An Irresponsible Piece on the "Martial Arts Delusion"
The Hobbyist: A Spectrum

Product Review: Meerkatsu Black Orchid Dragon Brazilian Jiujitsu Gi (Goldberg)

{Hello all! I am Daniel S. Goldberg, and I am currently an Associate Professor (pending!) in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, CO.  I'm trained as an attorney, a historian of medicine, and a bioethicist.  As to BJJ, I'm currently a blue belt under Professor Sean Stewart at Colorado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Stapleton.  I've been training for a little over 3 years, and look forward to posting more often here at TGG}. 


This is a review of a Meerkatsu Black Orchid Dragon Brazilian Jiujitsu Gi.  Professor Seymour Yang, a black belt at Mill Hill BJJ, a Roger Gracie academy in London (and a professor of his own fledgling jiujitsu club named Borehamwood Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), aka Meerkatsu, has released the latest kimono from his branded line, this one newly available in Black.

Professor Yang's popular artistry is known to jiujiteros all over the world.  His illustrations grace the gear in some of the most popular BJJ brands in the US, including Tatami and 93 Brand.  More recently, Professor Yang began producing and selling his own lines of branded BJJ gear, which have generally proved quite popular in the crowded marketplace(s) of BJJ clothing and kimonos.

The latest gi release from his line is The Orchid Dragon.  Released originally in royal blue in January 2016, let Professor Yang tell you the tale behind the artwork:

An ancient yet beautiful dragon once guarded the secret magical gardens of Hua Yuan. Within the gardens grew a rare and delicate orchid that was known to offer the secret to unlimited strength and power. Many warriors forced their way into the gardens to steal the orchid, but they always failed. A small child however tricked the dragon and took the flower. Realising its power was merely a myth, the dragon was freed and the child grew to be a wise general who won many battles.

I'll have more to say about the artwork below in the jacket and pants section, but right off the bat I can say that this gi is stunning.  The dark black really highlights the silver-white stitching in the embroideries, and Professor Yang struck the perfect balance in terms of adorning the gi properly with his own original art and leaving sufficient empty space (I do not love overly busy gis, but that's obviously a preference).

I have rolled in the gi four times, all in relatively small classes, and on each occasion it drew unsolicited positive remarks from partners for its appearance.

It's actually one of the more striking gis I've ever seen.  One possible downside is that the dark black of the new dye is partly what electrifies the amazing embroideries.  As the color fades, this effect may also diminish.  I generally like the fading of black gis (my gi collection, see below, is exclusively black gis), but I suspect I may like it less on this gi if it in fact reduces some of the pop of the artwork.  (Time for Retayne, perhaps?)

On to considering some of the specs for the gi.



Pre-wash (cm)

Post-wash (cm)




Length (jacket)



Width (jacket)



Cuff width (jacket)



Width (pants)



Length (pants)



Ankle cuff width



These are standard measurements for BJJ gis.  The description for this gi had noted that some shrinkage was expected, but a relatively small amount only.  As you can see from the measurements, the description was correct, as shrinkage hovered around 1-2%.  I am pleased about this, both for truth in advertising's sake, but also because it fit me well out of the bag -- just a tad long in the sleeves -- and I knew that if it shrank only a little, it would fit me extremely well.

20160921_195225And it does fit me extremely well (see more pics of the fit at the bottom of the post).  This is more fortunate than you might imagine.  I am 5'7" 165 lbs and endomorph.  I'm little but not skinny, and this range puts me right on the cusp of A1 and A2 for most BJJ gi manufacturers.  I have some trouble finding a gi that is neither too bulky even after shrinkage but also not so small that the sleeves and pants are super short.  I actually contacted Professor Yang over FB Messenger to inquire as to whether to go to an A1L and shrink to fit (I've done this with mixed results) or just purchase the A1 and hope it didn't shrink too much.  Professor Yang indicated the A1L is for small people with pretty long arms (like him).

And by the way, being able to message the owner and designer of the gi you are thinking about purchasing, and having him respond and advise within hours, is a serious plus that should be mentioned in any review.  Professor Yang, like many BJJ people, seems like a nice guy who loves BJJ, and he's happy to help customers seek out the best fit and finish on his products.

I like these kinds of entrepreneurs in the BJJ gear world, and I try to support them if possible (See also: The Armbar Soap Company, LEaO Optics, Ludwig Van the Man etc.).

I ordered the A1 Black Orchid Dragon from a major online seller in North America, and got my grubby little hands on it a week later.

It fit extremely well right out of the box.  After 4 washes, it is right up there with my best-fitting gis -- just how I like them, snug, but not tight.  I think it is about done with its shrinking, so I'm excited to have added another good-fitting gi to my rotation.

Given the weaves, material, and GSM used in the gi (more below), the gi is unsurprisingly light.  It is definitely suitable for use well into hotter summers. 

20160912_222235It comes with a gi bag featuring another beautiful embroidery from Professor Yang.  The bag uses the same cord for the straps that you find on the gi pants.  One small but significant note about the gi bag: it's actually really roomy.  I love this, as it means I don't have to fight with the bag to muscle within my folded gi at the end of a long, tough rolling session.  This is actually a really nice feature that is less common in gis than it ought to be! I’m competent at folding a gi, and there’s no reason I should have to work hard to make sure it fits neatly inside the carry bag IMO.  Why not just make them a little bigger??

The bag is cloth and presumably can be laundered.  (I do so with other gi bags with no difficulty).


The jacket is produced out of 550 GSM cotton in a pearl weave.  I have another gi that has a 550 GSM pearl weave jacket (93 Brand's Mandrill, which also features Meerkatsu art), and I actually love the feel and weight of the jacket.  It's got some texture to it, but it retains the relative thinness of pearl weaves.  It feels relatively light and strong and it dries quickly after washing.  It's obviously thicker than some of the lightweight gis (often around 425 GSM pearl weaves), or the ultralight gis (<_ 350 GSM). 

20160912_222521I have worn some gold weave jackets in the 470 GSM range, and they feel a lot bulkier and thicker than the pearl weave with this higher GSM.

Anyway, I like my first 550 GSM pearl weave jacket, and this follows the course.  It's comfortable, strong, and sufficiently light.  The kimono jacket features several pieces of original artwork.  Meerkatsu's badge is embroidered on the front skirt (left to wearer) and on the upper back.  The inner yoke panel features a rashguard lining with black and white depictions of the Orchid Dragon him/her self.  Meerkatsu's lettering appears on the back skirt and on both shoulders.  If there's anything I'd change about the appearance of this gi, this is probably it.  I don't begrudge Professor Yang branding his gis; I just have a preference for smaller logos on the shoulders.  I like more negative space on the shoulders than is typically left by a larger logo on each side.


Seam tape runs over the cuffs and the bottom of the skirt.  There are no frays or loose stitches of any kind.  It feels well-made, it fits well, and it looks gorgeous.  I am a sucker for chiarascuro and black-and-white art in general, so I'm obviously a good fit for this particular gi design and color choice.  

(Caveat: Most BJJ gis are made at the same set of factories in Pakistan, so differences in quality judgments across most BJJ gis are probably not generalizable or especially reliable, as Thomas Nadelhoffer notes.  However, there are different grades of ripstop cotton, so ripstop pants may have perceptible quality differences -- see below).


The pants are made out of ripstop cotton.  I generally dislike ripstop pants.  They are very easy to grip (and trust me when I say that I cannot afford to give my opponents ANY advantages), they can get slick and sticky with sweat, and they bunch up a lot.  Of course, ripstop is super-strong and super-light, and those are its main advantages. 

Still, I've tried enough different gis to recognize that not all ripstop pants are created equal.  Some simply feel more sturdy 20160912_222810and well-made than others (the ripstop pants on my Scramble Sengoku gi are really nice to roll in, and I've heard excellent things about Inverted Gear's ripstop pants).  And actually, I like the ripstop pants in the Orchid Dragon.  They are indeed strong and light, but they do not feel flimsy or thin like others I have worn.  They are light and easy to move in, but they feel substantial enough.  They are susceptible to strong gripping during training, but that's a feature I think is almost ineliminable for ripstop cotton in BJJ pants.

The pants are tied with the ever popular cord draw, which I like.  The knee reinforcements do not go all the way to the ankles, which I would definitely have preferred, especially in ripstop pants.  (Without the reinforcements, I find that the tendency for ripstop pants to facilitate tight grips is made a bit worse.  And because training partners are obviously grabbing the area around the ankles all the time for toreandos and other nasties, it would be better if the full-length reinforcements extended to the ankles, in my view). 

There is a large embroidery of the Orchid Dragon on the front hip (left to wearer).  This piece of art is simply unbelievable.  I've never seen anything like it on any BJJ pants.  It's a large embroidery for gi pants, measuring almost 22x23 cm (LxW).  It's a beautiful piece of art on its own, and the Dragon sits serenely yet powerfully on my hip as I head into battle.  (He/she doesn't save me, though.  But that's hardly the Dragon's fault!)


I have worn the gi to 3 training sessions.  It has performed really well, all things considered.  It fits me extremely well -- snug but not tight, without a huge amount of excess material in either the pants or the jacket, but also not constricting of movement in any way. 

The gi is strong, light, and comfortable.  It feels sturdy and easily withstood the punishment my rolling partners applied.  As mentioned above, the pants are a bit easy in which to wind tight grips (so it's harder to kick off when playing open guard or trying to sweep), but other than that the gi was comfortable, strong, and overall a pleasure in which to roll.


This is a beautiful gi that is functional, well-designed, and attractive.  The artwork and embroidery are characteristically excellent (for Meerkatsu art), the black/silver/white color palette really pops, and the gi is comfortable and fun to roll in.  It also happens to fit me extremely well, and it draws attention without being busy or obtrusive.

At US$154, it's priced right about where it should be, given some of the original artwork and the real desire many BJJ practitioners have to own and don Meerkatsu gear.  Its price falls right in between some of the inexpensive gis (low US$100s) and the luxury gis (high US$100s and US$200s) in the North American market.

I've worn the gi three times, and I keep wanting to select it again instead of the next one in the rotation.*  Ah well, as long as I wash it after every session, who will mind if I wear it 3x in a week?

Ultimately, I really like the gi so far and look forward to using and training in it for a long time to come.

20160921_195257 20160921_195316


*Including the Orchid Dragon, I currently have an eclectic 8-gi rotation composed of the following:  

  • 93 Brand Gotham
  • 93 Brand Mandrill
  • Scramble Sengoku
  • Datsusara Hemp Combat Gi
  • Platinum Fu Dog v. 3
  • Strike Fightwear Crowd Control 2.0
  • Origin Nova


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