8 Aug 2011
Pre-production limited edition pre-order only model from UK brand Black Eagle offers lightweight design with comfy interior lining and a dappling of 'bling' graphical elements designed by yours truly!
The Raptor is available on pre-order only (during month of August) from the Black Eagle website:
Introduction & Disclosure
I'll be honest here, this is not going to be a normal gi review. Why? Because Black Eagle offered me a blank canvas and asked me to come up with a decorous gi design so here it is, the Raptor. Given my obvious involvement with this model, I'll try my best to offer objective facts alongside my personal commentary on the gi design. I was paid a fixed fee so whether this gi sells in the thousands or the tens does not affect me, however it would be nice if it was the former :)
This report will concentrate on the black model as out of the three pre-production samples ordered, this was the only one made from pearlweave material - which is what will be used on all three final models. To view the other models, see here.
The final version will have some of the design elements tweaked. For example, the front overlap will now not have the words: Special Edition. Instead it will be left blank.
And the shoulder emblems will be shunted downwards by half an inch so they become more visible when viewed from the front. I designed the Raptor wording on the shoulders to symbolise the primary wings of a bird of prey. I left the chest area sans patch cos I personally hate patches in this area.
Size, weight and other stats
Size A1, brand new versus x3 washes at 40 degrees (all sizes in centimetres)
Weight: Jacket 1.1Kg, trousers 0.64Kg
Material: pre-shrunk pearlweave jacket, canvas cotton trousers
Price: £99 + shipping (special low rate for international orders, check with the company)
The pre-production samples sent to me were made in both goldweave and pearlweave versions. The goldweave was very comfortable and soft but with the samples I had, they did shrink quite a bit. The pearlweave material used for the black gi was the same material used on the successful Predator model. Shrinkage, as the chart above shows, was minimal on the jacket. At 1.1Kg, it is also very light for an A1 sized gi. It was clearly apparent that the pearlweave was the better material so I suggested they ditch the goldweave and make the final production versions in all colours the same fabric as used on the black gi sample.
When designing the gi, I specifically requested slightly longer arms than the Predator as I found the latter at A1 was too short for me. The longer arms are only present on the A1 model, not the other sizes. As a consequence, the jacket fits me absolutely perfectly!
It still retains the slightly larger than average front overlap - a characteristic of the Predator gi also - but it did not bother me. I found the cavity width of the jacket torso to be nice and snug under the armpits. It reminded me a lot of the Fushida Komodo gis.
The base of the rear of the jacket skirt will be embroidered with Portuguese.
Rash guard inner lining
Having reviewed several gi models that incorporated a rash guard inner lining, I felt this was a superb high quality enhancement to any gi so I requested that the Raptor also have something similar included. It also meant I was able to apply design elements to the inside of the gi using dye sub printing techniques that would not peel, flake or rub off compared to direct printing onto gi fabric. The result is an extremely comfortable inner lining that adds to the luxurious feel of the jacket when being worn. Black Eagle have done a very good job here. My only criticism is that the factory have extended the rash lining all the way down to the sleeve cuffs and it is my preference to have the lining stop around elbow level. This avoids the lining possibly popping out of the sleeves during sparring. A neat surprise that I did not specify was that the eagle motif on the black gi has been printed using a semi-metallic dye sub ink, giving it an extra sheen of cool!
I designed the back patch as an intentionally loud and in yer face design. The eagle (or hawk as some describe) symbolises both the model name (raptor) and the name of the parent brand (Black Eagle). The scroll it carries symbolises the BJJ belt and the journey that every students travels during their training career. Together, they also evoke the feeling of old skool Americana - an aspect of pop culture that I personally quite enjoy. The Portuguese text was Black Eagle's idea and I think it works beautifully.
I tried to size the patch so that it could be covered up by an academy patch, as long as the academy patch was big enough. Some early commentators noted that they did not want the embroidery on the back so Black Eagle are offering customers the option of ordering the gi with, or without the back patch. Clearly, my personal choice is to favour the back patch.
The black gi contains the fairly commonplace palette of red and white trim. These colours just seem to work really well on a black coloured gi. Sadly the IBJJF have recently ruled that black gis are no longer (from 2012) permitted at IBJJF tournaments. Black Eagle will still offer this Raptor gi in black, however from 2012, they may no longer produce black gis on their other models (depending on demand).
The other colour versions of the Raptor are: grey/black on white gi, and purple/lilac on white gi. The latter was initially designed to be a ladies only model but a lot of guys were suggesting it should be offered out to men as well, so Black Eagle have complied with this demand and I'm glad they did, it really works very well as a unisex gi (especially if you are a purple belt ranked student, like me :P)
The final version of the lilac/purple version will not have the dark purple keyline. The grey/black model will remain the same.
I did not specify trouser material so Black Eagle decided to go ahead with canvas cotton, a material not previously available on their other gi models.
Canvas cotton is tough and hard wearing but a little thick and stiff so some users may find it takes a bit of getting used to. My sample was too short. It would suit an average A0 wearer. Black Eagle have offered purchasers the opportunity to mix and match jacket and trouser sizes. For me I guess I would be better off ordering a size A2 pair of trousers, but stick with the A1 sized jacket.
My original design suggested rope trouser cord would suit best, but Black Eagle are maintaining their preferred flat cotton belt tie - as found on all their other gi models. Their own feedback from customers have suggested that this is the preferred material. I did not find a problem using these trouser ties so I'm not going to go all diva and insist on this aspect. It works fine.
It's a very strange feeling to wear my own gi design to class. Weirder when, at the time, I decided to remain anonymous over my involvement. The general concensus from team mates was that it was a very nicely designed gi so you can imagine I breathed a sigh of relief. The jacket fitted me perfectly - so it should as I specified it to be made to made measurements! The lightness of the material and excellent fit contributed to a great performance on the mat. Sadly the trousers were too small so I found leg movement to be a little restricted. Hopefully when I get a pair of A2 trousers from the final production version, this will no longer be an issue. I suggest that purchasers consult Black Eagle's online size chart closely before buying.
Discussion and conclusion
Having reviewed so many BJJ gis in the past plus working as a freelance illustrator, I must admit, being given the opportunity to design my very own gi, with no restrictions, was a dream come true. Sure, I did ponder that such an involvement might change my independent gi reviewer status somewhat, and that it might annoy a few other brands, but what the heck, I jumped at the chance to indulge in my gi designing fantasy!
The process of designing a gi was great fun but not without some nail biting and agonising over the myriad of possibilities. I wanted the final gi to be absolutely IBJJF comp legal (this was before they banned black and navy gis), and I wanted it to be ultra cool, original and have mass appeal. I suggested the model name Raptor and it seemed a good follow-on to 'Predator', Black Eagle's other gi model.
I say original...I guess the gi is not without influences if I was being honest. There is a strong hint of Atama (Leticia Ribero limited edition) with the flowery type and the inner rash lining was inspired by how successfully the Gameness Elite and Tatami Pin-up gis incorporated theirs. I added text along various parts because I loved how something similar was used on my very first gi - an MKimonos Lutador gi. At least I did not simply copy what Shoyoroll have done lol!
If I never get to design another gi ever again, or even if I never get offered to review another gi brand, then I am still happy in the knowledge that I did my damnedest to design a gi that I felt would offer something classy, stylish but with broad mass appeal. It was also my wish to make a stylish gi that would be sold under £100 and in fact Black Eagle have just about done that!
I'd like to thank Black Eagle for the opportunity to design this gi.It's a dream job for a gi-addict like me and one I simply could not turn down. For a wider view on what others think of the Raptor, here are some other review sites:
Portuguese White Belt
Freestyler on Sherdog
Here's my original first draft 'back of the envelope' sketch. As you can see, a lot of my very first imaginings have been kept, while other bits have been altered substantially.
Now go buy! Before the pre-order window closes. It'll never be on sale again.
Raptor 10% discount - first 50 customers only or until midnight GMT Friday 12th Aug whichever comes first.
Type "MEERKATSURAP" at order stage