Just as with a warrior of old, martial artists of today give careful consideration to their equipment. And just as in days of old, practitioners of modern martial arts have for their perusal a vast array of vendors and manufacturers vying for their attention. Today’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu kimono serves its owner much like a fine suit of armor served a warrior of old.
Early Japanese people, of both genders, wore two piece clothing consisting of short pants and a jacket like top. Eventually, through time and a few innovations, the modern judogi was derived from this early simple clothing. Today’s sophisticated, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi is a modern adaptation of earlier martial arts uniforms.
Keiko means practice, an essential component of all martial arts. Gi , meaning clothing, is a word which is most appropriately used with a “partner” word in Japanese. Outside of Japan the word is often found used alone in reference to uniforms used by martial artists. A gi generally consists of three parts; a heavy jacket known as the uwagi, lighter weight draw-string pants called shitabaki, and a cotton self-tie belt, the obi. While a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu-gi is similar in many respects to a standard martial arts keiko-gi, the nature of the sport calls for a tighter fit on the cuffs of the jacket and pants. A more streamlined fit of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu-gi limits less manipulation of the fabric by opponents.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has seen many innovations in the traditional gi . Distinctive features of the gi include minimal use of seams, a jacket back without a seam, extra knee padding, and where possible reinforced seams. The seamless back is for comfort but also to reduce the wear and tear on the garment. Sometimes the legs may be reinforced below the knee. In addition to padded knees some manufacturers also offer reinforced under-arms. Thick rubberized collars, ostensibly touted as more hygienic then standard cloth collars, can function as a tactical feature as well. Opponents may find it difficult to find a grapple hold on the snug fitting rubber collar.
The gi is made from cotton cloth. It’s available in four distinctive grades. These are known as single weave, double weave, gold weave and platinum weave. However, these weaves are not standardized. The cotton is woven into a sturdy, pre-shrunk, rip-stop fabric. The term “gold weave” is not actually a weaver’s sett but a description used referring to the appearance and feel of the fabric.
An economic first choice for a beginning student is the single weave. A gi made from this type of fabric is light weight and easily cared for. But it isn’t as durable as the double weave. When a student is ready to make a commitment to the sport, increase his or her weekly practice sessions, enter into competitions and/or represent a club, then as a serious practitioner an investment in double weave may be in order.
Gold weave fabric represents a serious investment and hence a serious commitment to the sport. It is not so much a distinctive weave as a reference to the type of long stapled cotton fibre used in its construction. Platinum weave is its lightweight version. The higher quality cotton gives the fabric a luster and comfort not found in the other weaves. Yet its durability is comparable to that of double weave. Instructors and competitors often invest in this grade of fabric for their gis.
While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu kimonos can come in a variety of colors, competition rules allow for blue, black and white. Jacket colors must match the pants and of course the belt must be the appropriate rank color. For demonstrations in-house and practice sessions, some clubs have established their own colors which they may encourage their members to use.