The karate uniform (gi)

The Japanese name for a karate training uniform is a gi. It is made from varying grades of canvas style cloth, used because it has the advantage that it is very robust and comfortable at the same time. A properly made gi will survive a substational amount of pulling, tearing and contact with the ground to a degree that other types of clothing cannot handle. Typically a gi comes with quite short sleeves and trousers, so that fingers don't get caught in sleeves or wearers trip over themselves. A gi allows great freedom of motion, which is required in karate due to the need to kick and punch with both speed and power. Although available in a variety of colours, only the traditional white gi is used in Shotokan karate.

The karate belt (obi)

A karate belt can be tied in a number of ways and no one method is the absolute correct way. However, whatever method is used, it is important to ensure that the belt is tied tightly enough to ensure that it doesn't loosen or come off during training. The ends of the belt (sashes) should be of equal length, with both ends exiting the knot downwards. This reduces the chances of the ends of the belt interfering with any movement, or with hands or fingers getting caught in them whilst training.

The following is an illustrated step by step guide to tying a karate belt:

Begin by grasping the end of the belt that has the label on it across your mid-section in front of you. The belt should hang about two inches longer than the actual length that you want the belt to be when it is tied. Wrap the other end of the belt behind you and around your waist.
Continue to wrap the belt around your waist a second time while keeping the same position of the label end of the belt.
Now tuck the end of the belt that has no label under both layers of the belt, pointing up. Gently pull both ends to tighten the knot. The end of the belt with the label shall be on your left side.
The end of the belt without the label should be folded down over.
Grasp and tuck the end of the belt with the label under the other end, and then tug it over to your right side.
Now loop the end of the belt that has the label around the other end and downward through the knot.
Finally, just pull to tighten the knot. If the ends of the belt are not the same length, untie the knot and adjust the length before tying it once again.

Gi maintenance

If cared for properly, a gi will last for many years, despite heavy use.

  • Wash the gi every week if used at least once. Sweat accumulates in the gi each time it is worn and the bacteria in the sweat will need to be washed out to prevent odour and disintegration of the seams. If the gi has been sweated in profusely, it should be washed after each use.
  • As a gi is 100% cotton, it will shrink. Therefore wash the gi with an all temperature detergent and wash on a warm water wash and cold water rinse cycle. Do not use liquid bleach as it disintegrates the seams. Powdered bleach and/or Oxy Clean should be used instead. For stains, treat immediately with oxy clean or a similar stain remover.
  • The gi should be dried immediately after washing.
  • When the gi has finished drying, it is usually quite wrinkled (unless it was dried flat). Ironing of the gi is not necessary if the gi is folded as soon as it has dried.

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