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Monday, April 29, 2013

A Blue Wave Hits Japan

In the late 1980's a Dutch man by the name of Anton Geesik suggested that a blue uniform or keiko-gi 「稽古着」 be used in Judo competitions. Most likely this suggestion was to increase the efficiency of judging and to create a better experience for spectators. Many people found this suggestion to be an insulting blow to tradition. Others saw it as a logical progression for the growth of Judo as a sporting event.

This morning I sat down at my desk to mark several papers on this topic. The papers were written by Japanese High School students. They had been given a brief introduction to the contentious topic of the Blue Judo-gi. The information was framed as an East V.S. West dichotomy. A dichotomy that is often grossly oversimplified. Stating that Europeans believed the blue uniform should be accepted whereas the Japanese were opposed.

They were asked to write a page explaining what side of this argument they agreed with. The students who felt only white uniforms should be used argued white uniforms symbolize purity and are the result of long standing traditions that should not be broken. They also argued that maintaining such traditions, both in and outside of Japan, can act as a starting point for deeper exploration of foreign cultures and histories. One student simply felt the blue uniforms looked clumsy.

Those who were more accepting of the use of blue uniforms argued that Judo has evolved to such a point that it can no longer be seen as a strictly Japanese tradition.  Some felt the differences between Eastern and Western thinking were far too great for compromise and there for each group should be left to do as it pleases. Others argued that the use of a blue uniform aided in the accurate judging of Judo matches. One student, though open to the use of blue uniforms, felt that they should only be acceptable in the competitive arena.

Japan is often seen as a very insular, tradition bound place. One which is so rigid that you can't even add cheese to your avocado burger. I mean since when cant you add cheese to a burger, just charge me an extra 50¥ Freshness Burger. Burger politics aside, based on this small selection of articles in which 65% were open to the use of blue uniforms, whereas only 35% were ridge in keeping with tradition,  it seems that younger generations may not feel as bound by tradition as older generations have or they are at least a lot more open to the possibilities of deviations.

I myself like to keep it simple. When I teach Karate I recommend my students only use white uniforms. However if they really wanted to be authentic I guess I should suggest loin cloths. When it comes to Judo I must admit I have considered picking up a blue Judo Gi on more than one occasion. This is mostly because I think it would be easier to keep clean

*I personally think this one looks pretty slick though it may not last on the mats.

What do you think?

Should the blue uniforms be openly accepted, should they be kept to the side and only used for competition, or should judo embrace the decadent race car styled uniforms that are becoming more and more popular in BJJ circles? Or this....


  1. I'm on my way to Japan soon and am trying to decide whether to bring my blue gi or my white gi. I prefer the blue, but in a dojo setting will I be frowned at for using it? I'm a blackbelt in Judo.

    1. Hello Daft

      I would recommend you take your white gi. I have never seen any one wear a blue gi in Japan especially not when training. That being said you may get away with it because you are foreign and the Japanese can be very accommodating, however the Judo-ka maybe less accommodating than your average bear.

      So unless you are rather confident in your Judo and are not worried about getting smashed about to prove your self I would recommend sticking to white. Also some clubs may flat out turn you away if you bring a blue gi. Putting a bad taste in every ones mouth and leaving you with no choice but to buy a new gi. Blue gi's may go over a little better if you train at a shooto club.