All that is needed to practice traditional karate-do is an unadorned white karate uniform and a belt. The uniform is known simply as a karate gi. The white karate gi represents the values of karate-do. In traditional karate no other colour is permitted. The colour white represents purity of mind. As explained in chapter one, the idea of “kara” as in kara-te refers to “clarity of mind,” the state of mind that prevents nervousness, doubt, and fear from interfering with natural physical movement and rational thought. Whenever the gi is worn for practice, it serves as a reminder of the philosophy of karate-do and its ultimate aim: the perfection of character.
The gi, which consists of jacket and pants, should be loosely fitted to allow freedom of movement. The length of the sleeves should cover about two-thirds of the forearm, and pants two-thirds of the lower leg. Ensure that the jacket is worn with the left side over the right side. Crests, identifying the club or organization, may be worn over the left breast, and one’s name may be written in kanji or katakana on the bottom left lapel, which is tied to the right hip as shown in the above photograph. The length of the belt should hang about two-thirds of the way down from the hips to the knee when standing. If the belt reaches below the knees, it is too long.
Wearing an old, tattered, or dirty gi looks undignified. Such practice should be discouraged. A gi typically will last a couple of years. It needs to be washed at least once per week; therefore owning more than one set is highly recommended. A dirty and smelly gi is offensive to others. Personal hygiene is a matter of common courtesy. Shower before training, if necessary. The lack of consideration for others runs counter to the philosophy of karate-do.