Compared to other combat sports, the equipment investment for jiu-jitsu is pretty low. You still need a few things though and, with the holidays just around the corner, there’s no better way to show that special person in your life you care than a gift that says “I want you to get real good at choking people.” Bring them with you next year in case Black Friday gets out of hand. Win-win.

Gi: Sometimes referred to as a kimono, this is the uniform of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and also a key piece of equipment. Many techniques involve gripping the Gi for control, which is why they are often more expensive than Gis for other martial arts (i.e. Taekwondo) that don’t involve grappling. If you’re looking for that high-quality, high-fashion look that’s super hot on the mats these days, Neutral Ground is practically best friends with two local companies that make excellent Gis: BJJ Life ( and Combat Corner ( Tell them we sent you and they’ll be like “Niiiiiiiice.”

Belt: The belt is used to track your progression from beginner to bad ass. You’ll start with a white belt, work your way up to blue, then purple, then brown, then black. In between belt colors, you also earn stripes to show how close you are to that next level (four stripes per belt color). Your instructor will promote you to the next belt color which, be prepared, may take a while. Jiu-Jitsu has one of the most rigid belt promotion systems, so it can take more than 10 years to achieve a black belt. Unlike other martial arts, you’ll never see a child that’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. If you do meet a child that’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu, just do what they say.

Rash guard: A rash guard, originally worn by surfers, is a tight-fitting spandex shirt that can help protect against cuts, mat burns and even skin diseases. Though not essential, it does provide some added mobility off your back—particularly when you’re sweaty. Plus, it shows off how buff you are. Whaddyabench?

Shorts: Though you’ve probably got at least one pair of shorts that will work just fine, two styles that really caught on in the grappling/MMA communities are Vale Tudos (very short, very tight) and board shorts (long and loose). Personally, I try to avoid anything with pockets. When feet weren’t getting caught in them, I’d always be pushing them back in. Save yourself my headache.

Mouth guard: This is optional and worn by about 50% of grapplers according to a survey that I just made up. A basic boil-and-bite mouth guard only costs a few bucks, but they can get pretty costly for a pro-level, custom job. If you’re not doing any striking, there’s no reason to get too crazy with the cost. I like the Tiger Claw Single Mouth Guard (sold on Amazon) which is very thick, forms much better than other mouth guards I’ve tried and only costs about $4—a very cheap investment compared to missing teeth.

Cup: Again, optional—but preferred by many for obvious reasons. Combat Corner sells a Muay Thai-style steel cup that provides awesome protection even if it’s not the most fun thing to put on. You’ll see what I mean.

Water bottle: Even if it’s below freezing outside, the inside of a packed jiu-jitsu gym will feel like Miami in July. Stay hydrated.

Neutral Ground shirt: The equivalent of a “Beware of Dog” sign for your body. Off the mat, we don’t want no mess.

No shoes: No shoes on the mat. Don’t even think about it.