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KwicKixJ1
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Joined: 13 Aug 2003
Posts: 164
Location: Texas
Styles: Taekwondo, Shorin Ryu, Shudokan, Muay Thai

PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2021 2:35 pm    Post subject: Karate Gi Colors Reply with quote

Karate schools often have strict "white gi only" policies. A lot of modern karate schools allow for colors and different styles similar to karate allow colors as well.

I've tried doing some research and I'm getting conflicting views everywhere. Ultimately, does it really matter? Is wearing a black gi for example considered "disrespectful?" Of course if your school doesn't allow it then those are the rules, but does wearing a black gi have some kind of meaning outside the school?

I've seen a video of Rika Usami wearing a purple gi, and there are tons of high level karateka who wear colored gis. Even the Seishin brand sells a black version of their gi.

So, is there something sacrilegious about wearing a black karate gi?
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Wastelander
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Joined: 18 Oct 2010
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Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2021 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Black keikogi are quite commonly used in kobudo training, because the weapons are often oiled and will stain white keikogi, and many karateka have simply taken to mixing/matching for their karate training, since the uniforms are otherwise the same. Additionally, there are some Okinawan instructors who have taken to using the black gi as sort of a protest against modern karate, and that's been spreading a bit. It's not disrespectful to the art, in any way, but of course wearing a uniform that your instructor doesn't want you to wear in class would be disrespectful, in that context.

Personally, I have made my standard uniforms black, both for practicality and protest reasons. Women and girls tend to find that to be much more comfortable than white uniforms, and everyone likes the fact that they don't have to worry about the sweat stains and whatnot, as long as it's clean. I will say that I think most other colors are just unnecessarily garish, although I've seen some darker blues that are nice.
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Himokiri Karate
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2021 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Depending on different teachers, it may mean different things.

Black gi may mean that the person is of a rank of an instructor.

Red gi I have heard represents fighters, people who fight and they tend to be more on the aggressive and flexible side. I do not know how true it is though. It could mean different things to different schools.
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Spartacus Maximus
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Joined: 01 Jun 2014
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2021 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Acceptable colours will always vary from one style or dojo to another. As far as Okinawan styles black is for kobudo, but it is sometimes worn by some of the head instructors in certain associations. Best is just following and opt for the common colour, white. White is acceptable in any dojo and showing up with a different colour might offend at worse and be very awkward at best. If you want to wear a different colour, always check if itís acceptable. Of course if you are the headmaster, nobody can do or say anything if you want to wear neon pink with green trimmings. Or camouflage pattern gi or whatever other outrageous combinations you can imagine
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KwicKixJ1
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Styles: Taekwondo, Shorin Ryu, Shudokan, Muay Thai

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2021 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:
Personally, I have made my standard uniforms black, both for practicality and protest reasons. Women and girls tend to find that to be much more comfortable than white uniforms, and everyone likes the fact that they don't have to worry about the sweat stains and whatnot, as long as it's clean. I will say that I think most other colors are just unnecessarily garish, although I've seen some darker blues that are nice.


Can you elaborate on the protest reason? Why are Okinawan karate practitioners protesting modern karate? What is it about modern karate that they're protesting?

I'm working on a martial arts related art project with some friends, and for practicality's sake the black gi just works better for filming. The project is a bit of a tribute to many martial arts cultures, and we didn't want to offend Japanese karate by displaying a black gi.
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KwicKixJ1
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Joined: 13 Aug 2003
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Location: Texas
Styles: Taekwondo, Shorin Ryu, Shudokan, Muay Thai

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2021 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spartacus Maximus wrote:
Acceptable colours will always vary from one style or dojo to another. As far as Okinawan styles black is for kobudo, but it is sometimes worn by some of the head instructors in certain associations. Best is just following and opt for the common colour, white. White is acceptable in any dojo and showing up with a different colour might offend at worse and be very awkward at best. If you want to wear a different colour, always check if itís acceptable. Of course if you are the headmaster, nobody can do or say anything if you want to wear neon pink with green trimmings. Or camouflage pattern gi or whatever other outrageous combinations you can imagine


I see. My shorin ryu school does weapons but all they wear is white. I used to train at a school where gi color could change depending on rank. At brown belt you could wear black if you wanted. I always loved how black gis look. But my favorite was always black pants with white top. I wasn't sure if it was disrespectful tho, because I heard that there was even underlying messages with the color of stitching on black belts.

I'm currently working on a big art project with some friends and I want to make sure to stay respectful of all martial arts cultures we're showcasing in the project and didn't know if there was something I didn't know about gi color meanings. Thanks for the reply!
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Wastelander
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Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2021 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KwicKixJ1 wrote:
Wastelander wrote:
Personally, I have made my standard uniforms black, both for practicality and protest reasons. Women and girls tend to find that to be much more comfortable than white uniforms, and everyone likes the fact that they don't have to worry about the sweat stains and whatnot, as long as it's clean. I will say that I think most other colors are just unnecessarily garish, although I've seen some darker blues that are nice.


Can you elaborate on the protest reason? Why are Okinawan karate practitioners protesting modern karate? What is it about modern karate that they're protesting?

I'm working on a martial arts related art project with some friends, and for practicality's sake the black gi just works better for filming. The project is a bit of a tribute to many martial arts cultures, and we didn't want to offend Japanese karate by displaying a black gi.


They feel that modern "traditional" karate has been driven so hard into sport territory that it is not really karate, anymore, essentially. An art that was developed for self-protection and security/law enforcement has been turned into a game of tag and dance for trophies, and I don't think they like the fact that so much material has been lost over the years because of that sport focus.

If you use a black keikogi in your project, I suppose it is possible you will offend some hardcore Japanese karate practitioners, but Okinawan karate practitioners will likely not be bothered, unless the version of Okinawan karate they learned was heavily influenced by Japanese mentality. You have to remember that the keikogi is a rather new addition to karate--less than 100 years old, IIRC--and they only started using it to fit in with the Japanese martial arts culture so they could make a case for its preservation. Before that, they typically just trained in underwear, or shorts of some kind, if they weren't training in regular clothes. I doubt the Okinawans cared much what color the keikogi was when they adopted it--the Japanese are the ones who placed importance on the symbolism of the color white in the keikogi when it was developed for Judo by Kano Jigoro. Additionally, traditional Okinawan festival clothing that is worn for demonstrations of the arts, martial and otherwise, come in many different colors, including black.
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KwicKixJ1
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Joined: 13 Aug 2003
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Location: Texas
Styles: Taekwondo, Shorin Ryu, Shudokan, Muay Thai

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2021 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:

They feel that modern "traditional" karate has been driven so hard into sport territory that it is not really karate, anymore, essentially. An art that was developed for self-protection and security/law enforcement has been turned into a game of tag and dance for trophies, and I don't think they like the fact that so much material has been lost over the years because of that sport focus.


That's kinda silly. However, I do see American sport karate as a different animal from Japanese and Okinawan karate. I remember coming up in the early 2000s when tricking first hit the scene and how American karate schools were making gigantic changes to traditional kata (yelling on every other move, ridiculous stances, etc.).

The same argument could definitely be made when comparing Okinawan kata from Japanese competition kata. It's close, but different. Aesthetics clearly play a big role in the Japanese presentation, and if I'd have to pick a side in that tug of war, I'd say I prefer how the Japanese kata look despite training at an Okinawan karate club currently.

Well, I guess bottom line I'm seeing, and correct me if I'm wrong, is it'll be alright to use a black uniform as long as I'm being respectful of the source material.
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Wastelander
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2021 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KwicKixJ1 wrote:
Wastelander wrote:

They feel that modern "traditional" karate has been driven so hard into sport territory that it is not really karate, anymore, essentially. An art that was developed for self-protection and security/law enforcement has been turned into a game of tag and dance for trophies, and I don't think they like the fact that so much material has been lost over the years because of that sport focus.


That's kinda silly. However, I do see American sport karate as a different animal from Japanese and Okinawan karate. I remember coming up in the early 2000s when tricking first hit the scene and how American karate schools were making gigantic changes to traditional kata (yelling on every other move, ridiculous stances, etc.).

The same argument could definitely be made when comparing Okinawan kata from Japanese competition kata. It's close, but different. Aesthetics clearly play a big role in the Japanese presentation, and if I'd have to pick a side in that tug of war, I'd say I prefer how the Japanese kata look despite training at an Okinawan karate club currently.

Well, I guess bottom line I'm seeing, and correct me if I'm wrong, is it'll be alright to use a black uniform as long as I'm being respectful of the source material.


I don't think it's silly for them to be upset at the loss of part of their cultural heritage, which they take great pride in, as it's being replaced with stuff that has nothing to do with the karate that their ancestors passed down to them--especially when it's still being called "traditional karate," as if it's been that way the whole time. I've seen people from Italy become enraged at how people and "Italian" restaurants cook Italian food for the same reason. The difference is that there are still tons of people in Italy who can cook traditional dishes properly, but the people on Okinawa who can teach the older methods of karate are dying off, because all the young people just want to compete in tournaments that are tailored to the Japanese approach to karate.

The bottom line, though, as you said, is that you should be fine using a black uniform in your project. The only people who might get upset are some people with a very strong, militaristic, Japanese karate upbringing, who might be the type who tend to think that a white uniform is the only acceptable uniform, and that wearing any other color makes it "not karate."
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KwicKixJ1
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Joined: 13 Aug 2003
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Location: Texas
Styles: Taekwondo, Shorin Ryu, Shudokan, Muay Thai

PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2021 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wastelander wrote:

I don't think it's silly for them to be upset at the loss of part of their cultural heritage, which they take great pride in, as it's being replaced with stuff that has nothing to do with the karate that their ancestors passed down to them--especially when it's still being called "traditional karate," as if it's been that way the whole time. I've seen people from Italy become enraged at how people and "Italian" restaurants cook Italian food for the same reason. The difference is that there are still tons of people in Italy who can cook traditional dishes properly, but the people on Okinawa who can teach the older methods of karate are dying off, because all the young people just want to compete in tournaments that are tailored to the Japanese approach to karate.


I see what you're saying and I get that some people might see modern karate as straying away from traditions and cultural heritage, but I guess what I'm thinking about is what aspects of modern karate they're straying from and how much it really identifies a culture?

Like I said earlier, I think American sport karate is a totally different martial art from Japanese or Okinawan karate. But I'm having a hard time seeing why someone who's dedicated to Okinawan karate would find it disrespectful of their culture to emphasize the parts of kata that Japanese kata competitions focus on. I think that competition kata elevates the kata scene and really showcases the maximum potential of the human body. Now, when it comes to fighting I guess the idea of point fighting being a game of tag that dilutes the old warrior spirit of traditional karate, I can see that, but point fighting and practical combat applications are two completely different elements of the same activity. Like floor exercises vs balance beam in gymnastics.

What do you think? Would love to hear what aspects of modern karate you think puts old traditions at risk.
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