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Zaine
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2022 9:58 am    Post subject: Meaning of Gi Colors Reply with quote

Himokiri Karate wrote:
The white gi represents purity of someone's passion and principle.


I've heard this a lot, as I am sure we all have. Does anyone have any historical record on this? Where did this story began. My dad likes to share a story about why his mother cut the ends off of beef roasts. His mother used to say that she cut the ends off because it's what her mother did. His grandmother claimed that it was what her mother did to make it taste better. His great-grandmother said that she had to cut off the ends to make it fit in the roasting pan.

To me, it seems that the story about white gis is similar. I know that (off)white clothing would be cheaper, as it was undyed, and people would want separate clothing to sweat in so as to not ruin their nicer clothing. It seems to me that early karatekas just wore white out because they didn't want to soil expensive cloths, and eventually ascribed a meaning to it (probably because someone randomly asked and the Sensei wanted a better answer than "it's cheap").

Anyway, martial arts history is notoriously shrouded in myth and legend, and it's often difficult to know the actual history of something. In this, google has not been particularly helpful, and the scholarly resources I have immediate access to are based in literary studies and not history (the small amount of history scholarship I do have ready access to tends to be Western, as it is). So I am hoping someone here as better access to histories that might include something like this. A book recommendation, an journal article, etc.
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Zaine
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1952
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2022 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So already an update, I have found that Judo seems to be the first to wear a gi, and Funakoshi is largely responsible for making it popular within the realm of Karate. Still nothing on colors.
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LionsDen
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2022 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Colors have no real meaning.
Some dojos use different colors to denote different things, like student, assistant instructor, instructor, head instructor, etc. but that’s about it.
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sensei8
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Joined: 23 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2022 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LionsDen wrote:
Colors have no real meaning.
Some dojos use different colors to denote different things, like student, assistant instructor, instructor, head instructor, etc. but that’s about it.

Solid post!!



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aurik
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2022 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We wear a traditional white gi, except for kobudo. Matayoshi kobudo wears a black gi to hide the oils and stains from the weapons
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Zaine
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Posts: 1952
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Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2022 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know that the colors have no meaning. What I am looking for is the beginning of this particular myth. Where did it start?
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R5ky
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2022 5:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

discovered this on a forum


Quote:
Kano apparently began the custom of having his yudansha wear black obi (belts) in 1886. These obi weren't the belts karateka and judoka wear today -- Kano hadn't invented the judogi (Judo uniform) yet, and his students were still practicing in kimono. They were the wide obi still worn with formal kimono. In 1907, Kano introduced the modern judogi and its modern obi, but he still only used white and black belt ranks. The white uniform represented the values of purity, avoidance of ego, and simplicity. It gave no outward indication of social class so that all students began as equals.

Essentially, the gi is white because unbleached cotton is white-ish and Kano wanted an unadorned gi for his students. Nowadays we bleach the cotton so we get a white gi instead of white-ish.




Quote:


In 1895, the Japanese Government sanctioned the formation of the first Martial Arts association, The Dai Nippon Butokukai (Japan Great Martial Virtues Association). This was formed to oversee, standardise and promote the various Martial Arts traditions of Japan.

...

The Judo practice uniform, Judogi, and Kyu / Dan belt system eventually spread to many of the other modern Martial Arts, such as Aikido and Okinawa’s Karate, which adapted them for their own purpose.

Karate practitioners in Okinawa didn't use any sort of practice uniform at all. The Kyu / Dan ranking system, and the Karategi (a modified Judogi) were first adopted by Gichin Funakoshi, in an effort to encourage Karate's acceptance by the Japanese people.

Funakoshi awarded the first Shodan ranks given in Karate, to Tokuda, Otsuka, Akiba, Shimizu, Hirose, Gima, and Kasuya on April 10, 1924. The adoption of the Kyu / Dan system and the standard uniform based on the Judogi, were 2 of the 4 conditions which the Dai-Nippon Butokukai required before recognizing Karate as a "real" Martial Art.

The Origins Of Judo’s Kyu / Dan Grading System, Phil Morris (2005)






The author of this article claims that any philosophical implications of the karategi's colour in karate are ad hoc rationalisations, having originally just the colour of unbleached cotton:

The traditional karate gi however, was designed by Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Japanese shotokan karate. Consisting of a uwagi (jacket) and zubon (trousers), the uniform was patterned after the clothing of the judoka (judo stylist). but was a lighter fabric. It can be seamed, since the cloth is not pulled in karate, and is of a slightly different design. "When Funakoshi designed the karate uniform.” says Dave Lowry, noted karate historian, black belt, and author of BLACK BELT's Karate Way column, "Japan was under a great deal of Western Influence; so for reasons of modesty, he made the sleeves and trousers a little longer." The karate gi also has ties to keep the uwagi from coming undone.

The first gi were beige, simply because of the kind of cloth being used. White became the traditional color, but its spiritual significance probably fol- lowed after the white gi was standardized. “A lot of people attach some sort of philosophical significance to the color," notes Lowry, “but there wasn't really any reason for it to be white."

"You are what you wear: Origin and Meaning of Martial Arts Uniforms" - Black Belt, (1988)

Quote:
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Zaine
Black Belt
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1952
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2022 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"You are what you wear: Origin and Meaning of Martial Arts Uniforms" - Black Belt, (1988)


Do you have a link to that article? I'm having some trouble finding it online.
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R5ky
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2022 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

https://martialarts.stackexchange.com/questions/2360/why-are-traditional-karate-gis-white

the above is the forum I stumbled upon during the search.


Though, no luck with locating original article unfortunately..
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Zaine
Black Belt
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1952
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Matsumura-Seito, Shobayashi-Ryu, Shudokan, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Southern Mantis, HEMA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2022 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I found it on Google Books, which has an archive of Black Belt Magazine. It's the March 1988 issue.

https://books.google.com/books?id=PdYDAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

It's interesting to see the adds and pictures from this time period.
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