Open Mat Radio’s Grappler’s Closet
“Supporting grassroots grappling brands”
OPEN MAT RADIO: What inspires your designs/style?
OK! KIMONOS: The voice of the brand is really my voice. I’m very loud and very outgoing and I think the brand’s design and style really reflects that. I want to make something that is fun and playful, but is also of the same high quality that parents and adults demand in their kimonos.
One of the biggest inspirations for the brand is cartoons and comics. As a ‘80s kid growing up in the US, I watched what I consider to be some of the greatest cartoons ever made. I believe our brand has, and will continue to reflect that.
Also, having run GiReviews.Net for a few years, I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of great people. Personally, I’m really inspired by people like Matt Benyon (Scramble), Seymour Yang (Meerkatsu), and Nelson Puentes (Inverted Gear) among many others.
OPEN MAT RADIO: Why did you get started?
OK! KIMONOS: I was really inspired by Christian Graugart’s visit to Drive In BJJ in Rio while he was on his BJJ Globetrotter travels. Being a classroom teacher, something about kids wanting to learn our art but being unable to afford kimonos really hit me in my core. Kids should never be unable to learn something if they desire to just because they can’t afford it.
So in early 2012, I did a Gi Drive in Chicago and we raised over 150 gis to send to them. Of the over the 150 gis that we were blessed to have been able to collect, only about 20 of them were in kids sizes.
The adult gis were sent to social projects in the US where they could be put to good use, but I was still really passionate about being able to get kimonos to kids around the world who wanted to learn BJJ but couldn’t. Thus, Ok! Kimonos was born!
OPEN MAT RADIO: What is unique about your brand? Why should grapplers want to wear your gear/support your brand?
OK! KIMONOS: I think that social responsibility should play a big part in who you want to support. As I said, I’m super passionate about compiling gently used kids gis to deliver to kids who desperately need them in the favelas of Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
With our gi exchange program, parents who send us a gently used gi that their child has outgrown will not only support the kids in Rio, but will get 20% off their next order with us. I’ve been incredibly surprised at how many people have donated kids gis and told me they don’t want the discount either. They just wanted to do the right thing. The outpour of support for this has been amazing so far.
I think what also makes us unique is that we’re the first and only kids-focused BJJ brand. I’ve surveyed thousands of BJJ parents and kids about what they want/need/like in gear and the products we sell are tailored uniquely to them. We’re not simply producing smaller versions of adult gear like most other companies do. All of our gear is designed for, and sometimes by, kids!
But I don’t want to just support BJJ parents and kids through our gear. I want to support them in their lifelong journey through martial arts so I started OkKimonosBlog.com where kids, parents and coaches can educate themselves regardless of whether or not they ever buy anything from me.
OPEN MAT RADIO: Who do you sponsor? Any BJJ/MMA fighters or events? Are you looking for more people to sponsor? If so, what are you looking for?
OK! KIMONOS: Currently, the Ok! Kids Team is comprised of:
Alex My Nguyen
All of these kids not only train exceptionally hard, but also embody the positive ethics and morals that our brand values.
What’s really cool is I’ve been in touch with a few really cool adult competitors lately who we’re thinking of working with. While we don’t make adult gis and kimonos on a regular basis, there are a few adult competitors who have an energy and attitude that I love and we might be working with them soon. As always, we’ll post updates on our Facebook page.
Probably my favorite event that we’re a part of is the Budo Kids Cup. By officially sponsoring the event, we (along with others) help them keep the event 100% FREE for all of the kids that participate. I think this is amazing when we see money-driven tournaments charging children nearly $100 to compete. I couldn’t be happier to support an event like this because I feel like it embodies everything that is good and positive about Jiu Jitsu.
The OK! Premium Kids Jiu-Jitsu Gi (Click on the photo for more information)
OPEN MAT RADIO:What special features/design elements should we note? What material is it made of?
OK! KIMONOS: Ok! Kimonos Premium Kids BJJ Gi is something that we’re really proud to bring to market because it features:
- Super-soft lightweight gold weave jacket
- Ripstop pants with a gold weave gusset
- Stretchy rope (cord) drawstring
- Awesome embroidery and patches designed by Meerkatsu
- Orange and yellow contrast stitching
- Fully preshrunk
And that means that:
- The gi won’t be too scratchy
- The gi won’t be too hot for your child
- They’ll be excited to wear their gi and to go to class
- The gi will fit them properly
- The pants will not come untied every 5 minutes during training.
OPEN MAT RADIO: Where can people purchase your gear?
OK! KIMONOS: Currently, the best place to find our gear is at our homepage: http://www.okkimonos.com
Right now, the only other place that sells our kimonos and gear is BJJ Gear Junkie (http://bjjgearjunkie.com/store), an awesome place to buy BJJ gis. We will have a few other resellers picking up our kids gis soon and we are working with some really awesome people for better distribution in Europe and Australia. Both of these are in the works and should be ready to run in the near future! We’ll make sure to update everybody on our facebook page (http://facebook.com/okkimonos) when everything is worked out.
OPEN MAT RADIO: What’s coming next from your brand?
OK! KIMONOS: We have a lot coming in the near future!
We are producing a blue version of our super popular ‘Tiger” kids gis, as well as an adult version of the same.
We’re also opening up our wholesale program to help support academies with growing kids programs.
I was to thank God first and foremost. It was because of Him that I started the Gi Drive and His strength is what carries me forward. Second, I want to thank my wife for all of her love and support. Also, I want to thank all of my friends in the BJJ community (far too many to name, but all of which I am blessed to know).
Lastly, thanks so much for the interview. I’ve been a big fan of Open Mat Radio for a long time and it’s an absolutely honor to be able to do this!