Do Gi Colors Matter in BJJ?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in current times has a great variety of colors and patterns available for its students. With such a variety of colors and the presence of belt ranks that are based on colors, it can be a little bit confusing for newcomers to understand the norms for BJJ gi uniform colors.

For most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools gi colors do not matter. Some schools might have norms and expectations of certain colors like white gis or blue gis due to tradition and uniformity for their school or organization, but gi colors do not indicate rank or anything other than gi color preferences.

Let’s go over some of the factors that might play in regards to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gi norms for colors and other related concerns about the uniform.

Does a BJJ Gi Color Indicate Rank?

The color of a BJJ gi does not indicate rank. The only thing that can indicate a student’s rank is their belt color. Some schools restrict white belts to certain gi colors like white or blue for uniformity in their ranks, but this is not common and does not correlate to belt rank in most schools.

Different academies and organizations may have different guidelines regarding what color belt a student is wearing and what rank that student holds. However different the expectations at belt rankings may be doesn’t really play a role in the fact that grading only changes the color of a belt.

There is no universal standard when it comes to awarding belts. Some more modern martial artists believe that belt color doesn’t matter and that the only thing that matters is your level of skill and performance. These students usually lean more towards combat sports like MMA and wrestling. 

Most BJJ schools use a traditional belt system to show progress and expertise, with belt colors changing, but leaving gi choices up to their students. Keep in mind that some schools will have standardized uniform expectations of particular colors, and it is a good idea to follow their norms out of respect.

Why Is a BJJ Gi Traditionally White?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was built using Judo as a base, and for martial arts that are derived from Japanese martial arts like Judo, the gi color is traditionally white. This is done because in that culture the color white symbolizes purity and truth, reflected in that it is the only garment worn to training.

Due to its cultural origins from its parent martial art Judo, it is not a coincidence that the traditional uniform for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is also white. White color is also a sign of respect and honor in Judo.

Another theory is that the white color can be seen more clearly during competitions, making it easier for referees to make calls, especially if the other athlete is wearing a blue gi, which is the other traditional color that started being commonly used when competitions became more widespread for martial arts, specifically Judo.

While the traditional color for a gi is white, there’s nothing specific being represented by it in modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You’ll see people wearing all sorts of different colors these days, and it’s really now up to a personal preference for most BJJ athletes.

Can I Wear a Blue Gi as a White Belt?

You can wear a blue gi as a white belt. The color of the gi in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu holds no particular significance and does not indicate rank the way that belt color does. Traditional BJJ schools may still require their students to stick to white gis or blue gis for uniformity.

Some competitions may have gi color standards, but these are pretty rare in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Generally speaking, you can wear whatever color gi you want as long as you follow the other standards like uniform lengths and proper placement of patches sewn into the gi. 

Does an Offical Belt Ranking System Exist for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

There is not a unified ranking system used by all BJJ schools in an overarching organization which can be seen in martial arts like Judo. However, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools almost exclusively follow a belt ranking system that goes from white belt to black belt even if standards can differ.

In terms of ranking systems for individual athletes on a larger scale, some unofficial ranking systems have been created by websites and magazines. These ranking systems are not recognized by everyone in the BJJ community and are quite subjective, but they can give some people an idea of where they stand in relation to other practitioners.

What Are the Rules for a BJJ Uniform?

In competition, uniforms must be of certain lengths, free of holes, and be clean. Some tournaments also require certain gi colors in their rules. For regular training, having a uniform that is clean and free of holes is standard for both hygiene and safety purposes.

The only time that the gi color really matters in competition is when two athletes are competing, and one of them has a gi with a similar color to the mats or they have the same gi color on. In those cases, the referee may ask them to change their gi before the match. 

Some schools use the traditional color—like all-white gis—but BJJ athletes can wear whatever color they want for the most part.

For a good all-around gi that is suitable for most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools choose a high-quality white gi like this one on Amazon that is already pre-shrunk and light-weight so it is comfortable to use in all temperatures.

In terms of norms for training, it is quite important for BJJ students to make sure that they have a clean gi that is free of holes. Clean gis means less chance of mat disease, and it is just disrespectful to be unclean with your training partners. Being free of holes reduces the chances of getting fingers and toes caught in a gi and having unneeded injuries happen like broken digits.

If you want to know how to properly care for your BJJ gi check out my post How To Wash and Dry Your BJJ Gi | The Complete Guide

Do All BJJ Athletes Wear a Gi?

Not all BJJ athletes wear a gi in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In fact, many schools and instructors primarily or exclusively train no-gi jiu-jitsu. However, in a gi class, it is important to wear your uniform just so that everybody can be on the same page with grappling rounds and training techniques.

Training both in and out of a gi is valuable, but you should follow the standards of the class that you are attending whenever possible.

If you are interested in learning about whether or not you should be choosing a gi class or a no-gi class for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu check out my post Should I Do Gi BJJ or No-Gi BJJ? | To Gi or Not to Gi.

Final Thoughts

While wearing specific gi colors does not symbolize anything in particular when you are training in modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it is a good idea to follow whatever the standards for gi colors are in your home BJJ school and respect their norms and traditions.

If you are looking to have a gi that is suitable for most BJJ schools or you frequently travel to other locations, picking up a good white gi is usually the best option.

For more check out Do Rash Guards Matter in BJJ?


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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