What Is In A Karate Gi?

The karate gi derived its style and attributes out of necessity. Freedom of movement and comfort in the hot sun of southern Asia influenced the design of the karate gi. The light materials, slightly shortened sleeves/pants and robe-like design, mirrors the lifestyle of those who invented it - the farmers and fishermen of Okinawa. A karate gi also served a dual purpose. It is said that the Japanese outlawed the possession of weapons in13th-century Okinawa and so forced martial art practitioners to train at night. In that, the gi not only provided fluidity of movement, but it could quickly double as sleeping garments in case authorities came upon the training session.


As karate spread and grew throughout all of Japan in the 20th century, slightly heavier materials and longer sleeves were introduced to make the clothing functional for karate students in colder, northern parts of the country. It is now more usual that higher ranked students and instructors wear a heavy duty, thicker cotton gi. It is also more practical and harder wearing with higher ranked students performing grabbing, grappling and throwing techniques.


The three main cuts of karate gi are;

  • Kata

  • European

  • Japanese

The Japanese cut has short sleeves and trousers for less restriction. This cut also has a longer lapel that prevents it from riding up over the belt. The Kata cut is very rare. It has even shorter sleeves and is chosen more for aesthetic appeal. This gi nor the Japanese cut is permitted for kumite as an opponent has nothing to seize hold of to enable certain techniques to be performed in competition. The World Karate Federation formerly WUKO dictates that sleeves and trousers must be at least as long as the last third of the arm or leg for freestyle kumite competition. The European Cut of gi has longer sleeves and trousers. The lapel is shorter. This cut again is chosen for aesthetic appeal.


Karate gi now come in an array of colours but most traditional Karate-ka still wear white. Gis are white as it is symbolic of purity with all students of the same club wearing the same colour with the same logo or association badge. This makes all who train in that club have the same appearance like a uniform. Nowadays as with other sports clothing there are many makes but CFTS does not believe in “gi snobbery”. A gi is only something to wear whilst training. It is your effort and achievements that should set you apart not whether your gi was purchased from Adidas, Reebok. Blitz or Tokaido.