What is it?
The uniform we wear for Karate is called a Gi. The Gi consists of a pair of pants and matching jacket. Gi are typically made of 100% cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester depending on the type and/or weight and can be customized with prices varying depending upon which feature you desire. In this article I will document my path through my various Gi selections and what I have learned along the way, it is my hope that the information contained here in will give you a better understanding of this critical piece of Karateka gear so that you may make your own informed choices to find the Gi that suits you the best.
Where Do I Get My First One?
If you are beginning your martial arts journey with us here at Annarino’s Martial Arts, like myself 20+ years ago, you will purchase your first Gi from your instructor. Your first Gi will be what is known as a student Gi and will most likely have several characteristics which I will attempt to explain in more detail as these details will lay the groundwork for future Gi selection.
What Color Is It?
Your first Gi will be white. There are other color of Gi but for the new student white is the most common color. You may also see black Gi worn by others in the dojo however any other color Gi should be discussed with your instructor as those that wear black Gi are typically Master level in rank and/or have received permission from the main instructor to do so. One of the challenges with a white Gi is keeping it clean, this is one of the main reasons why some students may find a black Gi appealing however black Gi also come with their own issues as they are prone to fading to a dull gray.
What Is It Made Of?
Typically, student Gi are made of a cotton/polyester blend. This blend allows the Gi to be lightweight, fast drying and resistant to shrinkage when washed. The higher end Gi that you will most likely see the advanced students or Sensei in the dojo wear will be heavier in weight and most likely be made of some type of 100% cotton canvas. We will discuss these heavier Gi and why you may want to upgrade to one later.
How Do I Wear It?
There are some challenges that beginning Karateka face when they put on their new Gi for the first time. First and foremost, let us focus our attention on the pants. You will notice that the pants may have an elastic waistband however some student GI, and in fact most of the heavier Gi we discussed earlier, will not and will have a draw string type waist instead. Tying your Gi at the waist can be a daunting task for the beginning Karateka however the best way to tie these type of Gi pants is to grab each end of the drawstring and pull on each of them equally to the sides vs in front of you. This side pulling motion tightens the drawstring around your waist. Once you are satisfied with the tightness you can then route each side of the drawstring ends through the lops or loop at the front of the pants and then tie them in a bow like you would your shoelaces to secure them. Now for the jacket. Notice that the jacket also has two sets of “strings” near the bottom. These strings are used to keep the jacket closed so that is does not come open when you are trying to put on the obi (belt). To tie these strings first take the right side of the jacket and place it across the front of your upper body, now reach down and tie the string that is on the lower side of the right side of the jacket with the string that is on the inside lower of the left side of the jacket using the same “shoestring” type knot. Next take the left side of the jacket and place it across the front of your upper body and tie the strings at the bottom in the same manner as you did before. Now for the belt. Putting your belt on for the first time can be a daunting task and is best left as one of your first formal lessons from one of our instructors as there are a few acceptable ways to do this.
How do I Wash It?
Depending on the type of Gi you have there are a few acceptable methods for keeping it clean. The beginner student Gi made of a cotton and polyester blend can be washed in a washing machine with any temperature of water as they are resistant to shrinking which is the main issue with the heavier cotton only Gi. However, if you have sewn patches on to your Gi you should wash in cold so as not to fade the colors of your patches. Bleach should also NOT be used on any type of Gi as bleach will damage the cotton fibers over time and reduce the life of the Gi. I have found that either Oxyclean or Arm and Hammer Washing Soda Powder does a good job of getting the sweat stains out of white Gis.