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Here's some helpful information on the differences between Karate, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi. This article explains why to buy a certain Gi for your sport and the qualities to look for.

The Differences Between Karate Gi, Judo Gi, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gis

I've done Karate my entire life, so imagine my surprise when I walked in to join the University Judo Team while I was in College. In a previous article I outline the connection of Judo and Karate today we're going to talk about the uniforms!

My first day of Judo I walked in with my Ragged Karate Blackebelt on in a Karate Gi and thus painted a huge target on my back. Sensei paired me with a brown belt and he jerked and yanked me around the squishy tatami mats violently. Unsure what I was really doing, I used some Karate to wrist lock his hands from grabbing my collar (which was giving me rope burn on my neck). I was able to kick outside of his front foot and use my hips to shoulder throw him onto the mat with poor form.

This is when my Sensei, Sasaki from Hiroshima, stepped in.

He called off the match and said I did pretty well and asked if I'd like to spar with a black belt instead. I naturally obliged, thinking I would be prepared. Lakea Vargas at the time was a new black belt in Judo, he's since gone on to earn a spot on Team USA in the Olympics.

In about 25 seconds, I was on the ground and being choked out with my own Karate Gi collar. The $250 Karate Gi earned small holes from finger nails and some fraying from the grappling. Refusing to tap, I struggled for a few moments before losing consciousness. My trachea was bruised for about a week after.

I joined Judo team and bought a nice KuSakura Judo Gi and wore my White belt to classes and practices. Sensei made me Ukemi for the majority of about 2 weeks before letting me spar.

Table of Contents

The Differences of Martial Arts Style Gis

Karate Gi

Judo Gi

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu GI

Frequently Asked Questions

In short, the right gear for the job is pretty important so let's talk about Gi Brands and what to look for.

The Differences of Martial Arts Style Gis

Some Gi are better made than others, but Brands aside the fit and material choices are at the heart of the matter. You wouldn't choose a Kimono to a fight, so mobility and practicality are huge factors manufacturers look into prior to designing their product lines.

Karate Gi

Karate Gi are usually a stiff but lightweight fabric with specific fitted cuts and long flapping capes under the belt. The pants are typically high waisted and wide, rigid material. The fabric is designed like Canvas, stiff and acoustic, for Snaps during techniques.

Karate Gi have ties to keep the uniform tidy, and in shape. They also have wide hems for pants and sleeves to add extra weight and hold shape when performing stances or techniques.

Karate Gi are strictly White or a Blueish Off White Traditionally. The off exception is the new style for Karate Combat which is just some slim fit branded Gi pants.

Looking to buy a Karate Gi? Check out the 11 Best Karate Gi Brands Guide here.

Judo Gi

Judo Gi are usually very thick cotton like a horse blanket. They are meant for heavy grappling use so there's extra seams sewed in and the sleeves are thick. To help with the heat issue the pants are extremely lightweight and so is the small of the back down to the cape. The cape is cut short, so it often comes undone when sparring and you have to tuck it back into the belt.

There are no ties, like with a Karate Gi, because they would just rip off. The sleeves are long and wide cut to allow for gripping from the opponent.

If you try to practice Karate in a Judo Gi or Judo in a Karate Gi, you'll likely end up disappointed.

The Traditional Colors for Judo Gi are Only White or Blue.

5 Best Judo Gi Brands

  1. Kusakura
  2. Mizuno
  3. Mitsuboshi
  4. Yawara
  5. Fuji

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi come in a huge variety of styles and colors. The BJJ Gi are typically more slim fit than a judo Gi. The sleeves are long but fit tighter to the arms and wrist and the pants are straight legged and longer vs the 3/4 length judo wear. there is often a unique pattern of sewing to the BJJ Gi in concentric half circles vs the Judo Gi traditional Sewing.

BJJ focuses more on grappling and submission vs throwing techniques, even though Judo includes both Ne Waza and Te Waza for winning. Therefore the BJJ Gi eliminates the extra fabric and thickness needed for the throwing techniques.

If you wear a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi to a Judo Practice, you could risk injuring someones fingers. It's just a safety issue, this is why the correct Gi type is important when shopping for a new uniform.

Frequently Asked Questions

Judo Gi vs. BJJ Gi?

Judo Gi are thicker and safer for Throwing techniques as well as grappling. A BJJ Gi should not be purchased for Judo, while it may be ok to wear a Judo Gi to BJJ classes. In official events, the correct sports wear should be selected for competition.

What is the difference between a karate gi and a jiu jitsu gi?

Karate Gi are not designed for heavy grappling like their Jiu Jitsu counterparts. Karate GI are usually a specific cotton blend that resembles a canvas, and is designed to create acoustic snap, hold a nice shape, and allow freedom of movement for kicks and stances. Jiu Jitsu Gi are thicker and more rigid to withstand grappling and rolling.

What is the difference between Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Karate?

Jiu Jitsu Focuses on winning by submissions, Judo focuses on perfectly winning by a single throw but allows winning by submission, and Karate has Kata and Kumite divisions in which you can win by performance or points scored with Punches and Kicks in a 3 minute round. All 3 styles are great forms of self defense and martial arts, Jiu Jitsu is best suited for those who wish to pin an opponent, Judo for unbalancing or throwing, and Karate for Striking. The styles can be chosen by preference.

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Colton Woodard and Rika Usami Karate Japan WKF

About the Author:
Colton Woodard is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Kuniba Kai Karate Do and holds the title of Kyoshi as well. He loves to teach Karate, Kobudo, and Iaido and considers himself a lifetime student in pursuit of self improvement in both Martial Arts and in Character. Colton loves to visit Japan and speaks conversational Japanese and can write quite a few Kanji. He is a Karate competitor and coach and loves to exercise and make new memories with people all over the world.


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