how they fit in the seat.
So with this guide, I will attempt to provide all the necessary information to educate potential gi buyers. It may be a little long, but it will save you time and money in the long run.
First Time Buyer
So you have just started BJJ? What is my gi buying advice to you? Don’t buy an MKimono. I am serious. You have just started training. You are still trying to figure out if this something you will keep doing. You probably also just paid a registration fee, monthly dues and gi rental fees. There is no need, right now, to buy a $200 gi. That time will come, but there is no need for that kind of investment so soon into your career. Your new academy may offer a cheap, standard, ‘grappling’ gi. Buy that to start out. If they do not offer something, there are several generalist Martial Arts equipment websites out there. You should be able to buy a generic ‘grappling’ gi for less than $90. Get something white, with no special decorations. Single weave is fine. This will last you your first several months as you get your bearings.
Second Time Buyer
Once some time passes and you decide that you want to continue BJJ and you understand how often you will be training, if you will be competing, etc. You are now ready to look at a more significant gi purchase.
As time has passed, you should now understand what is the proper etiquette for your academy. At some academies, you can only wear their official gi. At others, the gi can be from any manufacturer, but must be white. And yet at others, only people of certain advanced belt ranks wear non-standard gi’s. Do yourself a favor and make sure you understand what is appropriate for your academy before you buy your second gi. If you are not sure, ask your instructor or senior students.
Once you understand the basic parameters of your academy and begin looking online or talking to other students in the academy, you will likely be overwhelmed by the terms used and all the options available on a modern BJJ gi. I have broken down the most common terms below.
Please note, while I will describe many of the options that come on gi’s and give my personal opinion on their value, the ultimate decision is up to you. Eight time World Champion and long time MKimonos wearer, Saulo Ribeiro, once said, “There is no right move in Jiu-Jitsu. There is only the right move at the right time.” Gi’s are very similar. There is no ‘best’ gi. Even though people often ask that question. It is what is best for you based upon your:
• Body type
• Personal style and personality
• Competition plans
• Academy rules
• Training schedule
One Piece Construction
There is no more confusing term in BJJ gi’s. Everyone uses the term ‘One Piece Construction’, but everyone uses it to mean different things. By just looking at any gi, you can see that is a sewn together and reinforced using multiple pieces of fabric. So the term is entirely misleading. When people talk of ‘one piece’ tops, they are generally referring to one of two principles:
• Lack of Setsugi stitching: Setsugi stitching is common on Judo gi’s. It is a wide vertical series of stitches that, in theory, keep a gi flat on the back. This makes gripping back fabric more difficult while attempting standing gripping in Judo. Setsugi has also been used historically to simplify gi construction. Instead of seamstresses needing to maneuver and stitch one large jacket, it was sometimes divided into two sides that were sewn together at the end of the construction process. Setsugi is not often present on a BJJ gi as the stiff seam caused by the stitching can be uncomfortable while you are on your back. Additionally, as BJJ gi’s are more form fitting than Judo gi’s there is less concern regarding someone grabbing excess fabric on your back. As BJJ gi’s will usually have a single piece of fabric to comprise the back as opposed to two, it is sometimes referred to ‘One Piece Construction”.
• Lack of a separate skirt: Traditional Judo gi’s were composed of thick cotton fabric to survive gripping and throws. As Judoka did not often grab below heart level on their opponent’s gi, it became unnecessary to utilize strong fabric on the lower part of the gi. This saved cost, weight and made the gi more breathable as the skirt was often composed of a thinner cotton fabric. As significant gripping can occur anywhere on a BJJ top, manufactures will often utilize the same material throughout the jacket. Hence the “One Piece” term. To make things more confusing, some companies actually use a single, uncut piece of fabric for the top and bottom of the jacket. While some companies use two pieces of the same fabric that are sewn together around the abdomen.
Finding a BJJ gi, that is free from Setsugi stitching and has a skirt that is made from the same material as the rest of the gi top is important. These will make the gi more comfortable to roll on the ground and make it last longer.
Josh’s Verdict: Finding a gi top, that is made from a single, uncut piece of fabric is ideal. As the lack of one additional seam, is one less point that could rip or fray.
For decades, grappling gi collars were all the same. They were created by folding cotton fabric into several layers, putting another piece of cotton fabric over it and then stitching it flat. In the late 90’s some BJJ companies began experimenting with using a foam rubber called EVA [Ethylene Vinyl Acetate] inside the cotton fabric covering. The idea being that, over time, bacteria could seep into your collar and get trapped in the folded layers of fabric. By using EVA, at least the theory goes, it would eliminate the ability of bacteria to stay inside the collar. Indeed, some gi manufacturers have coated the EVA rubber with anti-bacterial chemicals to further reduce the likelihood of bacterial infestation. While, it sounds like a good idea, there is no evidence that I have seen that it actually works.
The idea is that it is bad if bacteria penetrates the outer fabric layer of the collar it will get trapped inside and cause odor, skin diseases, etc. However, by merely placing a piece of rubber inside the collar instead of fabric does not stop bacteria from penetrating the outer fabric and staying inside the collar. The anti-bacterial coating is once again a cool sounding idea, however, there is little evidence it actually remains effective over time. Just like any chemical coating to clothing, it will break down/wear off/wash off. I have had individual MKimonos for ten plus years. While some of the older ones do have some brown discoloration inside the collar (ring around the collar), they do not smell and I have never gotten any kind of skin disease on my collar line. As long as you take care of your gi properly, bacteria will not be a problem. That means washing your gi after each training session with cold water and standard detergent. That will kill anything and not allow bacteria or fungus to take up root in your gi. MKimonos only uses traditional fabric collar construction.
Another drawback with EVA collars is unintentional twisting. In a true fabric collar, the stitching penetrates the entire collar ensuring that it stays flat and in proper alignment. As the EVA is thick rubber, companies often do not stitch through the whole collar. This can cause the rubber insert to twist inside the cloth sleeve and distort the collar on the gi.
Josh’s Verdict: Rubber collars do not adequately address something that is not a legitimate concern in the first place. Not necessary.
This is often something that novice grapplers obsess over. They feel that if a gi has a thick enough or wide enough collar they will not be choked. While there is some truth to this, and for a time in the late 90’s gi companies got out of hand with ridiculous collars, there are now IBJJF standards. This means that collar thickness will vary little from manufacturer to manufacturer. Beginners in BJJ should focus on learning to properly defend against chokes, not to find a gi that will mystically/magically defend them on their behalf.
Josh’s Verdict: Don’t worry about it. Any collar will be fine for you.
Softness of Fabric
This is another big concern amongst beginners. They want something soft on their skin. When beginners tell me this at the academy, I tell them to take a long hard look at what they have signed up for. This is not golf, basketball or tennis! If they continue down this path, they will break their bones, dislocate their joints and permanently injure themselves a million different ways. Should they really be worrying about which gi will be kindest to their baby soft skin?
Josh’s Verdict: The truth is within a couple months of training your skin will be adequately conditioned to not be irritated by gi material. Besides, almost all gi’s regardless of weave, weight or manufacturer will have a similar feel on the inside. Don’t worry about it.
I truly wish this was an easier part of the business. Every company uses different materials and calls them by different names. It is very difficult for the consumer to understand what he is getting or to be able to evaluate across different manufacturers. There are several reasons for this mess:
• Gi manufacturers buy their fabrics in giant rolls from textile mills. Each textile company has different names for its fabrics, so this gets perpetuated to the gi manufacturer and then on to you.
• If gi companies used the actual names for fabrics, such as AF150CJ, it would not really help the average consumer too much.
• Companies could use the weight of the fabric as this is common in the textile industry. You will see some companies use this method to describe their products from time to time. It is usually represented in Grams per Square Meter. Such as 550 Gr/Sqm, 550 Gr or just 550. The problem with this is it does not tell you anything useful. Yes, a 550 gram fabric is heavier than a 450 gram fabric, but it does not tell you anything about the quality. One is not inherently better than the other, merely heavier.
• Companies do not want competitors to duplicate their weaves, so they use made up names to make it difficult to be copied.
Even using terms like Single weave or Double weave mean little. Since there are no standards, one company’s Double is another company’s Single. Below I will describe some basic fabric naming conventions.
If you could say there is a ‘standard’ bjj fabric, Single would be it. It is arranged in a ‘brick pattern’, relatively light in weight and cheap to produce. BJJ practitioners like Single weave as it is breathable and does not add much weight to their bodies (as you have to weigh in with your gi on at some competitions). Companies like Single weave because it is relatively cheap to buy and easy to work with. The limitations of Single are that is less durable than other weaves. Single weaves will sometimes have a ‘brushed’ interior meaning that it is smoother and does not look like ‘bricks’ on the inside of the jacket. This is merely for looks and comfort it does not affect the durability of the gi.
Josh’s Verdict: Good for an introductory gi, but your money is better spent on a superior weave for future purchases.
I see a lot of ‘information’ websites describe Double weave as two Single weaves sewn together or somehow two threads interwoven into a single base fabric. People are taking the names Single and Double too literally and trying to come up with some meaningful justification. In reality, Double weave is just a heavier, thicker version of Single weave. In Portuguese, they are not even called Double or Single. They are called Pesado (Heavy) and Leve (Light). Double weave also has a ‘brick pattern’. It is very difficult for an untrained eye to identify Single versus Double without comparing the two pieces of fabric side by side. While Double weave is more durable and stronger than Single, it can be hot an uncomfortable to wear. Many companies today do not make a true Double weave. They usually call their heaviest offering Double weave, but they are not heavy enough to be considered true Doubles under the traditional definition. Double weaves will sometimes have a ‘brushed’ interior meaning that it is smoother and does not look like ‘bricks’ on the inside of the jacket. This is merely for looks and comfort it does not affect the durability of the gi.
Josh’s Verdict: If you can find a true Double, I would not recommend it unless you understand what you are getting into with it. Otherwise, training will be hot and uncomfortable.
Single and Double were all that existed for decades in Judo and BJJ. In 1999, in an attempt to standardize competition gi’s for BJJ, the Confederation for BJJ planned to mandate all gi tops be made of Gold weave fabric. Gold weave was and is used in the furniture business in Brazil. Its pattern is unlike Single or Double weaves. It looks more like a ‘waffle’ pattern than ‘bricks’. Its standard weight is in between traditional Single weave and Double weave weights, making Gold a good compromise between comfort and durability. The Gold weave pattern will usually be on both the outside and inside of the jacket. It is relatively soft to the touch. While Gold weave is not currently required for competition, it remains a very popular weave today. Different companies use different weights for their Gold weaves. Depending on whether they go lighter or heavier, the gi will have more in common with a Single weave or Double weave, but the ‘waffle’ pattern will remain.
Josh’s Verdict: A great weave. One of my favorites. But make sure you are not getting one that is too light. If the Gold weave is not at least, a medium weight, many of the benefits of the fabric are lost.
The Hybrid weave was created, by Luciana’s brother, Marcelo in 2000. I came up with the name Hybrid. So if you hate the fact that every gi company comes out with their own names of weaves, blame me. I started that. I called it Hybrid as it had the best qualities of both the Single and Double weaves. It was a ‘brick’ pattern with brushed interior. As its weight was in the middle between traditional Singles and Doubles, it was more durable than a Single and more comfortable than a Double. Its weight was the same a traditional Gold weave, yet it air dried faster. The Hybrid continues to be our best seller. While several companies now use the term Hybrid, the meaning, the weight and the pattern vary amongst manufacturers. Make sure if you buy a competitor’s Hybrid you understand what it is you are getting and what it is a hybrid of.
Josh’s Verdict: The MKimono Hybrid may be the greatest gi fabric of all time. You can’t go wrong with it. But remember, if you go with a competitor’s Hybrid, the quality, weight and other characteristics can vary wildly.
As a category, Summer weaves, are generally lighter in weight and more breathable than a traditional Single weave. When some manufacturers label a gi Summer weave, they sometimes are referring to their Single weave offering or sometimes to something entirely different. The weave patterns in this category can vary substantially. The MKimono Summer weave is made from a fabric similar to gi pants material. It does not have a weave pattern, per se. That kind of fabric is sometimes referred to as ‘Non-Twisted”. Other companies just use a lighter weight version of Single, Gold or other patterns. Other companies use Rip Stop material. The important aspects to remember in terms of Summer gi’s is that while they are generally more comfortable to wear in hot weather than other gi’s they are usually less durable due to the thinness of the fabric used. Also, keep in mind, that some Summer weaves, due to the weave patterns used, cannot be used in certain competitions.
Josh’s Verdict: Summer weaves should not be a primary gi. If you already have a few ‘regular’ gi’s, try out a Summer.
Pearl is a relatively new weave that has gained traction amongst several manufacturers. The weave is similar to Single weave, except instead of the pattern looking like rectangular ‘bricks’, they have a more rounded appearance. Sometimes, the ‘brick’s are a little wider than a Single weave, but still rectangular in shape. It can vary between manufactures. Companies, use Pearl in lightweight gi’s as an alternative to traditional Single weave fabrics. It is not normally used in thicker/heavier gi’s. Consider it on par with Single weave in terms of quality, durability and weight.
Josh’s Verdict: Same as a Single weave. Good for an introductory gi, but your money is better spent on a superior weave for future purchases.
While the rest of the industry was going lighter and lighter with their gi’s, Luciana decided to go heavier. She wanted to return to the roots of the true Double weave. The result is the Palladium weave. It has the Gold Weave ‘waffle’ pattern and expected softness, but is heavy as a traditional Double weave. It is a beast of a gi.
Josh’s Verdict: It is a beast of a gi. It is definitely not for beginners. Get your ‘sea legs’ first, then if you want to experience a true Double weave, give it a try.
This is a term that really does not mean anything, but I see it a lot in the descriptions of competitor’s gi’s. As you can see from the dozens of different patterns, weights and qualities, there is really no ‘standard’. Most times, the term ‘standard’ is used to describe a Single weave, but it can depend on the manufacturer. Look at the weave pattern and the weight and you can get an idea of what it actually is.
Josh’s Verdict: Do more research to know what ‘Standard’ means before you purchase.
Similar to ‘Standard’ weave, this term does not really mean anything. Companies use it to differentiate these gi’s from their regular gi’s. This means, the gi may be of better quality fabric, heavier or competition legal. There is no universally accepted definition for ‘Competition’ weave. Just like with the Standard weave. Check the weave pattern and the weight so you will get an idea what you are getting.
Josh’s Verdict: Do more research to know what ‘Competition’ means before you purchase.
Rip Stop Fabric
I could devote a hundred pages to this vile abomination. I honestly thought this would be a fad and soon die out, but it now seems that companies continue to make more and more items with this inferior fabric. Rip Stop is thin cotton fabric that has a criss-cross pattern sewn into it. The criss-cross can be cotton or nylon threads. Rip Stop is popular in items like hot air balloons and parachutes. The idea behind Rip Stop is that it is extremely light and if it does rip, the criss-cross stitching would prevent the tear from spreading. That makes perfect sense for a hot air balloon or a parachute. If there is a tiny tear that is fine. If it grows, I will die. Once I get back to the ground, I can repair or replace the equipment. It saves lives. However, in my opinion, it does not translate well to BJJ gi’s. Look around your academy. Chances are some guys have Rip Stop pants or jackets. Look closely, they will likely have rips. Yes, the Stop part probably did its job, but the gi is already torn. Starting with an inferior fabric, one that was not meant to put up with the abuses of BJJ, is the weakness of the idea. Why not start with a fabric that will not rip or is not likely to rip? I hate to sound like a broken record, but I have several individual MKimonos over 10 years old in my rotation. I have had only one rip, ever. It was when my instructor got his heel caught in the V-seam of my pants. That is it. Start with a quality fabric, maintain it properly (cold water wash, no dryer, etc.) and it will last. There is no need to try and game the system with Rip Stop. If people’s Rip Stop did not rip and it still had the backup system of criss-crosses, I would be all for it. But what is the point in running around in a gi for years that has a dozen tears in it? I now see people making Rip Stop collars and Rip Stop belts? When was the last time someone ripped a collar or a belt? Also, keep in mind that Rip Stop gi tops may be prohibited in some competitions.
Josh’s Verdict: Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
This appears to be another area spiraling out of control. People often complain that their pants do not stay tied during training. I have never understood it. I have never had my drawstring come undone.
Relson Gracie showed me a trick back on 1996 that I use to this day. His advice was to always tie your drawstring knot in between your belly button and your hip. Most people tie the knot directly over their belly button. Through the course of training, this area can receive a lot of friction and pressure and cause the knot to come undone. By tying the knot a little over to the side, it is a lot less likely to get messed with. For a period of time, our pants only had one belt loop, directly over the belly button. This forced people to tie their knot slightly to the side. Unfortunately, having only one belt loop on the pants proved confusing to consumers and I started seeing a lot of people tie the drawstring knot directly onto the belt loop. This, of course, was counterproductive. So we went back to two belt loops, but I still pull my one side string through the two belt loops, and tie the knot closer to my hip.
You would think that would solve the issue. However, it appears that companies are competing to see how many belt loops they can put on a pair of pants: three, six, eight… It never ends. I really can’t understand what people think the advantage of having twelve belt loops is. One loop works just fine. Two are more than enough.
Josh’s Verdict: It is not necessarily worse to have more belt loops on a pair of pants. But it is not better either.
For years manufacturers took a piece of pants material, folded it in half, stitched it and that was used for the drawstring. Over time, companies began purchasing a flat cotton cord that functioned the same way. This was the standard until people started complaining that it was sometimes hard to untie the drawstring after training. I know what you are thinking. People complain that they are too hard to tie and people complain they are too hard to un-tie. You can’t win. So companies began using a thicker, corded drawstring in gi pants. The modern drawstring looks more like a round cross sectioned rope (which it is) than a flat piece of fabric.
Josh’s Verdict: I have pairs of pants that have both the old and new styles of drawstrings. As I mentioned before I never really had a problem with tying or untying any of them. But I guess it is somewhat more comfortable and convenient to work with the corded drawstring. So I will give a slight advantage to the corded drawstring, but either will work fine for you.
Some gi’s will be advertised as Pre-Shrunk or 100% Pre-Shrunk. This merely means that the fabric was washed once prior to being cut and sewn. Cotton fiber can be very sensitive to water and motion. The first time a cotton fabric is washed, it can shrink significantly. After that first washing, the size will maintain. Pre-Shrunk gi’s can still shrink a little on their first washing. It just means that a manufacturer of a Pre-Shrunk gi, uses a bigger size template when the make the gi, then a non Pre-Shrunk manufacturer. After the first wash, both gi’s will be at the same point. Pre-shrinking or avoiding Pre-Shrinking has no impact on quality or performance of the product.
Josh’s Verdict: Six of one, half dozen of the other. After the first wash, you will not be able to tell a difference. Pre-Shrunk is not something you need to look for when evaluating gi’s for purchase, but you do not need to avoid it either. MKimonos are not Pre-Shrunk.
I have made references to this throughout the Buyers’ guide. NAGA, Grapplers Quest, IBJJF, etc. each have their own rules regarding what constitutes a gi legal for competition. Please review these rules (available on the tournaments’ websites) prior to purchasing anything. Samples of features that MAY cause you to be disqualified from a competition:
• Different color gi top and pants
• Different color fabrics on one piece (i.e. black collar/blue gi top or white and black pants, etc.)
• Use of a non-twisted fabric gi top (some Summer weaves would fall into this category)
• Use of a Rip Stop gi top
• Inappropriate patch positions (especially around the ankle and wrist cuffs)
• Too thick or too wide a collar
Please keep in mind; just because a company sells a gi, it does not mean it is legal to wear in competition.
Josh’s Verdict: Buyer beware. Do your homework ahead of time if you are going to be competing. Check the rules of the various organizations. If you still have concerns, email the manufacturer and confirm competition eligibility prior to purchasing.
This is the most difficult attribute to convey in this guide. All manufacturers will say their gi’s are top quality. As I mentioned before, just knowing the weight or the pattern of the weave, does not tell you the quality of the fabric. There are additional factors and costs behind the scenes. You will not have access to this information to compare one company’s 450 gr Gold to another company’s 450 gr Gold. Also, common terms like reinforced stitching or reinforced patches are used by everyone, however that actual implementation and effectiveness of these measures can vary wildly between companies.
The question is, “What does gi quality mean to you?” For some people they want a gi that will last them six months. Other people want a gi that will last them six years. Some people will train in a particular gi one day a month, some people will wear it a couple times a week. Customers sometimes look for a gi to fit a particular niche (competition only, summer training only, etc.) While many others just want a gi for day in/day out training. As long as you know your definition of quality and seek out a gi that fulfills that requirement, you will be happy.
So once you know what gi quality means to you, now what? If every company claims they have quality, gi reviewers are not able to evaluate quality, and consumers do not have sufficient information to compare gi’s, what do you do?
Throughout the guide, I hope you see, I have attempted to maintain neutrality. The intention of the guide was to help buyers across BJJ, not just MKimonos buyers. We do not do everything the best and there are some things are companies do better than us. But when it comes to a quality discussion, I need to become a shill for Luciana. If your definition of quality has anything to do with longevity, lack of rips, ease of maintenance or knowing what you are buying, you need an MKimono.
I am at the point in my BJJ career now, where most of my gi’s in my rotation have been in BJJ longer than the people I am training with. I know I am really getting old now, because sometimes, I am a training in MKimonos that are actually older than some teenagers that I am training with. It is weird, but strangely gratifying to tell them my gi is older than they are. And this is without repairs, fixes, re-stitching or anything like that. Just MKimonos straight out of the bag, cold washed and air dryed.
There are flashier gi’s out there. Sure. New companies spring up every year. But if you look who endures, year after year, it is Lu. The gi’s are made in very limited quantities. Relative to other companies, we do not really advertise or sponsor a lot of fighters. We are not near a Jiu-Jitsu hub like California or Rio where Luciana and can visit a lot of academies or attend a lot of tournaments. However, she continues to maintain a strong following, year over year, based upon her customer service and the quality of her products. If quality is what you are looking for, you cannot go wrong with an MKimono. Ok, I will go back to being objective now.
Your new Gi has arrived. Now what?
Now that you have your new gi, please follow the next steps closely. It will save you and the retailer pain. Take the gi out of the box and try it on. If you have a Pre-Shrunk gi and it is around one inch too big, you are good. If it is not a Pre-Shrunk gi and it is around 2-3 inches too big, you are all set. If it is bigger or smaller than that on you or you do not know if it is Pre-Shrunk or not; stop there. Email or call the retailer and ask for advice. Sometimes, even though a customer thinks the gi may be too big or too small, they will go ahead and train it and or wash it. Please, never do this. Once you train or wash your gi, you cannot return it for an exchange. If you have concerns, you need to contact the retailer and they can tell you what to do. They may confirm that you will be ok after a wash or a disciplined dry. They may also instruct you to send it back for another size. If you train, wash or dry your gi, we can no longer re-sell it to anyone else. So we will need to reject your return request and you just lost $200. This policy is not unique to us and is standard across not just the gi industry, but the whole clothing retailer industry. Please contact the retailer if you have any concerns or doubts. Do not take matters into your own hands.
Washing, Care and Maintenance
Now that you have your gi, how do you take care of it? It drives me nuts when I hear people complain about the cost of gi’s, then as soon as they get one, they completely ignore the care instructions and ruin their gi. Whether you are buying a cheap or expensive gi, proper care can add years to the life of it. Make sure you always follow the below steps:
• Cold water wash: Only wash your gi in cold water. People think the concern is that hot water will shrink your gi. This is actually a misconception. Heat makes things expand. I am sure you remember that from elementary school. The concern here is that heat can break down cotton fibers and over time, weaken your gi. If your gi material becomes weakened, it can rip. Cold water will get your gi clean without damaging the cotton fibers.
• Use regular detergent: There are recommendations all over the internet. Wash your gi with seltzer water, lemon juice, window cleaner, etc. Keep in mind the detergent business is a multi-million dollar industry. They have been in business for decades. If there was some magical, home remedy that would clean your clothes, don’t you think the detergent companies would have figured that out and put that chemical in their detergent? Stop playing Mr. Wizard and just use regular clothing detergent without bleach. I have been using regular, old Tide for years. It works. Don’t get fancy.
• Never use bleach: Bleach will remove stains, but it does so by destroying fabric fibers. This will weaken your gi and increase the likelihood of rips.
• To Mercerize or not to Mercerize: Some people recommend that you soak a new gi that is dyed (meaning not white) in vinegar the first time you wash it. This is a simplified, home version of mercerization. A process to help lock in color dyes in cotton fabric. Please read your manufacturer’s instructions carefully. This is usually only required on lower quality products. You will never need to mercerize an MKimono. The color will hold without the process. This is not the same across all brands.
• Air Dry Always - Part 1: This is a bad one. People think that putting the gi in a heated dryer will shrink your gi. This is true, but not for the reason people think. Once again, people attribute the heat of the drying to the shrinkage. But as we covered before, heat does not cause cotton fiber to shrink. When you iron your clothes, they do not shrink. So why would the heat of a dryer shrink your clothes? The actual reason the dryer shrinks your gi is that cotton fiber, when it is made into fabric is manipulated. The fibers are stretched and aligned to provide maximum length while using minimal material. This is efficient for the textile company and creates a uniform product. When you tumble dry your gi, all that hard work that went into lining up and stretching out your cotton fibers is ruined. The fiber becomes bunched up, twisted and folded. The net effect of this is that the fiber is not as straight, which makes the fabric cover less surface area. Which ultimately leads to a smaller gi next time you put it on. Some fabric can be stretched out again after tumbling, but that is not the case with most gi materials. It may stretch a little, but basically it will maintain that shrunken size. So, please do not tumble dry your gi. Just let it air dry. That way the cotton fibers will maintain their alignment and the gi’s size will maintain itself over time.
• Air Dry Always - Part 2: Some people will now say, “Can I put my gi in the dryer, but have it not tumble?” The answer is still, “No”. Even though that will avoid the tumbling motion that will irreversibly shrink your gi, excessive heating will also damage your gi. Cotton is a fiber that should always contain moisture. That is part of what gives it strength. Air drying will leave the correct amount of water inside your gi. Heated drying will over-dry the fibers, making them brittle. This will lead to tears or wholes in your gi. While you do heated dry other clothes and not notice the damage it does, you do not beat on your regular clothes as much as you do a gi. Do not heated dry.