Inverted Gear Blog / Inverted Gear
Five years ago, I started Inverted Gear. It seems like yesterday I was ordering polybags and halfsheet labels on Amazon so I could ship the first batch of panda gis from my mom’s basement. A lot has changed since then. First of all, I met my wife and business partner, Hillary. I didn’t know how much I needed her until she saw our original design files that were sent to the factory. Here is a side by side for comparison, so you can perhaps get a sense of the potential she saw on the brand.
With Hillary’s help, Inverted Gear has grown into something incredible.
I’m still amazed when I scroll through social media and get to experience panda sightings. Whether it’s a video or a picture of a seminar somewhere overseas, if you look hard enough you are sure to find a panda somewhere. I am very grateful for this. With the ever-growing amount of options out there, the fact that people keep choosing us means a lot to me and to Hillary.
In order to thank you for your support, we have worked hard over the last few years to bring you more content than ever. I have assembled what I consider the best BJJ writers out there in one team. Marshal Carper, Matt Kirtley, Daniel Bertina, Val Worthington, and TP grant—also weekly features from yours truly and the occasional post from Hillary when she gets time away from all the design work.
Also we are working hard to start bringing you more video content from both our sponsored athletes and us. We’ve been especially proud of our White Belt Wednesday videos. The best part about my job is getting to talk to people about jiu-jitsu, and these videos are a fun way for us to interact with new jiu-jiteiros around the world and hopefully help their training, even if it’s just a little bit. We have some cool projects in the works that we cannot wait to share with you as well.
On the gear side of things, we’ve been busy too. We will have quite a few announcements on the upcoming weeks.
As much as we’re looking to do new things, there’s a lot that won’t change. We plan to continue our support of Tap Cancer Out and all the great work they do. We also plan to continue our support of grappling events in general. We have been able to sponsor the last two Polaris events, we sponsored the last JiuJitsu.net Challenge (Keenan Cornelius vs. Sean Roberts), and we are pleased to announce we will be sponsoring Marianas open this year.
Finally, we are working hard to bring Inverted Gear to Europe permanently. Our friends across the pond have been patient so far, but we know that high shipping costs and rising taxes can be frustrating, so we have a European distribution hub in the works, so that we can directly serve European pandas the way we serve American pandas. Our aim is to have this completed by the end of the year.
Everything we have done over the last 5 years has been possible due to your support. Thank you again for believing in our vision. We look forward to bringing you highest quality gear possible, great content, and let’s not forget that really cool Panda logo.
Thank you, Panda Nation. You are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met.
A year ago, the awesome guys at Artechoke Media started helping us run social media for Inverted Gear. One of the first things they did when I told them I wanted us to put out more content was tell me “well you should write a weekly blog.”
A year later with a few missed weeks due to crazy schedules and the one week I was inspired and wrote two posts, we sit at 50 posts. I want to thank Matt and Marshal for encouraging me to do this, helping me brainstorm, and editing my articles.
I am very self-conscious about my writing. English is my second language, but like many things in my life, BJJ has helped me overcome this fear.
I just wanted to take a moment to also thank everyone that has taken the time to read my posts and even share them on social media. It really means a great deal to me. It stills freaks me out when we travel somewhere and I meet someone, and they tell me they love my blog. I really appreciate all the support.
For the new readers here are my five most popular blog posts from the last year, hopefully you enjoy them:
1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu goals that do not involve becoming a world champion
There is more to jiu-jitsu than becoming a world champion, and it’s okay if you pursue those goals instead of focusing purely on competition.
2. Ten Years Without Reaping: Time to Reevaluate
Is reaping more dangerous than takedowns or some of the submissions that are currently legal? We might need to rethink this part of the BJJ ruleset.
3. Things they don’t tell you when you start BJJ
Jiu-jitsu has a way of bleeding into all areas of life, changing how you behave, think, and see the world beyond the mat.
4. From Humble Beginnings
What’s it like starting and growing a gi company? This article looks back on how Inverted Gear got its start and discusses some of the lessons we learned along the way.
5. The Best Black Belts Have White Belt Mindsets
As much as we might rag on white belts, the curiosity and humbleness of a totally new student are valuable assets to carry with you throughout your training.
Bonus: Smoked Fish and Single Legs in Reykjavik
Hillary and I stopped off in Iceland on our way to Greenland, and we got to train with some great people. This is still one of my favorite training memories.
I’m looking forward to continuing the blog for the foreseeable future and continuing to put out content not just from yours truly but some my favorite BJJ writers like Hillary Witt, Marshal D. Carper, Matt Kirtley, Valerie Worthington, Jason C Brown, TP Grant, and Daniel Bertina. I hope you are enjoying these posts as much as I am.
When will my size be in stock?
We get this question a lot. Keeping gis in stock has always been a challenge for us, from our first batch to today. As business owners, it’s one of those “good problems to have” scenarios, but we can also see how it can frustrating for our fans. While we continue to work to keep more sizes in stock more consistently, I thought a look under the hood of running a gi company might give you some insights.
Part of the challenge is stocking half-sizes. This means that when gis are in stock, you are more likely to find a gi that fits just right, but that also means that we have to stock 12 size variations rather than 5. When you factor in color variations (white, black, blue), that takes us to 36 gi variations. Then you can do some fun things with weave and weight variations to create different gi experiences, but that again multiplies the range of items you have in stock.
Today, we have 156 gi variations (or SKUs as folks in the retail world might call them).
At this point, if you own a gi company, you have a decision: You can do limited edition runs so that you can more accurately predict your inventory needs batch after batch, or you can try to stock your gis year-round. We chose year-round because we don’t want anyone to feel left out.
But that also means that we have to time our restocking shipments just right. Gi manufacturing takes between 8 and 10 weeks. From there, it takes 4 weeks for shipping. If the plan goes smoothly, you get a stock of gis on the shelves in 14 weeks, but importing product is often a rocky process. Customs is one thing—a process that sometimes feel like a lottery where we get a 3-day process with one shipment or a 3-week process for another shipment—but importing process can also mean dealing with some off-script challenges.
For example, when you work with imports long enough, you hear stories about natural disasters or wars or broken-down trucks or even pirates.
Yeah, pirates. Can you imagine some tough Somali pirate cracking open a shipping container full of panda gis?
The demand for Inverted Gear means that we are often placing another order before the previous order arrives in our store. We lean on our data as much as we can to make smart orders, but the BJJ community is growing, and that means that variety of people training is changing as well. With one order, 20 units of A3 Tall/Slim will sit in the warehouse for month. With the next where I decide to order 15 or less, they sellout within weeks of arriving.
Here is the breakdown of our most popular sizes:
It’s a typical bell curve distribution—for the most part—with A2 making up the bulk of the orders, but as you can see, the variation is significant. For us, seeing A0 and A00 sizes begin to sell more is especially exciting because that reflects the increase of women in the sport.
Picking the right sizes has been a learning process, and we are getting much better at it, and we are streamlining our manufacturing process. We are sorry about the inconvenience, and we thank you for your patience. We want to do right by you because your support means everything to us, so we are actively committed to smoothing out every stage of the panda process.
We’ll get your gi in stock as fast as we can. Promise!
Every time someone shares a Show The ART video it brings a smile to my face. My friends Abe and Marcos have created something amazing. It’s incredible how far they have come in just 3 years. They are now one of the most recognized presences on social media for grappling, with a ridiculous amount of followers through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Nelson (pre-tacos) and Marcos
I have known Marcos since we were purple belts. We were both Jersey guys that commuted to the city for noon class at Alliance NYC. We would take turns getting absolutely demolished by Lucas Lepri, Babs and the rest of NYC crew. That's how I became friends with Marcos and Abe. We started arranging trips to train together in NJ. I remember after one of these training sessions, they asked me to help them out with a project and told me about their vision for Show the ART. I gladly accepted and we filmed this video:
Their brand has grown quite a bit since then, to about 60,000 followers, give or take. We have helped each other out by cross-promoting, and recently we have even done collaboration projects, like our rashguard, our first gi and now our second gi. Marcos and Abe got the ball rolling picking up the color scheme and details they wanted it, Hillary “Hillarized-it” as Marcos would say, and it came out great.
There is so much BJJ content available online now. Tournaments and PPVs happen just about every weekend. It is a far cry from what we used to have when I started. Back then only a few matches would make it to YouTube, and if they did, the quality was awful. I remember saving up and pooling money with friends to get DVDs of Worlds and ADCC.
Show the ART is amazing at curating short clips to highlight talented grapplers. I truly look forward to seeing what they put out everyday. I love how it can be a Brazilian world champion black belt one day, and a teenage competitor from NJ the next. Even yours truly has made the cut a few times. Abe and Marcos have an amazing eye for beautiful jiu-jitsu, and they really take the art to heart, and not only BJJ, but music, photography, movies. These guys really nerd out about it.
If you've been living under a rock and haven’t checked out their Instagram feed yet, please go and take a look. While you are at it give, their podcast a listen. They do a great job and they had some amazing guests on it, including some Nelson guy. Here are some of my favorite ones.
Below we're republishing one of our most well-received and meaningful blog posts, the story of Nelson's mother's battle with cancer.
Go hug the people you love today!
Cancer, Jiu-Jitsu, and a Lesson in Persistence
“Tienes que ser persistente,” my mom always said. “You have to be persistent.” She drilled this phrase into my head while I was growing up. Little Nelson having trouble tying his shoes? Keep trying. Math is hard? Keep working. Can’t beat dad in chess? Don’t give up. I heard this phrase repeated to myself and my sister millions of times over the years, and now my mom has started using it on my nephews.
As any kid would, I hated this. I assumed that none of my friends had their mother repeating the importance of persistence over and over, so why did I have to keep trying? Couldn’t I just give up and try something else?
In October 2011, I was in Atlanta at Alliance HQ for an instructors’ workshop. I was going to stay an extra week to train and then fly to California for No-Gi Worlds. I had been training hard for it, motivated by a first round lost at Gi Worlds the June before. I wanted redemption.
That Wednesday, I got a call from my mom. She hadn’t told me the doctors had found something during her last check-up. A biopsy confirmed it was breast cancer.
I had to sit down. In her usual way, she told me she didn’t want me to come home. She wanted me to go to my tournament. She didn’t want the attention or to be a burden. Despite her protests, I caught the first flight home and was sitting at the oncologist’s a few days later. I still remember the doctor telling us the diagnosis: stage 2B breast cancer. While my sister, father and I were processing this, my mom was the first to react. She said “Let me know what I need to do, because I will not die of this.” This set the tone for the rest of her treatment, it was gonna be a battle and she was ready for it.
My dad owns a truck company was still on the road. My sister was on her last year of post-grad. So I became my mom’s chauffeur and went to everyone one of her chemo and radiation therapies. I would teach my morning class, take the drive to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, bring her home, make sure she ate something, and go teach in the evening. Despite the gravity of the situation, my mom still encouraged me to compete. She insisted, so I planned to compete at Pans. I registered, booked a flight, and a few days before I left, my mom got really sick during one of her chemo treatments, she needed to be hospitalized. After some tests we got news of her white blood cell count.
It was at zero.
“Tienes que ser persistente,” she said. “I’m going to beat this. You go to your tournament.”
I refused, but she made me promise to compete in the next east coast tournament.
After a few scary days of uncertainty, she pulled through. Her blood count returned to normal and was allowed to return to her normal routine.
A few weeks later, the New York Open rolled around. This my third time competing in it, and prior to my mom having cancer, the only thought I had about the tournament was that I had lost my first round by advantage my year and lost in the semis by 2 points in the following year. Close matches, for me, hurt more than having to tap out or getting dominated by points. I think it’s something about feeling so close to victory and questioning whether or not I could have given just a little bit more to turn the tide.
But not competing was never really an option. After all, “Tienes que ser persistente.”
I took gold that year (proudly holding a Tap Cancer Out t-shirt on the podium). That win still means a lot to me, but after being at mom’s side during her battle with cancer, the meaning of most of the things in my life has changed. Competition is still important to me, except now I see it more as a test, do I still have the persistence needed to get on that podium? Can I get through a grueling 6 week camp of double sessions? Can I battle through few 10 minute matches?
My mom is done with treatment and is back to her usual self. She truly is one of the toughest ladies I know, and every time I think about quitting anything, I hear her voice in my head.
“Tienes que ser persistente.” Always.