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How Should You Choose Your First Karate Uniform

This karate uniform buying guide is intended to help you select the right karate uniform for your needs. It is a must-read for those buying their first martial art uniform, either for themselves or their children.

We use the terms karate uniform and karate gi interchangeably, they mean the same thing.

What makes up a karate uniform:

The regular lightweight karate uniform is made up of a jacket, pants, and belt. If buying a canvas karate uniform it is made up of jacket and pants only, no belt. The reason for that is that canvas karate uniforms are usually worn by experienced practitioners, so they already have belts. If you are new to martial art training and buying a canvas karate uniform, white belts are available at most martial art supplies stores.

The jacket is an open wrap-around style that is secured using ties at the sides. The karate belt is tied securely around the waist. The ends of the belt should hang at equal lengths.

Karate uniform pants have a gusseted crotch that is designed to reduce strain on the fabric when kicking and stretching. It increases the angle at which the pants can open when carrying out high kicks.

The waist of the pants is usually elasticated now with a shoestring tie inside for extra adjustment. In the past karate, pants were always made with a cord waist that fastened through loops on the waist of the pants and tied at the side. A few practitioners still prefer this style but generally, an elastic waist is more convenient and the choice of most people.

Selecting the right fabric type and weight:

Perhaps one of the trickiest things to do when shopping for a karate gi is to decide the weight of the uniform you want. The measuring system (ounces) is not complicated but it takes hands-on experience to know which weight you want. If you are unable to visit a store and feel the fabric for yourself here are some tips to help you decide.

Uniforms are usually found in two fabric types;
-100% cotton and
-Cotton/Polyester blend usually consisting of 55% Cotton/45% Polyester.

100% Cotton

Cotton is used to manufacture lightweight karate gi’s as well as heavier weight canvas gi’s. Cotton is a natural fiber so it breathes keeping the wearer cooler than when wearing poly/cotton blend karate uniforms. That’s the same regardless of the weight of the fabric. So while a 12oz canvas gi will feel heavier in weight than a lighter weight poly/cotton it will feel comfortable. The downside of cotton karate uniforms is that they can shrink so it’s best to find out if the uniform has been pre-shrunk – most are these days. If it is not pre-shrunk ask if it has been made with a shrinkage allowance or if you should buy a size larger to allow for that.

Cotton/Polyester Blend

This fabric type usually makes up the less expensive light and medium weight uniforms. These are easy to care for and less likely to shrink, perfect for everyday training, and great for kids or beginners that don’t want to spend too much on a first uniform. The downside is that if you sweat a lot they can stick to your skin and become see-through. That’s nothing to do with the quality of the uniform, just a feature of the fabric. Generally, though, they are ideal for most people.

Karate Uniform Fabric Weight:

The uniforms are classified in the following ways:
Lightweight – 7oz to 8oz cotton and poly/cotton
Medium-weight or middleweight – 10oz to 14oz
Heavyweight – 16oz – 18oz

Lightweight Karate Uniform

7oz or 8oz cotton or poly/cotton. This is the weight of most martial arts student uniforms and typically what you will receive as your first uniform when you enroll at a martial art school.

8oz Karate Uniform

Wearing a martial arts uniform for the first time is a new experience so you want to feel as comfortable as possible. While these are light, loose, and easy to wear your uniform will feel a little different at first but after a few classes and washes it will be the most comfortable piece of clothing in your wardrobe! Even experienced practitioners use 8oz uniforms when they need something light and airy for the summer.

10oz Karate Uniform

10oz cotton canvas is the lightest of the canvas uniforms and a great day-to-day weight. For practitioners who want a heavier uniform for the ‘feel’ but don’t want to feel restricted by the extra weight, 10oz is a perfect choice. As practitioners gain experience, they enjoy generating the ‘snap’ that canvas gi’s produce, and the 10oz gi will do that.

Medium-Weight Karate Uniform

12oz and 14oz cotton canvas. These are the most popular choice for experienced martial arts practitioners. They provide a good balance between strength, weight, and coolness. They will last longer and look better over a longer period of time than a lightweight uniform.

12oz Karate Uniform

12oz cotton canvas is often the choice of people trying a canvas karate gi for the first time. They feel good on, the weight of the fabric doesn’t sag and droop the way lightweight uniforms do so they are perfect for gradings and competitions, anytime you want to make a good impression.

14 oz Karate Uniform

14oz cotton canvas is also a good choice. It is much the same as the 12oz, the slightly denser fabric feels stiffer at first but softens after washing. 14oz uniforms have serious feel and strength and are great for official events. They also produce excellent snap-in techniques.

Heavyweight Karate Uniform

16oz and 18oz cotton canvas. These are usually the choice for a competition, demonstration, or for instructors. The heavier weight fabric is strong, durable, and has that great ‘snap’ to it that practitioners love to hear, making it perfect for kata and displays. There’s no doubt these heavyweight uniforms look super professional on but maybe less comfortable for smaller build females.

All these Karate Uniforms are stocked with us for Martial Arts lovers. If you need help we’re happy to give advice at any time.

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