12 Mar 2012
I sample three brands of full length tights designed specifically for grapplers: Scramble 'spats', Strike Fightwear 'Mashuu' grappling tights and the Tatami Fightwear 'GenX' grappling tights. Having not worn tights before I was surprised how much comfort they added during training and possibly a small modicum of soft tissue support.
None of the models sampled here are classed as 'compression wear'.
Grappling tights have been around for quite a few years - a quick trawl through Sherdog's equipment discussion forums brings up mentions of spats/tights around 2008 - see here for the link. Wrestlers have long worn colourful lycra leggings and tights and it is probably this that influenced Japanese grapplers to adopt their own highly coloured 'spats' during grappling matches. The most notable example would have to be Shinya Aoki with his infamous Rainbow spats. I came across this web article in 2009 reporting on the phenomenon of 'Meggings' in Japan. It was clearly only a matter of time before the craze for tights hit the UK market...
Scramble Grappling Spats V2.0
(£34.99 from scramblestuff.com)
When Scramble launched their first spats in 2010 they became an immediate hit. Nogi fighters enjoyed the extra friction that tights offered when working leg based techniques while at the same time creating a more hygiene friendly barrier against skin to skin microbe infection. The big surprise however was that gi players also enjoyed wearing the spats, reporting that the increased comfort and sweat wicking effects were akin to wearing a rashguard under their jacket. Scramble subsequently released their homage to Shinya Aoki's rainbow spats, which also proved popular.
The v2.0 model has been modified from their original design. It offers an altered synthetic fibre mix that resists piling (small bobbles of fabric), additional dye sublimated logos and a printed elasticated waistband.
The overall design is intentionally minimal offering customers a less flashy alternative to the Scramble Rainbow spats.
I normally wear an A1 gi, am 170cm tall and weigh 60Kg. The size small was recommended to me and I'm happy to report they fitted perfectly. The stretchy material allowed me to pull on the tights easily but once on, they pinged back tightly onto my legs and became like second skin. Pulling off the tights was not difficult as the ankle cuffs were also quite stretchy. The thing I liked the most about these tights was the contoured four-panel cut. It felt like the outer thigh panel in particular was hugging my leg much like compression wear under-armour would (though these are not specifically compression wear items).
All the tights reviewed here incorporate impressively thick and obvious stitching between the panels. I have no idea about sewing methods so I looked it up. This PDF guide here was informative, as was this Wikipedia entry. I can only assume that the stitching used will ensure the items here last a long time.
Strike Fightwear Mashuu Grappling Tights
£30.99 from strikefightwear.com
Made from: 75% nylon, 20% spandex, 5% spandex
Made in Poland.
DISCLOSURE: These tights feature my macaque illustration - I was paid a fee for this artwork, tights designed in-house by Strike Fightwear.
Since Strike Fightwear launched towards the middle of last year they have been pumping out a non-stop stream of products. The latest are these grappling tights. The pair (size Medium) sent to me were made by Mad Dog Custom Clothing* and feature my macaque artwork (although I did not design the actual tights). Naturally I would have to say that I love the artwork, but I admire the was the Strike FW lads have composed the artwork in a very bold and brassy fashion.
These tights offer a different mix of materials compared to the Scramble product. They feel a bit thicker and less stretchy. I found that they were difficult to put on and especially hard to take off due to the rather inelastic ankle cuffs. Once on however they fitted perfectly and were a pleasure to wear underneath my gi trousers. The waist band features an internal piece of elastic and string - in my sample this core ended up twisting and warping out of position which did not affect the tension, but did look a bit uneven.
Tatami Fightwear GenX Grappling Tights (prototype)
Price tbc available soon from tatamifightwear.com
Made from: 80% polyester, 20% spandex
Made in: Pakistan
Tatami entered their tights into the market last year with their basic tights model. The new soon to be released batch has been re-branded under their GenX nogi range and improves on the previous model with better synthetic fibre mix to resist piling (bobbling) and adds new logos.
The sample sent to me was a size large, which was too big so it was hard for me to form an opinion on the fit and feel during training. I mean I could wear them, but there was so much excess material it felt like wearing saggy Long-Johns. Despite this, I could tell from the materials used and the manner in which they are constructed that the GenX tights are a pretty well made model.
The GenX model is a five panel design featuring a contoured outer segment that hugs the outline of ones leg a bit better than the simpler two-panel design of the Strike FW model. One small difference between the GenX and the others are the shoelace type drawstrings allowing the user to pull the tights a bit more snugly around the waist. I thought this was a considerate feature though I did not made use of it.
I must admit when grappling tights were first known to me I resisted the temptation to buy them as I considered them an unnecessary luxury. Now that I have sampled them I can honestly say I would not want to roll without wearing a pair. Tights add a supreme level of comfort underneath the gi and genuinely enhance the experience and enjoyment of grappling. Add to this the fact that they are a barrier against possible transference of microbes from skin to skin contact, then I can absolutely recommend them to anyone who trains BJJ, MMA or nogi.
Of the three brands I reviewed, the Scramble spats fitted the best and were a joy to use. The Strike tights are still an excellent product, a tad cheaper than the others with of course awesome artwork, though there was the inescapable fact that the inelastic ankle cuffs made the items hard to put on and remove. The Tatami GenX pair would probably be very good if I could have sampled a pair that fitted me correctly.
Note however, I assume that like rashguards, tights are not IBJJF legal in men's tournament matches.
*Strike Fightwear inform me that the next batch of grappling tights will offer an improved elastic ankle cuff.