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Rank and apparel>Uniforms>History of the uniform

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History of the uniform

Intro

Each martial art wants to be special so there are lots of versions about how various things came about in its history. This is true for the history of the uniform.

History

Some sources suggest that the karate gi originated in Okinawa as a functional garment that resembled the clothes that peasants and farmers were already wearing. However, photographs show that Okinawans trained in shorts and t-shirts or even just in their underwear.

Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of shotokan karate and considered the Father of Karate, trained in shorts and t-shirt in Okinawa until he visited his good friend, Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, in Japan for the second time in 1922 to demonstrate karate at the Kodakan (the central dojo for judo in Japan). Kano was surprised that Funakoshi was going to do the demonstration in shorts and t-shirt, so he persuaded him to wear a judogi so that he would look more professional in front of the dignitaries he was trying to impress. Funakoshi agreed and later took back the gi to Okinawa as a gift from Kano.

Dr. Jigoro Kano developed judo from jujitsu in Japan in the late 1800s. His first students wore their everyday kimonos to practice and wore black sashes to keep the kimonos closed while they grappled. Kano wanted a uniform for his students that would show uniformity among those training in judo and could withstand the stress of the constant lifting, throwing, pinning, and choking techniques of the art. Kano took inspiration from the kimono and the uniform worn by Japanese firemen and designed the judo gi.

Since the lightweight materials used in kimonos were not suitable for grappling, the judogi was made from hemp fabric, which is naturally four times stronger than cotton and could take abuse in training. The pants were a single weave fabric with reinforced seams and that fit loosely and had extra fabric between the legs. The pants were strong but and allowed full movement of the legs without binding. The jacket was made using a very thick, unbleached, heavy cotton, double-weave fabric with heavily reinforced seams and collar. The jacket could be used to pick up and throw large adults thousands of times without tearing. It fit loosely and allowed full movement of the arms and upper torso. By the early 1900s, judogis were being mass produced using unbleached, heavy cotton fabric, which was more cost-effective than hemp.

To make the judogi more suitable for karate training, which used punch and kicks and did not require the lifting of opponents, the Okinawans replaced the thick, heavy, double-weave judogi jacket with a lightweight single weave jacket that was styled to a closer fit to help prevent grabs and the pant legs were styled to fit tighter while preserving the baggy crotch area to aid in kicking.  This revised uniform became the karategi. The wearing of the karategi gradually spread throughout Okinawa as well as Japan in karate dojos.

SOURCES
  • Korea Taekwondo Association. Available: [Online]. Available: http://www.koreataekwondo.org/english/english.htm

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