19 Apr 2010

Gi Review: TUFF Fightwear Lightweight BJJ Kimono

TUFF Fightwear, based in Kent, UK, have done something I thought was impossible - a sub £40 BJJ uniform that is actually very good. Here is my full review based on an A2 gi. Newcomers may wish to check out my What Gi Should I Buy article.

Stats and Measurements
The TUFF gi is made in Pakistan and retails for £39.99 plus postage. It comes in white, blue or black and is available by mail order from http://www.tufffightwear.net/ or direct from the TUFF Fightwear retail store in Kent. Here are my measurements based on an A2 white gi.

                         Brand new            After x2 40 degree washes
Weight (Kg):        1.43                     1.43
A:                         170                      161
B:                         80                        77
C:                         54                        52.5
D:                         17                        16
E:                         97.5                      89
F:                         23.5                      22.5
G:                        68.5                      62

The TUFF Fightwear website claims that theirs is the lightest gi on the market and actually state 0.6 Kg on the site which is obviously an error. In actual fact, an A2 gi weighs an incredibly light 1.4Kg. This is lighter than the (rival) British gis Tatami Zero G (1.56Kg) and the Black Eagle single weave (1.73Kg). The Vulkan Ultra Light is claimed to also weigh only 1.4Kg, but I have not had a chance to review this model.

Jacket Design
This gi appears to be woven in a single weave pattern - similar to makes such as Koral, Vulkan, Black Eagle (single weave) and Tatami Fightwear Zero G. As with pretty much most BJJ uniforms these days, the jacket is made of one piece.

The jacket is decorated with large TUFF Fightwear patches on the left breast, lapel base and right trouser leg. The sleeves have smaller embroidered logos on both arms. Overall the look is bright, bold but not too garish. It is less ornate compared to the Tatami Zero G, but more decorated compared to the Faxia Rua gis.

Stitching and reinforcements are good. Stress points in any gi tend to be at the sleeve cuffs, armpit area, collar and two 'V's' at the base of jacket, and the gi is reinforced adequately in these areas. Triple-row stitching is used mostly throughout and extra material lines the inside sleeve cuffs.

The collar is pleasingly thick - slightly thicker than my Vulkan Pro Light (photo below, Vulkan is black), but not as thick as the Black Eagle single weave. The entire collar and lapel construction is the usual rubber inner with cotton surface.

These trousers have a thick rope-style tie cord, much like the Tatami Fightwear Zero G. I prefer these to the flat cotton types as the rope styles tend to stay knotted and do not get lost inside the hem.

The knees are double lined as you would expect from a BJJ gi and the length and ankle widths were acceptable - not too short and not too wide. The fabric does seem very thin compared to most other gis I have tested.

I did notice one design flaw - see photo below, the rope cord had a tendency to ride up beyong the hem of my trousers due to the overly narrow placement of the front belt loops. This did not impinge on me when rolling, but I can imagine they could get caught in a finger or other appendage.

The manufacturer's website states that this gi is pre-shrunk and apart from that, there are no other care instructions. I chose to wash it at 40 degrees. After several washes the jacket had shrunk about 4-6% but the most noticeable shrinkage was on the trouser length - almost 10%. For my personal preference, this is perfect as a non-shrinking A2 would normally be too big for me.

Fit and comfort
For the record, my stats are: Height=167cm, weight=59Kg, wingspan (fingertip to fingertip)=173cm.
Straight out of the bag, this gi was a tad large on me, but with the small degree of shrinkage after two washes I felt the jacket fitted me perfectly but the trousers were a tad too short.

After half a dozen BJJ sessions the lightness of the gi was very apparent. I felt the collar lapels however were a bit too stiff but this may soften over time. I also quite like the Black Eagle lapels as these have a slight ridge of softer material that 'bulks' out the leading edge of their rubberised collar (on the single weave) and I think the TUFF gi would benefit from such an addition.

For most traditional martial arts, the cost of a student uniform ranges between £10 to £50. Most BJJ uniforms cost over £50 and it could be argued that the cost of uniforms is a limiting factor to the growth of the sport.

TUFF Fightwear have broken the £50 barrier and produced a gi that is within the affordability range of your average BJJ student - especially someone who is new to the sport and does not wish to spend over £100 for a 'prestige' brand such as Koral or Atama. Of course it is possible to buy a much cheaper judo uniform, but the BJJ style of cut (longer sleeves, narrower cuffs, one-piece design) just seems to feel a lot better when rolling on the ground.

What I found surprising is that the TUFF gi is made to very high standards, with small details, such as the rope drawstring, triple stitching, reinforced sleeve cuffs and embroidered logos, that enhance the quality of the product. The jacket is very light and the trousers, although a tad thin for my liking, seem durable enough to withstand the rigours of regular training. The patches are nice and it certainly does not look 'cheap'.

It is possible that over an extended period of use, the gi may not last as long as a well-known brand - this has yet to be tested. I personally would recommend this gi to beginners of the sport, and to more experienced BJJers looking for an affordable second gi or as a very light gi when cutting weight for a tournament.

Further Information:
TUFF Fightwear website: http://www.tufffightwear.net/

Other budget BJJ brands to consider: Blitz Lutador BJJ kimono, Cimac BJJ gi and Playwell BJJ gi.

My other gi reviews:
Great British Gi Review (Malvado v Zero G v Black Eagle)
Faixa Rua Classico

Disclaimer: This article represents my own personal views. I am not sponsored or endorsed by TUFF Fightwear or any other gi company.

Favour: Please mention my blog, 'Meerkatsu.com' when ordering your gi. I do not receive any stipend but it helps me when working future reviews, cheers :)

About the Author


Author & Artist

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


A.D. McClish said...

I like the new look of your blog! :) And nice write-up.

Meerkatsu said...

Heh heh thanks Allie, gave it a Spring clean! Yeah this gi is pretty cool, so cheap and yet it is almost as good as a Vulkan or Koral. Time will tell if it is as durable as the top brands.

Georgette said...

Love your gi reviews, always. I'm stealing your gi diagram for measurement purposes on my future reviews.

And I like the new look. :)

André said...

Hah, finally a Tuff Gi review on the interwebz, thank you!

I'll probably get one as soon as I want to add a cheap blue and/or black gi to my closet.

ulysses said...

Just looked at the website everything seems SO! cheap?
im looking to buy an a4 and shrink it down as an a3 is a snug fit and may shrink on me after a few washes do you think this could be possible?

p.s WHAT CAMERA do you use your photography is off the HOOK!

Ulysess said...

Just looked at the website everything seems SO! cheap?
im looking to buy an a4 and shrink it down as an a3 is a sng fit and may shrink on me after a few washes do you think this could be possible?

p.s WHAT CAMERA do you use your photography is off the HOOK!

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks Georgette, help yourself mate!

Andre, cheers buddy, I think it was you who originally pointed me to this company. Hope it meets your expectations. Are you coming over to the UK to compete, perhaps ar SENI? Or other?

Ulysses, thanks man, my measurements were for an A2 I don't know if an A4 will shrink to the same proportions, but no reason why not. I doubt it will be a sbug fit unless you do a really hot wash and see how that goes. Let us know how you progress. Long-term feedback I think is useful.

TUFF products seem cheap by comparison, but as I hinted in my review, other martial arts uniforms are even cheaper than this so you have to ask yourself instead this question: why are BJJ gis so expensive?

Oh yeah, my camera is a Nikon D200 and I just use natural light in those photos and play around a little in Photoshop to get the right levels and white balance. Hope this helps.


Meerkatsu said...

ADDENDA: I just had an email from the guys at TUFF and they say their next batch of trousers will be better designed with regard to shrinkage and belt loops.

André said...

When I asked you about Tuff's gis you said you had contacted them in the past so I guess not. Unless of course they want to offer something to that person. If so, I'm totally your guy.

Nah mate. My BJJ is coming along quite slowly because of logistics and business stuff (on their part) so I don't think I'll even be at competitive level by the time the next European Open gets here.
OTOH, I'd love to gather a few quid and return to London to spend a couple of weeks going to one of Roger Gracie's academies, but my girl would RNC-me if that was my priority there :)

Meerkatsu said...

Hey Andre, are you on Facebook? Would be good to hook up there.

André said...

I do not have a facebook account nowadays. Should I? :)

I do still keep a myspace account as well as msn messenger address, if that's any good.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if this gi had padding on the trousers around the knee area. Thanks.

Meerkatsu said...

I wouldn't say it has padding, no, it has the usual extra layer of fabric covering the knee area. But then I tend to wear knee pads anyway, so I wouldn't feel if these were sufficiently 'padded' enough. Hope this helps.

JohnyH said...

Hi, just found your site it's really helpful. I'm looking to buy my first Gi and like the look of the Tuff light weight. The only problem is I am 6ft3" and 205lbs. I am not sure if I would need the A4 or A5; the A4 would probably be too short after washing, yet the A5 is for 215lbs+ according to the Tuff website:

5'10"-6'1"| 195-215 | A-4
6'1"-6'3" | 215-230 | A-5

Based on your experience - should I go for the A5 and wash it a few times before first use? OR find a different brand altogether. I had been looking at the Cyclone Gis here: http://cyclonekimonos.com/

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

To JohnnyH, i'm exacttly the same dimensions as you and have just bought an A-5. I haven't tried it on or washed it yet so i'll let you know how it goes

Anonymous said...

At JohnnyH.
Well my A-5 turned up and the Gi top was too long in the arms and slightly baggy in the body. The pants were actually a good fit which means they will probably be too small after a dozen or so washes.
I washed the top once at 40c where it shrunk about 2cm and then again at 60c where it did not shrink at all. This means the arms are still way to long (approx 4 inches)so i'm contemplating washing again at 95c. Any recomendations Meerkatsu?

Meerkatsu said...

I doubt you'll get much more shrinkage out of that JohnnyH. gi sizing based on just height and weight alone is woefully inadequate. Reviews like mine help but if you are not my size then my stats don't help much.
The TUFF is still a damn good value gi I mean no other brand can touch it for pure price v quality.
However, higher priced gis do have a better quality service - some will allow you to mix and match (eg Tatami fightwear) and some will even custom fit a gi for you (eg Fushida). Obviously you pay for that.

Can i suggest you maybe sell you oversized TUFF on Ebay or to a team mate and invest in a Tatami Fightwear goldweave or Black Eagle singl weave - they both have a ridiculously cheap sale on at the moment (£40 or £50, used to be £70 gis).

I personally would not recommend a Cyclone. I was sent a review gi and it was awful.

Finally, there are a batch of brand new budget gis coming out in October I beleive and I have been offered the chance to review these, so you could wait I guess. But have a look at the sale items first. Any more questions, please pm me (seymouryang gmail)


Anonymous said...

Meerkatsu - thanks for the reply.
Do you honestly think it wont shrink anymore? I mean your gi shrunk 9cm in the arms??
what about tumble drying?

I bought a 190 Black Eagle Judo gi which fit nicely before I washed it and now after 2 months it is a little on the small size so I figured a 200 or A-5 would be the sensible choice. I also own a Blitz Olympian 190 Judo Gi which has never shrunk and is built to fit a very fat person with short arms so I wasted my money on that. I think if I try and sell this BJJ gi my wife will kill me and no amount of BJJ training will protect me.

Buying a gi is an absolute minefield and i kinda wish I had bought one form the club now but I wanted something a bit different and in blue as all the guys who have white gi's now have sort of off white/grey gi's

Meerkatsu said...

I absolutely share your pain, gi sizing for me has always been and probably always will be a complete nightmare. even when gi companies send me two pairs of different sized gis, whichever one I plump for is never gonna fit me perfect.
Oh there's a tip - in the US, it seems no problem ordering two different sized pairs and sending back the one that fits the least. Here in the UK I think you can still do this, but have to nag them in to it.
Yes, tumble dry by all means but watch that the high heat doesn't warp or even melt the rubber collar. Check every five to ten minutes.
The trousers do continue to shrink so only wash at 30.
If all else fails, get a quote from your local tailor/dry cleaners for sleeve shortening. If it costs £20 then that's cheaper than buying a new TUFF or other gi.

NB: My wife has given up on me and my gi obsession. the feeble excuse of writing reviews for my blog doesn't cut it in her eyes.

Anonymous said...

I might just try the local tailor option if I can't get it to shrink anymore. I'll let you know how it goes and post a comment on here if thats ok as it may help other guys thinking of buying the same gi.
BTW i'm a touch under 6ft 4 and weigh in at 205lb.
thanks for the advice and keep up with the blog, its a fantastic read.

BTW the link to my blog is below

Anonymous said...

Just want to add in, I've had my Tuff gi now for 4 months and train for at least 5 hours a week, I've had no problems with my gi, no rips or tears, I must say when I first got it the collar was very stiff but after a few weeks and washes got softer, I'd say for the money it's worth buying, not the most interesting to look at but extra details are extra money.
As far as shrinkage, my trousers have shrunk nicely, which I like because i get more skin to skin grip with my legs, the top has shrunk a bit but not much on the sleeves which are a little long.
As far as sizing I went by Tuff's guide and choose an a3 because I was on the line between a2 and a3, I exchanged my a3 for an a2.
I'm 5'7" and a very solid 74kg @ 12%bf. I went for the a3 because of my weight but looked like a drowned rat in the gi.
Hope my comments help anyone looking to buy one.

d henwood said...

well i bought a tuff in an a4 and jacket shrank like 1cm in the arms n trousers hadno shrinkage so i guess this is dependable on size, still helpful review though :P

Matt said...

great review, i have been trying to find a gi to bring in for my students and i do not want to go ith adidias. i will definitly have to check these guys out.


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