When you are about to spend your hard earned money on any BJJ apparel, have you ever wondered: Where, how and most importantly by whom it was made?
It’s safe to say that around 95% of the products on the market are made in either India or China. This fact in itself shouldn’t be a problem, but the fact that a lot of the factories and manufacturing facilities there often fail short on the sweatshop front may raise an eyebrow or two. Of course that doesn’t mean anything made in China or Pakistan is without a doubt is a sweatshop product.
But one thing is clear: Almost all brands produce their goods where it’s the cheapest. If the quality is right, who cares if it was made by a 12 years old child, or someone who is living by sub-standard conditions or working in a hazardous workplace and gets paid way below the developed countries’ average?
Now, this is the part when you, the consumer comes into play.
Among dozens of quality gear and clothing brands you will probably choose by style, quality and price. But what about the story behind a product? Wouldn’t it be comforting if you’d knew that the thing you will buy are being made under fair trade rules?
The capitalist market dictates business owners to minimize costs and maximize revenue. But that doesn’t mean a company should not care about the environment and about the people that make their goods. Most brands don’t even bother making their own garments/patterns, they just get blanks from wholesale vendors and slap their logos on them. The producers of these mass products blanks care next to nothing about the workforce or Mother Nature. Profit goes above all. Even you. Because in the end: If this unsustainable system collapses, you will suffer the consequences as well.
Does it really have to be this way? A few companies like Origin and us do go against the grain and say no:
They produce all of their gear in the U.S. The initial costs of course are greater, but it’s also a viable business model if they offer competitive prices for the customers.
We also choose to follow an alternative path: All of our garments are 100% custom made, and manufactured in the European Union, with fair wages. What we design and make, you won’t find anywhere else. We truly thrive to be innovative and original. Our profit margins may be lower than our competitors, but our main goal is to create value first, then get revenue as an effect. Not the other way.
So next time you browsing for your next choice of brand, be conscious: Keep in mind that your choice literally will affect lives.
A peculiar thing exists in board sports. The very first moment you put your feet on a board, you subconsciously chose your skating stance: you put your “stronger” or leading foot on the board and you push with the other to get momentum. The left leg on the deck means the stance is ‘regular’ and if the right foot is forward, then it’s ‘goofy’ footed. Now here comes the interesting part because it can be mixed up. An originally goofy footed skater may step on a skateboard with his other foot and will execute tricks ‘the other way’ also known as switch. It’s way harder to do anything mirrored, simply because you have to learn it all over again. If you ever tried to brush your teeth with your ‘other’ arm you know what I’m talking about.
And what does this has got to do with BJJ or grappling?
All the techniques we practice can also be applied two ways. For example you can do a scissor sweep to the left and also to the right. You might go for a single leg takedown aiming for the left or right leg. A lot of factors do come in calculation when these maneuvers are done, but a lot of times you just go for your stronger side without even knowing it. This is not a conscious choice, it occurs out of instinct even though you train these moves two-sided. Over the years I’ve been training with a couple of guys who insisted on practicing only one side when learning a new movement. Their reason is that they are having a hard time understanding and completing the move on one side so why bother with the other?
It’s a bad habit not only because it makes them unilateral, but also because it makes them vulnerable when the situation is not in the favor for their strong-side.
Even though I always train techniques for both sides like the majority of people, during sparring I find myself a lot of times in the same situation: for example from north-south position 8 out of 10 times I will go to get the opponent's left arm to go for a kimura instead of the right one. I do this because I go for my stronger side. So I always have to remind myself to go the unfavored direction. It sometimes feel awkward, but in the long run I know it pays off.
What will make a difference in future generations of BJJ champions is that they won’t have a stronger or weaker side. They will have flawless techniques bilaterally. It also happened with skateboarding: Just watch the world class skaters in competitions and you can’t tell which is their real stance anymore. The Buchechas, Riberios and Galvaos of tomorrow will have impeccable skills that can be only achieved by training for equilibrium.
Just like the Universe, Jiu Jitsu and Life in general...It's all about balance.
Stay humble and true
Before discovering Jiu Jitsu four years ago, I had been skateboarding for over 15 years.
Back in the 90's, being a teenager and finding an outlet for the first time that could motivate me to learn new things and to face a physical challenge at the same time was a big enlightenment. Of course a part of the attraction was the aura of "cool" that surrounded skateboarders. They were the outcasts who got kicked out of spots while skating on the streets. "Surfing" on the sidewalks and pulling off tricks is a challenge itself but there are all kind of other obstacles out there: small asphalt cracks and stones, dog shit, piss and vigilant citizens...a completely hostile environment. Considered by most to be the scum of society, it was inevitable that skaters never found the common platform with everyday people. They were hardly ever treated as sportsmen.
As they say all things go in cycles, and skateboarding is no exception. After the birth of skateboarding in the 50's, followed by the steady growth until the years of obscurity in the 80's, skateboarding has reached unbelievable popularity nowadays. The subculture has slowly but surely turned into a multi million dollar market closing the gap between extreme sports and mainstream activities like basketball, football etc.
Over the past years while I was obsessed with skateboarding, I also witnessed its transformation. Some core skater owned brands went out of business, some got bought out by bigger and wealthier companies. As the interest started to grow towards skateboarding, so did the investments by new mega-corporation players of the market: NIKE, ADIDAS, COCA-COLA etc.
(Here are two articles about this in depth)
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu's and skateboarding's roots are deeply planted in the surfing culture. Their both gain inspiration from it. But the similarities doesn't end here. Both take really long time (measured in years) to master and requires serious determination.
When I first encountered jiu jitsu, I instantly knew I've found a substitute for skating. The vast variety of moves, submissions, takedowns, counters, escapes and sweeps makes it impossible to get bored with it.
Just like skating.
It is hard as hell and takes thousands of hours of repetitive practice to even feel a bit confident with it. No wonder why some many folks fall out along the ride.
Just like skating.
An inner debate that will never be solved: old school vs. new school techniques.
Skating has the same equivalent dispute.
The subcultural vibe, the inner clique feeling and the comradery that comes with years spent with the same like minded group of friends.
Yes, just like skateboarding.
Undoubtedly, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is on the rise, more and more people are getting involved in it. Long gone the days when only a handful of Brazilian companies produced goods and sourced the market. Brands from all around the world are making their mark now such as Tatami (UK) Scramble (UK) or Manto (Poland). Ever since the Gracies and the UFC it has become a global phenomenon, it's no surprise that with so many similarities, the same pattern of evolution that happened with skating can also be observed happening within the business and market side of jiu jitsu.
But there is also the downside of it. It's already happened with skating circa a decade ago. The McDonaldization of BJJ. Maybe it's too early to ring the bell, but as more and more capital is invested, big companies will take notice. (I remember Adidas was first to jump onboard with skating around '98 and it took Nike a couple more years to catch up). The same is already happening with jiu jitsu, Adidas who has a history with martial arts apparel, was the first to produce jiu jitsu specific gear and sponsor a household BJJ player. It will take a while, but when the numbers will reach their threshold Nike will be there to skim the cream of profits with their technical fabrics manufactured in sweatshops from China. And Nike won't be the only mega corporation to suck the soul out of Jiu Jitsu. For them, jiu jitsu will be another profitable market with numbers. For us it's a lifestyle, an artform and a passion for life. Some might say if big money is involved then athletes will benefit from it too. It may be true but only for a chosen few, who already make a decent living out of it. But for the most part, they will only see a fraction of what the market shareholders will profit.
You might have noticed that McDojos are surfacing left and right where people getting promoted for new ranks in no time without paying their dues with blood and sweat. For the true hardcore jitsu players, it is heresy, the very essence of the art is getting diluted.
But don't worry, it is the natural way of things. This transition, whether we like it or not will take place, the question is will Jiu Jitsu be able to protect the core values of its culture.
As avid practitioners we must keep the legacy alive by continuing the mission of those who started this all before us.
Stay true and humble and embrace the Golden Age while you can.
It was almost 2 years ago that the first glimpse of idea popped into my head that I would like to make a jiu jitsu/grappling apparel brand.
One night during a brief after-training chat with my cousin Jani (who also got into jitsu) we instantly agreed to join forces and bring something special to life. I already had a couple of designs in my head that were ready to be deployed, but there was something still missing.
We spent hours looking for a word that could represent all we want to communicate. Pura Terra? On The Ground? None of those felt right. And when we were just about to throw in the towel, Jani spat that four letter word out: ISSO. We heard it a lot of times from teachers in training, or while watching instructional bjj videos. But it's not the word itself that is special. The feeling that surrounds it. That amazing feeling which makes us fulfilled for a moment, yet leaving us hungry for more. When we reach a point, and we suddenly feel on top of the world. We knew exactly that this is the name what we've been looking for.
Getting an idea from start to finish, from an initial sketch to an actual finished product is not an easy task. We have decided early on that we want to create only outstanding garments by all means necessary. Most companies do not bother with the hassle and they just grab a cheap mass produced t-shirt and toss a logo on it. From the custom cut of our shirts to the materials and graphics we are always willing to bring something new and exciting to the table.
Creativity, humour and aesthetics that makes a HUGE difference between a mediocre and an exceptional brand.
We strive to be the latter.