We get a lot of calls asking which one is our lightest gi, and what is the difference between weaves. When talking about the weight of the fabric, textile industry uses gsm, grams per square meter, measurement. This however is rather meaningless to the consumers who will never test the material for gsm. It is easier to use the weight of the full gi set, jacket and pants, when choosing a gi.
Our women’s gis range from 2 lbs 8 oz for an A0 to 4 lbs for an A4. The minor differences in weights between different gis can be contributed to the design elements: pants loops, cord or flat drawstring, collar thickness, extra embroidery, and variances that happen in cutting and sewing. Half an inch extra in jacket or sleeve length as well as added reinforcements, patches, and decorative tape can add some extra weight.
The trend in the gi industry over the past 5 years has been towards light weight gis. The lightest gis we have seen are 350 gsm, and the heaviest are 1150 gsm (samples only). A consumer needs to remember that the smaller the gsm number, the lighter the gi. Proper sizing is the key to feeling good about your gi. It is equally uncomfortable to train in a too small or too big gi no matter how light weight it is.
Sometimes the same weight material in different weaves feels lighter or heavier, and the gis feel like they are not the exact same size or fit. Also the expectation of having different weave gis behave the same way in washing and drying can be disappointing. If you are used to shrink to fit kind of gi that you can manipulate a lot, and then buy a pearl weave gi which does not shrink down a size, you may be upset “because it is not the same size” and vice versa. There are no bad materials, it is all about personal preference, and hard to measure feel factor.
Here is a list of materials we have used either in production or for sample gis. The short description may help you in the process of choosing your next gi.
PEARL WEAVE is the most popular weave on the market. Majority of the gis are 450-550 gsm but we have made our kids gis as light as 390 gsm. Pearl weave is tight woven, coarse, and at times can be super rough, and unpleasant on grips especially when wet. Most pearl weave gis are about 96% pre-shrunk, but some are close to 99% pre-shrunk. The gis are durable, dry fast, and feel light. Some pearl weaves stay rough, and stiff with air drying, almost like an armor. Pearl weave has very little pilling, and does not stretch out as much as softer weaves.
GOLD WEAVE used to be very popular about a decade ago. Gold weave has been replaced by pearl weave but old school jiu-jitsu peeps are familiar with this weave. If you started training in the past few years, you probably do not own a gold weave gi. Gold weave gis are slowly coming back to the market. The material feels soft and airy due to the looser weave. It feels sturdy but light at the same time. Gold weave gi lasts for years and years, and gets softer and over time. Well worn gold weave gi is as comfortable as a pair of pajamas. Older gis feel heavier because heavy-duty canvas reinforcements were added to all stitching lines. Gold weave is not the most attractive weave, its looks a little like a kitchen towel.
CRYSTAL WEAVE is the material we have been using since 2009. Crystal weave gis are our most popular gis because of the softness of the material. This weave looks like a woven basket, and is very loose. It also moves a lot, and is easy to grab. At the same time, it is comfy and gentle on the skin, no gi burns ever! It feels thicker because of the fluffy look but in reality is light weight as well. Crystal weave shrinks more than pearl weave but can be stretched out when wet. Pulling the sleeves and sides straight after every wash is required in order to maintain the size. Some pilling happens but it does not interfere with the functionality of the gi.
PEARL WEAVE PLUS is a new weave we added to our product line this year. The pattern looks like rows of diamond cut rope chain necklaces side by side. Shoyoroll calls it Pearl Weave Pro, Killer Bee Kimonos calls it New “KillerBee” Weave. We are pretty sure other companies have different names for it, since it is very new to the market, and everyone wants to claim that it is their special weave. Pearl Weave Plus feels like a softer version of pearl weave, just a little bit different look. It holds up well in washes, and has no unexpected shrinkage.
HONEYCOMB WEAVE gets its name from the partial resemblance to the hexagonal honey comb cells. This weave forms ridges and hollows that gives a cell like appearance to the texture. It is a soft material but does not stretch out too much. It breathes well, dries fast, and feels super airy and thin. We have just ran samples in this weave, and have not made a final decision whether or not to add this material to our gi line. Honeycomb weave feels somewhat like a waffle bath robe you would get in a fancy spa or a hotel.
Cotton Drill was once the only material used for gi pants. In the recent years ripstop pants have slowly pushed drill pants out but this material is still preferred by many martial artists. It is strong, heavily textured with its signature diagonal ribs, and lasts for a long time. Cotton drill pants shrink more in length than in width but the shrinkage can be managed by stretching the pants out after washing. The pants are super comfortable but may feel heavy when wet. The knees may stretch out while rolling and the after-training baggy look is not appreciated by gi snoobs.
Ripstop is a very light weight, and strong material. Most ripstop pants on the market are 100% cotton, but some gi makers offer cotton/polyester combination which has a waxy, parachute feel to them. Ripstop material has reinforcement threads woven in 0.5 mm to 0.8 mm intervals, giving the fabric its distinctive 3D, square pattern. Even though ripstop pants are very durable, the name can be deceiving. Ripstop pants do rip at the stress points when they are a size or two too small, and wear out on the knees over time. Fitted or slim cut pants tend to stick to the skin when wet, and constant adjustment during training is distracting. Ripstop pants are preferred in hot weather training and in competition. Both ripstop and drill pants cost the same to manufacture.
Second part of the series on new weaves, single weave gis and double weave gis can be found here.