“Empty Gi” is pronounced with a hard E sound: “Empty Gee”
Judo/Jujitsu Fighting Style based on principles of redirecting energy (not true non-resistance, but comparably to other martial arts, more “relaxed”.

The concept of Empty-Gi-Aiki-Judo  as discussed here, in the style of Judo, is comparable to the term Aiki used in martial arts such Aikido, Hapkido and Aiki Jujitsu.








“Ai” can be interpreted as blending or merging.  ”Ki” can be translated as energy.  ”Ju” can be translated as gentle.  ”Do” can be translated as the way.  This is the way of joining or combining with your practice partner or your opponents energy. Different martial arts do this by joining and then using a subsequent action of overtaking the opponent such as throwing, forcing submission, striking, etc., with the overall spirit of neutralizing the attack.

As it is presented here, the concept is utilized in a Judo based approach of omitting strikes and kicks. Judo is the martial art founded by Jigaro Kano in 1882.  He had originally sought out instruction in Jujitsu because of bullying at this school.  He had taken techniques of Jujitsu and modified them (omitting punches and kicks) and emphasized effective throws and submissions in order for a smaller person to be able to neutralize an attack from a larger person.  He founded the Kodokan school in Japan which became very reputable – so much so, that police began training in the art after a fight demonstration between students of the Kodokan against top Jujitsu athletes of Kano’s time.

Kano summarized the spirit of Judo with two guiding principles: maximum efficiency with minimal effort, and mutual welfare and benefit for all. Although Judo is “the gentle way” translated, it can be an aggressive sport.  Some other fighters such as: wrestlers, those into mixed martial arts, and fighters who had emphasized power and strength in the past, have entered Judo tournaments and found success in Judo.

This particular approach of Aiki-Judo allows for those who are older, who may not be in good physical shape, and others who may be seeking a more relaxed approach to find favor in this style, a fighting style that is very effective and equally worthy of respect.


Welcome to the style of “empty gi”! Aiki Judo!


Empty-Gi-Aiki-Judo as a way of life

The Empty-Gi-Aiki-Judo philosophy can be applied to daily life as well as it can in the dojo.

Try not to over-indentify or to “grip too tightly”:   we over-identify with our roles, jobs, athletic ability, hobbies and other life areas.  If we hold on too tightly, we run a big risk, what happens when we lose these things? (when we retire, lose physical ability, lose our jobs, etc.  Hold on, find ways to redefine yourself, but don’t grip too tightly and be willing to (doesn’t mean you will like it) let go when needed.

Giving up the “avoidance and control agenda”:  when we try to control situations, people, and live events that our beyond our control, we end up finding life to be more miserable.  When we push problems under the rug, they often don’t go away, but we end up tripping on them later.  By avoiding what is important to us, and what needs to be faced, we end up suffering later.  Go with the flow, let the energy take you where it needs to go, redirect it, but don’t go against the flow.  Learn when it is better to take yourself out of the driver’s seat of control.

Practice not being too defensive:  when we are too defensive, we lose opportunities.  The person who is humble will be able to see his or her strengths and weaknesses.  Self-esteem takes too much energy to maintain.  Self-acceptance allows us to see and accept all sides of ourselves.  Sometimes it is better not to fight back, but to go in the direction your attacker wants you to go – in order to neutralize the attack.  Remember that the flexible branch sways with the wind, and is pliable when ice is on it, but the stiff branch will break.

Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go:  if you are about to crash into a tree, don’t look at the tree.  Likewise, instead of focusing on what you don’t want in life, focus instead on what is important to you – then move in that direction.  Before engaging in any action that might be destructive, ask yourself, “Will this action get me closer to the people and values that are important to me?”

“So, this sounds good, but what is the practical application of this style?  How do I learn it or use it – in a fight or match?”

Tips on Using the Empty-Gi-Aiki-Judo Style

Think of this style as emphasizing blending, redirecting, and “going with”, as opposed to relying on using muscle power and just fierce aggression.

Note:  There is nothing wrong with using muscle force combined with attacking and nothing wrong with those who use a more offensive and “going against” approach to Judo or Jujitsu – many competitors have great success with those styles (which would include people from a wrestling or MMA background), that is just not the primary approach of this particular style.  

Imagine fighting a empty martial arts uniform.

You notice that as you pull, instead of it resisting, it goes with you.  

You try to throw it, move it, and as you exert a great amount of your energy, you notice that it is as if you are fighting air!  

You get frustrated because it seems to blend with you.  

Then, suddenly as you push, you end up having it pull you, allowing your own force and your own energy to overtake you –

as you go forward, over, and then – you hit the ground – your own force seemingly magnified –

with the result ending in you hitting the ground with a loud thump that jars your bones

– as your back feels the impact of the ground,

– you are looking up at the ceiling wondering how this happened.  

You have just fought an empty gi.  

Perhaps no one can 100% blend or be a complete “empty gi”, but this is what is strived for in this approach.

Another concept that goes with this –  is to conserve energy, to breathe, to avoid wearing yourself out through the over-exertion of your muscles,

and to be able to face opponents larger, younger, and stronger than yourself.

This is a great approach for anyone, but especially those who are older or have health or physical impairments such as arthritis or other degenerative conditions.

From a practitioner/teacher:

I have always been very competitive. However, I have also always been very stiff/rigid.  As I age (yeah, I am getting old) and as I continue to suffer the effects of a movement disorder, these issues of stiffness, rigidity, balance, and endurance – are compounded.  

I was never very athletic and I didn’t do much in terms of exercise until I started Judo in my late 30’s.  

I have learned to try to ignore my inner competitive drive, and instead emphasize that it is more important (for me personally) to be able to breathe, keep balance, and conserve energy than it is to win (especially by brute force).  Most, if not all, of my competitors have been younger, stronger, and more athletic than myself.  This has been an approach that works best for me.

Some additional tips:

  • Practice focusing on your breathing – and not resisting during non-competitive practices (where you are moving with your partner or grip fighting).
  • When your partner pushes: you pull and go with the energy, you can then add some muscle and/or direction change to redirect the energy (usually to a corner while attempting to re-direct your opponents energy towards the ground to off-balance your partner).
  • When your partner pulls you: you increase your partner’s energy (by pushing and using your body to position yourself to throw).
  • Instead of getting a particular throw or move in mind as a set throw, see if your mind can automatically “take what your challenger is giving you” and allow your mind to come up with a throw that is based on the energy direction and your partner’s balance position.
  • This is a more defensive approach, however, you don’t want to be strictly defense in a match, instead –  work toward a goal of combining your opponents energy (with the proper timing) in order to perform a throw which magnifies your opponents energy, which works against his or her balance and additionally combines his or her energy with yours, in order for “you” to throw him or her.
  • Use “relaxed grips” instead of clinging to a uniform or jacket.  Try to use your hands and knees to block an opponents hip.
  • If you are having difficulty utilizing this approach, ask your sensei or coach to teach you (and work with you on) counter throws and sacrifice throws.  These are not the only throws you need to work on, nor the only throws used in the “empty gi” style, yet learning to be effective with these counters and sacrifice throws, may be of great benefit while you are learning to apply the concepts of this approach.

Is this style for me?

Find a martial arts style that matches who you “are” and what your goals are.  If you are wanting the martial arts style that will make everyone fear you, or make you practically invincible, or one that allows you to “kick anyone’s ass”, then this might not be the place for you.  Not that the style is ineffective or that it can’t be used in self-defense applications.  The intent and the spirit of this style is not to destroy someone, nor kill someone.

If you conduct yourself in a manner that doesn’t provoke others, you may find that there may not be a need to use martial arts in a self-defensive way.  However, there are those out there that do wrong to innocent people, and having the ability to protect yourself can be life-saving. Defensive moves can subdue an attacker.  You can break bones and it is even possible to severely injure someone with this style.

However, going back to the spirit of this martial art style, it is not an attacking, kick butt, and show everyone in the room that you are the baddest person on the planet type style.

Some people can’t wait to become proficient in a martial arts style so that they can injure others.  Even if you knock out the drunk that was screaming at you, be prepared to face some potential lawsuit. Those looking for trouble always find it.  Also keep in mind, no fighter can win against everyone, nor in every possible situation – there is always someone out there who can beat you down.

Ask yourself:

Do you really want the most dangerous and aggressive style?

Do you really want to harm others?

Are you looking to be the next MMA (mixed martial arts) or UFC (Ulimate Fighting Championship) title holder?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then you may want to consider another style of martial art.

The best martial art – is the one that works best for you, giving you what you need to succeed and one that matches best with your values.

Updated March 30, 2016

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