Karate uniform (dogi)

karategi

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. 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, starting with Samurai Junior for children, and Samurai Senior for teens and adults. Our Shiranamikai standard club gi is a very good quality entry level option. All club uniforms feature the Shiranamikai crest embroidered on the chest.

Dogi modelFeaturesSize range
Samurai JuniorLightweight 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 StandardA premium quality, medium-weight cotton suit. Made in the UKHeights 120cm upwards

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 superior quality karategi from Japan. Prices start 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. Some of our favourites are listed below…

The high quality cotton used for karate uniforms from Japan is typically a bright white, or with a blue tint to counter discolouring from heavy use. 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 generally 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/ modelFeatures
Hirota MH11Top-quality, middleweight, smooth cotton. Comfortable and easy to move in
Shobu SB11Top-quality, middleweight cotton. Tailored trousers feature a hakama-style tie-waist
Hirota Pinack ‘Kumite’Top-quality, lightweight cotton/polyester. Quick to dry with little or no ironing needed. Holds shape very well
Tokaido TAWHigh-quality, middleweight cotton. Tournament cut features shorter sleeves and trouser legs. Very hard wearing. Tokaido used to be the benchmark for karate uniforms. Their range and sizing has changed so it’s best to seek advice before ordering

How to look after your karate-gi

Wash your karate-gi after every session, but if it’s not possible to wash it immediately, 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. Biological washing powder works best on karate suits but is most effective from 40°, while oxy-action-type whiteners can help retain the brightness. Never use bleach as it will destroy the natural cotton fibres. Avoid using fabric softener too, except on your 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 and pull out any creases to make the fabric lie as smooth as possible before you hang it out to dry naturally.

Your uniform should not be creased when you wear it so don’t let it be shy of the iron. You may find that the creases in the cotton-poly variants drop out while hanging 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.

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.

100% Cotton vs next generation materials

Premium karategis used to all be made with 100% cotton but in recent years manufacturers have begun to offer uniforms made of special materials. These are typically a polyester core wrapped in a cotton outer. This material has the soft and smooth feel of a high quality shirt giving 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… you know that feeling when your trousers catch on your knee while kicking? The fine-weave characteristics of the cotton-poly suits will help counter 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. More hard wearing than the middle weight options, some people find the extra thickness (and noise) of the material satisfying. Personally, we find the thicker dogi to be too heavy and a bit uncomfortable – the middle weight ones allow for much greater ease of movement and are suitable for year-round wear.

Alternatives

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!