Pacific Sports Blog
Martial Arts, Taekwondo, Karate, Kick Boxing Sports blog
This karate uniform buying guide is intended to help selecting the right uniform for your needs. It is a must read for anyone buying their first uniform either for themselves or their children and unsure what to look for.
The terms uniform and gi are used throughout this article, they mean the same thing.
What makes up a karate uniform:
It consists of a jacket, pants and belt – except if buying a canvas uniform which comes without a belt.
The jacket is an open wrap over style that fastens using ties at the sides and a karate belt around the wearer's waist.
The pants have a gusseted crotch that is designed to increase strength of the seam, reduce tearing and increase the angle at which the pants can open to a split when kicking and stretching.
The waist of the pants can be secured with a traditional fabric drawstring that threads through the waistband and belt loops on the front of the pants, or a more modern style elastic waist with a shoestring tie. It is really a matter of preference as to what is best, but the elastic waist is easier to maintain and use.
Selecting the right fabric type and weight:
Perhaps one of the trickiest things to do when shopping for a gi is decide which weight you want. The measuring system (ounces) is not complicated but it takes tactile experience to know which is best for you personally. That being said, here are some tips for when you are deciding.
Uniforms are usually found in two fabric types; 100% cotton and a cotton/polyester blend usually consisting of 55%cotton/45% polyester.
100% Cotton – This generally makes up the higher quality medium and heavy weight canvas uniforms. But, they can be more difficult to take care of as they will shrink if washed and dried incorrectly. You will want to wash in cold water and air dry only.
Cotton/Polyester Blend – This fabric type usually makes up the less expensive light and medium weight uniforms. These are easy to care for and less likely to shrink, perfect for everyday training uniforms and great for kids or beginners that don’t want to spend too much on a first uniform.
The uniforms are classified in the following ways:
Lightweight – 7oz to 8oz cotton and poly/cotton
Medium-weight or middleweight – 10oz to 14ozoz
Heavyweight – 16oz – 18oz
Lightweight – 7oz or 8oz cotton or poly/cotton. These generally are the most commonly worn uniforms. They suit kids and adults and come in sizes to fit children from 00000/90cms in height to XXL adults.
8oz – Wearing a martial arts uniform for the first time is a new experience so you want to feel as comfortable as possible. While these are light, loose and easy to wear your uniform will feel a little different at first but after a few classes and washes it will be the most comfortable piece of clothing in your wardrobe! Even experienced practitioners use 8oz uniforms when they need something light and airy for the summer.
10oz – 10oz cotton canvas is the lightest of the canvas uniforms and a great day-to-day weight. For practitioners who want a heavier uniform for it’s ‘feel’ but don’t want to feel restricted by the extra weight, 10oz is the perfect choice. As practitioners gain experience, they enjoy generating the ‘snap’ that canvas gi’s produce and the 10oz gi will do that.
Medium-Weight – 12oz and 14oz cotton canvas.These are the most popular choice for experienced martial arts practitioners. They provide a balance between strength, weight, and coolness. They will generally last longer and hold up better over time than the lightweight uniforms. They are usually manufactured in 100% cotton canvas.
12oz – 12oz cotton canvas is a nice choice for people who need responsiveness in their gi. For individuals looking to compete in tournaments, especially in kata, this is good way to go, looks sharp and impressive!
14 oz – 14oz cotton canvas is also a good choice. It is much the same as the 12oz, the slightly denser fabric feels stiffer at first but softens after washing. 14oz uniforms have serious feel and strength and are great for official events. They also produce excellent snap in techniques.
Heavyweight – 16oz and 18oz cotton canvas. These are usually the choice for competition, demonstration or for instructors. The heavier weight fabric is strong, durable and has that great ‘snap’ to it that practitioners love to hear, making it perfect for kata and displays. There’s no doubt these heavyweight uniforms look super professional on but may be less comfortable for smaller build females.
Thread count and fabric weight are two significant factors when it comes to fabric measurements. Thread count is typically easy to grasp but when dealing with overseas manufacturers, the fabric weight is a whole different ball game.
Fabric weight can be measured either in grams per square meter (metric) - or ounces per square yard (imperial). Experiences with overseas factories show that it can be difficult to get the manufacturer to strictly adhere to any of the measurements unless you are very specific in the details of your order.
For instance, if a person were to order a 16oz cotton canvas karate gi from a factory and the manufacturer assured he could deliver, the person ordering still needs to go on to confirm that the canvas used to manufacture the canvas karate gi is 16 ounces per square yard.
It makes sense to pay attention at this point because the answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ here will depend on if the factory sales person actually understands the concept of these two measurements (yards and meters). You should make it a habit to clarify your preference because by default most overseas factories will assume the metric system. Due to the fact that most of their orders are from the US, the fabric suppliers have learnt to use “ounces” as a guideline for weight. But, the fabrics are still being measured and sold in meters.
So a little arithmetic might help here, the supplier is saying the fabric weighs 16 ounces per square meter. Well, 1 meter is roughly equal to 1.094 yards so 1 square meter is roughly equal to 1.094 x 1.094 = 1.197 square yards. This is approximately 1.2 square yards.
(1 square meter=1.1959906 square yards — although this precision does not typically apply to clothes.) So, if the supplier says the fabric is 16 ounces per square meter, we can work out the following: 16 ounces per square meter x (1 square meter / 1.2 square yards) = 13.3 ounces per square yard.
Here, you can clearly see the gaping difference between 13-ounce canvas and 16-ounce canvas. Imagine the disappointment when you receive your canvas karate gi and the fabric is equivalent to 13oz canvas when your intention was to order a 16oz canvas karate gi. The supplier delivered the correct product but due to the misunderstanding about fabric weight you’ve ended up with a much lighter uniform than you expected.
So if you prefer to order your karate gi from overseas take the time to check every aspect of the order so you end up with the uniform you want.