Why do we wear white judogis?

We often get asked by new members and visitors “Why do we wear white judogis?” or “Can I wear my blue gi at The Judokai?”

Would you wear a blue judogi to the Kodokan?     The answer is No.  It is disrespectful.

Who are we to criticize others about lack of respect?  We are proudly one of the most irreverent organizations around.  But our irreverence is for those who have forgotten their traditional roots.

The white, or unbleached, judogi is the standard color for members of The Judokai.  The white judogi was chosen first and foremost because it is traditional and it is welcome everywhere.

The blue judogi was introduced simply as a way to help referees tell the difference between competitors in a fast-paced match.  Anton Geesink first suggested the use of the blue judogi during the Maastricht IJF DC meeting in 1986. At that time, no international standards were in place to differentiate two contestants from one another during a match.   In Japan, one contestant would affix a red sash to his belt, which would help to set his opponent and himself apart, but both wore a white judogi. In other competitions, a colored sash was sometimes used as well, but without a standard means by which to distinguish contestants, judges and referees sometimes struggled to make the distinction.

The blue judogi went on to become mandatory at regional and higher level tournaments, although many Japanese practitioners and purists continue to look down on the use of blue judogi.  Unfortunately, this concept trickled down and many competitors were required at times to have BOTH white and blue gis in order to simply compete in small regional and local tournaments.  To make matters worse, the IJF has mandated that judogis must now be “IJF Approved” and have an official IJF seal bearing an ultra violet imprint.  Of course, all of this comes at an additional cost to judoka.

The BJJ crowd is no better, but the problem is the opposite.  The over commercialization and total lack of regulation transformed the traditional kimono/gi into a tacky NASCAR advertisement.  Similarly, kimono prices have skyrocketed too.

We call judoka/jiujitsuka who wear blue gis/kimonos “Smurfs.”  If you show up in a blue gi, we just might start playing “Catch the Smurf.”

“Wait a minute”, you say.  “Don’t you focus on Freestyle Judo at The Judokai?  You are supposed to be a progressive Judo organization.  Right?”

Yes.  Even with our emphasis on tradition, we consider ourselves one of the most progressive Judo organizations around.  Progressiveness does not mean we dress like Power Rangers.  There are plenty of other martial arts organizations out there which do that kind of foolishness.  Better yet, try Comic-Con.

We are very thankful to Steve Scott for creating the Freestyle Judo ruleset and bringing some sanity back into the Judo world.  It is true that IFJA/AAU sanctioned Freestyle Judo events allow any color judogi other than red, because it might hide blood.  This rule opened the door for Judo teams to compete wearing common colored team judogis.  Moreover, Freestyle Judo rules say, if your style of judogi was legal for competition in the 1970s or 1980s, then it is still legal today.

It is for this reason that we give a thumbs-up to anyone who wears a traditional unbleached white judogi.  Besides, the unbleached white judogis are usually less expensive.  If you want your old-school unbleached judogi to look bright white, then train hard, wash it, and repeat.  Soon it will look brand new.

So its time to go Thrift Shopping and dig out that old judogi from the 1980s.  Used judogis are great and cheap.  Most judogis are retired long before they wear out.  As Maklemore would say, “I’m a take your grandpa’s style.”


But you say “My tacky tap-out jitz kimono lets me express my individuality.  I won’t change my gi for anyone.”

No problem.  There are plenty of other expensive clubs where you can go and express your bad taste.  Sayonara.

The Judokai Warriors are a team.  We work together and benefit through camaraderie.  We don’t need prima-donnas, delicate snowflakes, Kool-Aid Drinkers, or tourists.  When visitors see our warriors at our club, on the internet, or attending external events, we want to portray a team image.  We are very inclusive.  If you want to be a Judokai Warrior, simply join our club and wear a white gi — just like everyone else on the team.

There is one big exception to the white judogi rule.  Anyone who is tough enough to wear a pink judogi is not only welcome, but honored, at The Judokai.

Gene LeBell

The Judokai welcomes beginners and experienced grapplers from all backgrounds and skill levels.  We are like-minded individuals who train for fun, fitness, education, and occasional spirited competition.  We are so old school, it’s cool.

If you want to become a Judokai Warrior and train JudoJiu-Jitsu, and Wrestling – the way it ought to be, then grab your white or pink judogi and PLEASE JOIN US at The Judokai.