Fact Checked

What is a Martial Arts Gi?

J. Beam
J. Beam

A martial arts gi refers to a uniform worn in the practice of martial arts. The Japanese word keikogi (meaning practice dress or clothes) is typically shortened to gi in English. The Korean term for a martial arts uniform is dobok. In English, the word gi is pronounced as “gee” and the Japanese and Korean terms are often used interchangeably, regardless of what style martial arts is being practiced.

Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, Jujutsu, and Kenjutsu are examples of various types of martial arts. In English terms, a martial arts gi is the uniform worn by a practitioner of any of the martial arts. The uniform may vary, depending on the specific martial art practiced, but the most common uniform is the standard white top and pant worn with various belts. A design or emblem specific to the organization may be found screen printed or embroidered onto the uniform in some location.

A standard gi has a white top and pants.
A standard gi has a white top and pants.

The uniform is typically loose fitting and constructed of lightweight fabric, although certain martial arts may employ different weight fabrics and different styles of pants or tops. Typically, there is an order of belt colors that signifies a practitioner’s progress through training and rank.

In part, a martial arts gi may be designed to be true to the form of art being practiced, but designs may also relate to a specific school or method. Uniform standards are often set forth in competitive martial arts, and competition may require a specific weight fabric or style.

Generally speaking, a person would not need specific knowledge of a dobok or gi when beginning martial arts. Typically, the studio or school where a practitioner begins designates a specific uniform to be worn to classes. Whether or not the uniform is purchased, rented, or included in class registration or fees is dependent on the individual school. In cases where multiple uniforms may be needed, many retailers also sell various forms of the martial arts gi as supplies, and individuals may sell used uniforms cheaply. Before a student purchases a uniform, however, it is a good idea to find out from the instructor if a specific style is required for classes or competition.

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Discussion Comments

My son is thinking of signing up for karate, but I need to know how much the average gi costs. The lessons are already pretty expensive and the dojo is not anywhere near our house. If that uniform costs too much it might be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

and don't forget that the gi, in jiu jitsu for example, allows some techniques that couldn't be done otherwise.


It covers so much to protect the body. The thick fabric of the top lessens the impact of blows, and mat burn is a pain. I grappled last Saturday without a gi and I've got scrapes and such from the mat everywhere!


@ BreakofDay- I used to study Aikido, Karate, and Tai Chi as a kid. Every Gi I owned was made from a heavy canvas like fabric. I always thought they were designed to protect the skin from abrasion, yet be loose enough to allow for full flexibility.

My friend used to practice Kendo, and his Gi had what looked like a loose skirt or long kilt covering the pants. They do pretty well at taking some of the sting out of hits, and they definitely protect the body from mat burns. I am not sure if this is the purpose of this piece of martial arts gear, but this is what I observed.


I've always wondered why a uniform that covers so much, could be easy to move in. It seems like shorts or short sleeves would be the logical choice. Don't they ever get tangled up in each others gi during competitions?

Is the full coverage of the gi kept solely for tradition or does it provide some special advantage or protection?

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    • A standard gi has a white top and pants.
      By: ericcote
      A standard gi has a white top and pants.