Martial arts uniforms are a quintessential part of a student or practitioner’s training apparel. The uniform, also known as gi, is usually available in white. However it may also come in other colors. While there are variations in the colors of various martial arts styles, almost all of them are designed to be durable, flexible, and lightweight.
If you’re about to join a karate class, one of the first things you will have to invest in is the uniform.
The karate uniform is called karategi. It is usually made of canvas, and designed to be lightweight and uniform. It is developed from the Judo uniform or judogi which is more fitted and a lot heavier.
It is generally white cotton with a cross over jacket. The upper uniform is called uwagi ad forms a v-neck shaped when it is closed. It matches with the white pants called ‘shibataki’ or ‘zubon.’ Then the uniform is topped by a belt or obi which corresponds to the grading rank of the practitioner.
When shopping for the upper uniform, see to it that there is enough room to rotate the arms, twist the waist, and throw a punch. The jacket must be long enough to pass the waist. There must also be enough jacket skirt material hanging under the belt, thus preventing the jacket from becoming un-tucked over the belt when you perform standard movements like kicks and takedowns.
The sleeve cuffs should finish before the wrists, and not too long to pass over the hands. The left side of the uwagi must be on top of the right side of the jacket, so that its front left lapel would run from the top left to the bottom right.
The white pants or zubon should be designed to allow a lot of leg movement, because you’ll be doing a lot of kicks and diverse stances. You’d like to have pants that have a wider cut and with extra material under the groin area. Correct fitting pants won’t cause restrictions around the groin area when you kick.
The bottom of the pants must just be above the feet. In fact some people want them shorter because this would ensure them that they won’t trip on their pants, or catch any part of the foot inside them. The standard measurement of the bottom of the pants is three to five inches smaller than leg length.
Since you’re a beginner, you will start with a white belt. The belt should be long enough for you to wrap it around your waist twice. It should also hang down at the front end, just near the bottom of the jacket. A belt hanging too far down can get in the way of a kick or takedown.
Material Weight, Cut and Quality
Cotton and polyester are the two main materials used for karategi.
Cotton is the more preferred material although it is also more expensive. One advantage of cotton karategi over polyester karategi is that it more durable. It is also lighter, hence, more comfortable than those made of polyester. It is not uncommon for newbies to use polyester karategi as it is more affordable than cotton.
You’d also have to look at the weight of the karategi. Lightweight karate uniforms are between six to eight ounces, and often worn by children and beginners. The material can be a little thin, which offsets the fact that the material’s weight is good for agility.
Middleweight or light heavy weight uniforms are from 10 to 12 ounces. These are more durable than the lightweight ones and more often used by intermediate students. Even advanced students wear them, especially those who like a slightly lighter type of karategi.
Heavy weight uniforms are from 14 to 16 ounces, made from heavy drill cotton or double weave cotton. These are appropriate for advanced students, and are more durable than the other types.
There are four cuts of karategi—Japanese, European, Kata, and Kumite. The Japanese cut has sorter sleeves and pants but a longer jacket. The Kata is almost the same, although a bit exaggerated. The European and Kumite are the polar opposites, with longer sleeves and pants.
The Kata is often used for sparring, while the Kumite are for competition. The latter’s cuts are also altered depending on the personal preference of the user. Since it is used for competition, Kumite is a lot lighter than the Kata gis.
When purchasing a karate uniform, try it on first so that you can determine whether or not it is a good fit. If you are purchasing online, take your measurements and refer to the online sizing chart.
Bear in mind that your first karate uniform will likely not be your last, so you aren’t really pressured to spend a lot of money. Since you’re just a beginner, you’d rather buy a uniform that is appropriate with your level.