I'm at school right now, between two finals, and I decided to write a review of my new gi to pass the time. Why the hell not?
Mizuno has decided to phase out its Ichiban competition line and replace it by the Shiai model. Now, I have no experience with the Ichiban. I have heard it's a stiff, but ample, Japanese-cut judogi, whereas the Eurocomp is the model most people who like to be dressed in armors will choose, with it's stiff material and lapel, and tight European-cut.
Most judoka know that a competition gi, if they pay thought to such matters, should be tight-fitting and stiff, to provide an aid in gripfighting. Such gis are harder to grip, in theory. It's probably true that wearing a tight gi or a softer gi won't really be an issue in the long run and that it's your judo that matters. But since 90% of the competition WILL be wearing medieval armors, one should equalise the playing field and wear one too.
This is where the Shiai is like a red-headed stepchild. Shiai means "competition". Just by the name, one would expect a ultra-stiff judogi, with a barely legal setsugi and lapels so stiff your opponents cry when they grip you. It is NOT the case.
In fact, the Shiai's material is soft. It reminds me of an old teddy bear. The lapels are almost single-weave judogi grade. If you order a Shiai thinking it's another Eurocomp, you will be sorely dissapointed. However, the Shiai's softness is not really a bad thing. I own a Fushida Icon and grew a little tired of the "rah rah I am heavy and stiff" kind of judogi. Fully knowing what I got into, I then ordered a Shiai. White, because I'm a silly purist.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Sure, my opponents no longer cried when they had to grip my judogi. And sure, it was easier to get a grip on. However, I personally did not see much difference between wearing a stiff, tight gi and wearing a soft, large one like the Shiai. Since it was now a question of comfort, the Shiai wins and that's what I wear to practice. Your mileage may vary.
It's a Mizuno judogi. I've had it for a few months now and no wear is visible, but that is to be expected. The Shiai is made in China and I hear Mizuno's quality has dropped since they started producing most of their line in China. However the Shiai largely suffices and seems on par with other mid-range judogi regarding durability as far as I am concerned.
As I said, this is not an armor. It's very easy to move in. The material is very, very soft, in fact it is softer and lighter than the Kano, Mizuno's medium-weight model. I did not really like that at first, being used to armors, but I largely prefer the soft, supple material the Shiai puts on my body now.
Ease of Use
Put pants on. Put jacket on. Cross lapels. Tie obi.
The Shiai is a preshrunk model. Only the sleeves will shrink just a little. Therefore the size you get is the size you will keep. There is no shrinking to get a better fit.
My Shiai does not seem to have common stuff in lower-quality judogi like missing stitches or wild thread. Even though it is made in China it does seem to be reasonably well made.
Not a stiff armor. Easy to grip. I've said this all in the preamble.
It's a very nice change of pace from armors. Borrow or otherwise try one. It's pretty nice and it'll feel like you're hugging an old teddy bear.
The Shiai, with it's softness, is good for practice and kata. For competition it's not stiff, so most competitors won't like it, but one can get used to it.
Try not to miss your armors too much, boys.