TRADITIONS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS
OF THE GI (Uniform)
By Ken Eddy
Traditions in every aspect of life are extremely
important. They not only give direction to the culture; they uphold
the values and
reason for performing the tradition in an historical perspective.
Traditions are a demonstration of respect for the roots of the
traditional GI top is called 'uwagi' and the traditional
pants are called 'zuban' and the belt is called the 'obi'.
Some schools also train in the 'hakama' (split skirt pants).
schools make different uses of the traditions for symbolic effect.
traditional gi is white. Some schools take a more esoteric approach
and use white for the 'gi' until the student is beyond the point
of a probationary period, (upon receiving their ikkyu (first and
final brown belt rank)). Upon receiving the rank of 'ikkyu', they
are also give black gi pants. This is to symbolize they are being
considered for the position of a serious student.
the rank of Shodan is given, it is said that the student is now accepted
as a serious student and is now ready to begin his/her training.
The training is now considered to be the beginning of integration
between the physical and mental aspects of the art. This is symbolized
by the 2 opposite colors, (white/black) and represents the 'yin' and "yang' of
the art. When the artist becomes a school head or chief instructor,
he wears an all black gi. This is to make a clear distinction that
he/she is in the position of guiding and directing the training of
the other students in the school as well as protecting them on their
path to further knowledge.
same system is used for the 'hakama'. The white is used for the 'Kyu' ranks
and the black is used for the "Dan' (black belt) ranks.
of the 'GI'
with any training tool used in the martial arts, the uniform must
be properly cared for. Washing after training is essential for sanitation
purposes as well as to show respect to you, fellow practitioners
and the gi itself.
The 'obi' is
never washed. This is because you do not wish to wash away the knowledge
and hard work that you have put into your training. The obi is the
symbol of that effort and it is thought that if you wash the obi,
you wash away the information contained within.
of the "Gi"
you place the uwagi on a clean flat surface with the back
down and the head at your knees. Next, you bring the lapels into
the center until they are at the same point as when you have the
gi on for training. The seams along the outside edges should be even.
(see Photo 1 above)
third step varies slightly from style to style, however, the symbolism
is the same: You fold the arms into the middle to protect the internal
organs, (as though you were wearing it). Here we show (2) methods
of achieving this.
(see Photos 2A and 2B and 3A and 3B above)
next step is to fold the zuban. (see Photo 4 above)
bring the pants together from outside seam to outside seam. They
should now appear as just (1) leg from the side view. (see Photo
fold the legs up from the bottom to the groin (Photo 6A above) and
then fold them one more time from the groin to the waste.
next step is to place the folded pants onto the uwagi at the
point of the waist; it would be from where your waist is when the
gi is on.
(see Photo 7 above)
again, this is to protect the more vital internal organs.
the bottom of the uwagi up over the pants to the center.
Photo 8 above)
roll the gi from the head to the bottom of the gi.
we must tie our obi around the gi for security and preservation of
the uniform and our hard work.
the Obi Around the Gi
tying of the obi is a symbolic gesture as well as a practical one.
the obi flat and set the rolled gi on top. (see Photo 10 above)
know we have all heard people say, "the belt does not mean anything,
it just holds your pants up". Well, in some respects this is a true
statement, however, to others of us, this is only the tip of the
have found that 'most' people making that statement do not have an
understanding of what an obi stands for. I have also observed that
most people that make that statement have not gone through the rigorous
training the those that came before them had to go through to achieve
some competence in the art of their choice.
tying the obi, it is wrapped around the body (2) times. This symbolizes
that we make many efforts and go through many trails before reaching
any level of competence or understanding.
tying the knot to secure the obi, it is tied in a square knot, (see
photos 11 and 12 above) to suggest infinity. This symbolism is obvious
in that we must strive eternally to achieve perfection in our art.
Training in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding is forever.
is no end to training. When we feel we have learned everything, it
means we have learned nothing.
we tie our obi to secure our folded gi, we first fold it in half,
(end to end), and then place it around our gi and secure with a square
knot. The placement of the knot should end up at the same place in
you obi as when you have it tied around you waste when training.
of the most important things to consider when folding and tying your
gi is the attitude in which you perform the duty. It should be done
with respect and care, and with the knowledge of the meaning behind
it every time you fold it.
true artist never throws his/her uniform in a bag without showing
the proper respect.
more note: A martial artist never wears their obi out in public.
This shows poor training protocol as well as ego. The obi is for
those in the arts to appreciate, not for the public to give value