Uniform and Belt Guide and Care
Our art has several variations of uniform that students are expected to wear and maintain in regular classes and seminars. Find out when and how to wear each item and how to care for it here!
Getting your first uniform is terribly exciting for any beginner. With a quick wardrobe change, you suddenly look and feel more like a martial artist! Many beginners are so eager to put on their new clothes that they don’t pay attention to the finer points about wear and care once the class is over. “Which way does my jacket go?”, “How do you tie the belt again?”, “Why is that person wearing such billowy pants?”, “How should I fold this?” are all questions that are common for new students. If you’re confused about our uniform etiquette, this guide is for you!
What We Wear
Here are our standard outfits and their names. For simplicity’s sake, we will be using the Japanese words to refer to most of the individual pieces and referring to them as a whole as “uniforms”.
Gi (top/jacket, pants) Keikogi/Dougi
When We Wear It
For your first couple lessons, you may not have a uniform. During that time, we suggest you wear clothing that you feel comfortable moving around in and getting dirty. Loose-fitting shirts are helpful as some technique require other students to grab it before a punch or throw. Dojos may sometimes offer students the chance to wear everyday street clothes to training so that they become comfortable doing techniques in their typical outfits rather than a uniform. Outdoor training sessions may be easier in normal clothes or a more casual uniform rather than our full gi.
A casual version of our uniform is great for really hot days, informal training sessions, when you don’t feel well, and outdoor training. A t-shirt paired with your gi pants and belt are all that you’ll need. Make sure that the teacher and higher level students are switching to their casual uniform before you do. Even with this relaxed style, keep your gi jacket close by in case it is suddenly needed for a technique.
A gi jacket and pants, belt and/or kakuobi, and t-shrit (optional) make up the standard uniform and is the perfect go-to combo for almost any situation. When we are bowing in for a formal class, all students who own a standard uniform are expected to wear it. Seminars, especially those at other dojos, are done in the standard uniform unless otherwise stated by the instructors.
Certain weapons, schools, and situations (like public performances or special training days) are better done in our most formal and traditional uniform: gi jacket, hakama, kakuobi, belt, and t-shirt (optional). The final effect is very impressive, but students are often encouraged to wait until they are at least a green or black belt before purchasing a pair of hakama. It might not seem fair at first, but the way one moves in hakama can be a major distraction and beginners need to focus on their training rather than the extra fabric in their pants.
Basic Rules to Remember
Never wash your belt
This is based on the Japanese superstition that as you train, your belt retains what you are learning. By washing your belt, you are washing away all that knowledge! We prefer to fold the belt until it is small enough to tie into a knot. This “traps” your training until the next class. Instead of washing, periodically hang your belt out to allow for it to dry and allow for natural sunlight to kill any bacteria (but not your belt’s knowledge).
Keep your uniform clean and free of holes and tears
If you keep your uniform looking good, it shows that you care about your gear and yourself. Wearing a clean and neat uniform also reflects well on the dojo when we are performing or when we have visitors.
Keep a backup outfit ready
The dojo can get hot and we can all get sweaty. It is best to have a backup t-shirt, underwear, and socks to keep yourself comfortable, neat, and relatively odor-free.
The “left” is for the living
Traditionally, kimono are draped with the right side of the jacket close to the wearer’s chest and the left side on the outside. This also creates a useful and easy-to-reach pouch (according to right-handed people) on the left side of the abdomen for storing items! The only time a kimono is draped with the right side of the jacket on the outside was before burial or cremation.
When in doubt, ask the teacher or highest student
If you don’t know, then they will. It is better to ask and learn the real answer than to guess it incorrectly or look ridiculous all of class.
The more you train, the more you will see other martial artists with uniforms in different colors, cloth patterns, fabric thicknesses, and styles. This may be a personal fashion choice or something particular to their school of training or dojo. While it can be fun to experiment with the type of uniform you wear, we encourage beginners to take our advice on what to set as their standard before diving into an investment that may be too untraditional or cumbersome to train in.