2 Jan 2012

Gi Review: Ronin Brand Gold Class and Insignia gis

Two very different gi types from same brand. Both models share the same high levels of quality and value for money but I found one of them in particular to be ultra comfortable, with a near perfect fit.

Disclosure: The contents of this report are my own opinions. I have in the past worked with a number of fightwear brands, including Ronin Brand, on various projects which are unconnected with this product.

I must admit, before the owner of the fightwear store Kinjisan contacted me, I had never heard of Ronin Brand before. Kinjisan is a proper physical store located in New York and Ronin Brand is their own martial arts uniform brand covering a variety of styles, including judo, karate and BJJ. It sounds like one of those gi companies you sort of heard of somewhere, but never saw anyone wearing. This has changed a lot in the past few months as Ronin Brand has been vigorously marketed on the internet and there have been a number of recent blogger reviews for their two leading BJJ gi models, the Insignia and the Fighter (links at the end of this report). This review will look at their lesser known Gold Class gi, a goldweave model, versus the more popular Insignia, a pearl weave model.

Size, Weight and Other Stats

Gold Class A1 in centimetres (second figure is after three 30 degree washes)
A: 168/163
B: 77/74
C: 60/59
D: 16/15.5
E: 54/53
F: 95/88.5
G: 23/22
Jacket = 1.5Kg
Trousers = 0.6Kg
Price = $114.95

Insignia A2 in centimetres (second figure is after three 40 degree washes)
A: 163/161
B: 79/77
C: 60/58.5
D: 17/7
E: 57/55
F: 96/90.5
G: 25/24
Jacket = 1.1Kg
Trousers = 0.6KG
Price = $129.95

Looking at the figures above, the most interesting aspect to note is the weight difference. The Insignia, despite being a bigger size (A2) weighs only 1.7Kg in total whereas the Gold Class (A1) weighs 2.1Kg. The Gold Class shrunk by a slightly larger margin than the Insignia overall. In both models, the trousers shrank by quite a large margin.

Gold Class (top) and Insignia (bottom), note the more tapered cut of the white gi

Both gi models are very plain, with just an embroidered patch on the sleeve but the Insignia is notable for the inclusion of branded tape running along most of the inside seams and on the outside of the trouser leg. With previous gis, I have found that the logo tape can be horribly scratchy and uncomfortable on my skin. But the Insignia tape was as smooth as silk. I definitely did not feel any discomfort - although this reviewer experienced otherwise.

The collars of both gis are covered with basic twill cotton fabric. The Insignia had the much thicker collar but I noticed some of the stitching to be a bit sloppy and coming apart. The Gold Class had zero stitching problems. I liked that non-branded seam tape on the inside cuffs, very comfortable and strong.

Both gis are well reinforced throughout. The Insignia trouser cuffs in particular were well constructed - with 6 rows of stitching. I can live with the simple twill cotton drawstring, I much prefer good quality rope ties on trousers.

The Insignia has a slight glossy sheen to it that did not fade after repeated washing. The online blurb describes it as being made from 'crystal weave' which I must admit, does sound a little like sales patter. As far as I know, 'crystal weave' is the same as the process for 'pearl weave' fabrics in which cotton is mercerised and (possibly additionally) sanforised in order to create a strong yet light and reasonably shrink resistant fabric.

Comfort, Fit and Rolling Performance
When suggesting gi sizes, Doug from Kinjisan recommended the size A1 for the goldweave model and A2 for the Insignia. I trusted that the A2 would shrunk quite a lot as most A2's are too big for me, and I also hoped the A1 would NOT shrink as many A1 gis end up being too small for me after several washes.

After three washes, I'm happy to report that both gis still fit me pretty well. They both shrunk quite a bit but it seems to me that their pre-shrunk sizes took this into account.

The A2 Insignia was always going to be too wide in girth for my skinny body type but the sleeves are perfect in length (sleeve length is a constant problem for me with my long arms). The trousers are made from twill cotton, which I actually really like over other fabric types (ripstop and canvas being two other popular choices) and are a good length on me but being A2, they are very baggy in width more than I would like but certainly still functional. I was very impressed with the lightness and comfort of this model - comparable to any of the leading premium lightweight gi brands I have tried in the past. The Insignia also goes to show that it is possible to use branded seam tape on the inside cuff that is NOT itchy and scratchy, unlike several gis I have reviewed in the past.

The jacket of the A1 Gold Class in my opinion is an absolutely wonderful gi. After three washes it shrunk just enough to fit me like a tailored suit (cut by laser I am told). Added to this is the impressively tapered cut of the arms and torso. It is snug but not tight. The gold weave fabric is soft and superbly comfy but it's definitely no chump in the strength department - the whole gi feels weighty, without feeling heavy. I know that sounds daft in writing, but it's true! It is a very substantial piece of uniform. I feel the trousers are a tad short for my liking and I'll probably swap these for a spare pair from one of my other gis. However I really feel this is one uniform that I will add to my rotation of regular training gis.

I was very impressed with these two gi models. They are both very good quality uniforms being sold at a very reasonable price. The Gold Class model in particular is an outstanding gi and one that I think I will wear for a long time. It reminds me a lot of my very old Atama goldweave Mundial edition, which I long ago retired, but I loved that gi to bits. It is a shame that this model will no longer be made, once the stock has sold (currently only A1, A3 and A5 exist) then they will no longer be available to buy.

The Insignia is very good, it is strong, very light and very comfortable. It is very close to my old Vulkan gi in terms of fit and feel. Watch out for some stitching quality issues but apart from that, it's a very decent effort from Ronin. Crucially, this model will continue to exist for the time being.

What both these gis illustrate is that if one is adventurous enough to look beyond blinging eye-candy and fashionable name brands, there can be some real treasures to unearth with lesser known, but equally good, gi brands such as Ronin. I definitely recommend both gis - the gold weave for those who like a sturdy and substantial weighing (but comfy) uniform and the Insignia for those who need a very light summer, travel or competition gi.

Further Information
Both the Insignia and the Gold Class gis are available through the US Kinjsan online store. For UK and European customers, I don't think you can buy these gis locally, however I do see that the 'Fighter' model (which is similar to the Insignia except it has ripstop trousers) is sold through Grapplers Delight store for a price of £64.99. For further information on Ronin Brand, check out their Facebook page.

For other reviews of Ronin Brand gis, check these here:
White Belt Academy Insignia Review
Gi Reviews - Insignia review
Grappling Addict - Insignia Review
An older Sherdog review of the Insignia


About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.


Brendan @ BJJ Gi Reviews said...

Great review Seymour, as always. Excellent pictures of the gis and great notes about how they fit you.

I agree totally with your sentiment about the brand being beneath the radar but a definitely a gem compared to a lot of the 'high-hype' brands out there.

manny said...

very detailed review, the white one looks so clean i think even Slidey will be impressed !

Anonymous said...

Brilliant review Meerkatsu!

Matt P (Sydney) said...

Hi Meerkatsu,

Thanks for the helpful review.

I'm 6'8" and 110kg and am looking for a Gi with long arms and long legs, with a tapered/slim cut. After reading your reviews it sounds like I have the same sizing problems as you, just on a magnified scale!

Do you think there's any chance this (the Gold Class) will fit me in A5?

Thanks again


Stas said...

So... I used this review as a reference for the Ronin brand in general and decided to get their new Samurai kimono, which they boast is designed by you. I don't know if you screened the quality of this particular beast before you contributed to its making, but it's probably the biggest rip off I have ever laid hands on. Please do a review of it so that people can be aware not to spend the time and money on dealing with it, especially considering the 20% restocking fee that these guys have the gall to demand for returns.

And I do mean rip off: terrible stitching, loose threading, terrible sizing, and the list goes on.


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