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Gi Length

Because of my work for the Hawaii Karate Museum, I get to see many early Karate photographs. One thing that has increased over the years is the length of the sleeves and legs of Karate gi. The earliest photographs in Hawaii of Karate students wearing gi are from 1933, during the visit of Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashionna. They brought gi from their university Karate clubs in Japan. Their gi sleeves were about elbow length and the pants were about mid-way between the knee and ankle.

Shigeru Miyashiro's gi was even shorter. Perhaps he was wearing his gi from childhood.

Personally, I like shorter gi. If the sleeves or legs are too long, there is a risk of tangling your fingers or tripping.

In Hawaii, I prefer to wear lightweight gi because it gets really hot and humid in the summer. If we are going to grapple, I will wear a Judo gi top.

Once, I wore a Judo gi top to class. It was very thick. My sensei at the time asked me to punch him. When I did, his index finger got caught in the cuff of my sleeve and was dislocated. I don't think this would have happened if I had worn a shorter and lighter gi. So we must be very careful to make sure that we are wearing the appropriate gi for our training.

I do not like to roll the sleeves of legs of gi because of the risk of injury. It is much better to properly hem the gi.

Sometimes I will wear a T-shirt instead of a gi top. I will usually do this if there is a particular body motion I want to teach that might be hidden or obscured by a gi top. T-shirts are also a lot cooler. The photo above is from Hawaii in 1927 during the visit of Kentsu Yabu. Most of the students wore dress pants and long sleeved white T-shirts.


Charles C. Goodin