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The uniform


Uniforms have been used for centuries to indicate a person's affiliation with a certain group. The martial arts have their own unique uniforms that indicate affiliation with a style, organization, school, etc., but the uniforms also serve a utilitarian purpose; they make it easier for the wearer to train and participate in the martial arts.

For as long as uniforms have existed, there has been some sort of identification on them to indicate the wearer's place within a groups hierarchy. The martial arts use belts, sashes, etc. to not only keep the uniforms closed but to also indicate the wears level of proficiency and place within the hierarchy of a style, organization, or school.

The uniform

The traditional uniform of many Eastern martial arts is a called a “keogi” (practice clothes) or simply a “gi.” The word keiko can also be replaced by the word “do” meaning path, road or way. Dogi is a common term in Japan, used to explain your training clothing.

Martial arts that use the gi usually add a prefix to the term to differentiate their style of the uniform from other martial arts that also use it. Thus, we see different names for the uniform such as karategi, judogi, jujutsugi, etc.

This uniform was first worn by judo practitioners and then modified for use by karate practitioners and then adopted by numerous other martial arts. Like everything else in martial arts, the uniform is based on tradition and has a vague history.

The uniform consists of open-front jacket and trousers that have extra room in the crotch and a cloth-drawstring waist band. The uniform is worn during training and it is usually required for wear during testing, competitions, and other events

Taekwondo’s version of the uniform is called a “dobak" or "tobak." To distance itself from its karate roots, in the early 2000s World Taekwondo in Korea changed taekwondo into a sport and changed the uniform jacket to a closed front, pull-over, V-neck design to differentiate it from the karategi.

Reasons for wearing the uniform

  • It instills pride in the student as a practitioner of the martial arts.
  • It, along with the belt, identifies the rank and degree of skill that the wearer has attained and indicates the position of the student within the hierarchy of the organization and school.
  • Its style is symbolic of the heritage and tradition of the student’s martial art and distinguishes the art from other martial arts.
  • It reminds students that the martial arts school is different from the other place in their lives. It reminds them to forget everything else in their lives and to focus entirely on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of martial arts training.
  • When students value their uniform, they become more committed to their art for a greater length of time.
  • The uniform is comfortable, practical, and lasts a long time. It was designed to facilitate training in the martial arts and allows students to train for longer periods without injury or fatigue. 

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