Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gi Review - Padilla & Sons Gold Weave Kimono

Padilla & Sons Gold Weave Kimono. Available at http://www.matrat.us/ . Retail, $80 (white) $90 (blue).

Most of us outside of California are probably not familiar with a little company on the West coast called Padilla & Sons Kimonos that churns out some of the best kimonos to ever hit the mats. If you've been training since 1999, maybe you've heard of this company run by Joe Padilla that use to make an indestructible double weave kimono which retailed for around $60 or so. But, just as the word was spreading about how good his gis were, he stopped making them. There were several factors that caused this to happen and which required Joe's full attention, which meant he was unable to attend to his fledgling kimono business. But, there is good news for us all - Joe is back in the business and now he is also making Gold Weave kimonos. And, with the recent rise in the prices of Atama (~$46 increase on the gold weave kimonos) and Koral, Joe couldn't have got back in the game at a better time for us practitioners.

Back in February and March of 2007, Atama had really increased their prices, which was difficult for me in that I had just become quite fond of some of the Atama gis. But, I am not willing to pay their prices for future purchases. So, I started looking around the net and found that Joe Padilla was making his gis again and I wanted one. I had missed out on getting one of his gis before he stopped making them back in 2001. When I saw the price he was asking for his white Gold Weave Kimono ($80), my jaw hit the floor. I had to have one of these gis, if not for their legendary status, then to hopefully find an answer to the Atama price jack ups. Nowadays, an Atama Gold Weave retails for $145, and the Koral MKM for $144.95. In my opinion, neither gi is worth that price.

I called up Joe on the phone and we talked about the gis and I told him my height and weight (5’ 9.5”, 190 lbs.). He recommended his A3 for me. I gave him my shipping and billing info and about 4 days later his kimono showed up at my door. I’ve been wearing it every day to training since I got it, and this gi is absolutely phenomenal.

My criteria for judging the quality of a kimono and whether or not I might like it depends on (in no particular order): 1) Weight. I am not a fan of heavy gis (double weaves, etc.) and I tend to prefer Gold Weave kimonos. 2) Comfort. I don’t want a gi to be too abrasive or stiff, which can be the case with some Gold Weave kimonos. 3) Fit. The gi obviously needs to fit just right and be comfortable on my feet, in my guard, etc. And, lastly, 4) Construction. I want a gi that will last me years wearing it 3 times per week or so if need be. It should also be reinforced in critical areas with strong material. Even though I have 4 gis in the training rotation, if I really like a particular gi I want to wear it as much as possible.

Let’s start with the weight, fit and comfort of this A3 Gold Weave Kimono. It is noticeably light weight, as a good Gold Weave should be and weighs in at just under 6 lbs. For a Gold Weave, it is very soft and comparable to the Atama Mundial # 5, which was one of the softest gis I had ever worn up until this kimono. The fit of the kimono after washing and hang drying is nearly tailored and felt as if it was made just for me. The gi didn’t shrink but maybe a half inch in the sleeve length from the wash. The gi top is made of all Gold Weave material and does not have a separate skirt made of a thinner material. One topic of discussion that has been mentioned in the BJJ forums is that the sleeve cuffs are wider than most other gis (as shown in the pictures below). But, believe me, the extra width is hardly noticeable and they are not ungainly in any way. The only people that might not like these sleeves are those that prefer Gameness type sleeves. The gi top is pleasantly “un-flashy”, which is perfect for me. Joe’s logos are unobtrusive and are actually embroidered, not sewn on patches. There is a small shark on the left sleeve and his unique logo on the abdomen of the gi near the knot of your belt.

(click pics for a larger view)

The kimono has a tailored fit and is very comfortable. Shown here with my belt pulled down a bit to show the unique placement of the Padilla logo.

The sleeve length and width are comfortable and are within the CBJJ rules and guidelines for competition kimonos. You can see in this picture that even though the sleeve cuffs of this gi are wider than other kimonos, they are not baggy or unpractical.

A close up view of the embroidered logos.

The construction of the kimono, both top and bottoms, are extremely well designed and reinforced like a suit of armor in all of the critical areas. In my comparisons to the Atama and Koral gis, I was actually shocked and how well the Padilla & Sons kimono was constructed. Obviously, Joe put a tremendous amount of thought into these gis. As Joe also trains BJJ himself, I’m sure he’s had plenty of time to recognize the short comings of some of the other gis on the mats.

I took the time to take some pictures comparing the Padilla & Sons Gold Weave kimono (retail $80) to the Atama Mundial # 5 (retail $162) and the Koral MKM (retail $144.95) so you can see how the three compare to each other. In every regard, the Padilla & Sons Gold Weave Kimono is more than comparable to these other two high end gis.

(click the images for a larger view)

Kimono top comparisons:

The collar widths of the three gis are nearly identical. The collar of the Padilla kimono is similar in thickness and stiffness to that of the Atama. The collar is firm, but not cardboard stiff, and is very comfortable.

The edge of the skirts of the Atama and Koral are folded back on themselves for reinforcement. I have found that in my older gis when this edge becomes worn, it is prone to splitting and frays easily. The Padilla gi is reinforced with a separate band of canvas that is 1 3/4" wide and heavily stitched to prevent the wearing of this edge.

The hip split area of a gi is very prone to tearing. The Padilla kimono hip split is reinforced with a big wedge of canvas, where the Atama and Koral are reinforced with small pieces of extra gi material. The other hip split on the Koral MKM gi in this photo is actually torn between the wedge and the edge of the seam.

It was this particular detail that blew me away. The inside edge of the collar where it is sewn to the gi is reinforced with an extra band of canvas identical to that inside judo gis. I have included a picture of my judo gi for comparison. This reinforcement extends around collar like a yoke, covering the most highly gripped areas of the gi. This detail will greatly extend the life of the gi.

Another area of high stress. The junction in the armpit where the seams meet is a weak point that is more than adequately covered on the Padilla kimono. In contrast, look at the small reinforcement on the Koral MKM.

The back edge of the collar and the shoulder area of the gi is decently reinforced.

The ends of the sleeves receive a lot wear from pulling and gripping. Here again, Joe uses the 1 3/4" wide canvas band to strengthen the cuff edges. Atama folds the end back on itself and uses an ~ 1/2" wide band to secure the cuff. The Koral MKM is similarly constructed and due to this you can see some fraying beginning. Granted, the Koral is the oldest of the 3 gis and was purchased about 10 months ago.

At ~ 7 1/4" inches wide, the sleeve cuffs of the Padilla kimono are wider than the 6 3/4" wide Atama and the 5 3/4" wide Koral MKM. As I said before, this extra width is in no way awkward or excessive. It even helps those Ezequiel chokes flow a bit smoother, which are always a pain to get with the Koral MKM.

The pants of a kimono are often over looked by some gi companies. It seems that they pump all of their money into the top, and then stitch together a pair of pants out spare material. Not the case with these pants. These pants are made of a material very similar to the Atama pants that I have worn and loved for years. They are soft, but very durable, and come with 3 belt loops instead of the standard 2. Just like the gi top, the pants are intelligently reinforced throughout.

Kimono pants comparisons:

The pants has 3 belt loops and a standard drawstring, and are very similar to the Atama pants.

Both the Padilla and the Atama have a knee reinforcement that extend all the way from the lower thigh to the cuff of the ankle. The Koral MKM on the other hand has a smaller reinforced knee area.

Also on the ankle cuff, the 1 3/4" wide canvas band is used for reinforcement. The Koral MKM is also reinforced with a band of canvas, but the Atama pants are secured with a folded back method.

Both the Padilla pants and the Koral MKM pants are reinforced at the hip split, which is an area of stress that has been over looked by Atama.

The Padilla pants and the Atama pants have a reinforced crotch area, unlike the Koral MKM pants.

Wash and care instructions are pretty standard. When your gi arrives, there will be an envelope with the printed out care instructions inside. Basically, wash and rinse the gi in cold water either by itself or with similar colors, and allow it to hang dry.

The customer service of this company is phenomenal. If you call and leave a message or send him an email (available on the contact page), they will be returned to you. Joe is great at helping you out and truly does want to put people in a quality gi that will make them happy. He has been a pleasure to deal with.

Taken together, the gi top and pants make a perfect package that feels great on the mat. I have made the comparisons against two of the more popular and higher end kimonos on the market today for you. The Padilla & Sons Gold Weave kimono is comparable to the other gis in some areas, but by and large, is vastly superior to both the Atama Mundial # 5 and the Koral MKM in practically all of the critical areas. The attention to detail that has gone into the production of this gi is amazing. I have made up my mind on which gi company I will be using in the future. I have thankfully found my answer to the recent price increases at Atama. At $80 each, I can buy 2 Padilla & Sons Gold Weave kimonos for the price of 1 Atama Mundial # 5, and I know that the quality of the gi will be better.

Padilla & Sons Kimonos and Mat Rat also sell a Blue Gold Weave ($90), a light weight Hybrid Weave ($80), Single Weaves ($70), as well as various other training gear and clothing. Make sure you check them out at http://www.matrat.us/ and give one of these gis a try. It is sure to be one of the best gi purchases you have ever made.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Honey May Increase Athletic Performance

My BJJ team mates and I, have for several years now, been using honey as a simple carbohydrate supplement prior to and during our matches at tournaments. We never really thought twice about the matter, as it seemed straight forward to us: honey is a simple carbo-hydrate that is natural and comes in an easy to use format. We were able to maintain (or so it seemed) a decent amount of energy throughout the duration of the tournament by taking a few table spoons prior to the first match, with smaller servings in between matches if we need it. Recently, we introduced the magic of the "Honey Bear" to our judo club and had some success with using it during judo competitions (picture above with trophy and the Honey Bear).

Just when we thought that plain ol' honey was all we needed, along came the advice of a "sage" in the BJJ world. The Sage recommended that we use all natural, unpasteurized, unfiltered raw honey instead of the honey bought at the super market which is heat sterilized. The reason being that the raw honey contains all of the amino acids and natural health benefitting properties that are otherwise removed from the heat sterilization process. Okay, Sage... I'm game. Let's give it a try. About a week later I found some raw honey at the local farmer's market that set me back about $9 for a mason jar full of the stuff. The vendor was... passionate about his product, to say the least. He went on and on for about 15 minutes telling me ALL of the health benefits of raw honey, "Cures cancer, stomach ulcers, pollen allergies, it's good for the prostrate, blah, blah, blah." These were some heavy claims, and in my line of work - Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to be believed. So, I abused my work resources and scoured the medical literature databases trying to find support for his claims. I read paper after paper that knocked down the vendor's claims one by one. The only interesting articles that I found were regarding the use of honey as a topical treatment for wounds and possibly as a treatment for staph infections and MRSA. Apparently there is an enzyme in honey that reacts with the water in honey and creates hydrogen peroxide. I'll keep my eye on how that research develops. Bottom line though, there aren't any magic cures in raw honey and it is debateable as to how different it is nutritionally compared to normal heat sterilized honey (which is cheaper, by the way).

The other article I found that was interesting was one in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, where the authors actually compared the use of honey as an athletic supplement during an endurance exercise. The findings were quite promising and supportive of what my team mates and myself have been doing for competitions.

The study had 9 elite cyclists complete 3 randomized 64 km (39.68 miles) time trials and the effects of a low and a high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate on their performance as compared to a placebo supplement were analyzed. The study was double blind (the cyclists didn't know which supplement they were getting, and the researchers didn't know which cyclist got what supplement until the end of the analysis), where the cyclists ingested either 15g of honey (GI = 35), 15g of dextrose (GI = 100) or a placebo (GI = 0) every 16 km of the time trial. The dextrose group and honey group completed the time trials slightly faster than the placebo group (~128 min 18 seconds compared to 131 min 18 seconds), but these results are not significant. However, the researchers also analyzed the Maximal Power Output of each cyclist in terms of Watts. During the majority of the time trial there were no differences between the 3 groups. However, in the last 16 km leg of the race the dextrose group and honey group produced more watts (power) than the placebo group. These results are indicative of the effects of the carbohydrate supplements and are supportive of the use of a low GI carbohydrate (honey) for an energy source during endurance exercises.

So, on your tournament checklist, add "Honey Bear" to your gear bag. Send me some pics of you, your medal(s) and your honey bear and I'll put them up here. Good luck!

Check out the nutrition data on honey here. Learn more about the Glycemic Index here.