Karate uniform


Choosing a karate suit

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 speak with your instructor about getting a karate suit. A karate suit (karate-gi, dogi, keiko-gi or just gi for short) is the plain white uniform worn for practise.

There are various types available, and at differing price points. All club uniforms feature the Shiranamikai crest embroidered on the left breast.

Karate suits for beginners

The Samurai Junior for children, and Samurai Senior for teens and adults, is a good entry point when starting out. We also source good quality club gis from other manufacturers. All form sensible options priced around £40-£50.

Manufacturer / RangeProduct DescriptionSizing
Samurai JuniorLight weight entry-level cotton suit for children. Elasticated waistHeights 120-150cm
Samurai SeniorMedium weight, entry-level cotton suit for teens and adults. Drawstring waistHeights 150cm upwards
Shiranamikai VariousGood quality, medium weight cotton suitsHeights 120cm upwards

Made in Japan: expensive but worth it

For those looking to take their training seriously over the long term, it is well worth investing in a superior quality karategi from Japan. Prices start at around £120 (kids) or £170 (adults), for a medium weight cotton suit, or around £200 for a top quality cotton-polyester model with light customisation. Shipping, customs and VAT, and carrier handling fees all contribute to the overall price, but the quality of fabrics mean that it will last a very long time. Some of our favourites are listed below…

Cotton used for karate uniforms in Japan is typically a bright white, or with a blue tint to counter discolouring from heavy use over the long term. Just check the collar and cuffs of an oft-used white shirt and you’ll see why. The blue tint will fade over time but the fabric will still look good if properly cared for. Look after your dogi, and it can give you many years of service. It will hold its shape and feel more and more comfortable as time goes by.

Manufacturer / RangeProduct DescriptionSizing
Hirota MH11Premium quality 100% cotton. Medium weight. Comfortable and highly recommendedAll
Hirota MH12Good quality 100% cotton. Light weight. Ideal for beginners, especially childrenAll
Hirota Pinack KumitePremium quality cotton-polyester blend. Light weight. Quick to dry with little or no ironing needed. The tight weave holds its shape nicely while making it exceptionally easy to move. A karate otaku’s favourite! Hirota also make a ‘Kata’ version which is heavierAll
Shobu SB11Premium quality 100% cotton. Medium weight. Tailored trousers feature a hakama-style tie-waist. Fits and looks great on those with a slim to medium build, or those with a heavier but toned physiqueAll
Tokaido TAWPremium quality 100% cotton. Medium weight. The tournament cut features shorter sleeves and trouser legs, while subtle tapering lends it a sharp silhouette. Very hard wearing due to its slightly less refined thread. This was once a firm favourite and the benchmark by which all karategis were judgedAll
Hirota MH11 (left) and Pinack Kumite (right)

100% Cotton or cotton-poly?

Premium karategis used to all be made with 100% cotton but in recent years manufacturers have offered uniforms made of special materials. These are typically a polyester core encased in cotton. This material has the soft, smooth feel of a high quality shirt while providing a number of advantages over cotton alone. The lighter weight and fabric blend makes them easy-care, quick-drying and needing little-to-no 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 melange will help counter this. But while they diffuse sweat quickly, the material is not as absorbent as pure cotton.

How about the heavyweight options?

Most karategi manufacturers offer a heavyweight uniform. Some may prefer the extra thickness (and noise) of the material satisfying. Personally, we find the thicker dogi too heavy and a bit uncomfortable. The middle weight options allow for much greater ease of movement and are suitable for year-round wear. The biggest downsides of wearing a suit that looks and feels like a sack is just that… plus, after a tough training session, the sweat absorption can make it nigh impossible to take off!


There are so many manufacturers to choose from, and we’ve tried many, but 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!

How to look after your karate-gi

Wash your karate-gi after every session, but if it’s not possible to wash it immediately, hang it up to air as soon as possible. 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 liquid on the washing machine’s cold water cycle or 30°c to mitigate shrinkage. Biological washing powder works best on karate suits but is most effective from 40°c. Oxy-action-type whiteners can help retain brightness. Never use bleach as it will weaken the natural cotton fibres causing them to break down and be vulnerable to tearing. Avoid using fabric softener except on an old karate gi, as it will cling to the fibres and reduce sweat absorbency.

When the wash has finished, take out your uniform straight away. Do not tumble dry as this will cause excessive shrinkage. Give it a shake or pull out any creases to make the fabric lie as smooth as possible before hanging it out to dry naturally. Your uniform should be free of crease when you wear it though so don’t let it be shy of the iron!

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.

Over time you may feel that your karate suit needs a hotter temperature for a wash cycle eg. 50°c but there will ultimately be a time when you simply need to replace your karate suit. So why not treat yourself, and your training partners!