Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is complicated enough without having to worry about a uniform. In Bjj, a full gi consists of a jacket, pants and a belt which indicates the person’s ability. Many students beginning jiu jitsu, myself included, are concerned about not looking out of place and feeling comfortable when starting a new sport. The gi is a fundamental part of Bjj. As with many martial arts, the gi or kimono, is a call back to the traditional days of the Samurai. Black was certainly what was required back then. There are 3 main colors in modern jiu jitsu gis: White, Black and Royal Blue. These are generally designated as the ‘traditional’ colors within the sport.
What Gi Color?
Nowadays however, a gi can be purchased in virtually any color. Below, we will look at the place of the gi in Bjj and how that should inform your decision on what gi to purchase (hint: it’s probably going to be white, black or royal blue).
The Traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi
The gi originates from the kimono in martial arts. Specifically, the Bjj gi is derived from Judo where the uniform is heavier with a longer jacket and sleeves. In order to allow for more fluid ground fighting, the Bjj uniform was made tighter and more maneuverable. In the early days of Bjj, the Gracie family wore only white Gis. White signifies the purity of the sport in martial arts tradition and is certainly synonymous with the Gracie family themselves. In those early days, the Gracies would tend not to wear a shirt or under garment under their gi. In Samurai culture, the gi was used to conceal protection underneath. The showing of bare skin was intended for the Gracies to show that they have nothing hidden up their sleeve. Over the years, the family has moved on from the purely white gi, but not too much. The most notable exception of this is that of Jean Jacque Machado’s (a cousin of the Gracies) striking red gi.
Modern Gis in Bjj
Since the move from white gis, the 3 main colors of White, Black and Blue have been considered most appropriate for competition and training. Such is the case that the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) only allow competitors to compete in those colors. In addition to color requirements, the IBJJF also require that gis are a certain length in the sleeve, leg and belt. This is to stop any competitors from gaining an unfair advantage from a control perspective. Whilst competitors are allowed customize their gis with patches and logos, they may only be placed in certain areas. This ensures the integrity of the gi tradition but it also limits the potential for sponsorships that professional fighters rely on for income.
What Gi Should You Wear?
Gis today come in myriad sizes, sub-sizes and designs. Modern popular colors range from pink to green to grey and everything in between. Today’s gis can also blur the line between traditional and eccentric with Tatimi’s Samurai Japan Gi and Shogun’s Samurai Gi providing excellent examples. Both gis seem very plain on the outside but the inside is lined with stunningly intricate designs and patterns. As for sizing, most gis come in a long or wide size in addition to the S-L sizes. For example, if like me, you are tall and slim, a tall size is the way to go. Regardless of size however, gis are made of cotton and cotton eventually shrinks. A gi wont last a lifetime but, with the right amount of care, you should get a long life out of one. Pointers include: don’t wash on hot, don’t wash when it’s clean, regularly stretch it by hand and try not to tumble dry.
A good rule of thumb is that, if you are starting out, joining a new gym, traveling from gym to gym or compete a lot, get a gi that is either white, black or blue. If, on the other hand, you are settled in your own gym and train there regularly with the occasional competition, why not stand out a little and get something unique? At the end of the day it’s all about being comfortable on the mat.
White, Green, Red? Let us know the color of your first Gi below!