TUFF Fightwear, based in Kent, UK, have done something I thought was impossible - a sub £40 BJJ uniform that is actually very good. Here is my full review based on an A2 gi. Newcomers may wish to check out my What Gi Should I Buy article.
Stats and Measurements
The TUFF gi is made in Pakistan and retails for £39.99 plus postage. It comes in white, blue or black and is available by mail order from http://www.tufffightwear.net/ or direct from the TUFF Fightwear retail store in Kent. Here are my measurements based on an A2 white gi.
The jacket is decorated with large TUFF Fightwear patches on the left breast, lapel base and right trouser leg. The sleeves have smaller embroidered logos on both arms. Overall the look is bright, bold but not too garish. It is less ornate compared to the Tatami Zero G, but more decorated compared to the Faxia Rua gis.
Stitching and reinforcements are good. Stress points in any gi tend to be at the sleeve cuffs, armpit area, collar and two 'V's' at the base of jacket, and the gi is reinforced adequately in these areas. Triple-row stitching is used mostly throughout and extra material lines the inside sleeve cuffs.
The collar is pleasingly thick - slightly thicker than my Vulkan Pro Light (photo below, Vulkan is black), but not as thick as the Black Eagle single weave. The entire collar and lapel construction is the usual rubber inner with cotton surface.
These trousers have a thick rope-style tie cord, much like the Tatami Fightwear Zero G. I prefer these to the flat cotton types as the rope styles tend to stay knotted and do not get lost inside the hem.
The knees are double lined as you would expect from a BJJ gi and the length and ankle widths were acceptable - not too short and not too wide. The fabric does seem very thin compared to most other gis I have tested.
I did notice one design flaw - see photo below, the rope cord had a tendency to ride up beyong the hem of my trousers due to the overly narrow placement of the front belt loops. This did not impinge on me when rolling, but I can imagine they could get caught in a finger or other appendage.
The manufacturer's website states that this gi is pre-shrunk and apart from that, there are no other care instructions. I chose to wash it at 40 degrees. After several washes the jacket had shrunk about 4-6% but the most noticeable shrinkage was on the trouser length - almost 10%. For my personal preference, this is perfect as a non-shrinking A2 would normally be too big for me.
Fit and comfort
For the record, my stats are: Height=167cm, weight=59Kg, wingspan (fingertip to fingertip)=173cm.
Straight out of the bag, this gi was a tad large on me, but with the small degree of shrinkage after two washes I felt the jacket fitted me perfectly but the trousers were a tad too short.
After half a dozen BJJ sessions the lightness of the gi was very apparent. I felt the collar lapels however were a bit too stiff but this may soften over time. I also quite like the Black Eagle lapels as these have a slight ridge of softer material that 'bulks' out the leading edge of their rubberised collar (on the single weave) and I think the TUFF gi would benefit from such an addition.
For most traditional martial arts, the cost of a student uniform ranges between £10 to £50. Most BJJ uniforms cost over £50 and it could be argued that the cost of uniforms is a limiting factor to the growth of the sport.
TUFF Fightwear have broken the £50 barrier and produced a gi that is within the affordability range of your average BJJ student - especially someone who is new to the sport and does not wish to spend over £100 for a 'prestige' brand such as Koral or Atama. Of course it is possible to buy a much cheaper judo uniform, but the BJJ style of cut (longer sleeves, narrower cuffs, one-piece design) just seems to feel a lot better when rolling on the ground.
What I found surprising is that the TUFF gi is made to very high standards, with small details, such as the rope drawstring, triple stitching, reinforced sleeve cuffs and embroidered logos, that enhance the quality of the product. The jacket is very light and the trousers, although a tad thin for my liking, seem durable enough to withstand the rigours of regular training. The patches are nice and it certainly does not look 'cheap'.
It is possible that over an extended period of use, the gi may not last as long as a well-known brand - this has yet to be tested. I personally would recommend this gi to beginners of the sport, and to more experienced BJJers looking for an affordable second gi or as a very light gi when cutting weight for a tournament.
TUFF Fightwear website: http://www.tufffightwear.net/
Other budget BJJ brands to consider: Blitz Lutador BJJ kimono, Cimac BJJ gi and Playwell BJJ gi.
My other gi reviews:
Great British Gi Review (Malvado v Zero G v Black Eagle)
Faixa Rua Classico
Disclaimer: This article represents my own personal views. I am not sponsored or endorsed by TUFF Fightwear or any other gi company.
Favour: Please mention my blog, 'Meerkatsu.com' when ordering your gi. I do not receive any stipend but it helps me when working future reviews, cheers :)