BJJ’s Choking Hazard: The Gi



The uniform worn in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is called a gi and it takes a while to get used to.  Most people start BJJ in no gi and find the gi bulky and uncomfortable; I hated training gi for almost 2 years but I think a lot of the reason is because I didn’t know how to use it to my advantage.  I still remember the first time I saw Jason Statham choke someone with his own jacket in Transporter how friggin cool I thought it was. Now I know how to choke people with their own clothing, too.  Bottom line is if they wear it, we can choke them with it.

The Fit
Because I have to order them online, I had a really hard time finding a gi that fit me properly. The size charts are usually based on height and weight but because of shrinkage issues and different cuts, the sizing charts are not always accurate. Sometimes you will find one with actual measurements of the gi after shrinkage, which often occurs when the gi is washed.  One of my favorite gis is the Killer Bee Kimono and they offer both size charts.  Many of the gi companies have amazing customer service and once you know your measurements you can call or email to see if the gi you want is going to fit properly.  

The measurements you need to know are wrist-to-wrist across the shoulders, chest width all the way around, nape of neck to about mid bum (or the desired jacket length), hip bone to ankle bone and inseam.  Fushida Sports Corp has an in-depth Fitting Assistance service which will help you find a gi that will fit you perfectly.  I have the Fushida “CompLS” and it’s the best quality gi I’ve ever rolled in.
The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation has rules for how a gi should fit in competition. This video should give you a good idea of how your gi should fit you.  Only solid black, white or blue gis are allowed in competition but I think it’s nice to train in a gi that you really like regardless of the rules.  You can always have one gi for competition and one for training.  I have six gis at the moment but I’ve had about fifteen in total.  

The Weave

Recently, I replied to a question about gis on Twitter and accidentally “mentioned” Luciana Machado Simon, which led to me being schooled about gis.   As you will see in this interview, Luciana grew up in the BJJ culture and has been manufacturing the famous Brazilian MKimonos since 1994.  The Buyer’s Guide on that site is the most thorough and  easy to understand explanation about gis I’ve ever seen, and I’ve done a lot of research.  I hadn’t heard of MKimonos but as you can see in the photo, they’re very sharp and I will definitely consider them the next time I buy a gi.

The Buyer’s Guide linked above thoroughly explains each type of weave available today including the single, double, pearl and gold weaves.  It also describes the MKimono Hybrid weave, which is a weave Marcelo Machado developed in the year 2000.  Many companies develop their own weaves;   Killer Bee Kimonos are made with the Killer Bee weave, Fenom Kimonos are made with a crystal weave and Vulkan gis are made with a honeycomb weave.  I have no idea what the real difference is but I do find that some of the softer weaves like Vulkan and Fenom pick up a lot of debris from the mats and are more easily stretched when they get sweaty.  I prefer a more tight, durable weave like the Killer Bee weave and the Fushida Pearl weave.  Although rip stop is thin and I have seen it rip, it is very comfortable to roll in and ideal for hot summer days.  That being said, it is also easier for your opponent to keep a grip on because it is so thin.  

The Collar

In my video review of the Fushida CompLS gi, I said exactly what Josh Simon of MKimonos says in his opinion of collars:

Collar Thickness 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.


Some people say you should get a cheap gi or used gi to start but I think you should go big or go home.  If you can save a little money for a gi, just wait a little longer and save a little more so you can get your dream gi.   You’ll be happy you did; this is assuming you didn’t quit BJJ after 2 months.  The good news is if you did buy an amazing gi and you don’t use it anymore, you will easily be able to sell it on ebay.

So you bought a gi…
Once you’ve chosen a gi and it arrives on your doorstep, it’s good to know how to put it on properly and tie your gi belt securely. Click the link for video instruction.
Make sure that when you buy your first gi, you remember to order a belt as well.  Check and see what the people at your club have and pick your favorite.  Most likely you will just buy a belt from the same company you buy your gi from but often the larger companies sell a variety of brands.  So far I’ve had three belts:  a white Atama, a blue Fenom and a blue JJPG.  A belt is a belt, I thought, but the Fenom belt was extremely thick and I hated wearing it because it made a huge knot and people mocked me.  The JJPG ties well and is a great weight but it actually looks kind of purple.  My teammates know my rank but when I train with people I haven’t met before, it may be confusing.  I think if I buy another one, I’ll stick to Atama or Koral.   I mean white is white but Atama makes high quality products and I never had an issue with their belt.
I always tie my gi belt right at my waist but one of my teammates informed me recently that I looked like Steve Urkel and that it should actually be tied at the hips for a more pimp look.  I find that my jacket pulls out more easily if I tie it at the hip so I’ve chosen to remain geeky.  It’s up to you.

Gi Washing and Care
The MKimonos Buyer’s Guide has a great Washing, Care and Maintenance section.  Also, Meerkatsu has written a great gi care guide.  I wash my gis in hot water and dry them in the dryer because I want to kill any germs they’ve picked up during class but this is bad for the gi.  If you’ve purchased a quality gi and you want it to last, don’t be a dummy and do what I do.

No matter which type of gi you end up with, I hope you enjoy choking people with it and remember to always protect your neck!

Follow me on Twitter @sallyarsenault


  1. A quality Bjj Gi is the one that gives you flexibility to your movements when you wear it. You should feel very comfortable inside the Gi. You should never feel any sense of discomfort when you wear the Jiu Jitsu Gi. Then only you can call it a quality Bjj Gi.
    Fuji gi


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