You are probably looking to try out BJJ for the first time, and are now considering the possibility of using your already available karate gi for that purpose instead of buying a rather expensive Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi. So, can you use a karate gi for BJJ?
No, you cannot use a karate gi for BJJ. A BJJ gi is thicker and made in a different way to withstand the forces that grips impose on it. A karate uniform on the other hand is lighter and uncomfortable to wear during grappling and will likely rip during training. If budget is a concern, you can ask your dojo if they offer second-hand jiu-jitsu gis.
I once used a heavyweight karate gi for BJJ for a while.
It sucks in multiple ways: it’s not stitched for the rigors of grappling, the texture is annoying, and the collar is sharper and so cuts into your neck.
It was really awkward and got ripped pretty quickly.
Now, let’s dive more into this topic and try to see why it’s not advisable to use a karate gi for this purpose and when it could actually be used.
Can Karate GI Be Used for BJJ?
BJJ and Karate both have a gi that’s tailor-made for their own techniques.
Karate is a striking art, so karate gi is light and loose which allows you to move quickly and freely, moving in and out and throwing high kicks as you go.
BJJ on the other hand is a grappling art, so BJJ gis are sturdy and strong, enabling techniques such as collar chokes and strong grips.
Therefore, the purpose of a karate gi and a BJJ gi is completely different and opposed to each other.
You can’t use a thick karate gi for BJJ. Even the thickest karate gi is still very thin compared to a BJJ gi.
So your karate gi will still fall apart within a few training sessions, most likely at the knees, collars, or armpits.
You also still have all the other potential problems, such as the sleeves of your karate gi being too short for some jiu-jitsu techniques and the collar cutting into your neck.
Why Karate GI Is Bad for BJJ
To better put this into context, here are a few good reasons why karate gi cannot be used for BJJ.
Fit the Techniques
The fit of the gi is probably the difference you will feel the most while training and competing.
Every gi has been designed to fit the specific techniques used by each martial art, and the Karate and BJJ techniques are radically different.
Karate gi is probably the simpler and the lightest of gis. The Karate gi is usually white, made from light cotton, with no particular reinforcement.
BJJ gi on the other hand is designed to make gripping and controlling harder for your opponent.
Therefore, it has a rather tight fit, shorter and narrower sleeves, and a reinforced collar that is more difficult to grab.
Less fabric means less grabbing, and this is what a BJJ gi is made for.
The heavier fabric also means that it can somehow protect you better during falls and fighting on the ground.
Even if you can practice in the karate gi designed for BJJ, it is possible that your gi will interfere with you learning the technique right, or can make you more vulnerable to your opponent therefore giving you a hard time.
Not something you want, especially if you are a beginner.
Fabric and Durability
Gis for different martial arts are made from different weight fabrics and different stitches.
The more grips and drops in a martial art, the strongest your Gi should be, to avoid tearing in during training or competition.
This is why Karate Gis are typically lighter, as these arts favor strikes to grips.
BJJ, on the other hand, is all about grappling your opponent, and therefore the gis are sturdier, heavier, and more reinforced.
BJJ gis are usually made with extra stitching, heavier cotton fabrics, and often a ripstop weaving.
Karate gis are made from thinner, lighter fabrics and prone to tearing if gripped in BJJ, even the heavyweight ones.
Even if your BJJ School is okay with you training and practicing in a Karate gi, this uniform cannot be allowed during competitions.
There are norms about the length of jackets, sleeves, and pants as BJJ has strict rules concerning the gi you wear during a competition, and you risk not being allowed to compete if your gi is not up to the norm.
That said, if you are just training and your school allows for it, go on and try your old karate gi and see if it works well for your training (but I doubt it will).
The important thing is to feel comfortable in your gi and to be able to learn the techniques correctly.
If your karate gi gets in the way of your technique, rips, or tears, then you will definitely know that it is time to switch to a gi more adapted to BJJ.
So, the use of karate gi might be possible for training purposes (if you have no other options) but not for competitions.
Is There a Difference Between a BJJ GI and Karate GI?
There are many differences between a karate gi and a BJJ gi, which all come from their different purposes. The major differences between BJJ and karate gis are:
- A jiu-jitsu gi is thicker and stronger than a karate gi, making it better suited for grappling.
- A jiu-jitsu gi has a reinforced collar that can withstand chokes and joint locks.
- A jiu-jitsu gi has extra stitching around the areas that endure the most force during BJJ: the armpits, knees, and lapel.
- A karate gi has wider and shorter sleeves that make a popping sound if you punch quickly enough.
- A BJJ gi has tight sleeves to make gripping slightly harder, and a minimum sleeve length for competition.
- A karate gi has a sharper collar that cuts into your neck when people grab onto it.
- A jiu-jitsu gi is typically more expensive than a karate gi, because it’s harder to make, and uses more fabric.
Can You Wear a Judo GI for Bjj?
Unlike karate gi, a judo gi is the closest thing to a BJJ gi and can sometimes be used for BJJ especially if it is just for training purposes. If you cannot afford a BBJ uniform, a judo uniform would be a safe alternative. However, it is generally a bad practice to use a uniform meant for a particular martial art style in another style.
There are a few differences between judo gis and BJJ gis.
Firstly, judo gis tends to have baggier sleeves and a longer skirt. In terms of the weight of the material and the thickness of the collar, a cheap ‘student’ judo gi is probably going to be very similar to a BJJ gi.
More expensive competition judo gis, however, are much heavier, and have a much thicker and harder collar.
BJJ gis, in contrast, has tighter cuffs both on the jacket and the pants, and a skirt that comes down only as far as the crest of the buttocks (in training, many people wear gis that are even shorter than this, but that would not be legal in competition).
BJJ collars tend to be lighter and more flexible.
For day-to-day training, the weight of the material doesn’t matter too much.
Many people wear very lightweight ‘travel gis’ in the summer, and then 950gsm gis such as the Tatami Tank in the winter.
A heavy judo gi is closer to the ‘tank’ end of the spectrum. These gis may be very hot to wear, but other than that you shouldn’t notice too much difference.
However, the cut does matter. If you like to do ezekiel chokes, then baggy sleeves are quite useful.
If you like to perform the ‘garotte’ choke with your own lapel, then having a long lapel is handy.
In contrast, if you hate it when your sparring partners play worm guard, having a shorter lapel might be advantageous to you because it makes the gi harder to grab.
In competition, both the cut and weight of the gi matter a lot.
A judo gi will be legal in a BJJ tournament that follows IBJJF rules, assuming it is the correct size.
Most people would not choose to wear a judo gi for a BJJ tournament, even though it is legal, because judo gis are too heavy.
While there are some rule sets that allow people to weigh in without their gi, the IBJJF, and many other major promotions expect people to weigh in just before stepping on the mat, while wearing their uniform.
An average “competition legal” BJJ gi weighs less than 2kg. Judo gis can be double that in weight because the weave is so much thicker.
A BJJ gi isn’t just heavier than the average karate gi, it is constructed differently to prevent ripping.
Also, a BJJ gi is more like a piece of equipment than clothing. A lot of what you do involves using the gi as a way of manipulating your opponent.
Wearing the right kind of gi isn’t so much a matter of etiquette as it is a practical one.
Using your karate gi for this purpose therefore isn’t a wise decision as it’ll probably get ripped, and won’t save you money, and you would probably end up buying a BJJ uniform as well as a new karate gi in the future.
Hi, my name is Godwin. I am a passionate martial artist with black belts in Taekwondo and Karate. I have over 15 years of martial art experience. I created this platform to enable me to help you learn martial art the right way.