What is a Karate Uniform Called? (Gi)

karate uniform name

Karate is a Japanese martial art form with a rich history and many centuries of heritage. It still fascinates many people around the world. Karate training can bring unique physical and mental benefits, including better fitness, improved peace of mind, and self-defense skills that can get you out of a pinch.

If you want to start learning karate, it’s a prudent idea to research as much you can about the discipline, especially about things that would be relevant to your training. Knowing karate uniform name and learning about its unique characteristics can be a critical part of that research.

So, what is a karate outfit called? We will discuss the basic features and terminologies to get you going.

What is a Karate Uniform Called?

The karate uniform is called a Gi (pronounced ghee). It is also common practice to call the gi you practice karate in a Karategi (空手着 or 空手衣). The gi and its variations are also used in other Japanese martial arts like judo and jiujitsu.

Gi is a shortened form of the more traditional terms dogi or keikogi. Translated from Japanese, dogi means “the cloth of the way” and keikogi means “the cloth of practice”. Both terms refer to the core central tenets of karate and how it is viewed as a way of life much more than just a system of combat.

The gi consists of three distinct components. The top or jacket is called the kimono, the pants are called the Zubon, and the belt is called the obi. All of these parts, especially the belt, hold special significance for a karate practitioner and are usually cleaned and maintained meticulously unlike Dodgeball’s Peter La Fleur’s gym but that’s another topic.

What is Karate Gi?

The gi is a loose-fitting uniform that is usually white in color. It is usually made from pure cotton and can be varying in thickness. In modern karate schools, students sometimes wear gi that is made from high-tech polyester, which is breathable and moisture-wicking. This non-absorbent fabric can enhance comfort, especially in hot ambient temperatures.

The pants have a drawstring-style closure traditionally. However, more and more manufacturers have started making pants with elastic closures for ease of use, especially in kids’ classes.

The gi is supposed to be lightweight yet durable and has symbolic value in the realm of karate. It is also meant to be a practical and comfortable attire that allows students and teachers freedom, flexibility, and their full range of motion during practice. It is important not to be encumbered or restricted in any way while practicing karate and the gi works perfectly for that.

It is common to find different cuts of the gi on the market. The traditional Japanese cut makes use of short sleeves and pant legs to offer the least restriction on movement while also having a long lapel that remains securely under the belt. The Kata cut is a rare cut that has shorter sleeves for better aesthetics when practitioners are showing off their Kata skills. Lastly, the European cut has a shorter lapel and long sleeves, and pant legs.

Gi, karate uniform, karate gi, karate outfit, karategi

Practicality and Philosophy

The karategi is meant to be everyday wear that is easy to clean and maintain. Since karate largely consists of striking maneuvers, it’s fundamental to wear an attire that is free-flowing and comfortable. The gi fits the bill, being loose-fitting and made of cotton material.

Respect for the uniform and its philosophical significance play a big role in the world of karate. Students are expected to respect the gi and keep theirs in great shape always. It signifies a sense of equality in a karate class: no matter where you come from or what your social status is, you are all the same in a karate class even if you are a libertine such as Don Juan or the Mean Girls in Mean Girls. 

This sense of commonality and community is integral to the practice and teaching of karate.

Wearing the gi also gives students a sense of purpose, responsibility, and pride in their art. As students get deeper into the art, it becomes a symbol for the discipline and dedication that they display daily.

The Importance of the Belt

The karate belt or obi is a pivotal part of the karate journey for any practitioner. Functionally, it keeps the gi ties securely during practice and helps keep things comfortable and flexible.

Learning to tie the belt properly is an important accomplishment in karate. The physical act of tying the belt the traditional way corresponds with many of the philosophical teachings of karate and becomes a symbol of the life lessons that are imparted by the art.  

The belt is also crucial due to the belt system of progress followed by most karate schools. A patch of colored material is attached to one end of the belt. The color signifies the current level of progress for a student. Most students start with a white belt. As students get more skilled, they move up a hierarchy of belt colors and aim for the ultimate symbol of excellence: a black belt. Being awarded a new belt is a special experience for students and a matter of pride.

Having that Understanding

Now that you know all there is to know about the karate uniform name, and how it is a central part of the karate learning experience, you can start thinking about getting your own and signing up for karate classes. Knowing in detail about the karate uniform can give you a concrete idea of its importance and significance in the karate learning journey and allow you to develop respect and fascination for the uniform as well as the martial art.

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Span Chen

Span Chen

I have been practicing karate for more than 6 years, and now at the sixth level (green belt) of the Okinawa Goju-Ryu Karatedo Kugekai. Though I haven’t earned my Black Belt yet, I am deeply passionate about my training.