Judo Blog: Evolution of the Judo Gi

Judo Gi

In 1998 my son Nathan wrote this heartfelt sonnet to his first Judo gi. My friend and mentor 2x Black Belt Hall of Fame member, Hayward Nishioka liked it so much he sent it to the editor, who published it!

Judo Poem

Above: The sonnet published in Black Belt Magazine, Copyright 1998. Keep reading for more!

More about the Judo Gi

Jigoro Kano Judo

The judo gi of Jigoro Kano that is displayed in the Kodokan's Judo Museum and Library.

It was actually Jigoro Kano who invented the judo gi which led to the development of the multi-billion dollar martial arts supply industry. The judo gi or the kimono used in practice by definition in Japanese means literally thing to wear. Outside of Japan that expression means generally a wide range of parts and that together form a visual considered typical or traditional Japanese, but it is also synonymous with the main piece.

In Japan, the centerpiece of the kimono is called kosode. The kimonos, as we know it today, emerged during the Heian period (794-1192). Since the Nara period (710-794), until then, the Japanese used basically sets to separate the pieces of the top and bottom (pants or skirts), Or unique pieces.

But in the Heian period, a new technique of tailoring of kimono was developed. Known as the method of cutting in a straight line, involved the cut pieces of fabric in straight lines and the stitching on a unique piece. With this technique, the manufacturers of kimono didn't have to worry about the shape of the body of the different users.

The method of cutting in a straight line offered many benefits to kimonos. They were easy to preach and very suitable for any temperature: could be used in layers to keep warm in winter, and could be made in lightweight fabrics, becoming comfortable for the summer.

Over time the Japanese began to pay attention in how kimonos of different colors would represent one's political class.

During the Kamakura period (1192-1338) and Muromachi (1338-1573), both men and women used kimonos brilliantly colored. The warriors dressed in colors representing their leaders and, sometimes the field of battle was so ostentatious it looked like a fashion show.

During the Edo period (1600-1868), the clan of the warrior Tokugawa reigned in Japan. The samurai of each area were identified by the colors and models of their uniforms that consisted of: a kimono without sleeves known as kamishimo, and a hakama, a pair of pants resembling a divided skirt.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan was heavily influenced by foreign cultures. The government encouraged people to adopt the habits and the style of dress of the American West. The official government and the military were obliged by law to wear this style of clothing to the official functions.

Today, the Japanese wear kimonos for occasions such as weddings, funerals, ceremonial special events, such as summer festivals. The kimono that is used for the practice of martial arts in Japanese is called dogi which means dress used in the path or way chosen. This is why the majority of the martial arts has its kimonos with gi at the end such as judo gi, karate gi, aikido gi. Loosely translated, would be uniform used for the practice of the smooth or gentle way.

The use of the kimono for judo today are made specifically for this practice. These judo gis are tested and approved by the International Judo Federation (IJF). The types of fabrics and materials used to make the judo gi are mainly cotton, some polyester, different types of tarp, and or microfiber.

Four pieces form the judo gi: uwagui wagui or coat or jacket, shitabaki pants, obi belt and last the zori Japanese sandals or slippers which is of extreme importance to the judoka judo practitioner. This is because it is also the responsibility of the judoka to maintain the hygiene of the tatami mats and not come on them with the dirty feet.

The judo gi is considered sacred to the judoka. As such it was their responsibility to keep it clean with regular washings between practice. However, since the obi belt was worn around the hara stomach it was never washed. The Japanese believe one's soul is found in this area and the superstition is that washing your obi could result in washing away the knowledge gained through the hard work in the dojo!

Thus as the belts got dirty and worn prior to the invention of judo they blackened which was also a sign of experience. Jigoro Kano realizing this, decided that the black belt would be the highest rank. He added the optional colors of red & white as well as solid red to indicate a high level sensei, analogous to a PhD.

Nathan Goltz Judo

My son Nathan's original war-torn black belt which he still proudly wears!

Today, the top leading companies of global judo apparel market are Adidas, Mizuno, FUJI Sports, and KuSakura. Regardless of which brand the judoka chooses, their first judo gi will always remain deep in their heart as it did to my son Nathan, when he wrote his heartfelt sonnet.

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