The Origins & History of the BJJ Gi

The Origins & History of the BJJ Gi

The Origins & History of the BJJ Gi

The gi, or kimono, is an iconic uniform synonymous with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu today. But where did this important garment originate from and how did it become integral to BJJ? This article will explore the origins and evolution of the gi throughout history and its journey to the mats.

Traditional Japanese Judo Roots

The gi used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu traces its roots back to traditional Japanese judo. In judo, the uniform is known as a keikogi, with the jacket being called the uwagi and the pants called zubon. Judo founder Jigoro Kano introduced the robust, lightweight uniform in the late 1800s to help reinforce proper judo throwing techniques.

The uniform consists of a woven cotton jacket secured by the belt or obi, loosely fitting cotton pants, and sometimes a cotton belt. Kano purposely designed the gi to have loose folds that opponents could grab onto, to allow for diverse throwing and grappling techniques central to judo.

Adoption Into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The gi was brought to Brazil in the early 1900s when Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese judo master, came to the country to teach the martial art. One of Maeda's students was Gastão Gracie, who learned judo from Maeda and went on to pass down the art to his family.

Gastão's son Carlos Gracie began studying judo under his father as a young boy in the 1910s. Carlos was frail and sickly, but judo and its gi uniform helped build up his physical strength. When Carlos and his brothers later began developing and refining their own offshoot martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, they naturally continued using the gi as their training uniform given its judo roots.

Evolution Within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Over the decades of BJJ evolution under the Gracie family, the gi changed in small ways to better suit the art's focus on ground grappling and submissions. The cotton material became lighter and softer for more comfort and mobility. The jacket slimmed down for a less baggy fit, with shorter sleeves and pant cuffs preferred by BJJ practitioners.

Despite these incremental alterations, the basic design originating from Japanese judo remains largely intact today. It continues providing the ideal grips, mobility and durability for Brazilian jiu-jitsu training and competition.

Whether you're stepping on the mats for your first lesson or competing at Mundials as a black belt, wearing the iconic gi remains a core tradition and connectors to the roots of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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