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Tony Smith
Tony Smith's picture
Fact or Fiction? The Karate Gi

Maybe some of you can help to clear things up. My sensei and I just attended a local karate tournament not too long ago. We got into the discussion of the karate gi with another black belt, (particularly that of the Shotokan style) and why some of them where so short.

The gentleman that we were speaking with said that when the American G.I. began to train with the Okinawan people due to the fact that the Americans were quite a bit bigger none of the gi’s they had would fit them. After they brought karate back to the states the smaller gi just became the norm.

It seemed reasonable to me; however, I’ve yet to do any research on it. Does this statement hold any truth or is the shorter gi just a matter of preference amongst some karate-ka.


Tony Smith

Matt Perlingiero
Matt Perlingiero's picture

I think that depends on what you mean by short.  If you mean specifically the tail of the jacket, I would completely agree.  If, however, you refer to the length of the sleeves and pant-legs, I agree and disagree.  I base this on the fact that Okinawa has a tropical climate.  Some time ago, a large portion of training, for many all of it, was done outside in cool, loose-fitting attire, usually without a top at all (which was also done for a different reason than your question, so I'll pass over that).  Extra material was obviously hotter, so the ends were clipped off.  Here you can see Higaonna-sensei and Terauchi-sensei still rocking the style

and here are a number of karateka wearing it before it was cool

http://youtu.be/RU3SX2ZfTUA (Enbedding has been disabled for this video - Iain).

Nowadays, air-conditioning has certainly had an effect on the preference, and I believe in judo and competitive jujutsu the norm is longer sleeves for easier grabbing.  Hope that helps!

Th0mas's picture

I would suggest the fashion in the UK was driven by the cut of the Gi's worn by the Japanese Sensei (certainly in the case of Shotokan).

Personally I find the  long leg and arm very restrictive and often sticks.., especially when all sweaty...urgh.

shoshinkanuk's picture

I say half way down your shin and half way down your forearm is about right for general training, but we rarely wear Gi Tops anyhow.

Th0mas's picture


Although we still wear Gi's. A good hardwearing item of clothing... I would get through soo many t-shirts otherwise.