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Everything You Need to Know About the Jiu Jitsu Gi

Everything You Need to Know About the Jiu Jitsu Gi


The BJJ Gi and Its Significance 


So, all of us that train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu know what a gi is. The heavily stitched, cotton uniform that we wear when we train and compete. There are different colors, different brands, and different qualities, but in the end, we all wear the same uniform. But do you know the history of the gi? It has a rich origin that is over 100 years old. Though there have been some minor differences, it has been relatively unchanged from that time. Want to know the history of the gi? Keep reading to discover how this essential piece of equipment, regardless of size or weight, has evolved over the years.

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The origin of the uniform starts over 100 years ago, all the way from Japan. The founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, decided that he needed to create a uniform for his students. He needed something that would show uniformity among those training Judo, but something that would be able to take a beating from the constant throwing, pinning, and choking techniques of the ground fighting art. Kano took inspiration from the kimono and other Japanese garments to make the gi. Originally, it was an off-unbleached white made from heavy cotton that would be able to take the abuse in training. It was the first-ever martial arts uniform and was universally adopted by other Japanese martial arts.

In this short video below, Danny Fung attempts to succinctly break down the origin and history of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi and uniform.  Check it out below!


Eventually, the art of Judo would reach Brazil from Mitsuyo Maeda. He would take on a few different students, a couple who were from the now infamous Gracie family. The Gracie family would switch focus from standing grappling techniques to more ground focused attacks. As they modified the art, they modified the gi as well. While the Judo gi jacket was baggier, which was great for throwing techniques and sleeve grabs, the Jiu-Jitsu gi was changed. The sleeves became shorter and more narrow, the skirt became shorter, and the whole uniform gained a tighter cut, including alterations to the collar.

So next time you put on your gi to go train, give a minute to think about the history of the uniform you’re putting on. From Japan, to Brazil and now all over the world, the gi is an important aspect of our art. It is used to show that we train in a style that we are all proud of. If you need to add another gi to your collection for training or competition, then check out some of the awesome gi options at BJJ Fanatics.

Why It's Important to Study Gi Based Jiu Jitsu

There are plenty of proponents of both Gi based and Non Gi jiu jitsu who argue that one is better, or one is more technical, but the reality is that both are extremely technical.  There are lots of techniques are allow for the transference of skills between the two quite easily.  

By spending a solid chunk of your training time focused on Gi jiu jitsu, you develop the recognition and ability to properly use someone's clothing against them.  This is one of the best ways to prepare for self-defense or real world scenarios and even though No Gi proponents will argue that No Gi is actually more realistic from a self defense perspective, the Gi more accurately captures someone wearing clothing, jackets, etc unlike No Gi which is much more difficult to grab and is often accompanied by layers of sweat.

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Things to Consider When Choosing a Jiu Jitsu Gi

Though the traditional beginnings of the jiu-jitsu gi found it to come in a simple bleached white or unbleached form, today there are literally dozens upon dozens of different choices. Options such as color and fabric thickness are amongst the most common decisions that someone needs to make when choosing their gi for the dojo. Additionally, considerations for grips and sweeps during ground fighting may influence the choice of material and design in a practitioner's gi selection.

Traditional gis would always come in white until the 1970's when color gis began to become more popular.  In the eyes of the IBJJF, white, blue and black gis are the only color of gis that are permitted for competition.

But for those who are looking for something with a little more pizzazz you can get any color you like, with even tie dyed options available.  Besides the color choice that needs to be made, there is also the question of fabric thickness or weave of the gi.

There are single weave, double weave and pearl weave options with single being thinner and double being thicker and heavier.  Pearl weave is a mid-point between the single and double weaves offering the strength of the double weave, but a thinner or lighter feel.  Many companies come up with their own style of weave to help distinguish them, but these are the most common and popular.

In the next video Antony Griffiths gives his advice on picking the right Gi for you.  Check it out for yourself.


The Pieces that Make Up the Jiu Jitsu Gi

The gi is split into three major components:

  • The jacket or coat
  • The drawstring pants
  • The belt

The typical jacket in Jiu Jitsu is loose and not as heavily padded as some come to believe. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the martial art that really popularized the idea of heavier jackets because of their focus on sports grappling.

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Drawstring pants are often a bit loose and are also a bit short, coming down only to the ankles. The drawstring keeps the pants secure and prevents them from coming loose and slipping down. The jiu jitsu pants design allows a person to move swiftly and freely without the worry of stumbling on their own uniform. 

Belts were introduced to allow a person to immediately identify their level of skill in the art of Jiu Jitsu and it has been adapted in just about every martial art there is in the world today. The BJJ system of adult belts contain white, blue, purple, brown and then the coveted black belt.

This is because the gi removes the advantage of strength and speed, allowing competitors to focus entirely on skill and technique. A stronger opponent can still be grabbed and toppled because of the material of the gi– all it would take is a skilled opponent to use the right technique at the right time.

Many competitors have become quite adept at using the gi in competition, with Roger Gracie being arguably one of the greatest ever.  Some athletes have developed an effective system of lapel gripping and tangling to implement their personal game plans.  The Gi offers a full palette for the creative BJJ player.

Once you have your gi picked out it's time to get on the mats and put it to you.  Your uniform or gi can become you best tool towards improving your jiu jitsu game.  BJJ instructional videos and dvds can also be a great tool on the Road to Black Belt.  

Check out Professor John Danaher's latest Go Further Faster Series at BJJ Fanatics and put that Gi to practice the best way possible.  Check out Guard Retention here!



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