What is a gi?
A traditional martial arts uniform that is used to practice Japanese martial arts and its derivative forms, is known as a “keikogi” (keiko, roughly translated as “practice”, and gi, roughly translated as “dress or clothes”). A keikogi is also known as a keikoi, or a dōgi.
Sometime in the 19th century, Jigorō Kanō – the founder of Judo, developed the keikogi. The keikogi has three parts, namely the jacket, the trousers, and the belt. The jacket is known as the “uwagi” (roughly translated as “upper”); the trousers are known as the “shitabaki” (roughly translated as “underpants”), or as the “zubon” (roughly translated as “trousers”); and the belt is known as “obi” (roughly translated as “belt”).
Normally, outside Japan, the keikogi is generally known simply as a “gi” (usually pronounced as “ghee”), which technically is incorrect; nonetheless, contextually it is widely understood and accepted, especially in the English speaking countries. Moreover, although technically incorrect, the jacket of the gi, is generally known as a “kimono”, especially in French, Polish, and Russian speaking countries.
Often, in the word “keikogi”, the first part “keiko” is replaced with the name of the Japanese martial art or its derivative form. For example, the judogi (judo uniform), karategi (karate uniform), jujutsugi (jujutsu uniform), and BJJgi (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu uniform).
Derivative forms of the gi include the dobok (Taekwondo uniform); kendogi (kendo uniform; instead of trousers, they use a “hakama”, which is a traditional Japanese clothing); sambovka/kurtka (sambo-a russian martial art, has a uniform similar to a judogi top that is known as a sambovka or a kurtka, and it is coupled with wrestling styled shorts and shoes); and võ phục (Vietnamese martial arts uniform).
Fabric of the gi
Traditionally, the gi is made from unbleached cotton, but it is not sparkling white in colour. Hence, nowadays, the cotton is bleached in different colours with white, black, blue and red being the most common. Additionally, nowadays different blends of cotton and polyester are also used to manufacture a gi.
Warp and Weft
A fabric can be made heavier or lighter, depending upon how it is woven. Weaving consists of a warp and a weft, which together convert threads/yarns into a fabric/cloth. Initially, the cotton threads or yarns are stretched in tension vertically/longitudinally over a frame or a loom. This is known as the warp. Then, another threads/yarns are drawn through horizontally/latitudinally over the warp by inserting them under and over the warp in an interlacing manner. This is known as the weft. Different textures and patterns can be created if the sequence of interlacing the weft yarns over and under the warp yarns is changed.
Textile Vlog video “What is Warp and Weft in Textile? Identification of Warp and Weft”:
There are many different types of weaves like plain weave, weft-faced weave, warp-faced weave, twill weave, satin weave, tapestry weave, weft patterning weave, twining weave, knotted pile weave and many more.
Common weaves found in a gi
- Single weave
- Double weave
- Gold weave
- Pearl weave
- Ripstop weave
Here, the warp and weft are alternating in a simple manner. The weft thread alternately goes under and over the warp thread. The appearance is flat and smooth. Only one set of warp threads and one set of weft threads are used, which creates a fabric having a single layer.
Here, two or more sets or warp threads are woven with two or more weft threads, which creates a fabric with double layers. Because more threads are used in the same area, the fabric becomes heavier. Canvas features a double weave; however some manufacturers make it light by weaving it in a single weave.
Here, the warp is same as the single weave, but the weft is different. Two weft threads are used, where one weft thread is wider and the other weft thread is narrower in width. The wider weft thread is woven loosely over and under the warp thread. Thereafter, the narrower weft thread is woven tightly over and under the warp thread. The wider and looser weft thread is alternated with the narrower and tighter weft thread. This creates raised bumps that look as if pearls are stringed on alternating strings.
Pearl Weave Plus
This is a variation of a Pearl Weave. Here, the wider and looser weft thread is woven in a little diagonal manner that gives it an appearance of a flattened rope.
Here, several narrower and lighter warp threads are used to form a section. Thereafter, wider and heavier warp threads are used. Thus, the wider and heavier warp threads come in-between the sections of narrower and lighter warp threads. Then the weft is woven with normal weft threads. The weft goes under and over the entire section of the narrower and lighter warp threads. This creates an easily identifiable ladder-like appearance, which is known as a gold weave.
Honey Comb Weave
This is almost similar to the Gold Weave, but there are no wider and heavier warp threads. The weft threads jump over and under many rows of narrower and lighter warp threads, section after section in a tight way. The tightness of the weft threads creates a ‘honey comb’ hexagonal shape.
Here, the warp and the weft threads are interwoven in a crosshatch pattern, and special reinforcement thicker yarns are interwoven at regular intervals, generally between 5 to 8 millimeters. The fabric may be in cotton or silk, with the reinforcement yarn in polyester, polypropylene or nylon. It is lightweight and a strong fabric.
Which weave is best?
Unfortunately, there is no correct answer. Some like a light-weight fabric, some prefer a medium-weight fabric, while some prefer a heavy-weight fabric. Basically, the wearer should like the look and feel of the fabric and be comfortable in it while practicing.
Single Weave fabrics and Ripstop Weave fabrics are light in weight.
Pearl Weave and Pearl Weave Plus are also light but a bit heavier than single weave fabrics, due to which they are sometimes also considered as medium-weight fabrics.
Gold Weave and Honey Comb Weave are medium-weight fabrics; whereas Double Weave is a heavy-weight fabric.
- Lowry, Dave (2006). In the Dojo. Boston: Weatherhill. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-8348-0572-9. Available at: https://archive.org/details/indojoritualseti00lowr/page/39/mode/2up [Accessed on June 27, 2022]
- Burnham, Dorothy K. (1980). Warp and Weft: A Textile Terminology. Royal Ontario Museum. ISBN 0-88854-256-9. Available at: https://archive.org/details/warpwefttextilet0000burn/mode/2up [Accessed on June 27, 2022]
- “Structure“, webpage, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. Available at: https://museum.gwu.edu/structure [Accessed on June 27, 2022]
- “Types of Woven Fabrics – universally used fabric names”, webpage, Textile School. Available at: https://www.textileschool.com/227/woven-fabrics-and-types/ [Accessed on June 27, 2022]