Karate Uniform (Dogi)

karategi

A karate suit (karate-gi, dogi, keiko-gi or just gi for short) is the plain white uniform worn for practice.

To start with, jogging bottoms and a t-shirt is fine, but once you have attended a few sessions and are sure you wish to continue, you should ask your instructor about getting a karate suit. There are various types available, starting with our standard club gi, Samurai Junior (kids), and Samurai Senior (older kids and adults).

Our Club Karategi

Dogi ModelFeaturesSize Range
Samurai JuniorFor kids. Light cotton, elasticated waist on trousersFor heights 120-150cm
Samurai SeniorFor older kids and adults. Middle weight cotton, trousers with drawstring waistFor heights from 150cm upwards

Samurai gis are affordable and have the Shiranamikai crest specially embroidered on the chest.


Made in Japan: expensive but worth it!

For those taking their training seriously over the long term, it would be well worth investing in a karategi from Japan. These are superior quality, with prices starting at around £120 (kids) or £160 (adults), for a medium weight cotton suit, or around £200 for a top quality cotton/polyester model with light customisation. Import taxes, postage and customs handling charges all play a factor in price, but the quality of fabrics mean that it will last a very long time. These are some of our favourites:

Manufacturer/ modelFeatures
Hirota MH11High quality smooth cotton, middleweight. Very comfortable and easy to move in.
Shobu SB11High quality cotton, middleweight. Shobu trousers are tailored and feature a hakama-style tie-waist.
Hirota Pinack ‘Kumite’Extremely lightweight cotton/poly blend, quick to dry with little or no ironing needed.
Tokaido TAWHigh quality cotton, middleweight, tournament cut (i.e. with shorter sleeves and trouser legs). Very hard wearing. N.B. Tokaido used to be the benchmark of quality, cut, and durability. However their sizing and methods have changed so it’s best to check before ordering.

The high quality cotton used for karate uniforms from Japan is typically a bright white, or with a blue tint. This helps to counter any yellowing, the result of often-worn suits, in much the same way as a white or pale blue dress shirt age around the cubs and collar. The blue tint will fade over time but the fabric will generally still look good if properly cared for. Look after your dogi, and it will hold its shape and feel more and more comfortable as time goes by.


How to look after your karate-gi

Wash your karate-gi after every practice session. If it is not possible to wash it straight after the session, take it out of your bag to air. Perspiration turns white fabrics yellow over time but you can limit this by keeping your dogi as clean as possible between sessions.

When sorting the laundry, never mix white items with brights or darks. For new suits, use the washing machine’s cold water cycle or 30°c to mitigate shrinkage. If your machine will not do a cold wash, 40° is the highest setting you should use. Avoid using fabric softener as this will cling to the fibres of your dogi and reduce its sweat absorbency. That said, hotter temperatures tend to be ok once your gi has aged and are sometimes necessary to keep it smelling sweetly (not sweaty!) for your partner work. 50°c works well here, or 60°c max., using biological washing powder only, and after a few years, your trusty gi will still feel soft by adding a little fabric conditioner!

When the wash has finished, take out your uniform straight away. Give it a shake and pull out the creases in the cotton to make the fabric lie as smooth as possible before you hang it out to dry naturally. Never tumble dry as this will cause excessive shrinkage.

Your uniform should not be creased when you wear it. Ironing when slightly damp can make it easier but with the cotton-poly variants, you may be able to pull all of the creases out before hanging up to dry!

Depending on how often you train and how much time is available to do laundry in between sessions, it might be worth having more than one karate-gi. So why not treat yourself, and your training partners!


100% Cotton vs Next Generation Materials

Karategi used to all be made with 100% cotton but manufacturers also offer uniforms made of special materials. These are typically cotton/polyester, with each thread consisting of a polyester core wrapped in a cotton outer. This material has the soft and smooth feel of a high quality shirt and offers a number of advantages over cotton: they tend to be easy-care and light weight, dry quickly and do not need ironing. They are also very easy to move in – that feeling when your trousers catch on your knee while kicking? The fine-weave characteristics of the cotton-poly suits will help relieve this. The downside is that these uniforms are more expensive, and while they diffuse sweat quickly, the material is not as absorbent as pure cotton.


How about the heavyweight options?

Most karate-gi manufacturers offer a heavyweight uniform. These are even more hard wearing than the middle weight options and some people find the extra thickness (and noise!) of the material satisfying. Personally, we find the thicker dogi to be heavy and a bit uncomfortable – the middle weight ones allow for much greater ease of movement.


Alternatives

There are so many manufacturers to choose from but from experience, we tend to stick with the aforementioned brands. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the different types available, just ask our karategi otaku!

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