Panda Jiu-jitsu

Photo of Milford Sound in New Zealand!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Green Gi Custom Hemp Belt

Photo credit: The Green Gi

Ever since seeing Meerkatu blog about his custom BJJ belt some years ago I've always wanted to make one myself. I was planning on getting it once I reached purple belt status as a gift to myself for all the hard work. But after coming back from my really long training hiatus I felt like getting this belt now gave it a whole new meaning. Melodramatics aside, wearing it would remind me of my renewed commitment to jiu-jitsu - never taking any time off.

So now on to how I got this bad boy made.

I was initially thinking of Kataaro make it for me. Then I figured why settle for the norm, I want to be different. It just hit me without much thought: I wanted a hemp belt. Why hemp? Other than it's stronger and more durable than cotton, it's an eco-friendly material. Other than that it has anti-microbial properties. Not that I'm suggesting you don't wash your gi occasionally. Now who makes awesome hemp belts? The Green Gi. I admit, I found them last year only because they were giving away free patches. Free stuff yes! I just could not resist. Another thing I found admirable about the company is that their products are 100% made in the USA.We all know most of the gis in the market today are either outsourced from factories in Pakistan or China. It's refreshing to know a homegrown company is making all this possible.

Available belt colors from The Green Gi
Photo credit: The Green Gi

It started out with an e-mail.

I posted a question on one of Addie's Instagram photos. We then began exchanging e-mails to discuss designs and production. If you haven't noticed, my belt is patterned after Meerkatsu's belt. It's a straightforward design layout. Jiu-jitsu kanji with my logo below and the website URL at the bottom.

You have to give it to Addie and The Green Gi team for responding in a very timely manner. A majority of my correspondence with her was while I was on a 2-week holiday. I wasn't on Wi-Fi the whole time but whenever I was, an update from TGG team alerted me to my inbox. I swear I felt like a kid again on Christmas Eve waiting to open my presents.

I sent my first e-mail to Addie on July 30th. My belt was waiting for me in the mail on September 9th. Now that's a really quick turnaround. I got back from holiday in the wee hours of September 10th and the first thing I did was rip open the envelope containing my belt.

I wear an A1 gi but I like how an A3 belt (118 in.) hangs up to a couple inches above my knees. It's roughly 1.5 inches in width which I too also find perfect. Now as the proud owner of the first custom belt prototype, there will be some unforeseen production flaws. It's not to the level of an unbearable eyesore but a few improvements are in order.

Front and back of embroidery


Notice how my website's URL isn't too clear. Addie had suggested that on future custom work they would be recommending an all caps lettering to make text more vivid. The photo on the right shows you the underside of the embroidery. Although I have not seen this side of Meerkatsu's belt, this area might need some covering up. Addie had an idea of a custom TGG labeling to cover up the back side of the embroidery. I think that it would serve a double-purpose for protecting the embroidery. One noticeable difference between a cotton and a hemp belt for me is how tight I need to tie it around my waist. I've used a Ground Control and a Flow Kimonos hemp belt in the past and I have always had to tie them tighter. I don't know how other hemp belt users think of the grip of hemp belts but having gone through 3 brands, I've come up with the same conclusion. Or it could be I have been tying my belt the wrong way all these years. Once you've tied the belt securely though, it stays there. Sometimes I tie it too tight that it takes me a while to remove it.


I've previously had gis made for my previous academy so I know a bit about digitizing. Embroidery places need to convert the image files I had into a file compatible with the embroidery machine. That's what digitizing is in a nutshell. The digitizing fee plus the embroidery work cost me $80. Now tack on the cost of the belt at $35 and that brings us to a total of $115. Now since this was a special request and the guys at TGG had to go out of their way to help me out with this, I added a little bit extra and ended up paying $135. The $20 processing fee seemed reasonable when you think about they spent on it and how quick they had it in my mailbox. At that price, it is a really good especially for customized product of this quality.


I've only had around 15 hours of solid training with this belt on. So far the embroidery has help up and the belt itself does not show signs of fraying. Although I am certain this belt will last me for years I'll be posting updates as I add more hours of rolling into this belt. It's definitely worth getting. Not that you'd expect the average BJJ practitioner to go through more than one belt at any given rank. It just adds a bit of flair. As for me, I know it would take me a few more years at blue belt before getting promoted. Having this belt on me adds its own symbolism.

If you need a custom hemp belt made with your design be sure to hit up and tell them Pandinho sent you. I don't get any commission from referrals but it's good to know I'm helping out a grassroots brand like TGG.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gawakoto Kimo-Noh - Adding art in Martial Arts

Photo credit: Gawakoto

I love comic books.

Who doesn't?

Our love of art has different levels. My introduction to "real" comic book art was by way of the uncanny X-Men. I admit, I fail as a comic book geek in comparison to my buddy Bong from Gawakoto. Bazooka gum comic strips don't fall under the same category by the way.

I always borrowed from friends, never bought any myself. As a kid, they were too pricey for me. Marvel comics were a scarcity where I grew up, but it didn't bother me that I couldn't follow an arc or storyline.

Discovering the Gawakoto brand was a happy accident. I was looking for BJJ brands that offered Filipino-inspired designs. I found one of Bong's first projects - a Kali Eskrima rashguard with Lapu-lapu (which coincidentally is the hero of my hometown Cebu) as the centerpiece. I've become an avid fan of the brand ever since. I often convince friends and training partners to at least check the website out.

Gawakoto has recently designed a Kabuki-inspired gi, with approval from David Mack - the Kimo-Noh. The Kabuki comic book series is Mack's brainchild and is credited as one of his best work to date. Pre-order for this limited edition release has already started on Monday in the UK. The first 50 orders come with exclusive Kabuki artwork from David Mack.

I've been holding off on grabbing one since I was informed a US release is due in the future. Shipping cost from England is too high, buying locally would save me money. The plight of the working student.

I have to stop buying white gis, I just have too many to date. Hint hint Bong, please make a royal blue or navy gi soon!

Whoever is getting the Kimo-Noh before I do, please share your thoughts about the quality of the weave and the embroidered artwork. I would love to oggle at this gi even more.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Panda History

I have been toying with the idea of creating a blog for a better part of this year. As a blue belt who works during the day, and trains and struggles to finish university at night - I think I'm a part of a big portion of BJJ practitioners out there who don't train full time. I'm just like YOU buddy: whoever's reading this.

Blogging was an idea created when I wasn't actually training. I took a 9 month hiatus due to a bunch of reasons. I was a newly-minted blue belt when I decided to take a break. I honestly grew unhappy of training. That story I'll have to write about later.

Right before I started typing up this post, there were doubts, questions I asked myself:

"Am I in authority to talk about Jiu-jitsu?"

"Am I a good example of an ideal Jiu-Jitsu practitioner?"

"How many grammar-nazis will be biting at my heels?"

Then I remembered the whole reason why I wanted to blog. I'm doing this for me as a renewed commitment to this sport, to this lifestyle. It's also a way of tracking my progress as a martial artist as I go though this journey.

Now you might be wondering: "Why a panda?" 

I've always had this affinity for pandas. They're gentle, slow creatures. My jiu-jitsu game is similar: slow to start with aggressiveness coming a bit late. Some people think that a slow game is bad, yes it is. But I've grown to adapt to this style through the years of training. I however admit that my aggressiveness when needed, should come out as easy as flicking a switch. I am still working on that.

I'll try to post stuff weekly. My schedule's all filled up with work and school. I'm also currently looking for a new job. Where I currently work it doesn't really help pay the bills, especially the monthly BJJ training costs.

With this introduction of sorts, I welcome you to my blog.