Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gi review, part two: the Black Eagle Predator MK II

I am sponsored by Black Eagle, so logically you'd think I'm biased in a review of their products.  I would like to think I'm balanced and fair about it, at least I am certainly trying to be... but take what I say with a grain of salt, of course.  I guess I am lucky to be sponsored by a company about whose products I can be enthusiastic.  Most jiu jitsu fighters (I think) who are sponsored are getting money as well as gear.  Since I just get gis from Black Eagle, I can afford to be choosy in the sense that if they started making crap, I wouldn't wear it or keep the sponsorship.  If I depended on them for airfare and tournament entries and training costs, well, then, maybe I'd feel differently.  Again, I am very lucky to be partnered with them.

With that out of the way... let me join the hordes reviewing this spiffy gi.  I've had these gis in my rotation for about nine months.  I have a blue and a white, custom embroidered, and I wear the crap out of them.  We took all these photos a couple days ago, and I was non-competition-weight >140lbs, 36-28-39, 5'2".

Lots of reviews out there, by JiuJitsuSweep...a number of threads on Sherdog, again by BJJinChicago, and again by SEAMMAGear... Meerkatsu wrote a technical test review here ... Slideyfoot...ArcanumBJJ... okay, that's enough.  But there are more out there if you want to really be thorough.

Available for purchase on Black Eagle's site in white for 60 pounds (US$94) and shipping to the UK is under 5 pounds; to the US is only US$23 or so.  The black and blue versions retail for 70 pounds/US$110.   If your order price exceeds 100 pounds, shipping is free.

Stats:  "ultralight" ripstop pants, pearl weave jacket, and an A1 weighs 2.9lbs.  By comparison, my Vulkan Ultralight A1 weighs 2.6lbs.  Many many people complain how soft and almost flimsy the Ultralight feels, and you won't say that about the Predator.  

Measurements:  Black Eagle provided this chart so you can compare your current best-fitting gi to this model and see what size is best.

I compared my two gis to their measurements and surprisingly, found them spot on, with a 1/4-5/16" variance at most.  (Yes, I got out my mom's sewing ruler for this.)

Considering that fabric is factory cut, usually from a huge stack of layers using CAD computers, machines like a table saw and even lasers, this is extremely uncommon and speaks of great attention to detail.  (Yes, I contacted several industrial sewing contractors..  MonaLisa Manufacturing, Bearse Manufacturing and Robocuts in Canada.) Now you know why, when you buy pants in more than one color, but only tried one on, and you get home and the other color doesn't fit properly.

I really did my best to shrink these suckers, just to test.  I probably hot-water-washed and hot-setting-dried them at least 45 times (two months' worth of classes) before taking the second measurement.   A tiny bit of length shrinkage, well under 1%, on the pants, not the jacket.  No width shrinkage.  When there were different measurements obtained on the gis, I state that.

Pants across waist: 21"/21"
Leg outside, from waist to cuff [their "D" on the chart]: new 35" and 34 3/4"; washed, 34 13/16" and 34 1/2" respectively [note statistically insignificant yet different shrinkage.]
Cuff: 9"/9"
Rise (center of crotch up to waist) front: 15" and 15 1/4" new, 14 11/16" and 15" washed
Rise rear: same [some womens' fit pants have a longer rear rise for better fit; this was not a woman's fit gi but it fit me fine.  See my Predadora review soon for the ladies' version.]

Jacket front length (shoulder next to collar to bottom hem, basically their "B" on the chart): 28"/28"
Chest width (underarm to underarm, their "C"): 21 11/16"/21 3/8"
Arm length (underarm to cuff): 22"/22"
Cuff: 6"/6"

Opinion and comments:  Two fabric treatments are unique to the Predator BJJ line as far as I know-- the material is Sanforized - a method of stretching, shrinking, and fixing the cloth in both length and width, before cutting and producing to reduce the shrinkage which would otherwise occur after washing, and it's Mercerised -  which further preshrinks the fabric, makes it stronger and easier to dye, and gives the cloth a lustrous appearance and a softer feel.  I do notice a difference.

I notice that the mercerization makes the material, especially the white, stay cleaner-looking.  Usually after a good long open mat, the back and knees of my gis look dingy, but this treatment seems to resist getting smeared, and when it's clean, the white gleams just a tiny bit (dammit, it does not glow in the dark-- which would be COOOL!) 

Also, the fabric has a nice soft hand-- it's not any thinner or more flexible than, say, the Atama Mundial 9, but it's more slick to the touch.  I bought my husband one of these gis as a gift, and when I rolled with him wearing it, I found sleeve grips to be challenging even with a pocket/cat's paw type grip.  Even Leticia's tricky pistol grip variation was tough to keep.

I like the color schemes.  The black version comes with contrasty goldenrod stitching/belt/loops.  Obviously, the white gi has black embroidery and black belt loops, belt, etc. 

The embroidery on the back, front and pants can be whatever color you like when you do the custom thing.  The Black Eagle patch on the side of the leg (above) is very securely stitched to the material and I haven't found any fraying in nine months of several-times-a-week use.

I didn't photograph the blue-and-red for this post, but I have a couple shots from the Leticia/Bia Mesquita seminar.  The belt loops, belt, and shoulder patches are red, and I haven't noticed any fading of the red.  The blue fades a little bit at the edges of the sleeves and cuffs, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The fit is fine for me.  Comfortable in the torso and sleeves, and a fitted rise that would be slightly (not excessively) looser on someone with less of a bum.  The pants are ripstop, not as fluid as the Kauai type or even a well-worn Atama Mundial pair, but not stiff like the Ouanos.  Overall, good construction, and for a "lightweight" gi it definitely feels more sturdy and resilient than the Vulkan Ultralight (which is supremely soft and comfy, and I find to be plenty tough, but some complain about its lightness for day-to-day training.)

SIX belt loops.  Keeps the belt low all the way across, kinder to the hipbones.  And unlike Seymour, I prefer the flat-style belt to the round cord.  Stretches less, feels better under the back.

The pants are cut to be pretty slim so it surprised me that I liked them, being as curvy as I am.  I didn't feel confined or constricted, but I do think they're succeeding in their aim of providing a "competition" cut that is IBJJF legal but as far from boxy, floppy or judoesque as possible.  The second layer on the front of the legs goes from above the knee to a little further down the shin than halfway.

I wish my husband would have straightened out my jacket before snapping this one but he was a champ about taking these-- we were running around the house packing to leave for two weeks at his parents, trying to wrap gifts and clean up and all that too...

I will say, the embroidered back patch gets a LOT of abrasion and wear because I have a nasty habit of being flat on my back, but the stitching still looks sharp and tight.  Sadly I did not photograph it before leaving home but I'll try to add something after the holidays.


The collars are a comfortable thickness, softer than some other rubber-cored collars as Meerkatsu noted.   From left to right: the Predator, Dom Gear DMX, Kauai Ripstop, Ouano Comp Light, Atama Mundial 9 (the 2nd white), and Tatami Nova.  This is also a good example of the minimal fading after nine months of heavy wear and tear.

If it weren't for the Predadora ladies-fit, this would be my favorite gi.  I highly recommend it.  :)

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