31 Mar 2011

Gi Review: Black Eagle Predator MKII - Part One

Much hyped replacement for the first generation of Black Eagle Predators, the MKII is claimed to be one of the lightest gis on the market and even more astonishingly, to be completely shrink proof. This review looks at the Predator MKII in detail and examines the bold claims - however due to lack of A1 sizes, the rolling, fit and comfort performance will have to wait for Part Two.

UK martial arts uniform and fight gear company Black Eagle do not like to make low key announcements. During the testing and prototype phase prior to the release of this MKII kimono, the company were already making very confident claims chief among which were that this gi would be the lightest on the market, and will NOT shrink. They released a pre-release review here.

Their claims were too hard for me to resist so I nabbed a MKII the moment it landed on our shores - and challenged the company to a bet...

The 1% Shrinkage Challenge
Among the many bold statements made by the company through various channels online, one of them was that the MKII Predator would not shrink. It seemed to me a tall claim and when pushed, the company back tracked and stated that this gi would 'not shrink out of fit'. They explained that if the gi fitted correctly straight out of the bag, then however many times it was washed and as long as the recommended care guide settings were used, it would continue to fit. I challenged this notion and dared Black Eagle that if the gi that I received was to shrink by more than one percent (as a median from all measurements) then they should recant their statement AND donate a gi to charity. If the gi did not shrink, then I would lose the bet and I would have to donate to charity.

After one wash at 40 degrees followed by two hot temperature washes of 60 degrees, here are the startling results:

Click to enlarge

The remarkable result shows that the gi jacket actually got BIGGER in width after three washes. This must have been a result of the weave stretching (rather than shrinking) after it had been washed. I have never experienced a gi that has (1) not shrunk) and (2) actually got bigger post washing. I am truly stunned!
And...I now have to dig into my gi collection and find a nice gi to donate to charity - more news on that soon.

So, claim No.1 - less than 1% shrinkage: TRUE.

What about claim number two - lightest gi on the market. Well this one is simple, or it would be, if I had an A1 model. Instead, I can state, that weighing a mere 1.5Kg, the A2 Predator MKII is among the lightest on the market. The only other gi that beats it (that I have reviewed) is the Grab and Pull A2 all ripstop gi, which weighed 1.4Kg. The Predator MKII and the Grab and Pull are two very different gis in terms of construction and feel, but are roughly the same weight, so I have to admit, it's an impressive achievement for a gi made from pearl weave cotton.

Jacket Details

Out of the bag, the Predator MKII comes pretty much as it is - trousers and jacket. No fancy extras, no tags, no extra drawstrings or stickers or even a gi bag (although this may be added with a subsequent batch). I'm a big fan of little extras, but then I'm easily distracted by silvery glittery things cos I'm shallow like that :)

The jacket is a very thin pearl weave - 450gsm, compared to most 'normal' pearl weave gis which are more like the 550gsm mark or higher. It felt very similar to my Manto Evolution gi and my Tatami fightwear Zero G gis.

The collar is quite soft for a rubbery foam core collar which surprised me. Most gis using this material that I have tested have collars that start off quite stiff and soften over time, but this collar and lapel was quite squishy, if a but thin compared to the Break Point Deluxe or the Faixa Rua Leve gis.

When Part Two of this gi review is published, it will be interesting to see how my A2 sized volunteer copes with this collar compared to his other gis. I personally really love the original Black Eagle single weave (with which the Predator superseded) as it had a non-foam collar with a thick leading edge. I still use this gi in my rotation for this exact reason.

The collar and lapels of the MKII is covered with ripstop cotton which is hard wearing and does not fray.

This jacket is reinforced in all the areas as expected from a BJJ uniform - rip stop tape for the sleeve cuffs are a good choice of material however it appears only to be double stitched to the jacket sleeve and I wonder if it could do with an extra row or two for added enforcement?

Rip stop is also used to line the side vents and elsewhere, pearl weave material is added as an extra layer on the armpits and side vents. All panels of the jacket are held together with triple stitching, although I noted the base hem was only double stitched and not reinforced with extra tape.

Side vent

Style and Design
Black Eagle have chosen red accents and trim to contrast the blue colour of the uniform. It's not a bad choice of combinations, but not really my personal preference. Maybe white and blue would have made a really outstanding combination.

The chest area has a sewn on embroidered patch that is quite small and narrow compared to most other gi brands that use a chest patch. The typeface used is a sort of broken futuristic font which I did not like at first but must admit, has grown on me. The font style suits the name.

Chest patch

Black Eagle inform me that their next batch may have the Predator logo embroidered directly onto the gi jacket itself - much like the base of the rear jacket:

and also the shoulder strips:

Of all the patches on this gi, the shoulders work the best in my opinion as they just seem nicely weighted and look 'right'. Despite the slightly eye-straining use of blues and reds, overall, the look of the gi is actually quite conservative and understated compared to Black Eagle's Mundial models or other rival brands with 'bling' model gis. Given the aggressive name of the model, I was expecting gigantic explosions, fire breathing dragons and huge T-Rex Mechosaurs to adorn every square inch...or maybe that's just in my imagination :P Ok I might be exaggerating, but y'know, with a name like PREDATOR...it just seems like Black Eagle may have missed an opportunity to tie the name with something really in your face! Then again, not everyone wants to wear a crazy gi design to class.

Black Eagle first adopted rip stop on their second generation single weaves (the one that replaced my single weave as mentioned before). It seemed a popular choice so Black Eagle have kept that material for their Predator range. I have tried rip stops that are horrid, and I have tried those that have been very pleasant! Again, it will have to wait until Part Two of this review so see how my volunteer gets along with the MKII rip stop trousers.

The immediate feature noticeable with the MKII trousers are the impressive array of six belt loops. This is a very important function and I cannot understand why some gis only have two or even just one belt loop. The flat drawstring however is I think not the best choice of tie.  Rope string is much more preferable than flat drawstrings. Rope stays tied for longer and does not get lost within the hem. My volunteer can tell me if this is a concern when he tests the gi in training.

Patches decorate the sides of the trouser legs and overall the styling works nicely.

The trouser gusset panels are reinforced with a wedge of extra material - something surprisingly absent from a lot of gis, and the knees are double lined - but only down to the shin. One final reinforcement detail I feel worth pointing out is the simple fold over and double stitch of the ankle hem. Some users find that this area of the trousers can rip so extra reinforcement might be handy.

Wedgies are good

Ankle hem, maybe more reinforcement next time?
Black Eagle have done a commendable job at creating an ultra light uniform suitable for both tournament weight conscious players as well as for folk just looking for a lightweight everyday training uniform. The lack of gi shrinkage is also very impressive. For some, like me, the colour combination used here will not win fans - the only other option available is a white gi with black trim - which I think actually looks nicer than the blue - see here as modeled by Andy Roberts (black belt under Roger Gracie)

The Predator MKII is a no frills gi that has been stripped down to the barest minimum in order to save weight. There are a lot of very good positives here, such as the lack of shrinkage, very light weight, ripstop reinforcements and multiple belt loops. But I think there is certainly room for improvement, including a rope drawstring, increased reinforcement along the sleeve and trouser cuffs.

In part two, my volunteer will test this very same gi over a period of half a dozen or more training sessions and offer his thoughts on comfort, fit, strength and size. He will make notes on the collar, sleeves and trousers in particular. Also..in a possible Part three, or I might just update this post, if I get hold of an A1 Predator, I will make my own assessment of how it feels to wear when rolling.

My thanks to Black Eagle for the chance to review this gi. Visit www.black-eagle.co.uk or resellers to purchase this gi.

This review represents my own opinions. I am not an expert in textiles or clothing etc, just a regular BJJ student who likes a few BJJ gis. I consider myself independent and impartial - I am not sponsored by any one company nor do I endorse any one brand. I have a close dialogue with a large number of gi makers and sellers, some of whom I collaborate with on various projects that are unconnected with this review. If you have any questions about this review, please feel free to email me (see About Me) or post a comment below. I hope this review was helpful.

DISCOUNT CODE: meerkatsu2203 for 10% off this gi only. (end date - not specified)


About the Author


Author & Artist

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


FightShark said...

hey man great review, one thing i was talking about with a friend the other day though, i was saying how i love the rope cord on my tuff fightwear he then pointed out that a flat cord tie will weigh less, how much would you say the difference was i could imagine it being around a hundred gram difference in weight between the two different ties, so perhaps thats why BE chose to use a flat cord here? just a thought :P

Meerkatsu said...

Yes it's a possibility. I actually have a spare rope cord and a spare flat tie at home that are roughly the same length, I'll measure them both and find out.
Yes the Predator is clearly designed as a stripped down and weight saving uniform. But they could dave even more weight by removing some patches and using slightly different materials. Vulkan somehow manage to create a single weave gi that is even lighter than the Predator, so it can be done.

Steve Turner said...

Regarding the cord tie, we deliberately stuck with the standard flat style. After talking with many of our own customers, they had a clear preference for it due to some rope style cords digging into the back when rolling. Also, we have never once had an issue (and we have asked) of difficulties undoing, or even coming undone. What we have done is make it longer, so you can tie it much easier.

Regarding patches etc, the weight of the embroidery is negligable as to make little or no difference to the weight in real terms. We certainly don't consider this a stripped down version at all.

Black Eagle has always preferred to offer functional Kimonos, with some branding, and these are not that different from our previous Single Weave version, but the refineries are there.

We could go lighter, we are actually looking at a Pearl Weave that may work, but that is in the future.

It is an improved version. It is aimed as being one of the lightest, but we believe you have to balance that with substance.

Most of the changes are as a direct result of input from our current sponsored athletes and customers, many of whom prefer a plainer looking Kimono!

Anonymous said...

thinking about getting the new black n yellow one. looks sweet, but think its crappy that they seems to be one size off in their recommendations. makes me a bit unsure..

hows part two comming along. really want to see it before i decide..!

slideyfoot said...

Did you ever get round to a part two? I was looking around at other reviews while finishing off my own thoughts on the Predator, but couldn't see your follow up.

Anonymous said...

Nice review-do we know where the gi is made?

Meerkatsu said...

AFAIK - Pakistan


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