Karate Gi – The formal uniform used by practitioners who train in the art of Karate Do. The uniform was also adopted by other martial arts with minor changes to the way it looks or the color (most commonly color).
History of Karate Gi – The first martial arts dogi (training uniform) was invented by Jigaro Kano, the founder of Judo. Judo practitioners were the first ones to use a training uniform, as before that martial artist used to practice in their everyday clothes. Funakoshi Sensei, who was a really good friend with Jigaro Kano adopted the uniform (along with the belt system) and later on adapt it to better fit the needs of Karate practitioners. Being very similar with the Judp Gi, the Karate uniform uses lighter material and a looser fitting. While the heaviest of the Karate Gi is made from 16 oz material, the lightest Judo Gi is made from 35 oz material, thus being much heavier than the Karate uniform.
It is said that during Funakoshi’s demonstration at the Kudokan he still where a traditional Judo Gi”
Because of the nature of Karate training which emphasizes striking, kicking and a more limited range of standing throws compared to Judo, the Karate Gi evolved in a manner that maximizes mobility and speed without using the thick and strong fabric that is required for grappling and throws found in Judo. They are made from smooth cotton which may be brushed or ribbed for unrestricted movement and added comfort. Reinforced stitching is common, as to compensate for the stresses put on the gi.
Evolution of the Karate Gi
As time passed and Karate tournaments got more popular new types of Karate Gi appeared. Manufactures started developing new uniforms special for Kata and Kumite tournaments only. Kata Karate Gi are much heavier then everyday training uniforms, have a shaper look and produce loud sounds when executing different techniques. On the other hand, the Kumite version of the Karate Gi is much lighter and looser in order to get more freedom.
Different styles of Karate have slightly different uniforms though all share the same basic design, differing only in the lengths of sleeves, legs and the skirt of the uwagi (jacket)
Parts of Karate Gi
Uagi – Jacket
Eri – Lapel
Sode – Sleeve
Sodeguchi – Armhole
Shita – Jacket bottom trim
Zubon – Pants
Popular Karate Gi
While prices for Karate Gi starts from $ 20 for beginner uniforms, high quality uniform can get up to $ 300 – 400. Some of the best manufacturers on the market are: Shureido, Hirota, Tokaido, Tokyodo.
Shureido – This Gi is made in Okinawa and is very popular among Okinawan Karate styles practitioners. They offer a very large selection of uniforms using both traditional and tournament cut. It is said that this is the cream of the Karate uniforms for Goju-ryu practitioners, with some Shotokan practitioners also using this uniform.
Hirota – The best Karate Gi made on Japan, this is the most popular and used Shotokan Gi on the market. Their most populat products being Hirota MH11 and Pinack for Kata.
Tokiado – One of the oldest Gi on the market. The JKA help this Gi become popular in the past, especially among Shotokan, however over the last years they switch to Hirota. Just like Shureido, Tokaido offer a large selection of uniforms from everyday training to Kumite and Kata specific Gi, having both traditional and tournament cut. Tokaido opened another fabric in China, and it is said that those Gi does not have the same quality as those made in Japan.
Tokyodo – Very popular in Japan, Tokyodo offer good quality product at best prices possible. I personally own a Tokyodo Samurai and I must say is the most comfortable uniform I had. It is light, looks sharp, has good snap and at the same time is very soft. I totally recommend this uniform to everyone who wants a comfortable uniform for everyday training.