One of the most iconic parts of karate is the white dress and the different colored belts at waist-height. This white (or sometimes black) dress is called the gi. In this article, we will try to summarize everything you need to know about the karate gi, its origin, fit, function, and a lot more. If you are thinking about starting karate, you are definitely interested in the traditional outfit of the martial arts masters. Not only will we dive into the information around the gi, but we also have a couple of recommendations if you are interested in actually buying one, and instructions on how to handle them, so read on if you are curious!
If you need any other piece of equipment for Karate, check out the rest of our articles:
What is the Best Karate Gi?
1. Ronin Karate Gi – Best Overall
We chose the Ronin Karate Gi – Lightweight Student Karate Uniform as the best karate gi overall. It has decent quality, which isn’t like a traditional hand-made Japanese gi but will hold its ground for possibly years to come. It is reasonably priced, with the price being around 30-40 USD, depending on the size and color you choose.
Our colleague, who has been actively training karate for almost 4 years now, has tried this gi. We agreed that he would wear this gi for one week of training, which he did, and he came back with his opinion. Since he has been training for almost 4 years and is really enthusiastic, not long ago he bought an authentic Japanese gi, and he said that in comparison to that, it clearly didn’t feel too good of a product. However, for anyone moderately interested or starting out in karate, it is perfect. His range of motion was not limited, jumping, kicking, striking, and defending all went easily enough. He said that he would totally recommend it to anyone who isn’t yet a professional but wants a decent, well-priced product. Check out this link on Amazon if you are interested!
2. Hawk Sports Karate Uniform – Budget Pick
We also wanted to find an option for someone who isn’t necessarily taking karate all that seriously, but would still want a gi of decent quality. Our choice is the Hawk Sports Karate Uniform, which comes at an amazingly low price, and is still a good-quality, long-lasting gi which you can use in training. It comes at the low cost of 20 dollars plus shipping, which is clearly dependant on where you are ordering it from.
We ended up ordering one of these as well, and though the fit wasn’t as good as with the previous one, since the pants were a little too long and the sleeves of the top a little too short, but according to our colleague, it is also a perfectly reasonable option for any beginner. Clearly, seeing as it is a budget option, it will not be anywhere as good as an authentic Japanese gi or even the one we mentioned before, but for anyone who isn’t sure about their long-term plans with karate, it is a perfect option, since you won’t need to spend a lot of money to try yourself out in karate and enjoy the karate experience. Check it out on this link if you are interested!
3. MACS Professional Kimono – The Heavyweight Gi
Though most karate practice, sparring, and tournaments (Kumite direction) require a lightweight gi, the Kata direction, or the “form” direction is one in which heavyweight gis are usually used. If you are in need of a heavyweight gi, the MACS Professional Kimono – Heavyweight Karate Canvas Uniform is your best bet available on Amazon.
Our colleague naturally tested this one as well, and his conclusion was that it is exactly what it claims to be: a good Kata gi. It isn’t ideal for sparring or practicing large, agile movements with speed, mostly due to its heavyweight, but for the Kata practice, it is perfect. The weight gives it that serious feel which adds to the atmosphere of a Kata demonstration, and the build is just right if one wants to practice the Katas without being interrupted by their gi. Check it out on this link if you are interested!
4. Elite Sports Kids Karate Gi – Best for Children
When mentioning the best gis, one must also mention the best ones for children, since they make up a large group of karate practitioners worldwide. So for this reason, we have also chosen the best children’s uniform, which is the Elite Sports Kids Karate Gi. It is available on Amazon for about 25 bucks, which makes it a really affordable, but a high-quality product.
The same colleague we were talking about earlier has a son who also trains karate, in the same dojo as our colleague, and we asked them to test the product, to see if it fits him well, whether he likes it, etc. He trained in it for a week as well, and actually switched to using it in the long-term since he liked it so much. He said that the material feels better than on his previous gi and that it is more comfortable as well. The only complaint they had was that they had to shorten the pants somewhat since it was longer than expected, but aside from that, it exceeded expectations. Check it out on Amazon on this link!
5. Tiger Claw 6 Oz Essential – Amazon’s Choice
The Tiger Claw 6 Oz Essential Karate Uniform is Amazon’s choice when it comes to martial arts/karate uniforms. There is a wide range of sizes you can order, and it is a really affordable option. The lower price doesn’t compromise the product quality, however, it is a traditional karate outfit, except for the fact that it is made from part polyester. The Tiger Claw Essential Karate Uniform comes at a price of around 20 USD, plus-minus 5 or 6 dollars, depending on the size in which you want to order your gi.
We didn’t test this product for as long as the others, since testing all these gis for a week apiece would mean writing this article would’ve taken a long time, but our colleague did test it out for two consecutive training sessions, to totally solidify his opinion. After the testing was over, he told us his thoughts on the gi. He said that this gi is one of the best all-round options, it fits him well, there was no need to trim it anywhere, mobility was not an issue at all, it was tough and sturdy enough for the wear and tear of karate. The only complaint he had was about the fact that it isn’t 100% cotton, since that would be the standard for any karate gi. Aside from that, it is one of the best products available for the price. Check out this link to Amazon if you are interested!
6. Ronin Brand – Super Heavyweight Gi
When talking about the different types of gis, as we have touched on before, there are three main types: lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight. These are used in different scenarios and by different people, since the given scenarios require different material thickness, sturdiness, etc. Then, there is the super heavyweight gi. The Ronin Brand Karate Gi – Super Heavyweight is the one we chose for this category. As it is, this weight class of gi costs quite a lot more compared to other, standard gis. The price it is listed for is around 110 USD.
Super heavyweight and heavyweight, in general, is usually used for Kata or for demonstration, perhaps in tournaments. The reason for this is the general structure, the feeling of seriousness that comes with wearing a gi which isn’t wrinkly, soft, and flexible. It is like wearing a tuxedo to an event instead of a t-shirt, mostly for formal reasons. if you are looking for the best super heavyweight option, we recommend the Ronin Brand Karate Gi, which you can check out on this link to Amazon!
Our colleague actually wears this very gi around once every week, when in their dojo they have a special, traditional kata class. It has served him for a long time, ad he is totally pleased with both the quality and the durability of the gi. Along the lines of his review, we recommend this gi for anyone who takes karate seriously.
7. Adidas Karate Uniform
If you are looking for a gi, but you don’t trust companies you haven’t heard of, the Adidas karate uniform might be your best bet. It is a high-quality uniform, made by a reliable company, so you cannot go wrong with it.
The testing went just as it should: everything went fine, mobility was perfect, durability, build, and structure all performed well. the only problem is that it is made of 70% polyester and only 30% cotton, which many people, like our colleague might dislike. However, if you don’t care too much about whether it is made of cotton or not, check out this link to Amazon to take a look at this product!
8. All Black Open Martial Arts Uniform – The Flair Gi
Another Adidas product, the All Black Open Martial Arts Uniform is the best option who likes to feel like a million bucks. It has a sleek black design with golden-colored Adidas signs all over it. What’s more, it outperforms our previously mentioned Adidas product not only in the style compartment but also in the material quality area. it is made of 55 percent cotton and 45 percent polyester, which isn’t the best option, it isn’t traditional, but it definitely is good enough and very functional.
We were quick to order one of these for our colleague since he does like items and clothing which have a luxurious or fancy feel. The first thing he praised was obviously the looks of the thing, it truly looks quite unique and distinct from the standard gis, even the black ones. He wore it a couple of times but switched back to his white gi since his dojo is a pretty traditional one, where such gis aren’t too welcome. However, on those couple of occasions when he wore it, he said he felt amazing. The fit, style, and overall aesthetics, the mobility, everything was on point. If you are interested, here is the link to Amazon, and you can get it from anywhere between 50 and 90 dollars, depending on the size.
9. Tiger Claw 6 Oz Essential – Taekwondo Gi
Though taekwondo and karate are separate martial arts from different parts of the world, many people often think that taekwondo is a sub-type of karate. For this reason, we think it is only useful if we include a good quality taekwondo uniform in this review as well since many of you might be training it instead of karate.
The difference is mostly in the v-neck. The taekwondo uniform is not separated and open at the front, rather it is like a v-necked t-shirt. The Tiger Claw 6 Oz Essential Tae Kwon Do Uniform is the one we would recommend if you are starting out on your taekwondo journey since it comes at the low price of 13 to 25 dollars depending on size but is still good quality.
We ordered one to try it on and test it, though none of us actually trains Taekwondo. It is a good, high-quality product, with a good feel and great mobility, so if this is what you are into, or if you think of switching to taekwondo from karate, this gi is for you. Check it out on Amazon by clicking on this link!
10. Seishin Premium Women’s White – Women’s Premium Gi
Seishin gis are some of the best in the world. They are originals from Okinawa, and now on Amazon, a women’s Seishin Premium Women’s White Karate Gi is available. This gi is approved by the WKF and really has unparalleled quality. It is 100 % cotton fiber and is engineered to look heavy but feel really light.
The price is somewhat steep, since one of these costs around 250 dollars. However, you will be getting a very high-quality product. A female friend of our colleague owns one of these. She bought it before her Shodan exam, so she could take the exam in a gi she felt proud in. There are no cons to this product aside from the price, so if you are serious about karate, this is the one you should be looking for. Click here to check it out on Amazon!
What Do You Call a Karate Uniform?
A karate uniform is called a karategi, usually called a gi. It originates from the judogi or the gi used for practicing judo. The judogi was developed by Kano Jigoro, the founder of judo. He knew he needed to develop a uniform for his students that would be able to withstand all the throws, clinches, and holds present in Judo, so he took inspiration from other traditional Japanese clothing to make the gi. The judogi, though it has changed somewhat over the years, is made up of a very heavy top part or vest, also called uwagi, pants which are called shibataki or zubon, and a belt called obi.
Traditionally, karate practitioners also wore the judogi to train, with sources saying that Gichin Funakoshi, considered the father of modern karate (the Shotokan style), showed up in a judogi when he was asked to perform his demonstration in the Kodokan, Tokyo. However, since Judo is based on grappling and throws, whereas karate is based on striking and large, agile movement, the design of the judogi was slowly changed and morphed into what we now know as the karategi. It had reinforced stitching but in different places than the judogi did, since the range of motion is much different. It is also a lot thinner and lighter, in order to aid with movement and speed.
Why Do You Wear a Gi in Karate?
Wearing a gi isn’t mandatory because it looks cool or for any other external purpose. It is among the most comfortable, safe, and useful clothing one can wear for karate training and is also a sign of respect for the founders and masters of the art.
Wearing a gi is also like wearing a police uniform or military outfit. It doesn’t only establish to the external viewer that the given person is a policeman, soldier, or karateka, it is also very important for the one wearing the outfit. One of the reasons Jigoro Kano designed the gi in the first place was for his students and the instructors as well to have a sense of unity, of confidence in the group. There are multiple reasons why this is beneficial, which people knew long before the advent of psychology which came to explain the phenomenon. The sense of unity makes it less likely for students to stop training or to slack on training, they will feel like it forms a part of their identity and they will be more willing to take on and fit into the hierarchical system of karate.
Aside from the clear psychological effects, there are practical reasons as well as to why the gi is recommended or more often, necessary in karate training. It provides maximum comfort, it hugs the body and if worn properly, there are no parts of it that could cause injury or some sort of an accident. Typical training pants, sweatpants, and such usually have pockets, while t-shirts are just not as safe as the uwagi. Of course, there are MMA-type pants and shirts, which are tight-fit and are designed for the best training experience, but not everyone has the chance or financial means necessary to buy those. The uwagi is somewhat like a blazer, it is open on the front and the two pieces overlap in front. It is held together firmly by a belt, but not too firm, since arms and legs can easily get stuck in the uwagi’s collar part, which just means that it will open, but nobody will get hurt and no piece of clothing will be torn. A similar situation with a t-shirt can easily go sideways.
What Size Karate Gi Should I Buy?
So now you have probably decided you want to go train karate and also want to buy a gi. The problem is, you have no idea how to interpret the sizes available. In this part of the article, we will give you a couple of tips on how to choose the right size and fit for you!
Rule number 1 when buying a karate gi and choosing the size is that you should absolutely never just rely on the standard size system (usually between 000 and 10). Almost every single manufacturer has different margins for all of those sizes. It is just like with shoes, a shoe size of 43 might be 39 for another company. Instead of choosing your size according to these unreliable values, always check whether there is a chart that explains what the sizes mean. Due to all the wrong-sized karate and other martial arts uniforms bought due to the unreliability of the number system, most companies, websites, and associations do provide such a chart for every product they sell, however, it is your responsibility to check that, and we warmly advise you do.
Grown-up karate uniforms range from sizes for people who are all the way from 4 feet 7 inches tall to 6 feet 10 inches, usually. Also make sure that you don’t only check the height, but also the weight since if you are overweight or underweight, it might add or take away from the size you actually should be buying. It is quite hard, nearly impossible for people who are overweight, to find a properly fitting karate gi, so if you are interested in that, make sure to check out our article we wrote about finding karate gi for overweight people.
What Do You Wear Under a Karate Gi?
Though there is no other requirement in terms of clothing apart from the gi for training karate, you clearly shouldn’t wear your gi on bare skin. You need some undergarments or some clothing underneath the gi, but what exactly?
If you want to be “traditional” or “standard”, you don’t need anything except good underwear. You can wear the uwagi on your bare skin, and the pants on some standard underwear, like boxer briefs. The problem with this, however, is that you will get really sweaty really quickly, and all that sweat will go onto your gi, which will leave is smelly and discolored in no time.
Taking it up a notch, you can wear some sort of underwear and a tank top or t-shirt underneath the uwagi. This helps with sweat control and can also be a more hygienic option. This can easily be considered as the most standard combination: t-shirt, underwear, and the gi. It is simple, cheap, and easily accessible by all.
After that, there is more high-quality stuff. Here, you start looking into things like compression underwear, compression t-shirts, and the like. These help with circulation and sweat control, all while being designed to be even more comfortable than standard outfits and clothes. These can cost a lot more than your standard underwear, however, so we only recommend them for people who take such training seriously. A good option for compression underwear, if you are looking for one is the Men’s Compression Shorts, which is available on Amazon. You get three pairs for just around 25 dollars, which is a great bargain. Check it out on this link if you are interested!
There is another option we can recommend to you if you aren’t into the whole compression underwear thing, and that is the Thompson Tee. Thompson Tee is a company specialized in t-shirts and tank tops and similar upper body clothing, all of which are sweat- and odor-proof. Check them out on Amazon by clicking on this link if you are interested!
Can You Tumble Dry a Karate Gi?
A pretty common question on the internet actually has to do with the maintenance of your gi. It is: can you tumble dry your karate gi? The reason this question gets asked so often is that there are a lot of different opinions on the topic available online. But why do the opinions differ in the first place?
The two different ideas are that one: you should either never use any external heat source to dry the gi except natural elements such as air, sun, wind, etc., or two: that it is safe and actually preferable to use tumble drying and other machine drying for your gis.
One side, the one we mentioned earlier, mainly brings up two arguments for line drying your gis. One is tradition. Basically, they are the ones who say that not only should you not tumble dry your gi, you should also wash it with cold water, due to shrinkage. They believe that washing it in cold water and line drying preserves the material’s original texture and nature, which they prefer. The other argument we touched in in a previous sentence is the possible shrinkage of the gi. In many instances, drying the gi leads to its shrinkage, which many people do not like to deal with. For this reason, they believe you shouldn’t tumble dry a karate gi.
On the other hand, there are people who are totally okay with tumble drying. They say that gis aren’t all that expensive anyway, so changing one every once in a while (like a year or so) is not a big deal, and is actually a worthy sacrifice for the hygiene washing with warm water and tumble drying provides.
We believe you should be able to tumble dry your gis but do so on a smaller and lighter setting to reduce the risk of substantial gi shrinkage. Tumble drying makes it feel crisp and is also the more hygienic of the two options.
How Do You Whiten Karate Gi?
If you are interested in washing your gi and keeping it white for longer periods of time, the next section is for you, but if you are interested in whitening your gi, either for a ceremonial occasion, demonstration, or test, or just because you enjoy having the crisp whiteness on you, this part of this article is written for you.
So, since 99% of gis are made of one-hundred-percent cotton, adding chlorine bleach won’t be a good option, since it will damage the fibers of the cloth and will also make the colors of any logo or stamping to fade out. Instead, you should use oxygen bleach.
Create an oxygen bleach and water mixture according to the instructions on the bleach’s box, then place your gi inside the mixture and let it sit there for at least 8 hours, preferably more. This will whiten your gi perfectly, and the only step left is to wash it with cold water in order to wash out the bleach. Then, you should air-dry the gi for maximum effect, for the added benefit of the whitening effect of the UV light the Sun emits.
How Do You Keep a Karate Gi White?
So you have had long hours of training and your karate gi has a couple of bloodstains, some sort of dirt, or just gentle discoloration due to aging, and you want to reverse that. Keeping your gi white is a symbol of discipline and commitment to the art, so knowing how to whiten out your gi is an essential tool if you are looking to train karate.
The first step would be to pre-soak your gi. If there are bloodstains on it, do so in cold water, and if there is no blood but other types of dirt, use warm water (not hot!)! To the pre-soaking liquid, add a spoon of baking soda, since it helps destroy odor molecules and neutralize smells, and also add a heavy-duty detergent like Tide to clean the gi.
The reason you do not want to use warm water on blood-stained gis is due to the fact that blood coagulates from warmth. That means that it will just get even more stuck to your gi, potentially becoming near-impossible to clean. You always have to check your gi for possible blood-stains, since mishandling a situation like this might leave your gi scarred for life.
When you have pre-soaked your gi, it is time to wash it. Don’t add fabric softener to the washing machine, since it will make the fabric less good at absorbing perspiration, which is not something you would like. Add your typical laundry detergent, and in they go to the machine. Do not place your belt into the machine, that requires a different process we will talk about in a minute. So, back to your gi, even if you don’t have bloodstains, do not choose a hot water temperature, as it may damage the fiber of the clothing and it also might shrink your gi, so stick with cold to warm temperatures and rely more on your laundry detergent to do the work rather than hot water. After it has been washed, you can choose either to tumble dry it or if you are more for keeping the quality of your gi as long as possible, air dry it.
Your belt should always be washed by hand, in cold water mixed with detergent. It is a sensitive piece of clothing that can easily shrink or deform if you wash it in a machine. Belts should always be given special care since they are the most sensitive part of your karate gi. Naturally, the drying process of your belt should also happen exclusively with air-drying, and by no means with tumble drying or other machine drying.
How Do You Soften Karate Gi?
The way you soften the material actually depends on the exact material your gi is made of. In most cases, however, washing it a couple of times will render it somewhat softer, especially if you use conditioner and cold water. Hot water can shrink and toughen the gi, whereas cold water usually softens it. However, this isn’t always what you want. You might want to retain some of the snappiness and crispness of your uniform so it doesn’t wrinkle as easily and it holds its shape better.
Should You Iron Your Karate Gi?
Another big question is whether you should iron your karate gi or not. We all know the benefits of ironing regular clothes, like extended lifespan, better look, and also better hygiene, but is it the same way with a gi?
Usually, ironing of the karate gi is not recommended. The reason for that is that heat, especially the type of excessive heat an iron can produce, is very likely to cause shrinkage in the fabric. This shrinkage will eventually lead to size shrinkage, in which case you will have to be purchasing new gis every once in a while.
On the other hand, ironing is also very good for extra anti-bacterial and odor effects, since the heat of an iron can kill all resisting germs and bacteria in the fabric. However, it is again up to you and your personal choice, whether you want a gi which lasts long and is somewhat less hygienic, or one that lasts shorter but is super crisp, always cleaned and ironed.
How Do You Get Sweat Stains Out of Karate Gi?
One of the most common discolorations you might encounter when it comes to your training gi is sweat stains. You will undoubtedly have a lot of them, seeing as this is a very active activity. But how do you get rid of these sweat stains, since they are not something one might want to have on their gi?
The answer is by whitening/bleaching and by cleaning regularly. There are a couple of hoax-like ideas circulating the internet about the cleaning of these sweats, but those are not correct. If you truly want to remove these stains, you have to bleach and wash your gi, otherwise, your gi will just remain yellow.