In almost every karate dojo you will see the students wearing a particular style of karate uniform, which is called a “Dogi” and often referred to as just “gi”.  There are a few reasons why we all wear a dogi and not shorts and a t-shirt while training.  One reason is that we are training in a historical Japanese Martial Art, so we should embrace the traditions and history of the art while we train.  It wouldn’t seem right if we went and watched an AFL game in Japan with the players wearing a karate uniform!  But there is also some history to the uniform that often goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

The basis of the uniform is that it allows people of all different social classes to train together without being influenced by social standings.  It prevents a student being able to display their wealth, social or political standing while in the dojo, effectivley making everyone equal regardless of how much money or influence they have.


Another aspect of the white uniform is that in Japan the colour white signifies pureness. This element of pureness has transferred over to the martial arts, where by wearing only a plain white Dogi, we are training with a pure heart and mind, and not one that is tainted by violence, maliciousness or greed.

This is why when training at our Dojo we only allow for a plain white Dogi, with no colours, patches, badges, stripes or embroidery other than the JKA logo on the left chest area.

Cleanliness And Maintenance Of Dogi (Uniform)

Hands and feet must be clean and nails trimmed neatly. It is also considered bad manners to train in an unclean uniform or Dogi. It is a simple matter of being aware that if your Dogi smells then there is a good chance that this will increase the discomfort of other students who are forced to train near you. Remember to air your Dogi after training.

Throughout the course of your training it is common for a Dogi to become torn and/or discoloured; it is considered important that a Dogi is maintained correctly like any other uniform.

All Dogi should be white with only one badge worn which is the association badge and positioned at the left side of the chest. Ladies are permitted to wear a white t-shirt under their Dogi but men are not.

Looking After Your Belt

Be mindful of your belt and treat it austerely. Remember a belt is part of your uniform. One’s belt should never be draped around the neck or cast unthinkingly aside. It is either tied correctly around your waist or placed neatly in your training bag.

Nishimura Shihan demonstrating how to tie a karate belt (obi).

Wearing Jewellery

Karate training is a very austere and respectful art form. A major element in its practice is the homogeneous nature of everyone taking part.

Karate is seen as a means of spiritual improvement and it can therefore stand to reason that items of jewellery and even cosmetics are seen as a distraction from the spiritual goal of Karate. Wearing jewellery can also be seen as discriminatory, by leading to sense of segregation between rich and poor and it is for a similar reason why uniforms are worn at some schools and companies. Jewellery can also cause an injury to the wearer or other students so it must be removed or taped securely if removal is not an option.