By: Matt Corley
I’m a fan of comics, comic art and art in general. So it’s probably not a huge surprise that most of my favorite rashguards feature art from such luminaries as John Smalls, Mister Bones, Seymour Yang, and Bong Abad aka Gawakoto. Gawakoto embraced his passion for comic art from the very beginning with his Save the Earth series of gear. More recently Gawakoto has launched a “Fine Artists Series” to supplement his own designs. Bong’s first collaboration was with David Mack of Kabuki (the comic). Most recently Gawakoto has teamed up with Katsuya Terada.
In this review we’ll take an in-depth look at Terada’s “The Dragon”, as well as Bong’s earlier works.
We can safely say that most premium rashguards, and these are all premium rashguards, are constructed in pretty much the same way. All of Gawakoto’s rashguards use sublimated graphics that will never fade or wear away. The panels for all the rashguards are double-stitched with flat seams for comfort and durability. The rashguards had no loose threads. As far as construction goes the only real difference is the blend of fibers used for the garments.
“The Dragon” is one of the softest and most comfortable rashguards I’ve owned. It’s a blend of 92% polyester and 8% Ammonia-Inn. Ammonia is an effective fabric softener so that’s probably the reason for the superb feel of the rashie. The other rashguards (and spats) are constructed in the same manner and have a feel similar to typical rashguards.
The Dragon is one of three rashguards featuring the work of Terada (the others are here and here). Terada was the character designer for Blood: The Last Vampire and has worked on Iron Man, Sucker Punch, Hellboy, and numerous Japanese projects. The sublimated graphics are beautifully rendered on the rashguard. The incredible graphics coupled with the superb feel of the fabric have made this my favorite rashguard. “The Dragon” is £34.99 directly from Gawakoto and $59.99 from RollMore.
The Monkey King
This rashguard was inspired by the “Monkey King” from Chinese mythology and features Bong’s artwork. I’ll let the pics speak for themselves and add that I really like this rashguard. This version of the “Monkey King” is only available directly from Gawakoto, £34.99. However, the Terada versions are at RollMore for $64.99.
Save the Earth
One of Gawakoto’s first product lines was the “Save the Earth” series. The initial run consisted of shorts, rashguard, spats, and a gi. The gi is no longer available but all of the nogi gear continues to be available and are currently in their third and final iteration.
Semi-relevant tangent, I train regularly with two professional wrestlers—As in jumping-off-turn-buckles-and-awesomely-cheezy-interviews wrestlers. Anyway, I wore the rashguard to training one day and they both stopped me to ask about it because it reminded them of pro-wrestling. The line may be homage to comic art but Bong and Art Junkie have also managed to catch the feel of Luchadors and pro-wrasslin’ with their art. The rashguard is available for £37.99 from Gawakoto and for $62.99 from BJJ Warehouse. The shorts are £39.99 from Gawakoto, and finally the spats are available Gawakoto for £37.99, and Roll More for $64.99.
As I mentioned earlier, in most cases a rashguard is a rashguard, shorts are shorts, and spats are spats. What I’m most concerned about is the durability of the seams, graphics and fabric. It’s also nice if it fits. I was a little concerned about the softness of “The Dragon” but durability hasn’t been an issue. It’s held up well despite being my go-to rashguard.
The other products have also done well and show no signs of excessive wear. The seams are still solid, there are no loose threads, and the graphics continue to look great. For the rashies there is a little extra length in the torso to keep my stomach covered while rolling.
There you have it. The rashies, shorts and spats are all well-made, do what they’re supposed to do and feature unique artwork.
Here it is in a nutshell. Gawakoto is a little guy in the cut-throat world of grappling gear but one that I like to pay attention to. Bong hasn’t been shy about bringing new designs to the market and he’s brought a lot of talented professionals in as well. He also does his best to provide a great experience for his customers. The gear is priced similarly to other premium gear and unlike many others Gawakoto has brought in outside talent to keep it all fresh.