"Hi, uh, my name...my name is James, and I am...a gi addict."
The group stare approvingly and will our hero to continue with his story...
Confessions of a gi-addict
By James Carey
When Seymour (Meerkatsu) mentioned the idea of doing a piece on my gi addiction, I thought sure, easy knock up 3-4 paragraphs. What I didn’t expect was to end up writing over two and a half thousand words! And what’s come out is less of a confession of an addiction, more of a justification. Which probably proves that I am definitely an addict, as all 'users' can justify their addictions somehow... So here we go…
Now my addiction is based really around one key thing – finding the perfect fit. I’m not a flashy person (Shoyoroll’s are as pimped out as I go); all I want is a perfect fitting gi. And as someone who’s on the top end of the A1 size (5'6” 66kgs/147lbs) for 90% of manufacturers, it’s been a long search. The other thing I like is having a gi (or anything) that’s a bit rarer or different. Anyone who was at school in the early 90’s will remember that there was always a kid who had the Japanese MegaDrive or SNES – yep, that was me. I couldn’t have a normal MegaDrive, it HAD to be the Japanese one. And that’s carried over into some of my gi purchases too. . And no, I’m not some overexcited newbie white belt with a gi covered in more patches then a F1 driver’s racesuit, I’m a purple who’s been in this art/sport for close to 10 years. So by now you would have thought I should be out of that phase, but you’d be wrong. In fact, in the last 2 years I’ve bought more gis then I had in my first 4 years in BJJ, all in the name of finding the elusive perfect fitting gi
So, onto gi number 1. It’s November 2000, I’d been doing BJJ for about 3 months, completely fallen for it hook line and sinker, and needed to get something that fit better than the huge baggy Judo gi I’d been using up until then. So I did my research on the net, priced everything up, and it came down to a choice between a HCK and an Ouano. Now back in Nov 2000 when I was buying it, the Ouano was a rare gi. Everyone else in my school was rocking a Krugans or an Atama. Nobody knew who Ouano were, and that was cool. HCK weren’t that well known either (though were already a big name on the US scene), but when I worked it all out, I went for a white Ouano singleweave.
I got an A2 and had my first experience of the shrink-to-fit malarkey. And fit it did. Sure it was a bit baggy and a tad long in the sleeves, but it fit a hell of a lot better than the cheap Judo gi. And then a couple of months later, one of John Ouano’s students was living in London, and posted up on the old SFUK forum that he was selling some Ouano gis. So I met up with him, and bought a blue singleweave from him. It was much nicer then my white Ouano, but different too. It was far lighter, and was not as baggy. So now I had one gi that fit pretty well, and one that was lighter and fit better, despite being the same. I’ve had the same issue with other gis too (which I’ll get to later). No addiction yet, I had my 2 gis, I was only training twice per week, so everything was right in the world.
Ever More Alluring Offerings
Next purchase was an A2 blue singleweave Atama in 2003 from a friend who’d stopped training because of injury. First thing I noticed about the Atama (apart from the terrible fitting pants which I sold separately years later) was that the fit was completely different then the Ouanos. It was much longer in the body, sleeves were longer too (but only by a tiny amount), but the big thing was how much slimmer the fit was. The Ouanos were huge by comparison. This was the first time I had even considered that gis from different companies might fit differently.
Gi number 4 was an A1 white Koral in late 2004. I’d been thinking about getting another gi for a while at this point, mainly because I’d lost about 8kgs over the last year and was continuing to lose weight to make it to the featherweight category. Now it’s this point that I reckon the search for a great fitting gi really began. I’d lost loads of weight, so not only was I buying new “regular” clothes that fit my new smaller body, I was on the lookout for betting fitting kit too. My Ouanos were starting to feel quite baggy on me, the Atama was long, and I’d always liked the look of the Koral as my first BJJ instructor wore them. I was now a blue belt, and had become more interested in competitions, watching videos of Jacare and Terere pull off the most amazing BJJ while wearing Koral gis. So naturally, I had to have one.
And when it came, it was a thing of wonder. It looked amazing, and it fit perfectly. No f**king around shrinking to fit, just a perfect fit straight out of the bag. Korals were still pretty rare in the UK at that time, so once again I had the pleasure of wearing the gi that lots of people wanted. And it’s the older style one with Koral Kimonos stitched in black on the trim, not Koral Fight Co in red like you get on the Koral Classics now. That's a very important detail. You might not think so, but trust me, it is (in my head anyway).
Gi number 5 was an another A1 Koral, but this time a blue one. I picked this one up on my first trip to LA in 2005 from the Jiu-Jitsu Pro Gear store. But once I got back to the UK and started wearing it, I quickly noticed that it fit completely differently than my white Koral. And I mean totally differently. Weight, size, all unlike my other Koral. You would have thought they’d come from separate factories. But I stuck with it and still wore it, but I was never really happy with it. It’s a nightmare to think that you can’t be sure if a gi might not fit quite as well as another just because it’s been dyed a different colour. Pain. In. The. Arse.
The Addiction Gets Sirius
Gi #6 was a white Sirius Athletic, again bought in the US (on my second trip to Shawn Williams' school in 2006). Sirius had come on the US scene in in 2005 and had been getting some good reviews. Price was excellent too, and with shipping within the US being so cheap, I thought why not. One of the guys at Shawn’s had one, looked great and fitted me well, so I bought the same size as him (A2). When it arrived, it was huge. Really huge. But that was ok, few boil washes once I got it home and it’d be fine…. No it wasn’t. The pants shrank ok, but the top? The top fit like I was a kid wearing his dad’s jacket. I’m sure it was an A3 with an A2 label. I contacted Sirius, explained the problem and they offered to exchange it, telling me to send the top back, but unfortunately it never reached them, getting lost in the post. Hopefully the thieving postman who got it found that it fit him even worse than it fit me. I wore the pants for a while, but eventually sold them last year.
[at this point the group leader brings a halt to proceedings for half time tea break...find out in Part Two how brother James' addiction really takes off...]