The importance of your gi

History of the Jiu-Jitsu Gi


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 has been some minor differences, it has been relatively unchanged from that time. Want to know the history of the Gi? Keep reading…

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 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.

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.

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.

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Why do we wear a Gi?


The word gi literally means ‘dress’ or ‘clothes’ but is often used to mean ‘uniform’. The gi consists of uwagi or jacket, zubon or pants, and an obi or belt.

It’s introduction as a martial arts uniform is generally attributed to Jigoro Kano who developed judo from jujitsu in the early years of the 20th century.  […] However, the light-weight materials used in kimonos were not suitable for grappling.  […] Sensei Kano restored to use a uniform based on an ancient one used in old jujitsu made of linen, in coffee colour and covered with cotton fabric.

In judo there are exacting standards for the weight, size, style and colour of the gi – particularly for competitions. The gis are thick and heavy for durability. In karate the gi was modified to be thinner and lighter with shorter sleeves and legs to aid kicking and striking. However, many karate practitioners prefer a heavier weight gi for kata work (particularly in competition) as it gives a characteristic ‘snapping’ sound when movements are performed quickly and sharply.

There are five reasons put forward as to why a traditional gi should be worn:

  • A different place. The wearing of a gi reminds the practitioner that the place where he trains is different to the place where he lives and works. When he enters the dojo, he enters a place where the realities and worries of the world can be set aside and he can focus entirely on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of his training.
  • Uniformity and organization. The wearing of a gi helps us to see at a glance who is of which rank, who is sensei and who is a student. This organization of rank and hierarchy enables one to have organization of thought and a sensible progression of training. It enables individuals to know their position and what must be achieved to raise their position in the dojo.
  • Commitment. When an individual values a uniform that individual becomes more committed to the art in which they belong for a greater length of time.
  • Practicality.A gi is comfortable, practical and hard wearing. It is fit for purpose. Remaining comfortable allows one to continue training for longer periods of time which should result in achieving greater ability.
  • Retaining the integrity of the art.The gi helps to retain the integrity of the art. Wearing the gi shows knowledge and respect for the history, culture and origin of the art. Ignoring the usefulness of a uniform ignores the roots of the art from which it comes. It ‘mocks’ the very source in which the art hails.

The Gi is more than just a uniform. It is a symbol of all that it means to be a martial artist. Keep it neat, keep it clean, wear it with pride.

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The history of Jiu-Jitsu has a Gi on!


What is a Gi?

A Gi or a Kimono is the traditional training attire of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. In the late 1800’s as Jigoro Kano was creating the sport of Judo, he created a uniform that modeled the standard attire of day to day clothing. The Gi was made into three parts… A woven cotton jacket, canvas cotton pants, and a belt. The Gracie’s adopted this uniform in accordance with the art they learned from Mitsuo Maeda.

It looks like a business suit…

You are right! At that time in Japan, that was what men were usually wearing. Although women were not wearing suits, apparel such as jeans, shirts, etc. can be similar. In order to mimic reality in training, they wanted to wear something that restricted your freedom of movement and also, something that felt similar to what you walked around in on a day to day basis. Not wanting to rip or tear their regular clothes, they settled for a cotton uniform that survived the rigors of training. If you look at the makeup of a Gi, you will notice the resemblance of the suit.

Isn’t no-Gi a lot more realistic for self-defense?

NO… No-Gi is NOT more realistic.

It is comfortable to wear shorts, a rash guard, and some compression pants in practice. However, on the street, you do not usually wear clothing that is that comfortable. You will be wearing some type of attire that restricts movement (I.e. jeans, jacket, collared shirt, polo shirt, hoodie, etc.).

Wearing the Gi becomes unrealistic for a fight when you start using the Gi as a “crutch” to control positions, instead of a tool that leads to an effective finish. If you grab the Gi or use it in training, have a direction and purpose. DO SOMETHING with the grip, otherwise, focus on controlling the human. Get used to wearing something similar to what you will be wearing!

White Gi’s are not fashionable

So…since when is fashion the foundation of Jiu-Jitsu? I believe an academy/team must have uniformity. This brings everyone together and creates an enhanced spirit in the academy. The white Gi represents the following.

  • Purity: Living a clean life and trying to be your best for yourself and family.
  • Avoidance of ego:  Keeping the beginner mindset of white belt and white Gi vastly important.
  • Simplicity and social class: The white Gi is simple, the uniformity brings ALL together regardless of who they are or their status.

The Gi is tradition…

The Gi is for realism…

The Gi is our armor and represents the history of our art!

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Why Jiu-Jitsu Gis are important?


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a specific form of mixed martial arts that became popular in the 1990’s, due in large part to the performance of Royce Gracie in the Ultimate Fighting Championships during that time. It involves ground fighting and grappling, and the techniques and maneuvers involved with defeating opponents are interesting to watch. The kimono used in competition is called a Jiu-Jitsu Gi (pronounced “gee,” as in guarantee), and it is an essential part of a fighter’s wardrobe.

There is a long-standing tradition and discipline concerning BJJ, which originated in Japan, but the MMA sporting event seen today evolved more from the rules of Kodokan judo. This is a sport where size doesn’t matter, as a smaller fighter can overpower a bigger opponent by using strategy, quick reflexes, and precision maneuvers that take away a fighter’s ability to break free of chokes, joint locks, and various grappling positions.

Jiu-Jitsu pro gear is a must-have for every competitor that participates in the sport, and in some cases, the gi can even be used as a weapon, by either opponent. Therefore, selecting quality Jiu-Jitsu gis takes time and patience. Fortunately, there are a few companies that specialize in this type of clothing, and have some excellent styles and models to choose from.

Jiu-Jitsu fighters dedicated themselves to learning the moves and skillful maneuvers that allow them to overcome their opponents, much like a chess player think three moves ahead to trap other players into a checkmate situation, where no matter where they move to, they are trapped and defeat is inevitable. When they purchase Jiu-Jitsu pro gear, they are making an investment in their success and development as an athlete who wants nothing more than to rise to the top of his class in competition.

As in karate, there are different belt colors worn by competitors to designate rank and experience level. For adults, there are seven such levels of accomplishment, and a BJJ student progresses from a white to a red belt, the highest level. Since there are many ranks and levels of development to progress through, a fighter may own a gi for a long period of time, so it is important to find an outfit that is comfortable and durable.

The better manufacturers also make a “single weave” Jiu-Jitsu gi that has a tapered body and sleeves, leaving less material for an opponent to grab onto during a fight. These are lighter weight models that wash well and stay cool during hot weather.

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Where are BJJ Gis made?


With very few exceptions, the vast majority of Jiu-Jitsu Gis -across all brands- are manufactured in one of three countries: Pakistan, China, and Brazil.

We did a little digging to bring you a short history of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gi, as well as some insight into the differences between those made in Brazil, those in China, and those in Pakistan.


As the birthplace of Brazilian style Jiu-Jitsu, it makes sense that Brazil would be the first country to begin making gis exclusively for the BJJ market. Before they did, however, practitioners of the emerging new martial art wore traditional judo gis. Atama and Krugens were among the first to the scene, lengthening the jackets and tapering the sleeves and pants to produce a kimono more suited to the grappling art. They were also the first brands to produce a 100% preshrunk gi. However, many Brazilian brands haven’t invested much into new technologies and trends (such as “L” sizes and cuts specifically for women), so in the last decade, two other countries have swiftly come to command much more of the international market.


Pakistan entered the market in the late 1990’s, but didn’t obtain widespread acceptance – due to political stigma centered around the entire Middle Eastern region in the early 2000’s –  until around 2009. Some of the first brands to import Pakistan-made Gis were Lucky and Ouano. In the last decade, Pakistan has made dramatic progress in their quality and manufacturing efficiency.  In particular, they produce a superior cotton fabric, which for all-cotton Gis (both jacket and pants) puts them ahead of the curve. It is estimated that approximately 70% of the Gis in the U.S. market are made in Pakistan. However, they have not yet mastered the 100% preshrinking process, so expect these Gis to shrink slightly.


Despite a long-standing tradition of kimono manufacturing – for all kinds of martial arts – China came to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu much later. However, they are known to produce some of the most durable Gis in the market. Typically, Chinese Gis are 100% preshrunk, and fabric manufacturers there are incredibly adept at producing specialty fabrics, including Ripstop, hemp, and bamboo. Pakistan still beats them on the quality – and softness – of their cotton, however. It is estimated that China produces approximately 20% of the Gis in the U.S. market.

In a Nutshell

All three countries produce quality Gis, which will last a long time… as long as you care for them properly. And yes, there are some brands which opt to produce their Gis elsewhere – such as in the U.S. or Japan – but the vast majority of Jiu-Jitsu Gis are manufactured in just these three countries.

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5 reasons why wearing a proper uniform is important

According to Wikipedia, a uniform means a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization’s activity. People generally wearing uniforms are armed forces, police, emergency services, schools and workplaces. Uniform also means to be the same, and without any difference.
With these basic ideas in mind the concept of having a common dress came in to picture. If the dress of the members of an organization remains the same then there is a sense on commonality which develops among them. Uniforms also depict solidarity, and this has been this way through out, right from the days of the Roman Empire to the modern day manufacturing houses.
These days wearing uniform is common with the paramilitary organizations like police etc and the armed forces. These help them, stand out of the crowd so that they can be easily recognizable and also distinguish them for the service they do. These uniforms not only make them feel proud but also have an imposing effect on others and with the presence of a person in uniform, can change the mood of people around.
Sometimes uniforms are made mandatory by the organizations like schools, work places like hospitals, restaurants etc. The model of these organization require, people who are part of it to be in proper uniform and follow the discipline of the uniform. Some organizations which don’t have a complete dress code do have some sort of uniform codes like a common shirt of a particular color etc.
So why is it that most of the organizations prefer uniforms? Here are five reasons which make uniform an integral part of work culture and also the lifestyle at times.
  • Industry demands: There are certain service industries which are focused on the customer, like the department store, restaurants or hospitals. These industries demand that the workforce look more united and eager to serve the customer, so the role of the uniform becomes very important. When the workforce is wearing a pleasant uniform the customers approach them more confidently.
  • Uniform as perks: In some large organizations, it is considered as an honor and a kind of perk to receive uniform. This results in considerable conservation of time and energy of the personnel, as he doesn’t have to choose again and again the clothes to be worn at the work place. Also a lot of money is saved since rarely will that personnel will be buying new clothes.
  • A sense of belonging: If the work force wears the same clothes to the work place then they share a feeling of commonness and belonging, which otherwise gets very difficult to achieve.
  • A feeling of equality: Uniform brings everyone to the same platform, no matter how rich or poor he or she is and thus inculcating a feeling of equality among those wearing the uniform.
  • Mutual growth: People wearing uniform are more caring for their fellows and colleagues, they care not only for their growth but the growth of their peers as well. Uniforms are very important and fosters traits which are very necessary for a person as an individual and an organization as a whole to thrive and prosper.

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Caring for your Jiu-Jitsu Gi


So you bought yourself a brand spanking new gi. Congratulations. Now how do you care for this thing, so that you can get the most use out of it without accidentally killing it? Here’s how:

To shrink or not to shrink

Whether you’re in-between sizes, or you like your Gi to fit a bit more snug, you may want to shrink it. You can do this with a cotton or hemp Gi, but not so much with your ripstop pants. If you do opt to do this, don’t just go blasting your brand new -and potentially expensive- Jiu-Jitsu Gi with hot water and an industrial grade dryer. It’s hard to go back from over-shrinking your Gi. Most Gis are made from 100% cotton, and during construction, the cotton fibers are put under tension -basically pulled and straightened before they’re woven together. Heat releases this tension, which allows the fibers to relax and reduce to their natural size. So instead, take your time and monitor the shrinking process. Start with washing hot and air-drying, then if you need to, add heat and tumble dry low. Rarely will you require high heat… but, hey, it’s your Gi. Do with it what you want.

Wash your Gi (i.e. don’t be “that guy”)

Assuming your Gi is the size you want it, you now have to keep it clean without destroying it. First rule of Jiu-Jitsu club: wash your Gi after every use. Yeah, some guys say they can get two training sessions out of their Gis, but once you sweat – even a little bit – the naturally-occurring bacteria in your skin makes themselves at home in your Gi. At the very least, you’re Gi will smell a little funky during the second practice. At the worst, you risk spreading some kind of skin fungus or infection. So wear once, wash once, and repeat. In the process, wash in cold and avoid bleach or harsh detergents. This prevents the natural fibers from breaking down, diminishing the lifespan of your Gi.

A little heat goes a long way

The preferred method of drying your Gi is letting it air dry. Take care air-drying in direct sunlight, however. While the sun’s ultraviolet rays have a natural anti-bacterial effect, it can fade colors and the heat can potentially shrink the cotton fibers. However, depending on where you live – humid climates, for example – this might not be an option at all. The “air dry” setting on your dryer is a great alternative. Tumble drying low is fine, if you want to tighten up the fibers, but avoid leaving it in too long. Finally, unless you want to give your Gi to your kid sister, avoid drying on high heat. Not only does this shrink it mercilessly, the heat can also damage the fibers – regardless of whether it’s cotton, hemp or polyester – diminishing the lifespan of your Gi.

That questionable stain

Blood, grease, hair dye, or that bit of chocolate cookie you ate after training… whatever it is, you’re guaranteed to get some kind of stain on your Gi. Before you mourn your pristine Gi and throw it in the wash with a gallon of bleach, try to spot clean it first. For a white Gi, a tiny bit of bleach applied directly to the stain and allowed to sit for a few minutes prior to washing isn’t going irreparably bleach the rest of your Gi – including your colored embroideries or patches. For both white and colored Gis, if the stain is oil-based, work a mix of vinegar and dish-washing fluid into it before washing. Most hair dyes will wash out fine, but if you’re worried, the vinegar/dish-washing fluid also works in this case as well. If all that doesn’t work, call your grandma. She’ll know what to do.

It’s aliiiiiiive….

You heard it: that terrifying ripping sound. Maybe you squatted a little too low the day after Thanksgiving, or your training partner was a little too aggressive with his/her lapel game… whatever it was, your trusty Gi has finally ripped. Don’t give up on it just yet. Depending on the size and location, some tears can be repaired. If you’re not confident in your own patching skills – remember, you need to add another strip of fabric behind the tear to anchor your stitches – take it to your nearest tailor. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s salvageable. I had a Gi that I brought back from the dead a record six times. I called it the “Franken-Gi.”

The dreaded “Gi funk”

Everybody experiences it. It’s a constant battle… one that you will ultimately lose. However, you can postpone the inevitable with a few good habits and tricks of the trade. First of all, and referring back to No. 2 in this article, wash your Gi after every use. The sooner, the better. If you can risk the slight shrinkage mentioned in No. 3, air drying your Gi in the sun before you wash it is also useful in keeping the odor-causing bacteria at bay. Adding a bit of vinegar to your wash, or even soaking a stinky Gi in a vinegar/water solution prior to washing can also help. If you’ve let it get too far, and you’re desperate, you can hit it with industrial grade carpet and fabric cleaning detergent (the kind you get at Home Depot). If all else fails, throw caution to the wind and wash it with bleach, but expect it to come out with off-color patches and embroideries.

Eventually, you will have to make the decision to just let it go. It’s hard, I know, but the last person your training partner wants to roll with is the person with the funky smelling Gi.

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