The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gi used by competitors worldwide today was developed based on the Keikogi or kimono from Japanese martial arts. The style of the Gi has not changed much in the past century but the materials have developed along with some competition rules. How should a BJJ Gi fit is the first question most beginners and some experienced people have and that we intend to answer here.
How to size a Gi or kimono, especially for the first time, is not easy as the sizes are not a simple small, medium and large. In fact they range from A0 to A5 for jiu jitsu athletes of all weights and even then, not all Gis are created equal. Many factors should be considered such as shrinkage from a wash, how tight you prefer your Gi and most importantly the leg and sleeves lengths that may differ depending on the competitions you are interested in.
The choices may be puzzling but hopefully we can guide you to find exactly what you are looking for here.
How Should Your Gi Fit?
The main thing to keep in your mind for your choice is that it should fit you comfortably. The last thing you want is an overly tight restrictive Gi or a big, baggy Gi that doesn't hang correctly and will just get in the way. Once you have that foundation, it makes it easier to work out the specific requirements.
How your BJJ Gi jacket should fit?
In keeping with the theme, your Gi jacket should fit comfortably without restricting any movements or affecting your ability to breath. Many competitors will opt for a more form fitting jacket so as to limit the amount of lapel their opponent to grip.
Prior to worrying about gaining a competitive edge, you should first simply overlap the lapels across your torso to see if it limits movement. Next I would look to stretch my arms out in all directions to see if there is any friction, especially in the elbows, shoulders and arm pit areas. There are competition regulations to be discussed but we will touch on them later.
How your BJJ Gi pants should fit?
Gi pants and normal every day pants are not the same and so should not be used as a like for like comparison. The same tight vs loose balance exists with the pants as tight fitting is harder to get hold of but too tight limits your movement.
Check for any movement limitation with high kicks, squats or rotating your hips. Having your ability to lock up a triangle or keeping a solid knee on belly compromised is the last thing you need from your pants. Again, there are competition regulations that we will get to.
How your BJJ Gi belt should fit?
Just like the pants, a BJJ belt is not designed the same as your regular belt and wraps around you differently. The best advice is to purchase a belt the same size as your Gi but in case you don’t fit the standard sizing your belt should wrap twice around your waist, be tied in a knot and still have roughly 15-20cm free to show off your new stripes. A well made one fits right and looks organized.
What is the difference between men’s, women’s and children’s Gis?
The answer historically would have been there is no difference. However, some brands produce gender specific Gis with minor differences. For instance, in a men’s BJJ Gi you may like the extra space in the crotch to allow for the use of a cup. Some Gis designed for women may give more space in the chest and wider hips. Many women don't like the differences or find the sizings redundant and opt for the unisex options.
Children’s Gis can be quite challenging to find. While many good brands make an option for youth, it is best to carry out the measurements yourself and look for a pre-shrunk option so you know that it will fit right when you buy it as they are going to grow.
What are the BJJ Competition Regulations?
Different sleeve and leg length regulations seem overkill to someone looking in on the sport but they become much more understandable the longer you remain involved. Most competitions subscribe to the standards of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) beyond the needs for a Gi to be white, blue or black.
IBJJF Jacket Regulations
These rules are rarely regularly enforced at training but sure are at competition. The IBJJF require the sleeve to be no more than 5cm (2 inches) from the wrist when your arm is extended. The opening of the sleeve must also be at least 7cm (2.7 inches) wide.
IBJJF Gi Pants
Similar to the sleeve length, the IBJJF requirements for a Gi pants are that the pants can be no more than 5cm from the ankle bone when standing up vertically regardless of height or weight. Depending on the competition, you may be subjected to different rules but these are the typical standards you might expect.
How do you size a BJJ Gi?
As I said, Gi sizes are a bit strange. Not everyone fits into the same standard for pants and jackets. Different brands have different sizing charts which may be a little confusing to follow. To give you an idea of the typical size breakdowns you will come across, we have created a rough template to wrap your head around (We have noted size, length and weight using imperial as most suppliers use this measurement):
How Washing impacts your Gi?
Rate of Shrinkage
Everyone has had the misfortune of shrinking clothes in a hot water wash or drier. However, many people know it is too long when they buy and then wonder how to shrink a Gi. Most use a hot drier to shrink just a little bit. While it seems an odd practice, the limited number of perfect sizes means that it can be difficult to select the right fit. The rate of shrinking depends on the make and fabrics as Ripstop material has no shrinkage but cotton may shrink up to 10% in a wash.
Softening your Gi
Softening your Gi can help to reduce potential abrasion for you or your training partners. To soften you simply air dry your Gi after a wash and once dry, pop it into the drier with a fabric softener for a few minutes on low or high heat.
Jiu-jitsu is a growing sport with traditional values and customs. While NoGi continues to emerge in popularity, there is no escaping the point of training in the Gi. How a BJJ Gi should fit becomes less of a quest to understand the basics and more a personal preference or philosophical debate as you progress in your jiu jitsu training journey.