Short Review: Several BJJ companies now have budget gis available for the beginner. The Nova is Tatami Fightwear's contribution to that market and it's a good one. Lightweight, slim-cut and soft, the Tatami Nova is a strong contender. I'd still recommend a judogi as a first option due to the cheaper price, but as the Nova is £52.50, there isn't a huge difference in the strain on your wallet. Even the shoulder patches come off without leaving much of a trace, which is excellent news for plain-gi obsessives like me. It comes in either white or blue, available to buy from here for a little under $90 (or just over £50 in the UK, from the Tatami website).
Update Dec 2016: The equivalent Tatami gi now looks to be their Fundamental option, available here for £58.
Full Review: I often have beginners ask me what gi they should buy. My first recommendation is always a basic judogi, such as my £20 Blitz Kokuba (currently about £30), followed by two budget gis: the Black Eagle Basico and the Tatami Nova. However, up until now, I’ve always had to add the proviso that I haven’t personally tried the Nova. So, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to review Tatami Fightwear’s budget offering, as that means I can give a more informed opinion to those beginners in future.
Update Dec 2012: I've been training in the Nova regularly for seven months now and have not noticed any significant wear and tear.
With regards to reinforcement, all the usual places are triple-stitched, with double-reinforced knee padding on the trousers (or at least that's what it says on the website: as far as I can tell, that means an extra layer of fabric has been sewn into the trousers from just above the knee down to the lower shin).
microbiologist, but the latter is true. The Nova dried fast, taking about 12 hours to go from soaking wet to completely dry. That's while hanging off a clothes horse in a cold English kitchen, with a few hours in the sunshine the next morning.
At 425gsm, the weight is comparable to my Kingz Ripstop, though the Nova weave is smoother. I was surprised to see that my Padilla Ultra Light is apparently a bit thinner at 400gsm, according to the website, but the Nova nevertheless feels lighter (possibly also because the skirt on Padilla & Sons products tends to be longer). In fact, it feels so light that this is the third best travel gi I currently own, after my Gimono and Gorilla ripstop. The Nova has been perfect for the intro sessions I’ve been teaching at Aro Ling, as that involves about an hour of cycling.
When I first started BJJ, I always bought A2, but since then I’ve realised that I prefer a tighter gi. A1 has therefore been my size of choice for the last couple of years. Like the Basico and Predator, the Nova has a form-fitting cut, without lots of fabric left flapping around. Helpfully, Tatami have a swish gi size calculator on their site, which makes it easy to get the right size. Of course, I’ve only tested this for my own frame, but at least in my case it seems to be accurate.
Before washing, the Nova jacket was 160cm cuff to cuff. The trousers were slightly longer than I expected, at 97cm long: I had hoped they would be closer to 90cm, as my preference is for gi trousers to stop just above the ankle (probably higher than most people like). After one 30 degrees Celsius wash, the jacket shrank to 157cm cuff to cuff, while the trousers went down to 95cm. That's where it stayed after a second wash. Assuming it doesn’t shrink much more than that, the Nova A1 is a very good fit on my 5'7" and 145lbs/65kg frame.
Zero G. Having said that, the stubborn sliver of patch which is normally left clinging on under the collar was much smaller than normal. I was able to remove the vast majority of that patch residue with a bit of fiddling.
The Nova also comes with a white belt, which isn't always the case with gis. Admittedly, it is a pretty thin belt, so lower quality than the white belt that comes with the Gorilla ripstop, but still better than the Gracie Barra belts (which are the flimsiest I've seen to date). Regardless, it is more than capable of holding your gi closed for a couple of years, which is all you need from a white belt. Bought on their own, the average belt can range from anywhere between £5 to £20 (top of the range belts, like Kataaro and Eosin, are of course much more). If you're a beginner buying your first gi, it is therefore worth factoring that into your price considerations.
This looks to be an excellent choice for a beginner. It is slightly more expensive than the judogi I would normally recommend, but only slightly. For that extra £20, you get a better fit, smoother fabric and lighter weight. It's also a potentially good option if you're looking for a travel gi, but can't afford a ripstop gi (I'm only aware of Grab & Pull who do that in the UK, which costs something between £70-80). It comes in either white or blue, available to buy from here for a little under $90 (or just over £50 in the UK, from the Tatami website).