Many martial arts train in the traditional gi- Judo, Karate, Hapkido, Aikido, Taekwondo, but why? Most of these arts have slightly different variations in the gi to better suit the art they’re involved in, but still, why does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu use the gi?

What is its value? Is it just tradition or is there some benefit to it? Let’s break it down.

The gi, also known as the ‘kimono’, has a very long history in the martial arts. It’s origin can be traced back to the samurai in the 12th century. While modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu shares it’s lineage right along with the gi all the way back to the samurai and their Jiu Jitsu, just like the art, both are different and serve different purposes.

Unlike some martial arts the gi is an effective and distinct training tool in BJJ. When you wear the gi you are adding friction to your grappling. This means that strength moves that may get you out where friction is less (say in no-gi) will not work with the same results in gi. This means you have to work harder on your technique or else work even harder using your strength. In this way it’s like a weighted training vest for learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and can really assist a beginners to learn correctly. The gi also allows you more options for submission with cuff and collar chokes. If you have done Jiu Jitsu, you’ve probably wondered about if those chokes can be applied on a button up shirt collar or a jacket- the answer is yes.

People don’t wear gis in the streets so why train self defence or BJJ in the gi?- While people no longer wear gis in the street like they once did in Japan, all of the basic moves and principals of Jiu Jitsu still apply when the gi is taken off. If you look to today’s top no-gi competitors that all train in the gi most of the year round, as well as back to the Gracie challenges of old- where the Gracie clan (clad in gis) would take on anyone (often shirtless brawlers and big tough guys) and defeat them, we can start to see why gi training makes sense. Sure people don’t have lapels and sleeves cut in the same handy way for gripping as on the gi but chokes, takedowns, positional control and joint locks remain the same…until human anatomy changes.

The gi also teaches beginners the basics of leverage and provides simple grips. These grips translate into a good understanding of how to break someone’s posture and balance. You can see that over time this is a benefit in that most high level gi competitions can easily move to no gi however no gi, wrestlers etc that train exclusively in the gi cannot switch to gi without a lot of frustration.

Though the gi does not make Brazilian Jiu Jitsu what it is, it helps make us better Jiu Jitsu practitioners.