Martial art uniforms are an essential part of each martial art style. Each uniform is designed to reflect the martial art style’s philosophy, culture, and history. Also, to act as a competitive uniform that will not hinder any martial artists. While there are some similarities in design for all martial arts uniforms, each has unique features.
The Gi-Type Uniforms
The history of the Gi uniform is rooted in the martial art of Judo, which was developed in Japan. It consists of two parts: the top (Uwagi) and the bottom (Zubon). The Gi-type uniforms are usually white and made from a cotton material called twill or canvas.
They fit loosely and provide a maximum range of motion to promote grappling techniques used in Judo. This same type of uniform can also be seen in other martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, Karate, and Taekwondo.
Traditional Martial Arts Uniforms
These uniforms were developed for traditional martial arts such as Kung Fu, Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan, Wing Chun, etc.
They are made with materials such as silk or satin. They usually have slits at the sides for increased range of motion and flexibility. The colors used vary depending on the martial art, but black is widely used to represent power and strength.
If you need clarification on what we are talking about, consider the classic Jackie Chan and Bruce Li movies. This is the type of uniform they were wearing.
Competition/Sports Martial Arts Uniforms
These uniforms are designed only for competition use and are made from light, durable materials. These materials allow for maximum performance and safety. Colors vary, but white is most commonly seen in competitions and tournaments. These uniforms also often feature logos of sponsors.
From boxing to wrestling and MMA, there is a wide range of Competition martial art uniforms. These uniforms were not made with culture and philosophy in mind but rather to provide a uniform look for the competitors and help identify them during competition.
Let’s break down the Gi-Type uniforms first.
Judo gis are an essential part of any dedicated judoka’s training gear. A two-piece uniform that consists of pants and a jacket, the Judo gi is designed with Judo’s unique requirements in mind. The jacket is wrapped around the torso and secured with a colored belt that signifies the wearer’s rank in martial art.
Typically, Judo gis are made from cotton fabric, coming in standard colors like white or blue. However, variations are available for those who wish to customize their look. To withstand the constant gripping associated with judo throws, chokes, and grappling techniques, judo gi jackets feature reinforced seams at critical points.
Key points such as shoulders, chest, and sleeves. Likewise, special knee reinforcements on the pants will help them endure heavy pressure. The collar is also thicker than usual to stand up to wear and tear while facilitating gripping techniques.
Lastly, judo gis comes in different weights and types of weaves depending on each practitioner’s preference. However, when attending competitions or following strict gym regulations, certain restrictions may apply regarding measurements such as sleeve length and pant size.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gi
With its roots firmly planted in Judo, it makes sense why many BJJ gyms accept both Judo gis and specific BJJ uniforms for training purposes. However, more severe practitioners soon realize the need for a dedicated BJJ gi if they want to take their skills to the next level.
Distinguishable from its Judogi counterpart by its tighter fit—specifically in its jacket, which features a shorter skirt. BJJ gis also has narrower and shorter sleeves to make it harder for an opponent’s grip-based attacks during competition or sparring sessions. Generally speaking, these suits are also available in various colors, weights, and weaves. These allow martial artists to personalize their looks according to their tastes.
Although some gyms may have specific clothing decoration rules, checking before purchasing any patches for your BJJ uniform is best. Similarly, it is essential to pay attention to tournament regulations regarding sleeve length measurements and pant sizes to guarantee fairness among all participants.
Karate uniforms, known as gis, have become one of the most recognizable symbols of martial arts. As its roots come from Japan and Okinawa, the Karate gi has developed into a unique style that attracts people worldwide.
It comprises loose-fitting trousers and a top fastened with a colored belt that determines the wearer’s rank. The top of a Karate Gi comes in various styles: jacket or pull-over tops are generally available. Cotton and polyester blends are usually more economical, while 100% cotton offers added durability to withstand hard and intense training sessions.
Gis come in different weights and colors, white being the most popular. Additionally, you must check with your coaches and tournament regulations before choosing an appropriate uniform for your gym or competition.
Tae Kwon Do Gi
The Tae Kwon Do uniform – also referred to as dobok – is an evolution of the Karate gi. It has been adapted to fit the specific needs of Tae Kwon Do practitioners. Unlike other martial art disciplines, Tae Kwon Do uniforms favor a shirt-like top with a v-neck design instead of jackets.
These allow participants to perform faster strikes without worrying about their clothing slipping off or becoming undone during moves. Doboks also come in many styles, weights, and colors allowing martial artists to choose what best meets their individual needs and preferences.
However, there is one rule about v-neck collars – they should only be worn by black belts who achieved such rank in Tae Kwon Do. Also, these uniforms are made from lightweight materials such as synthetic fibers. These provide comfort while still lasting through rigorous training sessions.
All these features make doboks practical and aesthetically pleasing, thus providing wearers with great pride when wearing them during competitions or tournaments worldwide.
Now onto the Traditional type of uniforms which consist of mainly three types of uniforms: the Shaoling Arhat Robe, the Wudang Taoist Robe, and the Tai Chi Suit.
Shaolin Arhat Robe
Shaolin Arhat Robe is a traditional martial arts uniform for practicing Shaolin Kung Fu. It has existed since the Song Dynasty. It consists of a long jacket with sleeves and pants that are loose enough to allow for freedom of movement but also open enough to promote smooth and accurate movements.
The lower garment, the pants, feature socks tightly strapped up to prevent them from sliding down during practice. The upper garment also features straps known as oversleeves which can be tied around the forearms. It needed to ensure a snug fit when performing techniques requiring fast movement or applying large force.
Wudang Taoist Robe
Wudang Taoist Robe is traditionally worn by Wudang Taoist priests and is mainly associated with Tai Chi practices. This uniform typically features a knee-length robe and baggy pants.
The pant legs may be wrapped in socks for extra comfort, but these are typically not tied or bound like in an Arhat Robe. Oversleeves are not normally featured in this outfit since Tai Chi is generally much slower than Shaolin Kung Fu.
Tai Chi Suit
Tai Chi Suit is another martial arts uniform primarily used by non-Taoists who practice Tai Chi. It shares similarities with the Taoist Robe, though its upper garment only covers up to the hip and does not feature big socks wrapping around the pant legs as its predecessor does.
Its main purpose is to provide users with maximum comfort and flexibility when performing various Qi Gong exercises, such as Yiquan or Baguazhang.
An Aikido uniform consists of the uwagi, hakama, and obi (belt). The uwagi—also known as the gi or keiko-gi—is a lightweight jacket made from cotton or polyester fabric. It is typically white or off-white in color and features long sleeves that can be tied at the wrists for extra comfort during practice. The uwagi also has slits down the sides to increase mobility while practicing movements such as throwing and grappling.
The hakama are traditional Japanese trousers with wide legs that taper towards the ankles. They also protect against injury during throws or joint locks by cushioning against falls on hard surfaces such as tatami mats.
Finally, the obi is a thick belt tied around the waist of the practitioner’s gi to hold it together while practicing movements like rolling, throwing, and locking joints.
The uniform includes two main pieces: the keikogi and hakama. The keikogi is an upper garment worn by both men and women that consists of a long-sleeved top, which is usually white or off-white in color. It has extra fabric around the waist, allowing extra comfort and flexibility when practicing sword techniques.
The hakama is a lower garment with pleats that can be worn by both men and women. It traditionally comes in black or navy blue. Still, it may also come in other colors depending on the practitioner’s style preference.
In addition to these two main pieces, several other items make up a full Laido uniform, including tabi socks (split-toe socks), zori sandals, and obi (a wide belt). The tabi socks provide additional protection against slips while practicing sword techniques.
At the same time, the zori sandals help protect feet from slipping when stepping on grass or dirt floors often found in dojos (training halls). Lastly, the obi keeps the keikogi closed securely, so it does not come undone during practice.
The traditional Ninjutsu gi is composed of two parts, the jacket (called uwagi) and pants (called zubon). Traditionally, both pieces are made from lightweight cotton fabric, typically black or white.
The jackets have long sleeves worn down and cuffed at the wrists, while the pants are also cuffed at the ankles. Both pieces have drawstrings that can be tightened at specific points on the body for a snug fit. This ensures comfort and mobility while training.
In addition to the jacket and pants, certain accessories form part of a complete Ninjutsu uniform. These include an orange belt (or obi), gloves (called tekkou), shin guards (called suneate), ankle guards (called kyahan), and foot protectors (called tabi). The gloves offer extra protection for your hands during grappling techniques, while the shin guards protect your legs from kicks and other strikes during sparring exercises.
The ankle guards provide cushioning when landing from high jumps. At the same time, foot protectors keep your feet safe from slipping or sliding on rough surfaces. All these accessories work together to make up a complete Ninjutsu uniform that will help keep you safe during practice.
And finally, it’s time to look at modern/competitive martial art uniforms.
Combat Sambo Uniform
Combat Sambo is a modern martial art derived from Russian combat sports and judo. The uniform for Combat Sambo is similar to that of judo, featuring a thick cotton top known as the Kimono or Judogi, as well as a pair of elastic shorts with drawstrings. The fighters also wear a belt that is practically the same as the Judo one and can come in various colors.
Another piece of the Combat Sambo uniform is wrestling shoes; they are lightweight and provide a good grip when grappling or wrestling on the mat. Combat Sambo practitioners can also wear rashguards, knee pads, and elbow pads for extra protection.
Muay Thai Uniform
The Muay Thai “uniform” is pretty simple: a pair of shorts and two additional traditional pieces of “clothing,” the Mongkon and the Pra Jiad. The Mongkok is a headband that Muay Thai fighters have worn since ancient times.
It is believed to be a sign of respect to their teacher or trainer and to provide protection during fights. The Mongkok is usually made of cloth or elastic material and decorated with various colors and symbols, such as animals, plants, religious figures, or even words in English or local dialects.
The Mongkok is traditionally presented to participants before the start of a fight; it is put on first by the fighter’s teacher or trainer while they chant traditional prayers for luck and protection. The fighter then wears it until the end of the fight. And it is removed by their teacher again as a sign of respect. Tying and untying the Mongkok has become an integral part of Muay Thai culture, symbolizing loyalty between student and teacher.
The pra jiad (also known as armbands) are worn by fighters during Muay Thai matches for protection against blows from opponents’ elbows and fists. They are made from woven cotton fabric in various colors according to tradition. Just like with the Mongkok, it is believed that wearing them brings luck to fighters during matches and provides some physical protection against strikes from opponents’ arms or legs.
The boxing “uniform” is a bit different than the traditional uniforms of other martial arts. It comprises a simple pair of shorts larger than those worn by MMA fighters or kickboxers.
The shorts come with a band or drawstring at the waist for extra support and as a mark under which your opponent mustn’t strike and usually feature some logo. Some boxers like to wear flashy or brightly colored shorts to stand out from the crowd.
Similarly to boxing and Muay Thai uniforms, kickboxing and MMA gear are pretty simple. It consists of shorts designed to provide maximum mobility and comfort; they usually feature a waistband for extra support and often have logos.
The traditional uniform worn by wrestlers is a tight-fitting singlet designed to prevent their opponents from quickly grabbing onto them during matches. The singlets also allow referees to clearly observe each wrestler’s body while bestowing points or declaring pins.
Unlike in Judo, it’s strictly prohibited to grasp an opponent’s clothing in all forms of amateur wrestling. In most high school and college tournaments, competitors wear singlets in their respective team colors. An anklet may be added to distinguish one wrestler from the other for scoring considerations.
On the international level, in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, participants usually bring a red and a blue singlet.
As you can see, there is a wide variety of uniforms worn in martial arts. While they may look different from one another, they all serve the same purpose – to provide maximum comfort, and mobility to their wearers. It is important to remember that the uniform you choose should be tailored to your individual needs and abilities. Most importantly, it allows you to perform at your best when in the ring!