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So what is a Gi?

Many different types of martial arts around the world have traditional clothing, Chinese wushu has those big floaty Mc Hammer trousers, Sumo has its mawashi otherwise known as a big disgusting diaper, wrestling has its singlets and Kendo has its big scary dress that makes you look like no face from Spirited Away.

See they’re basically the same

However there is one piece of clothing that is synonymous with martial arts, the Gi. Almost every eastern martial art uses it and martial arts that are derivative from those arts like Sambo and BJJ use them too. The modern design of the Gi was originally made by the founder of Judo, Kano Jigoro, he allegedly based the design off of the clothing that Japanese fire fighters wore, which was made from hemp and was tough and durable but also light and breathable. This design was then picked up by the founder of Shotokan Karate, Gichin Funakoshi, to help market Karate to the Japanese mainland and the Gi quickly became  the ‘uniform’ for Karate, now all the offshoot styles for Karate use it, BJJ uses it because of its origins in Judo and the same goes for Sambo aswell.    

Gi’s often vary in weight and as such, durability and breathability, with the lightest of them being flimsy and clingy and the heaviest being the most durable but less breathable. Judogis are often the heaviest and Karategis are lighter, spacier and nicely breathable. Every martial art that uses a Gi has changed it a tiny bit to suit the needs of the art, for instance BJJ Gi’s have tighter cuffs around the sleeves and trousers, to allow less material to manipulate. Aikido Gi’s use a mix of judogi and karategi for some strange, unfathomable reason. 

So why are Gis good for training?

Gi’s are good for training in for quite a few reasons, I’ve always found that training in one helps focus and helps keep my mind on track while in class but there are other reasons as to why they’re good, they’re light and super durable which is perfect in a Judo or BJJ when you’ve got some sweaty 220 pound man-ape pulling at your lapel, one of the things that I find best about them is that they simulate real clothes, most people will wear a jacket when out and about and most people, hopefully, would wear trousers too. This simulates what an average person would be wearing and as such if you do happen to have to use it on a regular person, you would know where to leverage and grab and how best to manipulate their clothing against them, this is something we see in BJJ such as lapel chokes and jacket chokes, of course if you do get charged by some naked ne’re-do-well then there are other techniques that would be better applied. In-fact many BJJ practitioners suggest starting training in the Gi and then when more experienced mixing in some No-Gi training as Gi training is considered harder due to the handholds that the Gi offers, plus it does just make everything harder, escapes are harder, stopping transitions is harder. When someone grabs your cuff and you have to spend what seems like an hour throwing weird shit at their hand in a vain attempt to break their grip and then you don’t and they take you down or you just fall down out of shame is soul destroying, but also character building 🙂

There is so much to be gained from training in a Gi, the benefits far outweigh the costs, just don’t wear it out in public or you’ll look like Danny McBride from The Art of Self-Defence or Rex Kwon-do. Remember to train hard and to stay civilised, and ill see you next time.


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