BJJ

Importance of Gi Color in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Importance of Gi Color in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there is a proper uniform or dress code that all practitioners must follow. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation has made it mandatory for all BJJ athletes to wear a Gi and a belt. While the athletes are required to wear a belt in a color that reflects their rank in the overall BJJ belt system, the IBJJF has also approved certain Gi colors that all members of the BJJ community registered with the IBJJF wear for competitions. The IBJJf-approved Gi colors are black, blue, and white. However, when training in a gym or academy, jiu-jitsu practitioners have the option to wear a Gi in any color unless the academy has set similar regulations as the IBJJF. 

When given the option to choose a colored Gi, many practitioners often wonder whether the color of their Gi matters and whether it will impact their progress on the mats during training sessions. If you too are wondering about the importance of a Gi color in BJJ, a simple answer would be it doesn’t matter so long as you are not competing in an IBJJF tournament. However, there are other schools of thought and aspects related to Gi color that you must know before you buy a Gi.


Like other martial arts, the color of your Gi helps you gauge your progress and rank in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Even if you do not consider the importance of your Gi’s color, there are some formalities regarding Gi's color in BJJ. Before digging into these formalities, it is crucial to know the history and evolution of the Gi color in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, what different Gi colors signify, and what could be the potential pros and cons of wearing a particular Gi color. This article aims to help you understand the significance and different traditions attached to the color of the jiu-jitsu kimono so you can choose the right Gi for your BJJ training and IBJJF competition needs.

1. History and Evolution of Gi Color in BJJ

When Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was first developed, the traditional term for the training gear or kimono was ‘Keiko Gi.’Keiko means to practice, and Gi means uniform. Traditionally, martial artists referred to their training uniforms or Gis as their fighting style. For example, a karate practitioner called his Gi, the Karategi, while a judoka referred to his Gi as the Judogi.


In the 1800s, the founder of Kodokan Judo, Jigoro Kano was the first grandmaster to introduce the Gi as a uniform in the judo system. Initially, it was white or unbleached and athletes were differentiated by their sashes or belt colors during competitions. During the 70's, Reylson Gracie created the first colored Gi. He is considered an innovator of Gi fashion. His first innovations were in black, yellow, and turquoise. In judo, the color blue was used to differentiate competitors. Later, the same principle was adopted by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Eventually, blue and black colored Gis also began to be worn in BJJ to differentiate fighters and became a staple of BJJ, especially in the IBJJF competitions.

2. How Do You Differentiate When Wearing the Same Color Gi?

Sometimes event organizers ask fighters to change into one of the basic colors when two or more are wearing the same colored Gi. Moreover, to differentiate between competitors wearing the same Gi color during competitions, fighters began wearing a blue key. Then, not that long ago, in international competitions, the fighters were required to have both a blue and white key for judging purposes. If the fighter has to face an opponent wearing the same colored uniform (blue or white), then he/she can opt to wear either a blue key or a white key.


Moreover, in a BJJ tournament, when two fighters are wearing a similar uniform, green and yellow belts are utilized to make it simpler for the referee and the judges to differentiate between fighters - like the red and blue tape utilized in boxing or MMA.

3. Basic Colors for Gi

Even though you may not compete in BJJ competitions regularly, it is still helpful to know what is and isn't permitted under IBJJF rules regarding purchasing a new uniform.


There are only three basic Gi colors you can wear in competitions. The International Judo Federation (IJF) allows only two Gi colors: blue and white. But the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) allows all three Gi colors: blue, black, and white.

4. Reasons to Wear Different Gi Colors on the Mat

The following are reasons why different colored Gis are worn in training and competition.

4.1. Personal Preference in Academies

The reason for choosing a GI color depends on the personal preference of the academies and fighters. Some academies have a strict policy on wearing only white Gis. Others have a more lenient dress code. So, they allow their fighters to wear Gis of any color. Academies also have their brands printed on them. They require all of their students to wear Gis with their academy’s branding.


The IBJJF states that Gis in competition must be white, blue, or black. Why then do manufacturers make red Gis, yellow Gis, camo Gis, pink Gis, etc.? Because they can and because people buy them, that's the reason. If an academy allows fighters to wear any color of their choice, even rainbow or camouflage, on the mat during training sessions, fighters have the right to do so.

4.2. To Distinguish Between Fighters

The basic reason for wearing different colored Gis is to distinguish between fighters. Wearing basic colors in Gi competitions makes it easy for judges and referees to assign points to the fighters.

4.3. Gi Weight

The final thing about color is related to the weight of the Gi. A dyed Gi is heavier than a white Gi. This is because there is a substantial mass of dye molecules that soak into the fiber and add weight.

4.4. Express Team Association

Some BJJ Gi colors signify team association or a tradition within a BJJ team or club due to which athletes prefer to wear that color in every training session. In competitions, if this traditional color is also one of the IBJJF-approved colors, then competitors wear these colors to express gratitude to their instructors and team, reflect loyalty, or to better represent their academy. 

4.5. Winning Factor

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a complete lifestyle, and as a result, it not only impacts one's physical health but also strengthens practitioners mentally. BJJ athletes are quite self-aware and they know which color affects their mood for the better and can be used as a tool to intimidate the opponent or to boost one’s athletic performance on the mats. Therefore, it is not uncommon for competitors to strategically select Gi colors, within the ambit of IBJJF Gi uniform regulations, that complement their grappling method and make them more visible to the judges and spectators. Hence, Gi color can become a winning factor for many, provided they know which Gi color works best for them on the mats in competitive settings. 

5. IBJJF Rules for Gi Colors in BJJ

The following are the mandatories, prohibitions, and rules for Gi colors according to the IBJJF.

  • Gis can only be white, royal blue, or black.
  • Fighters are not allowed to wear different color jackets with different-colored pants.
  • Fighters are not allowed to have different colored collars on their Gis.
  • In the Men’s or Women’s Adult Black Belt Divisions, fighters must keep two Gis with different colors (usually blue and white) so that the judges can judge and differentiate between the two fighters if they happen to wear the same color.
  • Painted Gis are taboo, except if the paint is a logo and placed in an appropriate place on the Gi. Indeed, even in situations where they are allowed, the fighter will be obliged to change Gis if their paint marks are similar to the opponent’s Gi.
  • The color for rash guards and shirts under a Gi must be white, or black, or black and white both, or the color of the fighter’s rank (belt).
  • The color of the pants, compression shorts, and shorts should be white, or black, or black, and white both or the color of the fighter’s rank (belt).
  • For the female division, the headcover should be white, or black, or black, and white both or the color of the fighter’s rank (belt).
  • In the finals of the IBJJF, the black belt fighter can only wear a white or blue Gi.

6. When Does the Color of the Gi Matter? / Does the Color of Your Gi Matter in BJJ?

Not really! The color of your Gi doesn't matter in any way. The only restriction on the colors of the BJJ Gi is that the IBJJF and many other BJJ competition federations only allow white, blue, and black.


White, blue, or black color is suitable for competitions and training, but any other colored GI is only used for BJJ training.

7. What Does the White Gi Signify?

“I keep the white-belt mentality that I can learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

(Georges St-Pierre)

The white Gi represents tradition, formality, and discipline. A white Gi is a traditional uniform, representing the history of Japanese martial art. In Japanese culture, white is the symbol of purity and truth. This is why, in martial arts, the color white is used to depict the purity and simplicity of judo and jiu-jitsu.

8. Advantages of the White Gi

The following are some advantages of wearing a white Gi.

8.1. Bloodstain is Visible

BJJ is a tough sport due to fighters sometimes getting cuts and scrapes. Bloodstain can be easily identified while wearing a white Gi.

8.2. Purity

A white Gi depicts the pure, truthful, and clean life of a fighter and his/her family.

8.3. Avoidance of Ego

A white Gi depicts the mindset of a beginner. The belt ranking in BJJ starts with white to signify that you still have much to learn and can learn from everyone. This mental approach builds your character by encouraging humbleness and patience.

8.4. Simplicity and Social Class

The white GI represents uniformity and parity among fighters. It represents that all peers are equal, regardless of their status.

8.5. Improved Hygiene

Though it is mentioned later in the article that white Gi can make it extremely difficult to appear clean and well put-together because it gets easily stained and is hard to clean. However, by promoting a white Gi policy, different academies also teach students the importance of cleanliness and that they should put in the effort to ensure that they are wearing a clean Gi in every training session. Since there are high-performance washing machines and effective detergents that help clean stains, wearing a dirty white Gi to practice jiu-jitsu will let everyone know that the wearer simply procrastinated and didn’t wash the Gi. Therefore, a white Gi helps practitioners develop a habit of always wearing clean clothes not just to training sessions but everywhere. 

9. Disadvantages of the White Gi

The following are the disadvantages of wearing a white Gi.

9.1. Hard to clean

It’s hard to wash the white Gi because it gets dirty easily and requires a wash often. The shine of the fabric also fades away due to repeated washing.

9.2. Bleach is a Non-Factor

The color of the white Gi has to be maintained with bleach which weakens and rips the fabric.

10. Does the Blue or Black Gi in BJJ Signify Anything?

Blue or black Gis do not signify anything related to tradition or rank. But they are preferred because they look more modern, sleek, and nicer on fighters compared to the basic white ones. Wearing a black or blue Gi is a personal choice. Usually, fighters represent themselves as modern day Ninja by wearing black GI.

10.1. The Advantages of Wearing a Colored Gi

Cleaner Look and a Symbol of Hard Work

The blue and black Gi looks cleaner and sharper for a long time. But the saturation of the color fades over time. However, the look of a used, faded Gi shows that you have worked hard to learn BJJ. Moreover, a colored Gi has more weight than a white one which could be advantageous for fighters while grappling.

Stain Resistance

Dark-colored Gis, such as military green, dark blue, or black Gis are better at hiding sweat stains during training sessions. While some colored Gis may fade over time due to color bleeding while washing, high-quality Gis retain their color for years, alleviating the need to frequently replace the Gi due to discoloration and allowing you to maintain a crisp appearance no matter how hard and consistently you train. 

In addition, women can comfortably train in dark-colored Gis during their menses, boosting their confidence and allowing them to focus completely on their performance on the mats. 

Better Confidence

Wearing a particular color may enhance a BJJ practitioner’s confidence and performance on the mats. Wearing one's favorite color that also complements their style can improve mood and make one feel less conscious about their appearance. Consequently, they can focus all their attention on learning, drilling, and executing different grappling and submission techniques.

Visibility

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, different maneuvers, techniques, and positions are combined to create a fighting strategy. At times, it becomes difficult to catch exactly which technique or maneuver was performed by the athlete or the instructor, which leads to confusion and lack of understanding. When athletes wear white during training sessions on the mats, it also becomes difficult to keep track of their points and submission attempts. Wearing a colored Gi can help instructors distinguish between the two practitioners and their moves, while students can also benefit because their instructor's moves become more visible due to a colored Gi. 

Warmth

Just like a white Gi offers a cooling effect by reflecting more light and absorbing less heat, colored Gis do the exact opposite, offering insulation in colder temperatures. Therefore, the warmth that colored Gis exudes, especially dark blue, black, and brown Gis, will help you brave the cold and never miss a training session. 

10.2. The Disadvantages of Wearing a Colored Gi

Discoloration and Distraction

Wearing a blue or black Gi is fine but it can be a distraction by making you prominent in the class. The other disadvantage is color retention as the color fades away over time if you choose a low-quality Gi from a lesser-known brand. 

Judgment

While colored jiu-jitsu Gis are now widely accepted, they are still considered less preferred than white Gi. Therefore, wearing a sharp-colored Gi may attract unwanted attention leading to lack of confidence. Some practitioners may also trash-talk or judge your grappling abilities by judging you based on your GI color. 

Impact on Performance

As mentioned, unwanted scrutiny is a major drawback of wearing a colored Gi. If you are not confident in your grappling abilities, wearing a colored Gi may further impact your performance on the mats by making you focus on your Gi color choice instead of your opponent and his maneuvers. Therefore, if you are not sure about wearing a colored Gi or are bothered with attention, it is best to avoid a colored Gi. 

Increased Perspiration

Dark-colored Gis are an excellent source of insulation in colder weather conditions; however, in hot weather conditions, they retain heat and can cause you to sweat profusely, making you uncomfortable. This situation can also lead to bad body odor that can make it difficult for your partner to train as well. 

11. 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.

12. Can a BJJ Gi Color Indicate a Belt Rank?

No. The color of the Gi does not indicate the practitioner’s belt rank in jiu-jitsu. The only way an athlete’s belt rank is displayed in jiu-jitsu when wearing a Gi is by wearing the belt in the color of their actual rank. However, in No-Gi, since there are no belts, the color of an athlete’s rash guard can indicate the belt rank.

13. What Color Should a BJJ Fighter Choose to Buy?

If you are not a competitor, you can choose any color, even camouflage, if your training school recommends it. The most popular among fans is a dark blue color. But if you are going to compete in international tournaments held by the IBJJF, then you should know that the only colors allowed for Gisare blue, white, and black. There are no other options. So if you are on a bit of a tight budget and have just started doing jiu-jitsu, then we advise you to buy a GI with one of the required colors. In the future, you will not have to buy another one if you wish to compete in professional tournaments.

14. What Are the BJJ Gi Color Expectations for Belt Promotions?

While most BJJ academies now allow students to wear a Gi in whichever color they want, they do have a Gi color policy during BJJ promotion ceremonies. All the students whether they are the ones getting promoted or attending as audience, are required to wear a white Gi to uphold tradition and to reflect equality, camaraderie, and support for those getting elevated to the higher ranks. The white Gi policy adopted for the BJJ belt promotion nights also reminds practitioners that only the color of their belt can change. Their mindset, Gi's color, and attitude toward his instructors, partners, and junior practitioners must remain positive. The white color also helps students remember that they must try to remain as eager to learn as they were when they attended their first jiu-jitsu class. 

15. Last Words

In conclusion, BJJ Gi colors do not hold nearly as much significance as the color of the belt does, as the latter helps you understand the experience level of your instructor, training partner, or opponent. On the other hand, BJJ Gi colors are influenced by various factors, including different traditions, IBJJF rules and regulations, personal preferences, and the distinct advantages that white, black, and blue colors offer on the mats.


Some BJJ academies may ask practitioners to either choose a white, black, or blue Gi, but that is simply because they want to instill discipline among students or make them adhere to the IBJJF competition rules from their first jiu-jitsu session. However, with the constant evolution in the BJJ submission techniques and positional maneuvers, there is a greater acceptance of change in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see jiu-jitsu athletes train in military green, gray, brown, pink, and yellow Gis. Therefore, unless there is a requirement by your BJJ academy, you can choose any Gi color you feel comfortable in and can maintain easily.

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