Woman sitting on a Jiu Jitsu mat

What to Wear to Jiu Jitsu Class

So you want to try Jiu Jitsu…what should you wear to your first class? In this article I’ll go over everything you need to know from what to wear under a gi to what you should definitely NOT wear to a class.

The Jiu Jitsu Gi

The first thing you need to determine before attending a Jiu Jitsu class is whether it’s a Gi or NoGi Jiu Jitsu class. A gi (pronounced like “ghee”) is a martial arts uniform based on the style of clothing that was popular in east Asia in the early 1900’s, when many of the traditional martial arts were developed.

The Gi consists of a jacket (kimono) that looks sort of like a short bathrobe and a pair of baggy pants that are fastened with a drawstring. A martial arts belt is used to hold the jacket closed. (Learn how to tie the belt here.)

What to Wear if You Don’t Have a Gi

If you don’t already own a gi, they gym you’re visiting may have one you can borrow or rent, or some gyms may allow you to train in exercise clothes for your first few classes until you are able to purchase a gi.

What to Wear Under a Gi

What should you wear under your gi? This isn’t a stupid question; I definitely wondered the same thing when I first started training martial arts.

What you wear under your gi pants is really up to you. Many people choose to wear spats or leggings to make it easy to put their gi on over their clothes. I personally find it more comfortable to wear only underwear, usually in a solid color like black that won’t draw attention if my pants slip down. I have seen some lace thongs reveal themselves during Jiu Jitsu class, and while you won’t receive any judgement from me for that choice, it may not be a look you want to go for intentionally.

Under the gi top, you should wear some type of shirt. Many people choose a rash guard, but a t-shirt or tank top will work just fine. I would recommend a type of shirt with a high neckline that’s fitted rather than loose and flowy. Some men do train with nothing but their bare chest under the jacket of their gi, and some women choose to wear only a sports bra underneath, but personally I feel this is inconsiderate of one’s training partner since so often our hands end up on each other’s chests, and shoving my hand into someone’s sweaty chest hair or cleavage is not my favorite. Yes, you will get hot, but you get hot wearing a gi regardless of what you’re wearing underneath. Also, some gyms require a shirt of some type to be worn under the gi top. So please, just put on a shirt.

What to Wear to a No Gi Class

Standard attire for a NoGi class is a rash guard (fitted workout shirt with either long or short sleeves) and either grappling shorts or spats.

Grappling shorts are loose shorts that typically have a more fitted liner, although I will admit I have seen some testicles poking out of grappling shorts while their owner was performing some complicated inversions. Again, no judgement, but that would not be my choice! Spats are kind of like leggings…in fact, I don’t really know the difference between spats and leggings, except that spats don’t have pockets, and they can be short or long. Leggings are perfectly fine to wear as long as they don’t have zippers, holes, pockets or anything that could scratch your training partner or catch a finger or toe.

It can be really fun to invest in NoGi attire to match your personality (check out Helena Crevar’s Instagram profile to see what I mean), but in the short term, you will be just fine wearing a pair of leggings or workout shorts (again, no pockets please) and a fitted t-shirt. If you are uncomfortable wearing only leggings, you could wear workout shorts over your leggings, which is actually fairly common.

Spats and Rash Guard from WickedRose.com
Matching spats and rash guard from WickedRose.com

What to Wear to a Street Clothes BJJ Class

A trend I’ve seen more recently is for gyms to host an occasional “street clothes open mat” where participants wear street clothes to practice fighting someone wearing the type of clothing that would be more realistic for a self-defense scenario. If you attend a class like this, you should still avoid wearing anything with zippers or buckles, as these could scratch the mat and/or injure your training partner.

What NOT to wear to a Jiu Jitsu Class

Almost as important as knowing what TO wear to a BJJ class is knowing what NOT to wear. Here’s a list of things you should definitely avoid wearing for training:

  • Jewelry. If you have piercings you absolutely cannot remove, you should cover them with athletic tape so they don’t get caught and injure you or your training partner.
  • Socks. We remove our socks before stepping onto the mat because bare feet give us better traction. Also, no one wants to grab someone’s socks when going for an ankle lock.
  • Perfume. We train in close proximity, so please don’t wear any scents that your training partners might be sensitive or even allergic to. (Please DO wear deodorant, though!)
  • Heavy makeup. Washing foundation smudges out of my white gi is not my favorite.
  • Long fingernails. Again, this is a safety issue when hands are constantly flailing near faces.
  • Loose clothing. It can be frustrating to for your training partners to get their hands caught in your t-shirt or their foot stuck in your shorts. However, if you’re just starting out, we can work with this and would rather you show up and give BJJ a try rather than stay home because you don’t have the right clothing.
  • The wrong color gi. Some Jiu Jitsu schools require students to wear a specific color of gi. For example, Six Blades Jiu Jitsu requires only white gi’s. Be sure to check with the gym where you’re training to see if they have any rules about gi color before you purchase a new gi or show up to class in a gi you already own.
  • A black belt. (Unless, of course, you’re actually a black belt!) I know this probably seems silly to mention, but I have actually known of beginners who picked out a belt color they thought was pretty instead of the white belt all new martial arts students must wear.

Hopefully I’ve given you a good idea of what to expect and how to feel more prepared for attending a Jiu Jitsu class! See you on the mats! 🙂

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