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Monday, December 1, 2014

Gi'ed Up From the Feet Up

So now that you've got a gi, how do you take care of it? That might have been something you've already considered, but maybe not. I'm sure by now you've see some ripping, tearing, stitching, and patchwork on the gis of your training partners, and you've just spend some good quality dough on your gi, so you probably want to avoid that sort of thing for as long as possible. In this post we're going to take a look at gi maintenance and how to care for your new suit of armor so that you don't end up with a rip a lot sooner than you should...errr, or will.

Photo Cred: Shin Zen Bi/Flicker

 Eventually, your gi will rip, tear, and/or fall apart. General wear and tear is just a fact of life. But you can take some steps to prolong the life of your gi by just being more aware of what you're putting it through. One of the first things to consider is: What is my gi made of? The majority of the gis out there are going to be 100% cotton, which means they're going to shrink. Even some pre-shrunk gis will shrink (on average) 3-4%. Keep that in mind; because if you're working in something 'a little snug' with someone else pulling on it, chances are you'll rip a seam, or bust through a knee altogether if that's the case. Sewing that is an option, but the material is already compromised and the stitch will most likely tear again. Sewing a tear and covering it with a patch is a good option in that case. Personally, I've never heard any arguments against it--other than the happenstance that the placement isn't conducive to BJJ. Some gi manufacturers even try to anticipate that by placing their company's name/logo patches in areas that are going to get the most wear and tear like collars, knees, shoulders, and sometimes the odd case of the back seam.
Photo Creds: Kelly Labor, SCMA
So check me out in the GroundGame Titan Energy gi, (also available in BLACK, if that's more your style) from this week's sponsor, GroundGame Fightwear. You can see GroundGame's patchwork displayed on the gi top where I'm most likely to get some gorilla pulling on me and potentially causing enough stress that it might cause a rip and ruin my day.

You can also see the pants are a little special as well with built-in canvas covers over top of cotton pants. The extra layer does exactly what you think it would: more protection. Also, the canvas is tougher than cotton--if you didn't already know that--so you shouldn't get those pesky knee-rips as we illustrated in the first picture; but that's not without some compromise to flexibility. Like all things in BJJ, you give something for another, and in this case you're giving up some flexibility for durability. But don't be so quick to count that out.  I like the option to add some more armor on some days. Sure, giving up my flexibility for a class can be a bummer, but not as much as going to the advanced class and having someone rip your pants all because you wanted to push yourself a little, ya dig? (Good. I knew that ya could.)

So now that we're all done laughing at my hair in those pictures (I swear it doesn't always look like that), let's rap a little about washing your gi. You're going to hear a lot of sides to this story as to what it the best method. Personally, my wife washes mine in our normal washing machine on COLD water. Weather permitting, I'll hang dry outside because I like to try to be traditional, but I live in Pittsburgh, PA and sometimes it's colder than hell and snows, so in those instances, I (she) does put then in the clothes dryer and I've never had any problems. I've heard of guys who refuse to subject their gi to the physical beatings that a washer/dryer session can put on a gi by hand-washing it. (A training partner told me that Garry Tonon told him that he puts his in his bathtub with some soap and stomps on them like he was making wine.)  Look, on that front, do what works best for you, but PLEASE just be sure you're getting it clean. Just whatever you do: DO NOT USE BLEACH. Bleach will weaken the fabric so bad that it will rip 1,000,000x's faster than it would have in normal circumstances. I didn't even consider that when I came home with blood splatters on my gis. I'd spot-treat the areas and think it was fine--it wasn't. The areas were all weak and ripped too easy.
PRO TIP: If you're going to throw them into the washing machine, knot-up your pants string so that it doesn't get all wibbly-wobbly and pulled out while it's in there.
Hang Drying for Jesus to bless my gis w/ luck
But what if you WANT to shrink a gi, well, okay. That's going to take some guesswork, but it can be done. If you're one of those BJJers who's in between sizes, buying a size up and shrinking down is a good option. To do that, more or less, do the opposite of what I just mentioned about washing/drying. To shrink a gi: Wash that sucker in a washing machine on HOT water, then dry it HIGH heat. But tread softly, young white belt. Overdoing it is easy. You don't want to have super-short sleeves on your new gi, and not be allowed to even use it in competition. Because there are IBJJF Rules about that sort of thing, but that's a topic for another day.

Finally, transporting your gi. Seems dumb, but it's a real thing. If you're lucky, the gi manufacturer will provide a gi bag with your gi. Check out the nice one GroundGame gave me. Some guys will wear their gi to class, some even carry it like a school boy carrying books using their belt like a bookstrap. It's my personal opinion to transport mine in a bag. I'm scared of spilling coffee on it while driving to class. There's also the weather factor--rain, mud, sleet--getting onto it before class. Also, if you use public transportation, I'd prefer that you didn't rub your gi in my face that was just laying on a spot where who knows was sitting and farting (not to mention taking it home all sweaty). Any kind of bag is fine, but if your gi manufacturer is nice enough to provide you with a gi bag, use it, man!

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