Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players wear a certain, for some people maybe unusual, uniform, called ‘Gi’ or ‘Kimono’. And that’s probably the first thing one notices when looking at a Jiu Jitsu player. But have you ever wondered why we wear such a Gi/Kimono? Where it comes from or which discipline had the first one?
Hopefully, this article can answer some of your questions.
Origins in Japan
The origin of our modern uniforms starts about 100 years ago in Japan. Here, Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo (referred to as ‘Kano Jiu Jitsu’ at the time), created a uniform for his students. He wanted it to show uniformity among practitioners, but it had to be durable enough for the heavy throws and pins in Judo, above all.
Jigoro Kano’s inspiration for the design was traditional Japanese clothing (often called ‘Kimono’). He built the first uniform out of heavy, unbleached cotton. Its proportions were and are ideal for grabbing, pulling, throwing and pinning. Over time, this first modern martial arts uniform was adopted and changed by other martial arts.
Influence of the Gracie Family
In the beginning of the 20th century, Mitsuyo Maeda, brought Judo to Brazil and to the Gracie family. He was a student of Jigoro Kano and taught Carlos Gracie Sr. He later passed on his knowledge to his brother Helio Gracie. As the Gracies developed the style further (to what we now know as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), so did its uniform. The focus shifted from throws and pins to techniques on the ground like joint locks and chokes. With that, the uniform became tighter. The pants became tighter, the jacket became less baggy and shorter and the sleeves became shorter and narrower. Also, the uniform became much lighter to improve the agility of the practitioners. Today, most brands only build ‘Gis’ which have no separate skirt whatsoever. Have you ever wondered why you’re not allowed to use a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ‘Gi’ in official Judo (IJF) competitions? That’s why.
Arguably, as did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in general, also the uniform started with the Japanese martial art, today known as, Judo. So, due to Jigoro Kano, almost every martial art nowadays has some sort of uniform. And that’s ultimately also why we, as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, wear a Gi/Kimono. In other words, a Gi/Kimono is simply the perfect clothing for the kind of training necessary for the gentle art.
Finally, it is fair to say that our modern uniforms are quite unique and arguably, due to the many desgins on the market, more stylish than other martial arts’ uniforms.