We hope everyone reading this help section is happy and in good health!
Here at Ikken Sports we often come across customers and new karate practitioners alike who have difficulty in choosing the right karate uniform.
So we've built this easy to read guide to help everyone choose the perfect karate uniform!
- Uniform Types
- Fabric, Weight & Price
- Sizing Advice
- Uniform Care
Karate uniforms are usually referred to as 'Karate Gi' which is derived from 'Keikogi' or 'Dogi' which are uniforms used in Japanese martial arts. Originally karate had no formal uniform and was practiced in Okinawa in everyday wear. As karate expanded to the Japanese mainland there was a need to make karate (which originated from Okinawa) more palatable to the Japanese. To help Gichin Funakoshi (the founder of shotokan karate) introduced a modified version of the judo gi.
So what is the karate gi actually made up of?
Jacket (uwagi) - This is the top half of your standard karate uniform. It is a white cross-over jacket with lapels (eri) that forms a V neck when worn. Some jackets may also have straps that are tied to keep the jacket in place.
Pants (zubon) - This is the bottom half of your karate uniform. Karate pants will usually come either elasticated or with a drawstring at the waist.
Belt (obi) - The belt is always wrapped just below the waist and tied into a firm knot. It is designed to keep the jacket firmly in place during training and also indicates the experience of the practitioner.
When you purchase a karate gi for the first time expect to see a jacket (uwagi), pants (zubon) and white belt (obi). Most higher quality karate gi though will only come with a jacket and pants.
As you can imagine there are many types of karate uniforms available. Choosing a type and cut of uniform is the first step in being able to choose the perfect karate uniform!
To begin with there are three general types of karate gi available. We've made a list below detailing the features of each of the uniforms:
Full Contact Karate Gi
- Short sleeves (ends a few inches below the elbow).
- No jacket straps (to keep the jacket in place).
- Wider jacket and pants (to allow more room for movement).
- Common in full contact karate styles only like Kyokushin, Ashihara, Enshin, Seidokaikan and Shidokan.
Japanese Cut Gi
- More of a tailored fit.
- Shorter sleeves (a few inches above the wrist).
- Jacket straps (keeps jacket in place).
- Average jacket length.
- Shorter pants length (ends a few inches above ankles).
- Common in all karate styles like Shotokan, Shorin-ryu, Goju-ryu, Wado-ryu, Uechi-ryu except full contact karate styles.
European Cut Gi
- More of a loose fit.
- Longer sleeves than 'Japanese Cut Gi'
- Jacket straps.
- Longer/wider jacket and pants.
- Common in all karate styles except full contact karate styles.
The type of uniform you choose will depend on the style of karate you practice.
Generally with most styles of karate you can choose either a European or Japanese cut gi. It totally depends on whatever you are most comfortable with or what options are available under your budget.
Unless you do a full contact karate style you will only have to choose between either a European or Japanese cut gi.
If you're not sure about the style of karate you practice either ask your instructor or check out what other students in class are wearing.
Fabric, Weight & Price
The next step is finding the right fabric and weight of your uniform. This will depend on your budget, usage and your own preferences.
But first let's talk about what is on offer.
To begin with there are two main materials used in the construction of karate uniforms; cotton and poly-cotton. There are newer materials like bamboo, hemp etc however these aren't as common. Depending on the brand, the type of cotton and composition of poly-cotton will differ. Generally speaking:
- Less creasing in fabric and easier to care for.
- Very durable.
- Some moisture wicking properties.
- Not as comfortable as cotton
- Extremely comfortable to wear.
- More Expensive.
- Natural Fiber.
- Cooler in hot weather.
- Extremely Durable
- Requires proper care.
Karate uniforms are also available in differing fabric weights (measured in oz). Broadly speaking these uniforms can be categorized as either lightweight, medium-weight or heavyweight and each offers slightly different pros/cons:
|6oz - 8oz
|Ideal for all experience levels
|Great for sparring
|9oz - 10oz
|Ideal for all experience levels
|All round performance
|12oz - 14oz
|Ideal for intermediate and experienced
|Great for kata/forms.
Now we have that out of the way. Your uniform choice will be influenced by (a) usage, (b) preference and (c) budget.
How often will you use your karate uniform? Are you a beginner, intermediate or experienced? Do you see yourself sticking with karate training for the long term?
How much can you afford to spend on a karate uniform?
Prices can vary significantly from brand to brand. Most high end karate uniforms can cost in excess of £250 whereas more inexpensive uniforms can cost around £25.
Regardless of whatever brand you choose to purchase - if you have aspirations to train medium to long term regardless of your experience level it makes sense to invest more money in your uniform so that you get 'more bang for your buck.'
If you're not sure about where training will take you it makes sense not to invest as much in your karate uniform and perhaps purchase something inexpensive until you're sure about your commitment to training.
Always use a sizing chart to help you choose the perfect fit. If no size chart is available sizes are usually by height, so choose the appropriate height.
The most frequent problem we've encountered here at IKKEN SPORTS is customers overestimating or underestimating their heights. It's insanely common for people to assume they are taller than they actually are.
Always take some time to measure yourself properly before purchasing a uniform. It will save you time, money and get you the best fit for your money.
If you have a lean build for your height - you can always experiment by purchasing the size down from your height as this can sometimes be the better fit.
If possible take the time to measure your proportions and check out the sizing chart if it's available (depending on the brand you're buying) to select the best fitting uniform for you.
It's normal for martial arts uniforms to shrink slightly after the first initial wash. Usually this shrinkage is around 5% - so remember to take account of this when choosing your uniform.
Uniform care will depend on the fabric and weight of your uniform. These are our tips for ensuring your uniform remains in excellent condition day in day out:
- Always remember to wash your uniform directly after training.
- Avoid washing your uniform with any clothing that isn't white!
- We recommend a 30 degrees celsius wash for heavy uniforms (10oz to 16oz) and a 40 degrees wash for lighter uniforms (under 10oz).
- If you use a 30 degrees wash we encourage the use of a sports or antibacterial laundry detergent to kill any bacteria on your uniform from sweat during training.
- Do not bleach uniforms.
- Always allow uniforms of all types to dry naturally to avoid shrinkage.
- To insure uniform longevity always iron your gi inside out.
There is a common myth in Karate circles that you should never wash your belt. This is nonsense! Sweat and bacteria inevitably make their way on to your belt.
If you'd like to wash your belt - for best results we recommend soaking it in warm water (around 30 degrees celsius) with antibacterial laundry detergent. Allow your belt to soak for about 15 to 30 minutes. Then allow to dry naturally.
Avoid washing your belt in a machine or at a high temperature. It will bleed colour as dye seeps out of the fabric and will destroy the durability of the fibers and felt in your belt. What you will get over time is a ruined belt.