8 Jul 2010

Gi Review: Ayabuza Vangaard BJJ Kimono in red

Gi Review: Vangaard Gold Competition Kimono (red)

This ornately decorated single weave gi is made by French fightwear company Ayabuza.It should be noted for the record that the brand name of 'Vangaard' has been used by other, unrelated, fightwear companies. This review concerns the 'Vangaard' gi as made and sold only by Ayabuza. Prices on the Ayabuza website for this brand range from Euros 145 for a white A1, to Euros 170 for a coloured A4. The gi reviewed here is a red A2, which is priced at Euros 160. It is a premium priced product aimed at those looking for a bright gi that stands out from the crowd.

Disclaimer: I am not sponsored or supported by any company. This review remains my own personal opinion based on how it fitted me. Beginners may wish to read my What Gi Shall I Buy article before proceeding with this review.

Read on for the full detailed review...

Size and shrinkage
Most gis will shrink regardless of whether they are designated ‘pre-shrunk’ or not. The biggest ‘shrinkers’ in my experience have been the Malvado, Atama Mundial No1, Mkimonos goldweave and Black Eagle gis. My Zero G and Koral Classic gis did not shrink at all and my Vulkans have shrunk a moderate degree. This is the part of the review that will probably have most impact on you. If you know a  brand shrinks considerably, it would be wise to select a size up from your normal size. Conversely, buying a big size that does not shrink would leave you with an impractically large piece of cloth flapping around when rolling.

                        Brand New      After x2 40 degree washes
Weight (Kg)        2.0                2.0
A:                       160               157.5
B:                        78                76.5
C:                        58.5             56.5
D:                        18                18
E:                        101.5            97
F:                         24.5             23
G:                         75               71

The Vangaard gi shrunk a little when washed at 40 degrees (the manufacturer’s recommended setting). From the stats, there appeared to be more shrinkage in the trouser length (5%) than the jacket length and arms (2-3%).
For the record, my stats are: Height=167cm, weight=59Kg, wingspan (fingertip to fingertip)=173cm.

When I contacted Ayabuza, I received an email reply within one day and the gi was sent to me that same day. It took 4 working days to arrive. Not bad considering it was sent from France. The  website states postage and packing for a gi sent to the UK (Royaume-Uni) would cost Euros 20.71 for a 72 hour service. Courier service was also offered

The gi is not easy to find on the Ayabuza website as it is hidden in the menu under MMA/Uniforms and then it is listed as a ‘MMA JJB’ presumably as the French for BJJ is Jiu-Jitsu Brasilien – despite the fact that I clicked to have the site shown in English. Apart from small language issues, the website was easy to navigate.

This A2 gi weighs 2.0Kg, which is heavier than other A2 single weaves I have reviewed – notably the Black Eagle single weave (1.7Kg), the Tatami Zero G (1.6) and the TUFF gi (1.4Kg).

Most of the excess weight is probably mostly down to the copious embroidery and patches adorning the jacket and trousers. In addition, the weight of the dye itself can contribute additional mass, compared to plain white gis. Finally, the trousers are themselves thicker and heavier than the other three brands – something I’ll discuss further down.

At 2.0 kilos, this gi is certainly not a ‘lightweight’ model, but it is far from being heavy. Most gold weave and double weave gis weigh more than 2.0 kilos. But it is something to bear in mind if cutting weight for competition is a priority.

The jacket is made from a single weave cotton fabric which is very similar to the Zero G gi. From the photo below you can see how both the Zero G fabric and Vangaard are made with a quite smoothly woven textile whereas the TUFF gi is more coarse. Trousers are made from a basic cotton canvas type material.

In common with most brands these days, the jacket is made from a one-piece design with no seem on the back and no separate ‘skirt’. [Note: some brands such as Atama and Isami still offer gis that are based on this older, judo style of design.] The jacket is decorated with a multitude of patches and embroidered logos. I have long arms for my height so most A2 gis are too long for me in length apart from the sleeves. The Vangaard jacket fitted me very well straight out of the bag in both the sleeves and, in my opinion, the jacket length. Compare this to my A2 Zero G gi, which was too long in length of body and length of sleeves for me.
From the photo below, you can see that it is still someway longer in length than my (now quite old and frequenclty washed) Vulkan Pro Light.

As you would expect from a jacket designed for the rigours of grappling, all stress points (eg armpits, collars, ‘skirt’ ) are reinforced with either extra stitching or extra material. The only area I felt was lacking was at the end of the sleeves, which I’ll discuss later in the ‘sleeves’ section.

A final point concerning the jacket, as the photo shows below, the two slits on either side of the jacket are a degree longer than with other brands. I doubt this has any bearing the on the usability of the gi, but it’s a point worth noting. One could argue that a longer slit could possibly allow more room for techniques involving the use of this portion of the uniform – such as some gi lapel chokes.

Collars and lapels
The collar and lapels are made from the same rubbery material that line nearly all gis these days. The photo below shows how it is the same thickness as the Vulkan Pro Light, but thinner than the Black Eagle single weave.

The material surrounding the rubber lapels are slightly different to other gi makes - the Vangaard collar covering is canvas and the others are twill - which has that distinctive herring bone parrern. I presume canvas cotton is tougher and more hard wearing than twill.

It is stitched with six rows of stitching and the whole lapel seemed thick enough to do its job without hindering movement and flexibility. Personally I prefer the ‘bulging’ lapel of the Black Eagle single weave as it is a bit more comfortable.

The copious decor on this gi is clearly a matter of taste. I personally find this gi to be very attractively designed and would be happy to wear it although I did feel like a Formula 1 motor racing driver for Ferrari. The gi drew a host of admiring comments and the reception was generally very positive – no hiding with this gi.

My one criticism with the patch placement would be reserved for the circular patch on the right arm. The quality of the embroidery is not to the same standard as the other patches and there is far too much white space, making it look odd when seen from afar. In addition, I would say that placing a circle right under a rectangular patch does not gel well from an aesthetic point of view.

Elsewhere, there is a very large chest patch on the left that I think is tastefully designed and coloured to match the gi , and a quite nice smaller tag at the base of the jacket lapel .

The embroidered logos on the back of the jacket are, in my opinion, where the jacket really stands out. The combination of the larger outlined logo at the base, together with the smaller, filled-in, logo at the top, work beautifully together. When seen from the rear, with a belt tied around, it has a very distinctive look that certainly commands attention.

As the close-up photos above show, the workmanship on these back logos are particularly well constructed.

In my experience, the ends of the sleeves to any gi I have worn do take on a fair amount of stress. The simple reason is that it is a commonly favoured part of the gi (apart from the collar) where my opponent will take a grip. Sleeve ends are twisted, pulled and generally yanked about a lot so it seems sensible to reinforce this area.

If you look at the photo below, you can see that the Black Eagle single weave sleeve has taped seams that cover the folded portion of the cuff. The Vangaard does not have taped seems. For me, this is a tiny detail I think could and perhaps should be added if it is to justify its premium price tag. Having said that, it is perfectly possibly that the sleeve cuffs will survive for many years without wear or tear.

Another point worth noting are the sleeve widths. As you can see from the photo above, the Vangaard has by far the widest sleeves compared to the other brands shown. At 18cm new and after x2 washes, it is not a massive size, but significant if you prefer narrow, tapered sleeve ends. [Note: IBJJF rules state that sleeves deemed to be too narrow are not eligible to be worn.]

The Vangaard trousers fitted me quite snugly around the waist and width straight out of the bag. The length was a bit too long for me initially but after washing, it shrunk to just about acceptable in terms of the upper limit of long I feel happy about wearing.

The material used seemed to be cotton canvas (same as the collar) which seemed a lot thicker than other brands I have tested. The ends of the legs were reinforced with multiple rows of stitching – compared to the Vulkan which seems to be less amply stitched.

The drawstring is the traditional flat cotton cord  type and there were two belt loops with very narrow apertures. During rolling, I found that the drawstrings did not  come apart easily, but they were incredibly long.

Fit & Comfort
After two 40 degree washes...
Rolling - Despite the gi being a little large for me, I felt really comfortable when rolling in it. The fabric is very comfortable (no chafing of the skin) but it is perhaps a little stiff (although continued use I'm sure will soften the fabric). I tested this gi at a time when the British summer decided to actually be summer-like, so it was very hot in the dojo. Each session the gi was loaded with litres of my (and others’) sweat and yet it did not feel ‘heavy’ or soggy – a testament perhaps to the good quality cotton used in the weave. In fact, I would go as far to say that it felt very very similar to my Koral Classic (since sold) - even more so than so-called Koral type clones gis.

Gi lapel techniques – I tried a few gi lapel techniques when in side control by grabbing the lower corner of the jacket and lapels. It felt a little stiff and inflexible – as most new gis do – and not as easy to perform these kinds of techniques compared to say my oldie Vulkans. But a few more washes I think would sort that out.
Collar protection and comfort – no noticeable issues with the collar. It felt ok and did the job.
Sleeve width issues – although the sleeves are wider than most of my other review gis (bar the Faixa Rua Classico) I did not feel the sleeve widths impeded my rolling ability. The length seemed to be just right.

There is no hiding the fact – this gi is bling...perhaps even beyond bling! Such gis will not appeal to everyone. However, there are a significant number of equally bright and brash gi brands out there, eg Breakpoint, Shoyoroll, Lucky, Bull Terrier,  Isami etc. so there is clearly a market and the Vangaard gi is aimed squarely at this market. I guess that to provide a proper comparison, it would be more fair to judge the Vangaard against the above named brands (yeah I wish!)

In terms of the look, I really like many of the design aspects, such as the embroidered lion logos, the upper shoulder patch and chest patch, but I dislike the circular shoulder patch. The red colour is very bright and attractive, but for those with more conservative tastes (if such a thing could exist with this gi) then tournament-rules-friendly white and blue are also available. In addition, the site sells a khaki coloured model and I have seen a black version on the internet, but black is not sold by Ayabuza.

In terms of comfort, design and look, the Vangaard is a very good quality uniform. However at a price of Euros 160 – the equivalent of £132 or $197 – not including shipping, I would hesitate to call this good value for money. At this price range, the Vangaard competes directly against the likes of the Koral MKM, Atama Mundial, Breakpoint and Isami gis – albeit shipping and customs fees from the US for those models could make them a tad more expensive than the Vangaard.

Important long-term aspects I intend to look out for over the next few months would be the amount of dye fading and the level of residual shrinkage, as well as general wear and tear. I’ll report my findings back here on this post in the comments section.
(One junior user loves the pretty red gi!)

This gi is expensive but ticks pretty much all the boxes in terms of things you expect a good quality gi to have. Ultimately, the purchase of this gi will be largely based on the fact that you love the bright, brash design of the gi and want to wear a brand that is not too commonly seen in the UK. If the price is too prohibitive then there are a number of very good budget-mid-range BJJ gis available – see my previous gi reviews for some guidance on this.

Finally, it is important to note, RED is not allowed as a colour uniform under IBJJF rules.

If you like the Vangaard BJJ gi, please mention the MEERKATSU blog when ordering. I do not receive any royalties or kickbacks but it helps me when reviewing new products.

CREDITS: All photos by me. A full gallery of images can be seen here. I would like to thank Ayabuza for sending me this gi to review. Ayabuza also stock a wide range of martial arts equipment and clothing. Thanks also to Ebe Gansah from GB MK for his assistance.


About the Author


Author & Artist

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


A.D. McClish said...

That is a sharp looking gi. I'll be interested to hear how it holds up under use.

Georgette said...

Looks very sharp with the silver-embroidered belt ;)

I must admit though I do not need any more gis, the Leo in me absolutely craves this one.

Omar said...

Excellent review, attractive Gi, Just the Price

Meerkatsu said...

Thanks guys. Got some 'interesting' comments from members of the forums, especially NHBGear LOL! I guess this gi is a bit like MArmite - love it or hate it.

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One Jiujitsu said...

Love your Reviews Bro, Keep Up the good work.


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