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Challenging the Masters-Why do you wear gi?

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Take a deep breath, I am going to tackle one of martial arts most consistent and persistent traditions. Wearing a gi is one of the things most commonly associated with practicing martial arts. For those who don't know, the gi is the heavy cotton uniform that you have most likely seen in the movies, or even in your own martial arts class. If I was a betting man, I would say that right about the time you decided to enroll in a martial arts class, you asked if you had to buy your own gi, or if they were included in enrollment. You probably didn't think anything about WHY you wore them, just that you were supposed to. But now that I have rattled your mental Rolodex, do me a favor. Ask yourself, why the heck do you wear those things. Let me see, did your teacher say something enlightened like,"Well, that is the way the ancient masters practiced." Sound familiar? Well, let's take a deeper look shall we. Well, as a man who has thought long on this, I am going to give you an easy answer so that you don't stress yourself. Now, don't take credit for having thought of it yourself. Just be honest and say "thank you Anthony." Now if you think of the clothing style of the time, a gi bears a huge resemblance to a kimono. The difference being in the material. Kimono were a lot more fragile. Martial artists knew that they could not practice in their regular kimonos as they would destroy them every other practice or so. So they created an outfit that looked like what they wore regularly, but were sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of martial arts training. Voila, the gi is born!!! Now for the really smart ones out there, I am sure that you have thought of one other main reason for using the gi. That reason is uniformity. Fact of the matter is that in a white gi,everyone is the same. No matter if you are a CEO, or housewife, or shameless slacker like me :), in a gi we are all equals. Fact of the matter is that in martial arts we are all, or SHOULD be, on the same page. For those of you who go to gyms, I know that you have seen at least one person with the trendy matching outfits, and new shoes. If not, you will see one soon. They seem to be in every gym. I personally enjoy wearing a gi, and not wondering about how the gi makes my butt look. In martial arts we are all about the training and accomplishing goals. Our gi is just a worker's uniform. A tool, like a wetsuit, or scuba gear. Just a tool. Now there are a lot of people who feel that wearing a red gi, or a black one, or a camouflage one, denotes some special skill or rank. It doesn't. Or at least it shouldn't. I hope that you are not caught up in all of that type of ego stroking. If you are, you might want to rethink why. Okay, now that I have gotten all traditional on you, I am going to tell you all about why gis suck big time. First of all, they are HOT. I have a 14 ounce heavyweight gi, and it sucks big time in the summer. It is like wearing one big old oven mitt. It holds in the heat, and NEVER breathes the way they are supposed to. They can be quite expensive, and I will be darned if those things don't make for the worst wedgies in the world. My second gripe is all about keeping them fastened. Now they stay just fine when you are doing warmup, katas, and one on one drills. But once the sparring starts (and where I teach we always spar) they pop open like a jack in the box. There is nothing more annoying than trying to adjust your gi before the roundhouse kick lands on you. Of course there is always the interesting fact that your belt knot ends up on your kidneys as opposed to your belly button. Yeah, that looks REALLY cool. And I figure, now that I am griping, I am going to make my most important gripe. There are a lot of ways to create a uniform looking classroom. If you have just a regular set of sweats or warmups, all you need is a class T-shirt or something. Warmups and sweats are more snug, and will not move around a lot during class. If you like, you can also have a class sweatshirt for cold weather days. Does this mean that you are less dedicated to your training? Nope! Does it mean that you can go to the grocery store right after class without looking like you have been in pajamas all day? Yep. Sure does. But wait a minute guys..... I am about to speak on a maki, a maki, what the heck do we use a makiwara for anyhow?..............


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