Scramble has always been a brand on my radar but for whatever reason it took me lot of time to actually investigate their products. Maybe seeing rather plain-looking spats priced at 60€ gave me the impression that they were too pricey to warrant attention — and it is expensive apparel. It also happens to be very high quality one.

As Matt Benyon puts it:

Scramble is here to rescue you from flying skulls, winged skulls, flying winged skulls with top hats on, minotaurs, bulging muscle man, dragons with flying skulls and top hats on them, flying minotaurs with winged skulls and flames, and all the other crap that infests the visual side of the MMA world.

Just my type. Scramble has its design roots in Japanese culture and it shows throughout their product line. The other very notable thing about them is just ho much they seem to sponsor anything cool in BJJ — whether it is BJJ Hacks videos, Sakuraba’s comeback or a video serie about japanese fighters. Helping high quality content to get out in the world is one of the best ways to promote BJJ, so I think we all owe them a big thank you.

The Scramble patch on the shoulders

Just to cap-off this foreword about the brand itself, I’d like to include one of the emails they sent me regarding my order. If nothing beats personalized, hand-written emails, this is a close second.

We’ve got all the details of your order (and what an order it is! One of the best we’ve ever seen in fact. Good work.)

We’ve meditated on it, done some pushups and drank some protein. Now we are ready to pack it and ship it out. We’ll let you know when we’re done!

The Epic Order

The Sengoku was love on first sight. When I saw the preview on facebook months ago, I knew I would buy this gi… So I waited. waited, and waited some more. After what seemed like enough time to earn four black belts, the news finally came: the Sengoku was ready and would be released the next week. The next week came and went, and still no gi to buy. Eventually, after several delays, on a sunday night, it went on sale. It was a bit late so I went to bed, ready to place my order on the very next day.

The Sengoku Gi top

And on the monday night, not a single A3L was left in stock.

I oscillated between punching myself in the face for not buying it right away, or punching Scramble for not producing more. Or punching resellers that had bought some and would inevitably resell them at a higher price. Sickened, I punched no one at all and decide to wait some more. After all, what’s another 6 month?

Half-heartedly checking the site another two weeks later, I couldn’t trust my eyes when I saw it was restocked. I teleported to my credit card and placed the order right away.

The Design

As i said, it was love on first sight. I think Scramble struck a close to perfect visual balance on this one: the white seems and reinforcements are the only real contrast to the dominant black, while the little patches form the only motive. And what patches! I usually dislike shoulder patches but the ones on the Sengoku are small enough to not look like epaulets. Meanwhile the ones on the arms are good looking enough that I’d wear the symbol as a t-shirt.

The shoulder emblem

Inner Lining

A shot of the rashguard

In total opposition with the minimalism of the exterior, the inner jacket is doubled with a rash guard that features a print of “a classic Japanese samurai ukiyo-e”. So when Scramble say they are inspired by Japanese art, they mean it — Ukiyo-e is a very influential art movement from Japan, the most famous example probably being the “Great Wave” by Hokusai.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

But the rashguard features another artpiece (it certainly looks classic but it took a significant effort to find the actual reference) which is hard to appreciate printed on a rashguard, so here is “The samurai warriors Ichijō Jirō Tadanori and Notonokami Noritsune” by Katsukawa Shuntei.

The samurai warriors Ichijō Jirō Tadanori and Notonokami Noritsune

As the title may suggest, there are actually two samurais depicted — but it took me a while to figure it out. Here’s some help:

Same image with a color overlay

Is one of them judo-throwing the other? The armor and perspective give the center of the image a lot of complexity but you may notice there are actually few colors used: that’s because each one had to be printed individually using it’s own woodblock. I’m not going to bother you with much artistic commentary, but notice how the waves around the warriors all converge towards the center — quite like in the Great Wave seen above.

Ok one last cultural bit: the Sengoku is named after an epoch in Feudal Japan that saw the surge of firearms, making armors such as those depicted pretty useless.

Wear and Tear

The Sengoku had, simply put, the best cut I’ve ever seen. Admittedly it is also my first A3L Gi and I’m never buying any other size again, but still. Perfect length on both sleeves and pants, tightly fitted but competition legal — perfect. I say had because sadly it shrunk a bit after some (cold) washes. This seems to randomly happen to my gis, bit I’ll note that a friend who owns one as well has had no shrinkage issues so far. The white seems have also washed out quite a bit on mine.

The stains and washed out seams

The jacket is made of gold weave — again, my first experience with that and I concur, gold weave is the best weave I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t have the stiffness of usual pearl weave but seems just as resistant and about the same weight. The rashguard on the inside is, as always, a joy to wear.

The pants have slightly reinforced areas on the knees and the crotch is padded with pearl wave. Tying is done with a rope that is luckily small enough to not come off too often, and the four loopholes ensure it’s not hanging in either way. I prefer cotton pants but for those of you who like ripstop, you’ll have no complains about this one.

The gi pants

At close to 200€, the Sengoku is a premium gi. But for that amount you will also have a very high quality, gorgeous kimono that will probably become a favorite in no time at all. If you’re past your first year of BJJ and train on a regular basis, the investment is absolutely worth it.