Cageside Staff Writer, Tim McNamara, interviewing the founder of Toro BJJ Brand, Boomer.
Tim What was the basis or motivation for starting Toro Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a Gi and Submission Grappling line?
Boomer First, I really like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a sport, I like training. Before, we had made a Cageside brand training gi, about 3 years ago. It was a nice Gi, really comfortable, but, the sleeves were too big, and the cut was awkward. But, at the time, I was trying to push Cageside Jiu-Jitsu as a brand, and the Cageside brand association is, honestly, more in mixed martial arts, and people don’t wear the Gi in the cage anymore. I was at a Jiu-Jitsu tournament in March of 2012, and I saw someone with a brand called “Ring to Cage.” I saw the gi, and it literally said “Ring to Cage,” and I thought what a stupid name for a gi and I immediately said to myself: “Cageside is a stupid name for a Gi.” I began thinking I really needed to come up with a different line; finally I was on the phone with my good friend Steve, knocking around different names for several days, I don’t recall which one of us said it, but “Torreando,” like the guard pass, and one of us said “what about Toro BJJ?” We both liked it.
That was well over a year ago.
After that, it was a matter of getting the right cut and fit, then checking out samples then to actually manufacture a run of them to get into the hands of Jiu-Jitsu enthusiasts. The first run was a gold weave. Gold weave is a specific manner of stitching: it’s a comfortable weave that is a little thicker than a lot of people prefer nowadays in Jiu-Jitsu.
Then we made prototypes for the current line which is a 450 gram pearl weave, which produces a truly lightweight jacket. Years ago, conventional wisdom was never to go below 600 grams for the weight of the Gi. Nowadays, people prefer Gi’s that may not last 8 years like a Howard brand Gi, but that are more geared toward comfort over the older model Gi’s that last forever but feel like a suit of armor.
Tim Can you tell me a little about the process from concept to actually having Gi’s that you were comfortable selling to the BJJ community?
Boomer 90% of all gi’s in the US are made in Pakistan. There’s a small city in Pakistan that is basically the textile capitol of martial arts equipment. They make other products as well, but they have a large number of skilled craftsmen who make these by hand. There’s communication issues, translation, sending things back and forth from the US to Pakistan is never simple. The cut of the current Toro Gi originated from samples that a manufacturer had sent me a full run of 550 gram pearl weave gi. I liked some aspects of the cut, but I wanted a slimmer cut of gi. I sent back all the preferred dimensions for a tighter cut than the sample. They would then send back a changed sample with those new dimensions. A lot of companies now, the last 3 years or so I’d say, will copy Shoyoroll’s cut. Shoyoroll has, in a lot of ways, set the standard for the cut of Gi’s currently produced. A lot of companies basically stealing the cut of the gi, verbatim. That being said, with a alot of Gi cuts and dimensions, they can only be so different because of the basics of the human body, but our is a truly unique cut that we designed through trial and error with guys who train on a daily basis.
Tim Any things or problems you didn’t expect, foresee, like with idea, the production process, et cetera?
Boomer Cageside has been in business of November 2006, it has taken until this year to realize that the actual thread itself that is used in everything from gloves to Gi’s to shin pads, everything, the thread itself is extremely important, and the thread native to Pakistan is an inferior quality which leads to degradation of the product and ultimately, deterioration of the product. As a result, now I insist that all of Cageside and Toro BJJ’s products use imported thread. That has created an ongoing issue with the factories we use, but it’s worth producing a superior product.
Tim Can you give me an overview of the differences between the Gi models you have now compared to earlier versions and the overall evolution of the design and product?
Boomer We changed the cut to a slimmer cut, that’s specific to Toro and Cageside. Imported thread, our manufacturer in Pakistan imports thread from China which has increased durability. We went with the lighter weight Gi in terms of weight as part of changing market/ grappler preference for a more comfortable, lighter Gi for daily training.
We tried to go with a flex panel in the crotch, in the hopes of a more comfortable Gi, but that was eventually abandoned based on feedback. Sprawl tried to use grip flex in the crotch. The idea being that it would help grip the arm or leg or whatever and finish the submission, but organizations deemed it illegal. It’s a process of innovation but innovation does not always work out like you expect as we found out. My goal with Cageside and Toro BJJ is to constantly improve our gear.
The pant that comes with the current Toro gi, has a traditional flat-style drawstring, it also comes with a rope that is packaged separately if you prefer the rope drawstring so that you can switch it out. Personally, I prefer the traditional drawstring for durability because the rope in my experience will eventually fray and degrade. But, we’re aware that some prefer the rope drawstring.
Tim What is your forth going vision for Toro BJJ as a product and brand?
Boomer Jeff Shaw, an extremely creative individual, and Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast is designing a limited run Gi for us. I’d even call Jeff a Jiu-jJitsu nerd, and he would like that term. He certainly is one and I mean that as a compliment. He’s daily living proof of how much Jiu-Jitsu and grappling can change your life.
He was 36 or 37 when he started training Jiu-Jitsu and it just consumed his life over the past few years. He’s creative and loves to create memes, shirts, just everything Jiu-Jitsu related. I approached him if he was interested in designing a special edition gi for Toro. The biggest reason I asked him, is that while I have a creative side, I am more conservative in my design. I wanted this to be a Gi that I wouldn’t even perhaps personally like, and I knew he would design something completely out of my comfort zone. For instance, I look on BJJHQ or see something by Meerkatsu or other funky stuff, and I wouldn’t ever wear it. But I read the comments and see that people are like “that’s amazing,” or “that’s the greatest thing ever “. I realize then that obviously, everyone doesn’t think like I think so I wanted something totally different, totally outside of my personal thought process.
My first thought of the initial designs was “I don’t like, it,” but I had to stop and realize “no, that’s not why you asked Jeff to design it.” If I just described to him what I see in my head, I’m just designing it which defeats the purpose.
The final design Jeff came up with is very, very cool, and it’s something I would never have conceived. And I’m very excited, because that was the whole point. Cageside and Toro ultimately want to change and evolve alongside the martial art, the sport, and the community as a whole. It’s going to be 450 gram pearl weave. Same unique cut that we’ve gotten good feedback about, the color is white and some cool graphic design elements to it that I haven’t seen on a Gi before anywhere.
Be sure to check out Tim's blog: http://zegrapplez.blogspot.com and Jeff Shaw's blog: http://dirtywhitebelt.wordpress.com/