What Is A Karate Uniform Called? (Karate Terms for Beginners)

When it comes to learning about martial arts, both when it comes to the theory, as well as the practice, you need the right equipment for the session.

Whether it is gear that shows that you understand and respect the school of martial arts that you are a part of, or purely for practical reasons, you must get your hands on the right equipment when you get the chance.

What Is A Karate Uniform Called?

A martial arts uniform is kind of a mix of both of these factors.

A well-designed uniform will both be comfortable to practice whatever technique you will be using in a training session, as well as make it clear who or what school of martial arts you are studying.

Most major martial arts will have some kind of standardized uniform, especially if there are various schools of it across the world.

In this article, we want to go into a little more detail on what uniform most Karate practitioners use and some of its history, and what parts it has to it, as well as some tips and advice for how to care for your uniform once you have one.

Name Of Karate’s Uniform

So, before we go further into this article, we should probably first explain what exactly it is called in the first place.

Most Karate uniforms are called Gi, which is pronounced ‘ghee’ in most parts of the world and is also known as a Karate-gi.

The uniform is derived from the basic Gi of Judo, also known as a Judogi.

Like many other martial arts, Judo and Karate started to be fully formalized and standardized around the beginning and the middle of the 20th century.

As many of its core tenants and practices were starting to be established, many martial arts, such as Judo, were starting to move away from using the traditional kimono as the main uniform, in favor of a more practical uniform that was better suited for practicing martial arts in.

Judo was the first widely practiced martial art to adopt the new simpler style, and many other fighting styles were quick to follow, with karate being one of them.

Despite their many similarities and shared history, Karate gi does have a few features that make them distinct from gi and uniforms used in Judo dojos.

For one thing, Karate gi tends to be noticeably lighter for a user to wear compared to gi in Judo.

The heaviest Karate gi very rarely weighs over half a kilo, whereas many Judo gi can weigh twice that amount.

Another thing that distinguishes these two uniforms from each other is how they hang on the wearer’s body.

If you stand two people wearing a Judo and Karate gi together, you will notice that the Karate gi has a much looser fit than a Judo equivalent does.

Many of these differences can be explained by the different styles of combat that each martial art practices.

Many maneuvers in Judo include grapples and throws, which favor being gripped onto when being practiced, and schools of Judo usually prefer wearing heavier clothes as a result.

Karate meanwhile prefers using clean strikes from both the arms and legs, which favors a looser uniform that allows for better mobility when sparring.

A looser uniform also allows the body to breathe a little better, as the loose fighting fabric allows plenty of cooling air to flow around the body.

Parts To A Karate Gi

Parts To A Karate Gi

So, we have described what exactly a gi is in Karate, as well as how it is different from similar-looking martial arts uniforms.

Now, we are going to explain the different sections that make up a traditional Karate gi uniform.

Whilst the details of a gi can vary from region to region, the three main components of virtually all karate gi are:

  • Uwagi, the upper part of the uniform (or jacket)
  • Zubon, or the lower parts of the uniform (or pants)
  • Obi, or the belt


An uwagi or jacket is usually made up of a crossover jacket that is made from cotton and forms a deep v-neck when you wear it correctly.

The large size of this upper portion of a uniform is to make sure that there is plenty of air circulating it and onto your skin, keeping you fresh to keep doing strikes and punches.

Depending on whether you are learning Karate or purchasing your gi from, the uwagi may also have sleeves, especially if the gi is manufactured outside of Japan.


Similarly to the uwagi, the zubon are meant to sit very comfortably and freely on your waist, giving your feet and legs plenty of movement that won’t be encumbered, as well as allowing circulation up the leg of the pants


The obi is the belt that signifies what level of dan you are at, as well as tying the whole uniform together.

If you are starting at 1st dan, for example, your belt will be white.

How To Care For Your Karate Gi

Being your uniform that you spar and practice in, you’re going to want to take care of your gi as best as you possibly can.

With that in mind, these are a few of the things you can do to keep your karate gi in good working condition:

  • Make sure that you wash your gi immediately after practice. Not only will this stop it from smelling, but it will also stop the buildup of bacteria in your gi, keeping it safe and clean to wear.
  • Make sure that, when not using your gi, it remains properly folded, keeping it looking nice and professional when you next wear it to a training session.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the Karate gi is a simple, yet vital part of your gear. So make sure it is kept clean and fits right before you next use it!

Christopher Anderson
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