This is a practical post for readers in various parts of their martial arts careers. One question that seems to come up a lot is “what kind of uniform should I get? What the heck is a 12 ounce gi??”
People often develop love/hate relationships with different brands of uniforms and different weights of uniforms. Depending on who you ask, and what your intentions are, the best gi for you might change. For beginners, it’s basically just a big mess of colored pajamas.
Let’s start off by examining some of the differences you might find in gi styles.
As you’ve probably already guessed, “gi” is the Japanese word for uniform. In tae kwon do they use the word “dobok”. But, in general, they are the same thing. All uniforms consist of two major parts, the jacket (uwagi) and the pants (zuban).
The jacket has two open flaps in the front that are cross tied – first the right flap to inside left, and the left flap to outside right. It’s important to note that karate and tae kwon do uniforms have these straps as jujutsu and judo uniforms do not. This is because judo and jujutsu feature a lot of grappling, pulling, and twisting, and the straps of a normal karate uniform would very quickly get yanked off.
Another difference you’ll notice is the way the pants are secured. The more “traditional” uniforms have drawstring ties where a strap is threaded through the top of the pants and is pulled tight and then tied together. Some of the newer style uniforms have elastic around the waist with a shoestring tie like normal workout pants. Generally speaking, neither style is particularly frowned upon, even in traditional dojo.
When it comes to karate, you’ll have two main colors to deal with: white and black. White is the most prominent and is acceptable in almost every dojo. Black is also widely used and has traditional roots too. Anything beyond those two basic styles is considered more modern and very dojo-specific. If you wish to join a dojo it’s important to note what rules and regulations they abide by.
Tae kwon do uniforms tend to be either plain or with a colored collar. Jujutsu and judo tend to use white or blue, with black as a lesser used color. Arts such as aikido and kenjutsu also utilize a hakama, which is the baggy pleated pants you might see Samurai sport in the movies.
Perhaps one of the trickiest things to do when shopping for a gi is decide what weight to get. The measuring system (which is ounces) is not readily understandable, and it takes tactile experience to know which weight you want. That being said, here are some tips for when you are deciding.
- 8 Ounce – 8 ounce uniforms are also called ‘student’ uniforms because they are inexpensive and easy for dojo owners to keep stocked. These are the lightest available and feel closest to natural cotton clothing. Wearing a martial arts uniform for the first time is a weird experience and you probably won’t feel too comfortable or natural. Even though these are light, they’ll feel clunky at first. 8 ouncers have other uses as well. Even experienced practitioners use 8 ounce when they need something light and airy for the summer, or if they are participating in a sweat-inducing gasshuku.
- 10 Ounce – 10 ounce is a great day-to-day weight. For people who feel as if they need a little more response and ‘feel’ from a uniform but still don’t want to feel stifled, 10 ounce is a good choice. As practitioners gain experience, they are expected to generate snap and pop from their gi. This came to pass as instructors started to use the snap as a barometer of kime, or martial arts focus.
- 12 Ounce – 12 ounce is a nice choice for people who need responsiveness in their gi. For individuals looking to compete in tournaments, especially in kata, this is fine way to go. When ironed and pressed properly, 12 ouncers look very sharp and proper. Many practitioners keep a 12 ounce around for official events or gatherings.
- 14 Ounce – 14 ounce is the heaviest available uniform (in general) and is considered the ‘heavyweight gi’. 14 ounce gis are the most responsive of all, but can also suffer from the cardboard effect if the material is not of high quality or washed properly. good heavyweight uniforms are often 100% cotton as this helps reduce stiffness. 14 ouncers have serious feel and character, and are great for official events. They also produce excellent snap in techniques.
The price of uniforms varies greatly. Lightweight gi are generally cheaper (and sometimes downright cheap). When you get into the heavier weights you can range in price from $80 to $300. The brand you choose will have a big effect on the price tag. The major differences in regards to brands is often how stiff they are and how well they lay on the body. You’ll also notice differences in the amount of stitching, and how quickly the gi wears out.
Final Thoughts on Gi Choice
When you are shopping around, one of the best things to do is find people that wear different brands. Ask them how they like the fit and material, and if you are feeling really froggy, ask them if you can try it on.
When it comes to getting a uniform that is right for you, tactile experience is the highest priority. Figure out what you’re looking for, do some brand research, and find the best match!
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National Geographic began a study in the early 1970’s wherein they identified global “blue zones”. Blue zones are specific locations that have societies of people that are longer lived, healthier, and more active into old age than the rest of the world.
Recently Dan Buettner, an American explorer and author, created a presentation discussing his research into the National Geographic blue zones. One of the locations he found most intriguing and noteworthy was the small island of Okinawa.
Watch this video as Mr. Buettner discusses his findings on why he believes the Okinawans and a handful of other cultures are so special.
There are multiple locations around the world that feature very interesting groupings of people that have achieved longevity. However, according to Mr. Bueller, Okinawa is considered “ground zero”. They have a complex social system with many built-in habits that lead to longer and healthier lives. I’d like to discuss a few of the points in the video and how they relate to the lifestyle of a martial artist.
Mr. Bueller’s Study In Relevance to Martial Arts
According to Mr. Bueller, the most important keys to longevity are:
- Eating Wisely
- Finding the Right Tribe
- Moving Naturally
- Adopting a Healthy Outlook
Within each of those categories Bueller features an Okinawan concept that achieves the desired results. Let’s look at the Okinawan habits and how they coincide with martial arts practice.
Eating Wisely – Hara Hachi Bu
Okinawans utilize “hara hachi bu”, which is the method of eating until you are 80% full. Similarly, recent western studies have shown that healthy dietary habits involve eating small meals throughout the day, and not eating excessively at any one time. The Okinawan people have found clever ways of maintaining this practice, such as eating off of smaller plates.
For martial artists, filling up the “fuel tank” with proper nutrients is critical to good study. One of the worst contributions Americans (and perhaps westerners in general) have given to the arts is the ‘master’ who is extremely rotund. Many times these portly experts can barely tie their belts around their waists. You might hear pseudo-explanations about these practitioners becoming more Buddha-like in their figure, or that the eastern arts benefit from a lowered center of gravity, but that’s all really fancy ways of avoiding the truth.
The Okinawan diet is heavy in fish, fruits, and vegetables, including the bitter and scary looking Goya:
This kind of diet has helped cultures around the world obtain and retain good health. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that some western conveniences like McDonald’s are slowly starting to creep onto Okinawa, especially in the southern regions. We will have to watch carefully how the longevity and quality-of-life numbers are effected by these changes (some senior karateka I’ve spoken to believe it is already having an effect).
Right Tribe – Moai
The Okinawans have a built-in social network of extremely tight-knit proportions. As technology increases all across the globe, humans are achieving a brand new level of social interaction. Will these online communities simulate the positive effects of Moai, or is something critical missing? We can’t be certain yet.
One thing that is certain is the kind of community that can be built in traditional dojos and study groups. As martial artists grow and train, they become closer and closer. If the group is made up of good people, they can also rely on each other and trust each other.
Moving Naturally – Physical Activity
This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of training. The physical activity in martial arts is extremely healthy as it works the whole body. While weight lifting and running both have very important purposes, activities like kata are demanding on every muscle group in the body. One can get a cardio workout and a tension-muscle workout, not to mention improved balance, fast and slow twitch muscle endurance, and much more.
The “moving naturally” aspect of Bueller’s speech is something I find very interesting. Although some arts like karate and tae kwon do appear to move practitioners toward ‘unnatural’ stances, ultimately they are designed to teach a person how to optimally distribute weight and move from one beneficial position to another. And, with enough practice, they are to be practiced naturally. Other arts, like aikido and tai chi chuan, place an even stronger emphasis on natural body.
Healthy Outlook – Ikigai
One of the biggest revolutions in thought in our time is the changing of emphasis from physical health to mental health in connection to longevity. The effects of negative stress and “inflammation” are cited more and more frequently as the cause of early death and lowered quality of life. One of the most important methods for counteracting that is ikigai, a sense of purpose.
Of course, not every purpose is ikigai. It’s quite possible to be driven and dedicated but without experiencing the true nature of ikigai. Ikigai is something that brings joy and contentment. It fills a person with resolve and a sense of satisfaction in what they are doing. Most of all, it brings happiness. I contend, as I always have here on this website, that martial arts can be that for some people. Or, at the very least, give them the physical and mental tools to find an ikigai in there life, and keep them active enough to continue experiencing it.
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The funny thing about blogging is that articles have a tendency to fade into oblivion. Even the strongest content can slide out of sight, and that is a shame. The goal of this ebook is to provide readers with 20 of the best articles I have created and 4 bonus articles that are completely unique to this ebook. Topics range all over, but are designed to help martial artists of all backgrounds find new ways to explore and improve in their art.
This ebook can be purchased with credit card (no accounts required) or through Paypal account. To buy, click ‘add to cart’, then click the yellow ‘check out with paypal’ button that will pop up. Both credit card and Paypal transactions are processed through the secure Paypal website.
The Best of Ikigai (With Bonus Articles)
Get the very best Ikigai articles in one comprehensive ebook, and receive 4 never before seen articles that won’t be published anywhere else. (114 pages).
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I have always tried to create article-style blog posts that have a lot of meat to them. That approach has lent itself to the creation of this book where I was able to collect the articles that I thought were the most significant or had the most positive impact on readers.
Some topics include:
- Expanding your ability to decipher bunkai in kata
- Real world tips for increasing your self defense abilities
- Philosophical considerations regarding the purpose and direction of traditional martial arts
- Tales of old martial arts masters and their contributions
- Discovering ways to improve your body, mind, and spirit through training
Also included are 4 new articles that I created specifically for this ebook. They range from tactical advice on creating a self defense “touch reflex”, to commentary on how we can return to the old methods of Okinawa using the tools right in front of us.
Why Charge For This One?
You may have noticed that I decided to charge for this ebook while I offered my previous one for free. This was a pure time-commitment decision. If I wish to continue dedicating significant effort to this website and to the creation of unique ebooks (which I definitely want to), I have to make sure that I do not neglect my financial obligations in “the real world”. Although I’d like to do everything for free, I’m going to need to charge small amounts from time to time out of necessity.
On the plus side, charging has inspired me to include all of the bonus material here that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. My plan is to always make these products worth your while!
A Prize-Inducing Thanks For Your Support
There are about 80 trillion websites on the internet, and I feel fortunate to have you visit my little corner. If you choose to support the site and purchase this ebook, it is my plan to create some fun ‘thank you’ rewards. In the near future I intend to conduct two giveaways – one for anyone who buys the book (I’ll have a complete list of receipts), and one for anyone who reviews or links to the book from their own website.
In the meantime, if you’d like to help get the word out, here are some options:
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Questions or Concerns
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