13 Feb 2010

Great British Gi Review - Black Eagle v Tatami Zero-G v Malvado

Black Eagle single weave
Tatami Fightwear Zero G
Malvado Fightwear BJJ gi

This review aims to offer readers the chance to compare and contrast three affordable gis made by three different UK companies: Black Eagle Martial Arts, Tatami Fightwear and Malvado Fightwear/BJJ Kimonos. Before proceeding, newcomers to BJJ may first wish to read my article: What gi should I buy?

Tatami Fightwear and Black Eagle are brands that have been established in the UK for several years and have supported the UK BJJ scene by sponsoring  fighters and supporting events. They both handle international shipping. Malvado Fightwear is a newly formed MMA and BJJ merchandise and are currently seeking athletes to endorse.

These particular gis were chosen for this review as they are all made from single weave cotton fabric and are priced roughly the same. At times I will refer to Koral, Atama and Vulkan gis as a benchmark references due to their ubiquitous popularity.

Click on the photos to view larger resolution, or visit my Flickr page here, to see all the images at once.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated, supported or sponsored by any of these companies.

As of February 2010, the cost for these gis based on their advertised web price is:

Black Eagle single weave (BE): £51.99 + £3.95 shipping (UK)
Tatami Fightwear Zero G (TF): £57 + £7.50 shipping (UK)
Malvado Fightwear (MF): £54.99 + £6 shipping (UK)

Prices can vary depending on discounts, sales and promotions - check with your instructor or reseller who can sometimes negotiate a discount.
Customer services were good in all cases - queries by email were responded to within a day and items arrived at my door within two working days.
Country of manufacture: All the gis in this review are made in Pakistan.


I measured the gi weights using a digital kitchen scale and I measured the dimensions in three cases: brand new; after a 40 degree wash; then again after another 40 degree wash. Note: some manufacturers advise to wash at 30 degrees (see later).
I stand 5'6'' tall and weigh 58kg without the gi - so very skinny, and I have very long arms. I should normally fit an A1 according to most manufacturers but I prefer to shrink-to-fit an A2 gi.

Washing was done using non-biological detergent and softener. Uniforms were air-dried.

Shrinkage Results
(Based on an A2 size gi)
First figure is brand new, second figure is after two 40 deg washes:

                                             BE            TF            MF
Weight (Kg):                         1.73          1.56            1.59
Arm length (shoulder - cm):   74.5/72     78/77          72/69
Arm length (armpit - cm):      53/50         54/52         45/44
Jacket length (cm):                78/78         79.5/78      72/71
Sleeve width (cm): 1             15.7/15       17/16.5     16.5/16
Inside trouser leg (cm):          69/61         73/68        74/68
Outside trouser leg (cm):       95/90         97/94         95/89
Knee width (cm):                  28/27.5      27/26.5      26/25
Ankle width (cm):                 25/24         23.5/23      23/22

Note: care instructions vary according to each gi. I used 40 degrees to maintain an even standard but the official guidelines state: BE can wash at 60 degrees, TF and MF should wash at 30 degrees.

The results show that after two 40 degree washes, gi tops tend to shrink in arm length and less so in jacket length. Warm washing affects trouser shrinkage the most. The Zero G shrinks the least, the Malvado the most, although the margins between all three were quite small.

Patches & Design
It is probably here, with the way the gi is patched, that buyers might be most swayed in their decision making process. Although none of the models here could be described as garish, nor plain, there are enough design differences that make one appeal more than the other, depending on personal taste.

The Black Eagle gi has woven chest and leg patches and each arm is embroidered with their eagle logo. It is quite minimal compared to their other models, such as their Black Eagle Mundial goldweave.

The Zero G has woven patches on the shoulders, chest, rear skirt and legs. Of the three gi models, this was  the most ornate. I liked the font used for the 'Zero G' patch, but I'm not a fan of the Tatami fightwear daoist logo (embroidered on both sleeves and trousers) which is a bit too kung-fooey for my taste.

The Malvado Gear gi is embroidered on the chest with the Malvado lettering ('Malvado' translates to 'wicked' in Portuguese) and a pair of green/yellow figurines which combine to form the 'M'. In my opinion, this gi is certainly the most attractive of the three models. The embroidered logos and typography are just on the side of tasteful without being overbearing.

Lapel & Collar
As can be seen from the visual, collar thickness varies according to brand. All three makes have rubberised lapels covered with cotton and several rows of stitching. The photo shows there is a minor variation in the thickness of these collars.

Since the edge of the collars are curved, it was hard to get an exact measurement, but here are the approximate collar thicknesses:

BE: 1.2cm
TF: 0.9cm
MF: 1.0cm
The Black Eagle has the thickest collar but this effect is created by having about 1.5 cm of softer rolled up material within the stitching, thus giving a sort of 'bulging' effect at the leading edge. The other two gis had uniformly thick rubber collars, much like Vulkan and Koral collars.

All the gis tested are classed as single-weave. The Malvado gi is marketed as being constructed of 'crystal' cotton which is described as cotton that shinier and more durable than normal cotton. In my research, this sounds similar to mercerised cotton, which is a standard industry treatment for cotton. Although I cannot confirm if both BE and TF gis also have this treatment.

One aspect not immediately apparent in the photos is the gi colour. The TF gi appears almost blueish white and the MF gi is almost yellow-white. The BE is somewhere in between.

The BE and TF appear to be stitched together using x3 rows of stitching, the Malvado uses x2 rows.

Sleeves can be a factor when choosing a gi. Wide sleeve cuff apertures can seem a bit baggy and allow the opponent to easily grip for spider and other open guard type techniques. On the plus side, they do allow for easier Ezekiel chokes. It should be pointed out however, that narrow, tapered sleeve designs could fall foul of the stringent IBJJF gi rules, especially after shrink washing.

The Black Eagle gi had highly tapered sleeves, hence it had the narrowest sleeve widths of all the gis. The TF sleeve was the widest, with Malvado being quite close in width to the TF.

Both BE and TF gi sleeves were reinforced inside the cuffs:

In all the brands, the trousers were constructed of a light cotton or canvas material. The Zero G felt the thinnest and lightest of the three, although there was barely much difference between them. Before washing, there was a noticeable difference in the width of the trousers:

Both the BE and the MF gis had standard issue flat cotton tie drawstrings, but the TF had a thick knotted rope, which would probably be less likely to come undone or get lost within the trouser hem.

I wore each gi for about a week each (x3 sessions each).

Black Eagle single weave: The attention to detail on this gi is very high. I like the fact that the sleeve cuffs are reinforced with extra material, and the triple stitching throughout might ensure less probability of tearing at stress points. Straight out of the bag, this gi was a tad big on me, but not as big as the Zero G. After several washes, the jacket settled at just the right size for me, although the trousers did shrink more than I expected.

When rolling in class with this gi, it soon became apparent that the lapel gets very heavy with sweat. The extra material used to makes the collar so thick, also absorbs all my (and my opponent's) sweat. I found this to be a bit of an irritation, but then I am used to the thinner rubber collars on my Vulkans.

The gi itself proved to handle the wear and tear of tough sparring very well. As it is the heaviest gi I am testing, I expect it to be the most durable over time. It is claimed by many practitioners that a thick gi collar can prevent chokes and make defence easier. I found that the thickness of the BE colar did delay the onset of a collar choke, but its very thickness also gave my opponents extra purchase upon which to grip the lapel in the first place. So the two factors cancel each other out.

Tatami Fightwear Zero G: There are a lot of nice touches to the Zero G. The gi arrives encased in its own nylon gi bag and the thick trouser drawstring does not come undone. As with the BE gi, small details such as triple stitching and reinforced cuffs are good quality enhancements. The makers claim the Zero G weighs 1.4kg for an A2, but my measurements show this is not true (1.56kg), but still a very light gi.

Of the three gis, the Zero G has the biggest 'cut' by far. Out of the bag, it was huge on me. The size guide on the website states that an A2 should fit someone measuring 5'7''-5'9'' and weighing 71-86kg (so, bigger than me). I had hoped that this would be resolved after a few washes and as the figures show, the jacket did shrink, but only a little.

When rolling in class, although the gi was big on me, I actually think this is a good thing. The fabric is so light and the cut so generous that it felt like I needed to 'bagginess' to remind myself I was actually wearing a gi in the first place! I must admit, it was very comfortable to wear. At times when I was squished under a larger opponent, the lightness of the gi did not induce my occasional feelings of claustrophobia that sometimes a thick heavy gi can make me feel (see Stephan Kesting's article on claustophobia in BJJ).  The trousers were incredibly light and fitted me perfectly after two washes. The hard rubber collar - which is basically the same as a Koral or Vulkan - was flexible enough for comfort, but stiff enough to make it a little awkward for opponents to collar choke me. This gi looks, and feels, very similar to my Vulkan Pro Light gis - which are my favourite gis to wear.

Malvado Fightwear BJJ gi: The Malvado gi fitted me perfectly when brand new. But I was worried that after a few washes, it would end up being too small.

Wearing this gi in class, my immediate thoughts were that it felt a lot like my old Atama single weave. The slightly thicker fabric and courser texture of the cloth meant that the gi felt a bit stiffer overall than say the Zero G or my Vulkan Pro Light. This, together with the snug fit, meant that I really felt like I was wearing a traditional BJJ gi designed for a tough scrap - 'body armour' if you like.

But the gi did shrink after washing, which caused the jacket arms to shorten and become too short for me (but I do have long arms). The jacket length was already the shortest out of the three gis tested, and after washing, it shrank a little more. This may be an issue if you like using your own gi to execute lapel chokes and other own-gi manouevres.

It is a shame this gi became too small for me as I really liked the snug fit and cool design. It was also very light and comfortable to wear.

Above: Vulkan Pro Light A2 - I consider this to be the perfect fit for me.

By comparing three similarly priced single weave gis, the most obvious aspect that stands out is the huge variation in size between these A-2 gis. Clearly, without industry-standard dimensions, an A-2 (or any other size) will differ drastically between brands. In this review, the TF Zero G was much bigger than the Malvado gi. For me personally, the Malvado, at A2 became uncomfortably small after two 40degree washes. Conversely, the TF did not shrink much and it is arguably a tad too large for me. The Black Eagle shrunk a little, the trousers were especially prone, but thejacket only had a moderate level of shrinkage.
Design-wise, the Malvado is by far the best looking gi in my opinion.

There were some minor differences in detail, but the three most important factors a purchaser should consider are:

(i) Shrinkage rate - If you fit the size chart as stated on the Zero G website, then you can get this safe in the knowledge it will fit you even after several washes. If you prefer a 'shrink to fit' type of gi, then the Black Eagle might satisfy here, and for the Malvado, I recommend buying an extra size up from your normal range.

(ii) durability - as for long-term durability, only a longer period of testing will reveal which of the three lasts in the best condition.

(iii) design - as for design of gi, this is purely down to personal preference. I personally prefered the styling and general 'cut' of the Malvado, other may prefer the looser cut and royal blue tags on the Zero G. The Black Eagle is fairly minimal and is a suitable choice for buyers prefering a plainer gi.

When I began BJJ seven years ago, there was not a lot of choice of gis to buy in the UK. Fast forward to today and there are any one of a number of UK-based gi companies offering BJJ affordable uniforms. There are cheaper BJJ specific uniforms on the market (ie those in the £30-£40 range). However, for a product that is a significant step above in quality, you will need to consider those in the £50-£60 range. These three gis should certainly be within your buying radar. All three offer tremendous value and quality of product and arguably are as good as uniforms costing twice as much - you just need to choose according to your personal preferences as outlined in this review. You may also wish to check out gis made by Faixa Rua, Cimac, TUFF and Fokai. Good luck in your hunt for a new gi.

PREVIOUS GI REVIEWS: Faixa Rua Classico vs Vulkan Pro Lite

If you liked this article - feel free to comment below. If you are purchasing a uniform as a result of this review, please mention Meerkatsu's blog review when ordering your product. I do not receive any stipend but it's always nice to get a mention. Feel free to tweet this, blog this, link this.

The Malvado gi ended up being much too small for me so I passed it on to a team mate. Malvado has since updated their models and sizing issues I am told.
The Black Eagle single as from now, is called the 'Predator' gi and is a lighter single weave model with ripstop pants. The model reviewed here is no longer available.
The Tatami Fightwear Zero G is still sold but is now offered in BLACK as well as WHITE.


About the Author


Author & Artist

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


Paul Rowland said...

nice review.

Junior Familia said...

Bro, you are the man!
You are truly a great help to the bjj community!
These gis loook great!

David Onuma - Combined Fighting Systems said...

Fantastic review ........give up your day job :)

See you sson

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks guys. BJJ gis are very expensive compared to other martial art uniforms and sadly, there's no way of telling them apart until you actually buy them.
Hopefully this review will contribute to the knowledge base.

Stay tuned...more BJJ gi reviews to come!

Jason said...

Wow, when you do a review you really do a review. I've just found a new standard for doing my own. Thanks, Seymour.

Liam H Wandi said...

Dude I just want to echo what David said above:

Give up your day job :)

Excellent review. I'm actually going to buy a gi based on this review :)

LUKE said...

Awesome review. I will def take inspiration from this one when posting my own reviews in the future. Keep of the great work.

Jadon Ortlepp said...

You just had to go and raise the bar didnt you! Didnt you!!!. Very nice work, envious of your camera skills to.

Strangely my word verification is whinger!

Meerkatsu said...

@Jadon - PMSL!
Well it is a 'British' gi review and whingeing is our national pasttime!!

Steve W said...

A bit off-topic but I don't recall anyone ever reviewing the official Gracie Barra gi. It might be interesting to compare this with the gis from other manufacturers. Just a suggestion. Keep up the good work!

Meerkatsu said...

Isn't the official GB gi just an Atama single weave?

Unknown said...

I'm not sure. The latest range of Gracie Barra gi's are unbranded. I know that they did use Atama, Keiko Raca and I think Machado before that though.

André said...

Hey Meerkatsu, quick question. Have you had any kind of experience with Tuff gis? Seem to have great deals (when they do have 'em in stock, heh.) but I can't for the life of me find a review anywhere... it was the same thing for the Blitz Lutador, but thanks to myself that's no longer the case :)

Meerkatsu said...

@Steven, then my answer is no, \I only roll with guys who have the old style Atama single GB gis. They seem nice enough.

@Andre, yeah I approached TUFF with a view to reviewing their very affordable BJJ gi but they did not respond so I guess I might just buy one anonymously. Having said that, the price does seem very low compared to other budget gis. I wonder if there are cost cutting in some areas like durability and stitching.

BTW, is that your review of the Blitz on Sherdog?

André said...

Those are/were my concerns too but then when I got to the week I'd be buying my gis, they no longer had A3s of any sort in stock (and still don't) so, moot point for the time being. I'm still curious tho, since from the pictures I've seen, the cut seems to be nice and I'd like to have a blue gi on the cheap, but not in the very near future anyway.
From an email they sent me, they were supposed to have 'em back in stock two weeks ago.

Yes it is, 'it is I, otnemeM'. :)

Meerkatsu said...

UPDATE 12th May 2010:
1. Black Eagle have now redesigned their single weave trousers and the material is made from ripstop fabric.

2. Malvado have also redesigned their BJJ gi. I believe they will now market two versions.

3. Tatami Fightwear will soon relesase a BLACK coloured Zero G gi.

Unknown said...

As stated in previous comments give up your day job, you have done a fantastic job here and I am off to purchase a gi based on your review. Thanks

Meerkatsu said...

Heh, thanks Barie!

woven patches said...

Nice review you have here. I like that you gave attention to the fabric and the way it was woven.

Anonymous said...

For myself I can only describe the Black Eagle GI.
I still have got the model mentioned here, which I bought in 2009.
Trousers, starting from bad news; they shrunk over 12 months at least a size down! Not an inch. A size! After 18 months the lower part is well on it's way towards my knees!
But the material is pleasant, cotton, not to heavy. The belt area come undone occasionally, but I can survive.
Jacket has shrunk an inch in sleeves area, the same lower part. No big deal. Very, very resistant GI! Doesn't look 1.5 year! Dirt comes off easily, White colour stays on!
Lapel has few cracks from choking, but attention; this was the only GI used up to 3 times a week for this time! I had other company GI that got ripped in a spectacular fashion, seriously giving me thoughts; stay with Black Eagle! Don't pay for a GI lasting as long as a supermarket free bag!
Now BE are making pre orders for even better GI at the same price 54£ plus a free bag!
It's called predator 2 or MK2.
This GI is still usable, minimal tear and wear!
Stupidly or not I just need a change, a fresh from a box GI maybe?
I highly reccomend BE! You won't regret! Pay half the price of Atama, put a club patch and see no differerency! A saved 50£ was used on mouthguard, long sleeve rash guard and Shock Doctor groin protection strap.
You will need these too, so don't spend 120£ plus, dont need to!

Ben6485 said...

How tall are you. I'm thinking of ordering the A1 Zero G Gi. I'm about 5'6 and 145lbs. I have a Koral Light gi in A1 and it's a perfect cut for me...is it similar?

Meerkatsu said...

Koral is a wee bit bigger, but you should be ok with an A1

Anonymous said...

malvado don't appear to be in business anymore :(


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