We assume that the Karate Gi is also known as a Gi for those who have not practiced Karate. This would be wrong, as the Karate Gi is referred to differently than the Judo/BJJ Gi.

Each piece of Karate Gi has its name. Let’s dive in and find out what a Karate Uniform is.

We will discuss how the Karate uniform was created, its symbolism, and how it differs from other training uniforms.

What is a Karate Uniform? A Karate uniform is also known as a “karate” or “dogi.” It was inspired by the Judo founder Jigorokano’s original Gi and adopted by Gichin Funakoshi. Karate’s official uniform was then the karate/dogi.

How did Gis come to be?

Before we can get into the origins of Karate’s uniform, let’s go back a bit. How was the Gi first created, and why?

Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, created the original training uniform known as a “keikogi.” Martial arts historians believe that Kano designed the keikogi from heavy hemp jackets worn by Japanese firefighters.

Kano recognized that heavy hemp jackets were ideal for Judo and developed a Judo variant. The Gi was created by Kano and inspired other martial artists to develop their versions.

How did the Karate uniform come to be?

Jigoro Kano created the first k. This would have inspired his friend, Gichin Funakoshi, who was also his training partner. Shotokan Karate’s founder is considered one of the founding fathers of modern Karate.

Funakoshi spotted that Kano, his friend’s training uniform, would be ideal for the martial arts he created. The official uniform for the martial arts training would be the keikogi, or dogi, as it was called in Karate.

Even after the Karate k was established, Grandmaster Funakoshi would still wear the Judoka keikogi.

Why did Funakoshi adopt keikogi into Karate?

Gichin Funakoshi adopted Gi uniforms into Karate for two reasons. Its durability and functionality are the obvious reasons, but there is another reason.

Karate used to practice in Okinawa in regular street clothes before it adopted the Gi as its martial art. This period saw a lot of tension between Okinawans and Japanese Okinawans.

Karate was considered uncivilized by Mainlanders as being akin to samurai cultures. Funakoshi recognized the need for an official uniform to make Karate more marketable.

Karate could look more professional and be more easily introduced to Japan by adding an official uniform.

Karate alters the keikogi

The original keikogi was great for Judo but not for Karate. The original Judo keikogi was made for grappling and had a limited range of motion.

Karate practitioners needed to be able to move freely. This is how modifications were made to the Karate uniform we now know.

Less material was used to make the pants and jackets lighter for Karate students. The sleeves were cut slightly shorter than the elbow to allow for total hand strikes.

After a few modifications, the “karate,” the Karate official uniform, was finally created.

What is a Karate uniform made of?

Three pieces of clothing make up the Karate uniform or karate. These are:

The Karate uniform’s deeper meaning

Two words are combined to make the Japanese word keikogi. Keiko is a Japanese word that means practice, while Gi is a translation of clothes or clothing.

They do in Karate-Do also means the way. This means you can call a Karate uniform the cloth of the practice or the cloth that is the way.

Types of Karate Uniforms

There are many styles of Karate, so there are many types of Karate uniforms. These are the different types of Karate uniforms that karatekas wear.

The Japanese Cut

The Japanese-cut style of Karate uniforms is the most traditional. This Karate uniform style is most easily recognized because of its short sleeves. This style allows for less restriction and doesn’t ride above the obi (belt).

The European Cut

The European Karate uniform has a more aesthetic appeal than it is practical. It features long sleeves and shorter sleeves than the Japanese Karate uniform.

The Kata Cut

The Kata cut Karate uniform can be worn less often than other types. It is similar to the European cut but has shorter sleeves than the Japanese. Only top Kata Kata performers will wear a Kata-cut style of Karate uniform.

What is the material used to make modern Karate uniforms?

Modern Karate uniforms are usually made of two types but can be made of different kinds. These are just a few of the materials that go into Karate uniforms.

Cotton & Cotton/Poly Mix

Most Karate uniforms have been made from 100% cotton for a long time. Cotton-blended materials are now being used to make Karate uniforms. They are cheaper and last longer.

These uniforms are made from cotton or polyester and are cheap but durable. This is why most Karate schools use these types of materials.


Light canvas is another common material used for Karate uniforms. This material has a lot of positives. It is strong and allows for ventilation.


Hemp was one of the first materials to be used in Karate uniforms. Hemp is not used in Karate uniforms anymore. When using BJJ Gis, you will only see hemp material in Martial Arts uniforms.

What are the colors of Karate uniforms?

Karate uniforms were initially only available in yellowish or white, as Okinawan Karate practitioners were fond of wearing them. Black uniforms were later introduced but were primarily for upper belts. Karate uniforms are available in many colors today.

What are other martial arts made with Gis?

Besides Karate, many other martial arts use different versions of the training Gi. These are just a few of the many martial arts that use Gis.

Take a bow

The Karate uniform, also known as karateka or dogi, is more than just Karate training clothes. The uniform represents martial art, and everyone who wears it must be proud, as with BJJ and any other martial arts you might be involved in.