If your default is extra small, this post is for you.
Before we begin, let me be clear: This is not a buyer’s guide. If you’ve never bought a gi before or buying one after a long time, I highly recommend doing a Google search and reading the top handful of results that show up before continuing with this post. I will not be going over general best practices – this post is meant to be an addendum to those guides.
Some background: As of this writing, it’s been 10 years since my first BJJ class and since then, I’ve gone through dozens of gis. Not hundreds, as I’m not swimming in money and also because I’ve learned a couple things so I’m not swimming in my gis.
This post is a collection of those learnings, a handful of practical tips that have saved me both money and frustration – because let’s face it, BJJ is hard enough without your gi working against you.
This post will consist of two parts: Getting a gi that fits, and extra money saving tips.
Part 1: Getting a gi that fits
What no one will tell you: There is always a chance the gi will not fit. You can follow every buyer’s guide, each thing on this post, etc. but there is no guarantee that the gi will fit. However, you can increase your chances by going through the steps below.
Before you start taking out your wallet, it’ll pay to do some thinking about your future plans and your current style.
Consider your plans for competing
Most folks prefer a shorter gi (must be nice to have a choice) but if you intend to compete in IBJJF, note that they have specific uniform rules for gi fit – not to mention color, patch location, etc. Do yourself a favor and familiarize with the current uniform rules on their website here: IBJJF Uniform Requirements
Additionally, if you intend to compete but not in IBJFF promotions, note that many competitions will hold to IBJJF’s rule set, including their uniform regulations.
Consider your game/style
For us smaller folks, movement is both offense and defense. The less fabric available for someone to grip you and tie you up, the better chance you have at having the upper hand (or just surviving).
However, if you like using your own gi for attacks, it may actually help to get a gi top that’s not too short. For example, I’m fond of this lapel choke from top side control that uses your own jacket to choke your opponent. I learned the hard way though that it doesn’t work if I’m wearing a gi that’s too short (which led to me being tossed but that’s a different story).
Other submissions affected by gi length: (sleeve) Ezekiel choke, (jacket length) Brabo chokes, (jacket length) this fancy lapel toehold
We’ll talk about going about getting these measurements in the Know thy measurements section.
Laziest Easiest ways to find a gi that fits
Window shop your teammates
Your teammates are walking advertisements for gis. Look at what folks your size are wearing, especially the women. If there’s someone around your size wearing a gi that you fancy, ask them about their experience with the gi and if you could try it on before class starts to see how it fits.
Just be nice about it – and actually, just be nice in general. There’s also a chance that, if people know you’re shopping for gis and understand your trouble getting a smaller gi that fits, they may keep you in mind when, say, their gi shrinks too much, or they don’t like the color of their gi (I actually scored a couple hand-me-down Shoyorolls this way – for free!).
Buy another one
The next easiest way to find a gi that fits is, if your current gi fits, just buy the same gi again. Yes, it’s nice to have new, different stuff, but if the gi fits, might be worth investing in another set.
(Big caveat: Getting the same gi and getting a gi from the same company are two different things. If a company offers several lines of gis, they may use different fabric or a different cut, etc. for each of those gis, all of which can affect fit and shrinkage.)
Getting your measurements takes only a couple minutes and will save you a bunch of heartache later on (more on that in the next section). Enlisting a trusted person with a tape measure is the best method. However, if it’s only you or you don’t have a tape measure, you can just use some string and measure that against a ruler, or just lay a set of clothes down on a flat surface and measure those instead.
Most gi companies will give measurements for the width and length of each gi piece, so it’ll help to get the matching measurements of your own body. Below is a chart with general guidance.
Note: Make sure to take down both imperial (ex. inches) and metric (ex. centimeters) measurements as gi companies often only use one system.
||Wrist to wrist
||Cuff to cuff of a jacket or long-sleeve shirt
||Shoulder to wrist
||Shoulder seam to cuff of a jacket or long-sleeve shirt
||*Over the middle of chest
||*Shirt with a padded bra underneath
||*Collarbone to belly button
||Shirt collar to shirt hem
||Hip bone to hip bone
||Pants width (recommended at the hips)
||Circle around the hips
||Belt buckle to preferred belt hole
||Middle/thickest part of thigh
||Middle/thickest part of a one leg of a pair of pants
||Hip bone to ankle bone
||Outside seam of a pair of pants from top of pants to pants hem
||Crotch to ankle bone
||Inside seam of a pair pants from crotch to pants hem (or above depending on fit)
*Why these measurements:
- Over the middle of the chest/Shirt with a padded bra underneath: Unisex or mens gis tend to be boxier, straighter cuts. A traditional “chest” measurement would be underneath the boobs for women, but to take into account the extra space needed, I recommend going over the middle of your chest.
- Collarbone to belly button: As mentioned earlier, jacket length is important to consider if you tend to use your own gi for submissions. One way to get an ideal measurement for jacket length is to also measure the distance from your belly button to the middle of your thighs, and add this to the measurement of your collarbone to your belly button.
- Pants width: Again, this is especially important if you’re looking at unisex or mens gis, which tend to have straighter cuts and also narrower in the hips (i.e. it won’t do you any good if the length is okay but you can’t get the pants over your hips).
- Leg width: Some gi companies share this measurement, which can be extremely helpful if you have thicker legs (ain’t no shame!).
Ask for the gi measurements
Now that you have your measurements, you can compare them against the gi measurements. Note that I didn’t say “size chart” – often, these charts only note height and weight. But as we’ve seen above, there are some nuance that’s worth looking into (remember, we’re trying to increase our chances of getting a gi that fits).
Before reaching out to the gi company, do check the product pages for a couple gis as sometimes the pictures include a size chart at the end. If the size chart doesn’t have the gi’s exact measurements (common) or if you can’t find a chart at all (also common), reach out using the company’s contact form/info from their site (usually “Contact Us”).
What you can say:
Hi, I was looking to buy one of your gis, but was hoping to look at a more detailed size chart first. Do you happen to have a chart that includes gi measurements like sleeve length, pants inseam, etc.?
I’ve used the above before and have typically received an email response with a PDF attached within a day or two.
A note on heartbreak
Once the company shares this information, it can be sometimes heartbreakingly clear that things won’t be a good match. For example, there have been plenty of times where I’ve come across a beautiful gi, only to find that there was no chance that their smallest size would be close enough to fitting me. Yes, most gis shrink a bit, but not more than an inch – and with my size and my style, even an inch is already a risk.
The consolation, however, is that there are new gi companies appearing almost every day. Trust me, it’s worth the wait to find a gi that matches your measurements.
Look up the return policy
Even after you’ve taken all of these steps, it still helps to look up their return policy. Some places are quite generous, allowing you to even train in the gi before returning it. That said, do wash it before you send it back!
Part 2: Extra money saving tips
Now that we’re armed with some practical tools to find a gi that will (hopefully! most likely!) fit, let’s add a couple tips to soften the blow to your wallet.
Check cheaper places
Outlet/warehouse type stores often house extra gis at a discounted price. While it can take some time to look through all of the offerings, the time spent can be worth the money saved.
I recommend identifying a gi you like first, going through all of the steps in part 1 to doublecheck that it’s within your size range, then finally going to one of these outlet/warehouses sites to see if they hold that gi in your size. One particular place I’ve had success purchasing several gis from is Rollmore, but just like gi brands, there are more of these type of companies coming up everyday.
Wait for random deals
If you’re willing to wait, some other options open up: Sales sites like BJJHQ can sometimes slash up to half off of a gi (and sometimes even throw in some free accessories). Additionally, if you sign up to the mailing list of a certain brand, you can get special access to sales and the like.
The only downside is that this truly is a waiting game, and sometimes you’ll have to wait several months or more. But if bargain shopping is your jam, this may be for you.
Get a cheaper gi first
10 years ago, buying a “cheap” gi really did mean you were selling out on quality. I don’t think the same can be said nowadays, to be honest. For example, I’ve seen plenty of people at my gym wearing gis bought from Amazon and holding up to training multiple times a week for over a year.
(For personal recommendations of solid women’s gis that are also reasonably priced, check out my reviews of Fuji and Fenom Kimonos.)
Secret tip: Kids gis
If you’re small enough, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting a kids gi. While children’s gis may be slightly less quality, they can be more than worth it since they’re often half the price of an adult gi. For example, I’ve owned a couple kids gis, each lasting for at least a year (and a couple outlasting some of my adult gis!).
Some things to note though:
- Pay special attention to pants width: If you thought unisex or mens gis were narrow, kids gis will be even smaller. (That said, sometimes you can buy two different sized kids gis and still end up paying less than what you’d pay for an adult gi)
- Many kids gi pants will have elastic waistbands. While they’re very comfortable, it also means they can be easier to pull down compared to regular pants (this may or may not be why I’m diligent about wearing compression leggings underneath my gi now).
And there you have it, 10 years of wisdom packaged in 2000 words. If you’ve found any of this useful or have any other tips you’d like to share, drop a comment below!