Is the Gi Market Becoming Oversaturated?

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Oversaturation of gi market?I read somewhere in BJJ Gi Addicts Anonymous Facebook Group Page, a question raised by Seymour Yang aka Meerkatsu: whether or not the gi market is already oversaturated or not?

This is a very interesting topic, especially for small brand owners. Normally, the small brands are the ones that are going to be affected by tough competition, considering the small  funding, reach and many other factors in the mix. As an owner of a small gi company, competing with huge brands that are way up there in terms of advertising, sponsorship and the whole shebang can be quite a feat. Is it now saturated? I’d have to say, yes. In the past, there were only a small number of original brands from Ouano to HCK, to MKimonos to name a few. Now, there are a lot of brands that are popping every now and then.

Tough Market To Penetrate

I remember reading two years ago, a study was made by Aesopian BJJ, rating 51 gi brands according to price, quality, and other factors that a casual BJJ player will look for on a gi. According to their study, there is no significant difference on the quality of the brands from 1 (Fushida) to 33 (Pride).  What does this mean for a starting or a small  BJJ Gi company?

For starters, it is now becoming hard to differentiate quality between the notable brands and the less known brands. However, given this scenario, it is a reality for every gi company that it is HARD to penetrate the market at this point. For instance, what can be your selling point when you basically have the same product going up against each other, at least in terms of fabric? It is hard to differentiate your brand in terms of materials, considering the fact that majority of companies go towards Pakistan and China for their manufacturing needs.

From Aesopian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Since this is the case, most companies are investing on their branding in order to win a certain sub niche or the whole market itself. For instance, companies find their way to sponsor upper tier athletes in order to influence buyers. From social media promotions to reviews, these are all effective tactics used to get people to buy their gi.

But most important of all, designs become a huge selling point of any gi company. Gis over the years have come in different colors and designs. It goes from simple down to the most outrageous. It has certainly stepped out of the basic white color that most traditional BJJ schools wear.
Have you seen some of the worst designed gis lately? Take your pick here! (I beg to differ with the RVDDW gi on the list)

Another huge consideration when it comes to product development today is pricing. Though brands like Shoyoroll can sell their gis for $200, this isn’t always the case. Not every company can pull off such type of marketing to the point that they can sell their gis for such amount. Median price of gis today range between $120 to $130. For starting people who just discovered the gentle art, it works better to have around 2 $100 gis than to have just one for $200.

More Choices

If there is anyone reaping the benefits from the surge of gi companies in recent years, they have to be the BJJ enthusiasts. Now, you have variety of choices not only in terms of designs but also in the fit, and functionality department. Do you like it with a thick lapel, or probably, your body type fits a specific brand’s sizing more ideal than the other. All of these options are now out in the open. Some companies have also explored on experimenting with different materials such as Hemp fabric, and on our part, we have tried kevlar threads on our Tropic Lightweight Gi.

Why I Still Made My Own Gi Company?

Manila Kimonos
So why join something that has steep competition and has a large tendency to close small players? Competidor, one of my fave brands, announced the last batch of their gis. Also, a friend, and a teammate, who owned Fatal Kimonos, years back also experienced trouble dabbling in the gi market and was forced to close. So why still do it?

For starters, I am a fan of a great number of gis. Scramble, Gawakoto made gis, Aesthetic, Shoyoroll, etc. In fact, they are too many to mention. I just love the idea of having a design that will also be enjoyed by other people. Also, I am aware how some companies can barely touch base in the Philippines (where my main market is) with a product that is close to reasonable price. Keep in mind that you don’t usually earn $100 a day in this part of the world. When considering logistics cost and retailers, BJJ enthusiasts in the Philippines have to pay more just to have their own gi. For instance, an $85 Fuji gi can be sold at around $120 or even a few bucks shy from $200.

One of the biggest misconceptions about gi and fightwear companies is that we make tons of cash. Honestly speaking, yes, it does give a few bucks on the side (since ultimately, it is still a business), but not enough that you can quit your day job and just roll, eat, sleep 24/7. Though it gives this type of reward, we also need to face a great number of risks. For one, how will our market react to the things that we are offering? Also, have we priced it correctly? On top of all these concerns, you still need to think of quality customer service!

I started Manila Kimonos ultimately to share my designs, provide solutions to an existing problem and to pay for my training. If you know how some weed dealers get to sell some of their stash to also feed on their need to get high? Well, that is the closest analogy that I can make. Manila Kimonos never posed as a large company, which I think is the best decision I ever made.

Optimistic Future

Why do I do believe that it will still survive and the future is still bright? Ultimately, the fit, design, customer satisfaction and durability are some of the factors at play. Ok, let’s put advertising into the mix. I find Shoyoroll highlight videos amazing that I want to buy one, right off the bat. Though this makes it a hard business to be involved in, it is always fun to know that each brand is barely ahead of each other in terms of the quality of fabric and workmanship. It still means it is anybody’s ball game, as to which brand becomes the next “it” gi, as long as you take the time to design and implement innovations.

Despite the number of brands that are out there, with or without intention to become as big as Nike, the market, in my opinion can still handle it. The sport is still growing, and, brands are even pre-selling their products now. Something like this is unheard of just a few years back. Again, is it saturated? Yes. However, there is still an elbow room, at least for a small firm like us.

Hasi Wrecking Crew Shirt Review

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Hasi Wrecking Crew Front
BJJ and MMA scene here in the Philippines is on the rise. There are more MMA shows annually than ever before, not to mention the growing local BJJ scene. Who would have thought that aside from the BJJFP, ADCC has now conducted their trials in Manila?

Because of the growing BJJ and MMA culture, there are also some great brands that are sprouting left and right. One of which is Hasi. I learned about Hasi through their Twitter. They followed the Manila Kimonos Twitter account, and that’s when I saw their designs online. I saw their patches on some guys from Cebu during the Pan Asians. They have a concept of a clean design, not to mention their logo is pretty much easy to recognize.

Win Fresh x Lose Tired 

Hasi Crew Back
I decided to purchase a beautiful Wrecking Crew: Win Fresh x Lose Tired shirt for P395. They shipped the shirt via JRS for around P80 and I received it within 24 hours. With clean design, with rich contrast of blue and white on a black shirt, these guys know how to make a kick ass shirt. And if that is not good enough, they even included a dope sticker.

I’d most likely recommend the shirts they are making. Hopefully, these guys can expand their brand to other sports much like what RVCA is doing right now. For anyone who likes to get in touch with them, you can find them on their Facebook page.

Cancelling Tournaments and Dealing with Injuries

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I personally believe that competing is a great way to improve on your jiu jitsu’s timing, your overall health and even your mindset. Since last February, I tried to work on whatever holes I noticed on my game from the stacked Philippine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu International Open. By March, I really thought I’d be able to compete from March to May. I initially planned to join the Rollapalooza for March and Pan Asian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Open for May. Unfortunately, my left thumb was injured in March, and I could barely grip on anything using it. I couldn’t even lift my pants or perform fine motor movements with my left hand.

Injuries, Injuries, Injuries

I injured my hand while gripping the pants of my team mate. Performing a smash pass if I remember it correctly, I wasn’t able to drop my weight immediately which allowed him to squirm and go ape shit with his legs. It was tangled with the fabric and that’s how I got injured. I wasn’t able to grip right or perform thumb in chokes after that. Because of the thumb injury, I let the Rollapalooza pass.

I allowed the thumb to recover, while I continued working for the bigger tourney on May, the Pan Asian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Open.   I was convinced that it was really smooth sailing from March to May. Sadly, I injured my knee when I wasn’t supposed to few days before the tournament.

I started playing side mount bottom as part of my game plan to cover everything. Practicing some bridge and shrimp motion on a wrestler can really make you work. Then, I was able to do a guard recovery with the space I created. I ended up doing a heavy leg from the granby, and immediately shoulder shimmying backwards. Everything was working well, but then, I was caught off guard as my team mate, by instinct ditched my leg like a rag doll and I hit my knee cap on the mats quite hard. It was 10 days before the Pan Asian Open. So, yes, it was frustrating but at the same time it was a learning experience for me.

Safety First

 I really have to recalibrate my game so I don’t get injured so much. I need to always consider my safety first before doing anything. And lastly, I really need to make sure that I respect the game as a contact sport and not just a game that you can always stay playful. Though it is a good thing to be smooth with your transitions and your movements, you still have to be aware that you can get injured unintentionally.

Last weekend, I just watched from the sideline. Fortunately, I have a few matches you guys can enjoy using the GoPro2. Here’s a Rodirigo Caporal match against Bruno Barbosa in their lightweight match. 

Review: Rafael Lovato's Pressure Passing System

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This is my first review here in Oss and Roll. I’ve been working on my passing since the last quarter of 2012. Though I still haven’t morphed into a Rodolfo Viera, I still try to emulate some of Jiu jitsu’s finest passers. Based on my white belt notes, there are basically two types of passes. You can successfully hit a pass when you are fast or when you are putting pressure on an opponent. Switching from speed to pressure passes can tremendously increase the success rate of your passing game.

Here is a detailed passing concept instruciton

In this review, I will take a closer look at Rafael Lovato Jr’s Pressure Passing System. I was able to study bits of his Pressure Passing System in DVD, and I’ve been trying my best to implement his style on my game. I was also lucky enough to watch a webinar he did recently in Oklahoma.

Rafael Lovato Ultimate Pressure Passing System Seminar

For those who do not know Rafael Lovato Jr, he is the most decorated American black belt today. The thing that I love about Lovato’s passing system is that you don’t have to be ultra athletic to hit his moves. You just have to be aware of your opponent’s anatomy as he demonstrates over and over again how a chiropractor position could hold an opponent down while putting pressure on his lumbar area.  Jiu Jitsu Laboratory even thoroughly discussed Lovato’s smash pass game in great detail.

One of the things I noticed with Lovato’s passing game is that it was efficient especially with his smash pass. Unlike Mendes Bros’ passes that invest greatly on athletic prowess and transitions, Lovato tries to settle into a bottom guy’s collapsed leg in a more or less dying half guard position. According to him, weight distribution is the key in order to implement pressure in an opponent. It is all about placing your weight on top of the leg and across the upper body in order to make the head turn creating a chiropractor position. To him, it was as if you are a blanket on top of your opponent (though it’s more like a baby elephant pretending to be a blanket!).

The reason why I love the smash pass is that it doesn’t rush the guy to pass the guard. It lets you implement your game and become efficient with all the things that you have to do. It is also flexible in terms of progression as it could lead you to a mount, a back take, a side control or even in a leg drag position.

I’ve had the chance to apply the Lovato system on fancy guards. When they love to hook some Dela Riva’s and Reverse Dela Riva’s, I always make sure to stay in the head quarter’s position and work either an x-pass or a smash pass from there. The Lovato Pressure Passing System is definitely a great tool that would help develop BJJ practitioners both competitors and hobbyists in the long haul. It can be applied both to those who are athletic and to those who are trying to be efficient. Oh and of course, Lovato's passes are designed to both gi and no gi.

Rediscovered Passing!

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Even before 2012 ended, I already started trimming whatever edible material I could put in my mouth in prep for the 2013 Philippine International Brazilian Jiu JItsu Open. I tried to eat healthy foods as much as I can and go for exercises that would eventually prolong my fatigue threshold. Results were semi fruitful. I entered the weight class without any trouble, I didn't tire as I would expect but I only ended up winning silver against the guy I fought to win the gold last August of 2012. It was an epic rematch in my book. I lost 2-0 only getting 2 advantages for my back take attempt and sweep attempt. 

For the things that didn’t really work out as expected, there were zero matches I started on my guard (not even an open guard). Everyone pulled a Dela Riva/reverse Dela Riva, including the gold medal match. That’s too much YouTube, Miyao and modern jits for all of you fellow white belts. As for the good news, I was able to defend decently against their DLRs, and reverse DLRs. The only time I got swept from a DLR was during the last match. I extended my non-lead leg and the DLR did it's magic to my weak side for the sweep.

I worked on my passing like a mad man for the past months from the time I was swept from the deep half last September 2012. From Marcelo, Mendes Brothers, Rodolfo and lately Lovato, I’m trying to get into the groove of getting the three points and playing a dominant top position.

Perks of sticking to a passing game:

1.    Most guys love to play a flashy guard game for some strange reason. (at least based on experience)

Ever wondered why the best way to kill fire is by throwing water? There are some things that simply exist as opposites of each other. Dialectical opposites produce results. In this case, it’s either an impassable guard that could result to a sweep, submission or back take; or a pass that would yield three points in favor of the top guy.

If you watched the “anti you” video of Professor Keith Owen, this will explain how some guys simply have the game to nullify the other. I believe that part of developing an effective guard kill game is an effective guard passing. I have to admit that I am not really fond of double guards. Demonstrated by the likes of Rodolfo over and over again against good guard players, this type of scenario is basically frustrating for someone who hasn’t seen a magnificent series of passing approaches.

Here's a 27-0 performance by Rodolfo against Lovato mainly playing top. You can even spot a flawless black swan x-pass at 1:30.

2.    You get more points for passing than taking someone down, or via sweeps.

Sweeps equate to two points same with a take down. For a pass, you get three points. For any Jiu JItsu match, every point counts especially when you put your opponent in a stressful situation that he or she has to work harder for the remaining of the fight.

3.    You end up in a more dominant spot even possibly taking the back or mount

The closed guard is a powerful position. In fact, even the open guard is. Once you stayed away from these compromising positions by heading to at least a side mount, you are definitely on a more favorable spot. Becoming the guy playing top position is definitely more efficiently especially on times when you have to cling to your lead (admit it you want to stall when you are running out of gas!)

 It is always a humbling experience to discover your grey areas especially when someone is going 100 miles per hour in a compressed 5 minute jiu jitsu match. I have to admit that I learned how I’ve been on plateau for so long only relying on my guard to win matches. This time though, I vow to refine my sloppy guard passing to the next level.

To Guard or Not To Guard?

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Ok, you have a competition coming up and you start things on your feet. Do you plan to take someone down or pull to guard. For starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors, that can be one of the toughest split second decisions you will have to make. Considering strengths and weaknesses of your opponents, do you plan to keep your faith “in Guard We Trust” or do some ape shit take downs?

There are a lot of discussions on which approach is better. For wrestlers and judokas, most would prefer to take someone down and get the first two points. They have a point though. Case study of the 2012 Mundials showed 75% of competitors who scored the first point eventually won the match.
Are you now convinced to grab an uke?

Not so fast. What better way than to look into the rest of the stats. Since we don’t have BJJ in the Olympics (yet), the Mundials is the next best event for any jiu jitsu practitioners. This is also the best time to rake all the numbers and scrutinize high level match ups on what transpired. This can give us an idea on what types of games are becoming popular.

In Guard We Trust

58% of the Mundials 2012 matches ended up on the ground in less than 10 seconds. 65% opted to pull to guard while only 24% went for a take down. And for the remaining 10 percent, both actually pulled guard together. Another surprising turn out is that 48% of the guard pullers playing bottom actually won the match. It also showed that only 40% of those players who stayed on top actually won the match; a relatively smaller number than guys on bottom. And to prove a point why you should start concentrating on your guard game is the fact that there are more guard pullers who scored first than top players.  Plus, those who winded up winning on top originally came from the bottom playing guard.

The Economy of Motion  

Principles of motion economy suggest efficiency for the human body to maximize outputs while reducing fatigue. This is embodied in the core principles of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as it was built to provide leverage for the weak and the smaller men to defend and win against larger opponents.

To have a concrete idea, on what it feels like to go ape shit against 24 other guys in 5 matches, watch the hammer time scene from the Old Boy.Yes, you will get mauled by faster and more conditioned guys if you don’t conserve the gas that you have.

Running on Limited Fuel

The bottom line is that going for take downs would require activation of more muscles than simply pulling to guard. Considering just how you need to change level, shoot in an explosive manner, it takes more ATPs to combine wrestling with your jiu jitsu than to go straight to newaza without any effort by pulling guard.

Given the number of modern research when it comes to running gait, and other new interventions to prolong fatigue and to improve biomechanics, it is also a good idea to consider guard as the most efficient option of approaching a BJJ competition given the IBJJF rules that we have today. Not unless you are up against a Rodolfo Vieira (Oh, wait you are so getting a judo throw anyways), maybe it is a good idea that you try to implement your game plan starting from the guard.

Oss and Roll: Dissecting The Cross Choke

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Modern jiu jitsu is becoming more and more popular these days that even white belts attempt berimbolos! Ok flashy jiu jitsu players you made the Fuhrer angry!

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Take a chill pill Adolf! 

No matter how you perceive these evolutions to be, whether you look at it as something practical or impractical; you  can't ignore the fact that these moves are built on fundamentals. And despite the growing number of dela riva, reverse dela riva and inverted guards on local and international comps;  nobody on their right mind would claim that the basics are outdated and obsolete!

Let Kron Gracie remind you of what the basics is all about! Thanks for this slick highlight.


Deep understanding of the basics are necessary in order to be effective in modern jiu jitsu. I for one don't oppose the new trends in the sport but, I prefer to evolve without missing any of my basics.

 And now......Oss and Roll pays homage to the simplest choke there is: The Cross Collar Choke.

It is the very first choke I learned in BJJ and to be honest, it is  my all time favorite choke. The thing I love about this choke is that it can be done from various positions including the closed guard,  top position, half guard top or bottom, knee on belly or even on north south. The concept of this choke is simple to understand yet, most people (including myself) miss the choke a lot because of different reasons. 

For instance, from the guard, here are common mistakes that I used to encounter why I just can't hit it!

1. Wrong placement of either or both the first arm and the second blocking arm. 
2. Pulling the choke outward. 
3. Not using the legs to limit the opponent from posturing up. 
4. And attempting the choke when the opponent's posture is up

On mount position, it is a different story though. I personally find the full mount a very hard position to maintain especially with wild stallions constantly bridging making you reset your cross collar choke set up over and over again.To understand the choke better, I started dissecting the ideal effects of the cross collar choke to an opponent.

What Happens in a Blood Choke?

The first time I saw the vagus nerve (alive and in flesh) was in an operating table during a medical mission. The tumor was so deep that it reached areas enough for the vagal nerve and the other larger vessels to be visible. If I remember it correctly it was a tumor that has pathologically progressed for a long time. Known as Cranial Nerve 10, it is the longest cranial nerve that runs down your stomach. In this particular case, I saw the vagal nerve covered in sheath together with the carotid artery and the jugular vein. For a cross choke to sink in deep, it is important to hit this spot. It creates both a block on your opponent's carotid artery while initiating vagal stimulation at the same time. 

One of the no-nos in physical assessment is to palpate both sides of the neck. Overly sensitive vagal nerve could shut someone down! Causing irregular heart beat, it creates vasovagal reflex or the feeling of being light headed, then lights out. If you’ve heard of the case of a twelve fourteen year old who accidentally killed his cousin with a rear naked choke, this is the the perfect example of a well placed blood choke. Ischemia can happen fast if the choke has been sinked in for too long and basically it kills the neurons fast. Within 3 minutes without oxygen, the brain could experience irreparable neurologic damages and even death. You may want to check out the Gracie Breakdown for this particular case. 

Stimulation of the vagal nerve signals a decrease in the body’s heart rate.  In addition to vagal stimulation, the carotid is also blocked when a choke is in place making blood supply even poorer. This acts as a double whammy for your brain to experience hypoxia. Hypoxia means that there is poor perfusion to your brain signaling a red light to all the unnecessary activities to conserve whatever oxygen is left to the brain and prioritize the most important functions necessary for survival. And from there it’s either tap or sleep!  

How to Properly Sink Your Simple Choke

Roger Gracie is the best model for cross chokes. Simple yet high percentage and it works for high level competition, Roger reiterated these points finishing opponents on top using cross chokes. It’s a simple yet effective choke but there are key points that you need to address. Watch this. 

The radial bone plays 80% of the work when it comes to the cross choke. This will be the part of your arm that will be blocking opponent’s carotid arteries and doing all the necessary vagal stimulation.  Different practitioners may have unique approaches to finishing the choke. For instance, there are those that bump the neck with their wrist to tighten the choke. On my part though, I prefer a radial bone to do the job. 

The other remaining part of the cross collar choke that you will need to address is the second arm across to block the other side of the neck. Again, there are so many variants on how you can block the other side. Some actually use the thumb in while there are also those that grab by the material with their thumb outside the collar. The next video will show another way to finish the cross choke by using four fingers in to create a natural movement for the biceps to do a curling motion.

Since I prefer to choke with the second hand completely out of the collar, I inch closer to the neck by using the forearm to make the opponent look the other way and expose the neck. Roger prefers to call it the Gillette while some would call this move shaving. 

Lastly, the position of the arm is important in shrinking the space for the neck..  Elbows should be kept to the rib to maintain a tight cross choke choke. Let Kron tell you more about how Japanese cross chokes differ from that performed by Helio. 

Fast forward 1:40 mark onwards to listen to insightful use of cross chokes and the closed guard