Why Martial Artists Wear a Gi: A Practical Guide (2023)

If you've ever seen a traditional martial arts tournament in full swing, it becomes fairly obvious that most martial artists wear a similar piece of clothing or uniform. What it does for martial artists is pretty fascinating, so this FAQ is a very good one!

So why do martial artists wear a gi?Martial artists wear a gi because it is the traditional garment for practicing martial arts. While respecting tradition, the Gi allows for fluid and flexible movement, instills a sense of community (and hierarchy) and a sense of obligation to discipline.

Although the origins of the gi are somewhat mysterious, Sensei Kano (who formalized the judo system) gave us 5 guiding principles why martial artists should wear a gi. Let's see what they are.

What is a Gi exactly?

The word"gi" is an abbreviation of a Japanese word "keikogui“.The term is used to refer to the clothing or forms of clothing used in the martial arts. However, it's probably fair to say that the word "gi" has come to mean somethingslightly closer to "uniform" in many martial arts training environments.

Interestingly, in Japan the term "keikogui' is also rarely used. That's because there's a tendency to remove"Keiko' from the beginning of the word and replace it with the name of the martial art. In order to,You find that in judo, you have oneJudoguiand in karate, adamagingetc.

In most martial artsthe gi is a three-piece garment. There is a jacket (which is also calledobservationsin Japanese), a pair of pants (theZubon) and a belt (theobi) to hold everything together.

The roots of the Gi

The origins of the Gi are a bit mysterious. There aresome say it is Okinawan karate clothingand simply represents the style of dress peasants would have worn when the gi was introduced into martial arts.

In this way, the peasants would have liked to embrace the clothing as if it were familiar.It was supposedly adapted to traditional clothing to make it easier to wear.and so you can complete long exercise sessions in the sun with no ill effects.

Unfortunately,There's a problem with this story. It's almost certainly not true. While karate has its roots in Okinawa, the gi probably didn't originate there. Why? Well there is a lotPhotographic evidence suggesting no one wore it on Okinawa when the gi was introduced in karate.

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Actually,They appear to have trained in shorts and t-shirts, mostly, and a few adventurers gave up this outfit and just trained in their underpants.

So there tends to be some kind of agreementThe modern Gi was introduced to martial arts by Jigoro Kano.Sensei Kano is of course theInstructor who formalized the combat system known as judo.This was an adaptation of a form of Jiujitsu and began in the early 1920'sDieCentury.

Initially, his students wore the clothes in which they attended class. However, it turned out that their kimonos were quite capable of opening at inopportune times, soSensei Kano introduced the belt to keep them closed. (It is worth noting that at this point in the development of martial arts, a belt was not yet a symbol of rank or fighting strength.)

However, Sensei Kano was not satisfied with this improvement.He remarked that the kimono was a pretty terrible piece of clothing to wear in combat, so it was time to look for something "new".. The result wasn't entirely "new": He found a garment in an old jiujitsu history book that seemed ideal for the purpose and updated it with new fabrics.

he chose white, allegedly,for the Gifor it was the color that most fabrics of the time acquired through repeated sweating and washing.

Later the gi was transformed into karate.when Sensei Kodakan came to visit Sensei Kano and was offered a Gi for his demonstration as Sensei Kano didn't think his shorts and t-shirt would convince his students.

Naturally,Over the years the gi has been modified for use in every martial art that incorporates it. A judo gi and a karate gi may consist of the same 3 pieces, but they are not the same garment., shapes, weights etc. of each piece are very different.

Why do martial artists wear a gi?

Sensei KanoHe wasn't the type to leave things to chance and wanted to provide martial artists with a permanent framework for wearing the gi. So hespecified a set of 5 reasons why the Gi should be wornand have survived to this day.

These are still the main reasons why martial artists wear a Gi when training.

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A sense of place in the world

Life is not easy to navigate. Job, relationship, school etc. they can bring us stress and distraction. We can all identify with that, right? Well, the problem is that this stress and distraction can linger on us when we turn to other tasks.

For example, who hasn't had a bad day at work because they had an argument with their partner that morning?There is something about the state of being human that makes it very easy for one environment to flow into the next.

That's not always badMind you, we've all had great days because a family member friend decided to surprise us with something amazing. However, it leads to a state of general inconsistency in our behavior.

Sensei Kano understood this perfectly and that's whythe gi he designed should remind you that when you put it on you are not at home, not at school, not on a date, not chilling with friends, in a dojoand the purpose of being in this dojo is to learn.

Wearing a Gi isis designed to help you shed the emotional and mental baggage you carry from one place to anotherand therefore allows you to better focus on the learning experience you wish to participate in.

The Gi should theoretically make it an easy deal.so that your body, mind and spirit can act in harmony while practicing your chosen martial art.

A sense of place in your martial arts community

Martial arts are fights.Arts used to wage war.Certainly they are not today's key weapons now that technology has brought us submarines, fighter jets and tanks, but they remain extremely valuable techniques for many military and paramilitary organizations around the world.

So when we study a martial art, we embrace the martial tradition. Have you ever looked at a soldier's uniform and wondered what his rank and job was? Well, if you were another soldier, that would be immediately apparent from the uniform.

This also applies to people wearing a gi in a particular dojo.It's very easy to look around a classroom and identify your sensei, the highest and lowest ranked students, and of course yourself..

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Ranks and hierarchies serve many purposes, but the most important areThe benefits for a martial arts student are the fact that it provides a sense of progression as you learn and improve and creates an environment where everyone has their place.and this place is understood in connection with all others.

Finally, understand your place in your martial arts community.It also lets you know what needs to be done to improve that spot and move up the leaderboard.

A visible sign of solidarity

when a westerner gets married, the first thing they will do in the long line of events that will lead them down the aisle is to get on one knee and propose to their partner. At this point, or sometimes shortly after,You will give your partner an engagement ring.

This ring is used asa sign of commitment that is visible throughout the duration of the commitmentuntil the marriage is consummated. At this point, both partners in the marriage will select and commit to useAlliances that allow them to demonstrate their commitmenteach other publicly without having to tell anyone who comes by of this obligation.

Commitment has a lot of value.Not only in relationships but also in our hobbies, hobbies, careers etc and there is great value in striving today to be a better martial artist than you were yesterday.

ExhaustingWearing a gi is a great way to show your dedication to your dojo, sensei, and fellow students. It can be an act of conformity, but it's also a strong statement that you belong there and are willing to learn and grow there.

The practical nature of the garment

Imagine walking into the dojo on your first day and instead of wearing a gi, you were given a pair of stilettos, stockings and a garter belt, as well as a large, chunky sweater, and a long but very fitted coat. What do you think would happen if you start fighting in this weird uniform?

I'd find out quickly, if it wasn't already obvious, that these clothes aren't really good for fighting, let alone training. The heels would make balance difficult, the tight coat would make movement difficult. Your garters would be very easy for an opponent to grab and so on...

The Gi, on the other hand, was designed with your martial arts in mind.what should bepractical, but it will also beSupport the types of movements you perform during a fightand it will beresistantand last a long time.

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When you are comfortable and able to move freely, you can focus more on fighting and less on impractical clothing. Kano Sensei knew this was an important consideration and that's whythe gi is an extremely practical piece of clothing.

Celebrate the history and integrity of your martial arts

The best institutions in our world are great, not only because of their achievements, but also because we can almost at a glance identify the people who made them great.. NASA is great for their astronauts who wear uniforms. The Bolshoi Ballet is great for its dancers who wear uniforms. Etc.

ExhaustingA Gi is a recognition that your martial art has a long, interesting and exciting history and that you are proud to embrace its traditionsand pass it on to a new generation.

IncludedYou show respect for the people who developed the art and the Gi you wear.They show that you care about the cultural origins of your martial art and that you are able to make decisions that effectively represent your martial art to the rest of the world.

Sensei Kano knew what he was doing when he presented these five principles to the world: they are timeless.and it's clear how they can enhance your martial arts lifestyle.

Why is it important for martial artists to have a uniform?

In addition to Sensei Kano's list, there issome other beneficial qualities of wearing a uniform:

  • recognition by others. When you see someone wearing a gi, you know they're a martial artist, right? Just like someone wearing a t-shirt with a gold "M" on it knows they probably work for McDonald's. This can help others interact with you about the art you love.
  • preservation of other garments.Uniforms are usually affordable and easy to get. This means you're not wearing your most expensive clothes when you train, and you have a sense of "personality" when you take off your gi and put your "outerwear" back on.
  • A sense of belonging.This is pretty important, but people around you will likely feel like "your people" if everyone is dressed similarly.
  • A sense of equality.Sure, there's a ranking system built into martial arts clothing, but there's also a sense that everyone is sort of on the same level. When everyone wears the same uniform, you don't see haves and have-nots or other divisions.
  • A sense of support.The sense of belonging and equality leads to a supportive cultural environment: when you feel like you're in the right place and among equals, it's easier to ask for and receive help and encouragement, and mutual and personal growth is often the same .

Additional symbolism attributed to the gi in martial arts

Another thing about the Gi isa number of additional forms of symbolism attributed to the garment in the West. These appear to be based on perceptions of the color white within Western culture and are not likely to appear in the East where the color has different "properties" from a symbolic point of view.

These properties include:

  • A sense of purity.The purity of white as a color can motivate you to live a clean life and be the best for those around you.
  • A sense of mental clarity.The blank slate presented by the Gi can represent the blank learning slate that the student will try to complete.
  • A sense of simplicity.Whiteness is basic and direct and helps eliminate ego.


Thanks to the enduring principles of Kano Sensei, wearing a Gi allows us to establish our identity and commitment within our art, and provides practical support for our body and mind to thrive during practice.

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The Gi is an important part of a martial artist's lifestyle. Wearing one isn't an impertinence, it's an honor.


Why do martial artist wear a gi? ›

A gi provides you enough clothing and helps you in using your full range of motion and simultaneously saves you from splitting or tattering. It is designed in a way that it is capable of withstanding vigorous martial arts training.

What martial arts wear a gi? ›

The Karate uniform is called a Gi (pronounced ghee).

Why do you wear a gi? ›

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.

Do you have to wear a gi in karate? ›

Students wear a full Gi to Karate classes, unless directed otherwise. The pants should be hemmed right above the ankle, not rolled up. The jacket sleeves should be hemmed right below the elbow, not rolled up. Your Gi should be clean and pressed with creases in the front of the pants.

What does no gi mean in martial arts? ›

In No Gi Jiu-Jitsu, you don't wear the traditional uniform. Instead, you wear shorts and a t-shirt or rash guard. In the No Gi form of BJJ, you can't grab your opponent's clothing to increase leverage. To be a complete Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player, you should train in both Gi and No Gi.

Is gi better for self defense? ›

It depends a lot on why you started BJJ in the first place. Gi jiu-jitsu will teach you to be technical in all positions and develop incredible grip strength. No-gi will teach you not to rely on clothing manipulation, making it much better for MMA and self-defense.

Why is Karate outfit called a gi? ›

The karate gi appears to have been developed from the Judo uniform. When Gichin Funakoshi demonstrated karate in Japan at the Kodokan, he still wore a traditional judo gi. "GI" is a recognised word in both the official scrabble dictionary and the Merriam Webster Second edition dictionary.

What do you wear to no GI practice? ›

No Gi Classes

Similarly to Gi classes, you should try to wear light and athletic clothing. In addition to keeping you cool and dry, baggy clothes with pockets can trap you or your partners hands/feet while rolling which is not supposed to happen in No Gi BJJ. Rashguards are the top of choice for No Gi.

What do karate gi colors mean? ›

The short answer to this question: jiu jitsu gi color means absolutely nothing. While BJJ gi belt colors carry some serious significance - primarily in alerting you to the level of shark you're swimming with on the mat - jiu jitsu gi colors don't carry any special significance.

Is gi better than no gi? ›

There are benefits to both training styles – Gi BJJ teaches you to always work on grips and to stay technical in all positions. No-Gi BJJ teaches you to not be over dependent on Gi grips as they won't be available all the time. It is not wrong to specialize in one style over the other if that's what you like.

Is gi harder than no GI? ›

It is harder to adapt to Gi training, if you start training exclusively without the Gi. Training with the Gi may be more complex, due to all the grips, but No GI has many aspects that are not found in the Gi. Without the Gi, you will be using a lot of wrestling-based takedowns.

Do you wear a gi in kung fu? ›

Anyone training in martial arts will wear a gi short for “keikogi.” Keikogi means practice clothes. “Keiko” means practice, and 'gi” means clothing or attire. Traditionally white, the gi can also be seen in black and variations of blue.

Is no-gi more practical? ›

I would tend to say NoGi is more realistic to real-life training because chances are you won't be fighting a guy on the street who wears a traditional Gi. The BJJ Gi is a thick kimono top which is similar to a jacket. The pants are also thick and are made of similar material so give you an all-around authentic feel.

Does training gi make you better at no-gi? ›

Perhaps your opponent has a better hand-fighting game, or maybe you just can't seem to settle in a position long enough to get your favorite grips. Whatever the reason is, sometimes you have to make do without a Gi grip. By training No Gi, you will figure out how to better control people without using the fabric.

Why is it called a gi? ›

Originally, GI stood for “Galvanized Iron”, the primary material used to make military items, i.e. buckets. However, as the military grew and evolved over time, GI took on multiple meanings, including “Government Issue”, “General Issue”, and even “Ground Infantry”.

Do you wear your gi to class? ›

You will need to consider whether or not you should wear a jiu jitsu gi during your first few classes at the gym. Many gyms require their students to wear this traditional uniform; however, others allow students to train without any clothes on whatsoever.

Is gi or no gi better for MMA? ›

Training no-gi, in a rash guard for MMA is for sure more functional, and a much better representation of what your MMA fight will actually be like. Training in a gi involves lots of grips, gi related submissions, and slow/methodical movements, which is not ideal for stimulating/practicing an MMA fight.

What does a black gi mean in karate? ›

A black gi grading, as the name suggests, allows the karateka to wear a black coloured gi (karate outfit) during training in classes. We would normally wear a completely white canvas gi.

Can MMA fighters wear gi? ›

The MMA Uniform

So shoes or padding on the feet are forbidden. MMA fighters may not wear gi tops or pants, and Speedo-style shorts is a definite do-not.

Is gi or no gi more practical? ›

Since people usually wear jeans and a jacket, their everyday attire is similar to a gi and that's why training in Gi-BJJ is more practical. While the No-Gi practitioners claim that since No-Gi training does not focus on the grips, they tend to rely on techniques and strategies to dominate their opponents.

Is gi better for self-defense? ›

It depends a lot on why you started BJJ in the first place. Gi jiu-jitsu will teach you to be technical in all positions and develop incredible grip strength. No-gi will teach you not to rely on clothing manipulation, making it much better for MMA and self-defense.

Is no gi more practical? ›

I would tend to say NoGi is more realistic to real-life training because chances are you won't be fighting a guy on the street who wears a traditional Gi. The BJJ Gi is a thick kimono top which is similar to a jacket. The pants are also thick and are made of similar material so give you an all-around authentic feel.

Can white belts wear black gi? ›

Can "White Belts" Wear a Black or Blue Gi? Well, of course they can! White belts (beginners) are allowed to wear any color Gi they want because no rule within BJJ forbids this. Although some BJJ academies, such as AOJ, only allow beginners to use a white Gi only.

Does the color of your gi matter? ›

The color of the gi does not matter in BJJ, but the color is often dictated by the training facility where you will be training. The most commonly accepted colors are white, blue, and black. If you intend to compete or attend seminars, then your gi needs to be one of these colors.

What does a blue gi mean? ›

What does a blue gi in BJJ mean? A blue gi in bjj does not signify a certain level the person has reached. Wearing a blue or black gi is a personal choice. Some academies prefer blue or black because they look more clean and sleek than a white gi.

Are all martial arts gi the same? ›

Every martial art has its own techniques, philosophy, and grading system. In order to address and accommodate these concerns, a specific uniform for each martial art has also developed over time.

What is a fighting gi? ›

To define, the Gi is a uniform traditionally worn in BJJ. It originated from Japan and is usually worn by other traditional martial arts in the East. The Gi, which means “dress or clothing,” is generally made of a thick cotton jacket, reinforced drawstring pants, and a rank-signifying belt.

Do no-gi get belts? ›

In NOGI we do not offer the stripes because students do not wear their belts during class. Students who only train NOGI will be promoted to the next belt rank without the stripes as an indicator of progression.


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