“If Art is to nourish the Roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision where it takes him” – John F. Kennedy
In case you’re not up to date with the newest Gi companies that are popping up everywhere, Roots is an up and comer who have released two gi’s so far and has gotten some pretty good feedback from rollers across the U.S.
A simple guy who got tired of working for the man, Mike “Roots” Murphy sits a spell with Grapplers Review and tells a bit about his company Roots Kimonos and gives us some insight on how things are done the Roots way.
Well now, Mike Murphy, how are you doing man?
Hey, I’m good man. Training hard and really busy.
You wanna start us off by telling us a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 3…I’ll be 32 in May. I have a black belt in both Karate and Judo. Right now I’m a fresh brown belt (4 months) under Nelson Monteiro and Rafael Ramos at Gracie Barra Encinitas.
I’ve been doing BJJ for a little over 5 years and GB is my team but I train a lot places. I taught for about a year but now I’m focused on competing. I’m also a Registered Nurse and work full time aside from Roots and training. Right now I train on the mat 4-6 hours a day plus gym time 4 days a week and a 2 hour drill session and cardio at least 1 other day during the week.
How’d you get started in BJJ?
I had wanted to learn BJJ for a really long time. I started following when I was young, I used to have a subscription to Black Belt magazine and I read about the Gracie’s and what Royce had done in the UFC.
Unfortunately there was no place to train BJJ around where I was. I started buying the books at Barnes and noble when I got to college in 1999 and me and a couple friends would go over what was in the books but without guidance we never really did much with it.
Finally in 2008 a Gracie Barra opened where I was in Riverside CA and I went there to train. A couple months later moved down to San Diego and have been at GB Encinitas ever since.
I see you’ve been posting pictures of competing around the U.S (San Francisco, Chicago, Houston), is it a struggle to run a business, work, train, and still travel to compete at the same time?
Yeah, doing the full tour this season. Was in Lisbon for the Europeans and will be going to almost all the tournaments. It can be a struggle but one advantage for me since I’m an RN, working full time is 3 days a week.
My employer is nice enough to work around my training and competition schedule. If I’m not with patients or on the mat I’m usually doing things for Roots; designing, looking into new products, seeing what else is out there, etc..
The traveling gives me time to work on things for Roots also, I always have my lap top with me. On the flight back from Chicago I designed 3 new gis.
Thankfully I have a very supportive wife that understands what I’m doing.
What kind of experience did you have prior to starting Roots?
Prior to starting Roots I had designed gis for other companies, and prior to that had tried my own thing once before. I had my own clothing label (which failed miserably) when I was in college. I’ve always liked designing things and I finally learned how to do it on my own.
Did you have any high profile companies you were designing for?
I designed the Jaco gi that showed up on sherdog. That was supposed to move forward but when Jaco got restructured the gi got dropped so other than the few I have they don’t exist. That’s the highest profile company I have designed for other than Roots.
What made you want to start your own company?
I actually started my own gi company back in 2008 when I started BJJ, it was called dragon fly. Unfortunately I didn’t know a lot about how to get the gis produced and the factory that did my samples sent me a horrible representation of my design so I canned the idea until I could figure out how to get it done right. What made me start Roots is I was tired of seeing some one else’s name or idea expressed through my designs, and at that point I had owned about every different gi on the market and knew all the ins and outs of what to look for in a good manufacturer (went through 40+ before I found mine). I saw something missing in the BJJ gi market and wanted to be the one to bring it out.
Is it just you or are their other owners/silent partners?
It’s just me.
I saw the inception of Roots on Sherdog, when was it actually formed and become what we know today as “Roots”?
In late May of 2012 is when I had my first Roots samples made. I had put the name together and the logo in mid 2011 but was working on things for other people.
Did you already have the company in your head while you were working for other people?
Yeah, I always wanted to do my own thing. Even when working with other people. No matter how much you like the other people you work with, sooner or later you won’t have the same vision. I had wanted to get it up and running ever since my first failed attempt in 2008.
Where did the inspiration for the Roots name and logo come from?
I started with the name, I saw a lineage of Jiu Jitsu and where all the schools came from. It became pretty clear that the large majority of BJJ schools had the same roots and that all of them could be traced back to Maeda.
The logo is the tree of life with more emphasis in the root system. I can’t take total credit for the logo, it was a base a bought and made a couple changes until I thought it was right.
What’s the process like when you design a gi for Roots?
It’s different for every gi. Some times I start with the base color (white,blue,black) other times I’ll start with a stitch color and work back from there. Or maybe something that inspires a color scheme. In the case of the New York gi, I wanted to do a city themed gi and one of my sponsored athletes said “hey, why don’t you do one for the international open” then he sent me the collage that you see inside the gi and I liked it so I used it.
Right now I’m designing a guard series (spider, butterfly, deep half, berimbolo and closed guard) of gis that will have some new art work and functional design elements in them. I will release the sample pics on the Facebook page when those come in.
Are you the sole designer or do other people have a hand in the creation of Roots Kimonos?
I have a lot of people give me suggestions of make a gi with this color or that color but when it comes to the actual design of the gi, the way the colors are put together, cut, materials etc those are me.
Being an independent and smaller company, is it a struggle dealing with overseas manufacturers? That meaning, finding a trustworthy and reliable supplier?
It can be a huge pain. Thankfully I found a really good manufacturer that works with me and keeps in great contact. Some times turn around on production can be slower than desired.
A good manufacturer is hard to find, the majority are terrible and don’t care what you want as a company. Also, especially in Pakistan, there will be 6 or 7 manufacturers that are actually all the same place just operating under several names.
When Roots gets big enough, the special edition gis will be produced right here in San Diego. I already have a couple pieces of equipment and eventually want it all to be done in house.
The Tide seemed like it was a pretty big success and you got a lot of attention from it in the forums and with the reviewers, hows the latest gi “The Carnivale” doing so far?
The Carnivale is doing well. The response has been favorable. Still have all sizes in stock. I love it when I go to a tournament and see people wearing a Roots kimono. I hope I get to see more and more of it this season.
What’s the next gi you’re going to release?
The Jacare is going to be the next large batch release (200 gis)
When is it expected to be for sale?
July is the target release right now but it could be August.
The New York Open gi got quite a bit of positive feedback, will we see that or the navy one this year? (I’ve been super pumped for those gi’s since I saw your first post about them)
Yeah, it has had a ton of good feedback. The updated sample should be here soon. It will be released some time this year, only 50 will be made. I don’t like doing pre-sales (yes, I did one for the Carnivale, which is why I offered it at $110 since people had to wait) but for this one I’m not going to pre set the sizes available. So if you want one you have to order, if everyone who orders is an A2, there will be 50 in A2.
Any plans for shorts or shirts in the near future?
Shirts are coming very soon. Rashguards are next and then eventually there will be shorts. Working on a back pack right now too.
You’ve already taken a firm stance in the market, how do you see Roots progressing in 2013?
I see it growing more as the name gets out and more people have a chance to see and feel the gi. There will be 2 more large releases (the Jacare and The Charge) and a lite series (1 white, 1 black, 1 blue) that will be really small batches (30-40) each that are a lighter weave of what the current Roots gis are.
I ask this question a lot but in your opinion what sets your gi’s apart from the dozens of other companies out there that are over saturating the market at this time?
First off I don’t use pearl weave. 90% of the new gis out are the same gi just with a different logo.
I wanted to make a gi that was durable, soft, has great styling, a great cut for competition and training. The kimonos are a little heavier than what many companies are releasing. the A2 is 4lbs. Also, I try not to use a color combination that any other company has used before. (Everyone has used yellow and green but I really wanted to do it though)
And, although this doesn’t set the gi itself apart, I give great customer service to all my customers.
What can we expect from Roots this year? Are you planning on releasing more than one more gi this year?
You can expect to see more and more Roots kimonos around as the year progresses. As far as releases, 6 more gis will be released this year for the general public. (There are some team specific ones that will only be available to those teams). The Jacare, the Bolt, the New York gi and the Lite series will be released this year. Maybe the first of the guard series and some other new products, it depends on how fast Roots is growing, the faster it grows, the more you guys get to see.
If you could go back and do it all over again, would you change anything?
I would have started Roots sooner
Any last words for the readers of Grapplers Review?
Thanks for reading the interview. Check out Roots Kimonos on Facebook and send us a friend request and head over to www.rollwithroots.com and pick up your Carnivale before its too late!
Thanks a lot Mr. Murphy and we look forward to seeing more gi’s from you soon!
Thank you, and I look forward to getting them out there!
Click on the picture to pick up your Roots Carnivale!!!!