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Best Karate Uniform

Are you purchasing a new Karate uniform (Gi)?  There are hundreds of brands out there!  It can be a bit like trying to find a particular needle, in a stack of needles  – there are so many options!  Material type, weight, stitching, sizes, etc., etc., etc.  If you’re confused, well you’ve come to right place.  We’ve taken the work out of buying a Karate uniform.  That’s right!  We’ve painstakingly tested hundreds of different Karate Uniforms and have come up with a list of the top 3.  We based our decision on three criteria:

  • Fit
  • Quality (Material and craftsmanship)
  • Price

A Karate uniform is an investment.  You’ll be using it for years, so you want to make sure you invest your cash in the Karate uniform that is going to stand the test of time.  So, without further delay, here we go!

Number 1: White Tiger Gi – 16oz.

It’s lonely at the top, but someone has to lead.  And make no
Mistake, White Tiger Gi leads the way.  Their uniforms make no assumptions about what it takes to be the best.  They tick all the boxes: best material, best fit, affordable, long lasting, quality.  Lets dive into the details…

Website: www.whitetigergi.com

Fit:  Lots of sizes to choose from kids all the way up to adults.  White Tiger Gi has tons of options to choose from.  The cut of the Gi is great;  lots of room in the legs but not too bulky.  Space in the crotch area, so you can throw those high kicks out until your heart is content!  The legs are cut at the right length as well – just above the ankle so you’re not getting caught up when doing leg work, etc.  The jacket fits like a glove!  It’s the perfect length below the belt, so you’re not having to constantly adjust the jacket after ripping through an amazing Kata.  Plenty of room around the chest area to help you feel like the uniform is breathing.  And the armpits have lots of room too –  because you don’t want to feel constricted when punching, etc. and the Gi delivers in this regard.  Oh, one small detail reveals White Tiger’s eye for cut:  The design around the neck is perfect… not so tight that it feels like the collar is choking you, but not too loose that it feels like the jacket is going to slip off over your shoulders.  White Tiger Gi designers obviously spent a great deal of time on the design of their uniforms – it’s a small detail, but it’s important.

Quality: Not sure where White Tiger gets their cotton – but it’s amazing!  Their 16oz. Gi is heavy-weight, but as soft as a feather AND white as snow!  Honestly, their Gi is so comfortable, you’ll probably want to sleep in it – which could be useful if you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and want to rip out some cross-decks.  And the stitching is super high strength.  An important factor if do any type of work with a partner (sparring, ground work, throws, etc., etc., etc.).  Honestly though, the quality is in the finer details; re-enforced jacket ties, extra stitching in the parts that need it most like the seams around the arms and legs.  Oh, and the uniform does not shrink like crazy when you wash it.  This will come as a huge relief to many.  We tested this on several brands and shrinkage is major concern.  Thankfully, White Tiger has taken care of this and minimized the effects of shrinkage due to washing.

Price:  If you have any doubts about this uniform, they will melt away when you see the price.  From a quality standpoint, this Karate Gi stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the best brand names in the world – yet from a price-point, it’s leagues ahead.  You’ll get the same (if not better quality) from White Tiger then you will from vendors like Shureido, but you’ll spend way less.  A dream come true for folks who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a uniform.  They ship world-wide, so no matter where you are, you can get your hands on their product.

Conclusion: Pound for pound, White Tiger Gi is the best Karate Gi – period.  It offers quality that is on par with some of the “top” brands you’ve heard about, but it delivers on price and has made no compromises on the finer details.  Looking for a high quality Gi?  Look no further; White Tiger Gi is the way to go.

Number 2: Tôkon Takeshi

Based out of Sacramento California, Tôkon has been a long time player in the Karate Gi market.  Recently, they’ve gone through bit of a re-branding exercise, eliminating some of their less popular uniforms from the product line.  A good move actually, because having too many products can be a bit confusing for customers.  Fortunately, Tôkon had their wits about them and didn’t axe their best product – their heavy weight, Takeshi Gi.

Website: www.tokon.com

Fit: The Takeshi heavy weight has a great, standard cut.  The arms and legs in particular are the appropriate length – not too long, but not too short either.  The Jacket is cut well – perhaps more of a boxed or squared type feel, but only very slightly.  Don’t misunderstand, the Gi’s design is very top-end.  This uniform is meant for the serious martial artist.  Tôkon obviously has benefited from a long tenure in this business, and it shows.  The collar around the neck and the cut through the chest is pretty much perfect.  It provides the Gi with that perfect balance between a heavy-weight feel, but allowing for ample movement.  This uniform won’t restrict your technique in any way.  We have also noted that the sizing of the legs gives the user freedom of movement – while not looking too oversized.  A really great product!

Quality:  Material wise – we’re very impressed with Tôkon’s Takeshi line.  The cotton they’ve for the Takeshi is a great balance of breathability and heavy-weight, for the more serious Karate practitioner.  As expected, Tôkon didn’t disappoint in durability either.  Stitching is tight and clean… and very strong.  Overall, the uniform is built to last a very long time.  We did notice a very, very slight proneness to sweat stains, but this was so very slight that it was hardly even noticeable.  Tôkon provides a great guide on their website here for the care and maintenance of the Gi.  Workmanship was very impressive.  Stitch lines are tight and edges are sharp.  We’d expect nothing less from Tôkon in this regard.  All-in-all, a great quality product!

Price:  If there is one detractor from Tôkon – it’s the price.  Tôkon is certainly on the higher end for what we think is reasonable to pay.  Lets compare:  The Takeshi is currently selling for $169USD.  Our winning GI, White Tiger 16oz., is currently selling for $118USD.  That’s a substantial difference!  All in all, Tôkon is quite affordable when compared to brands like Tokaido or Shureido, however the two ladder brands claim to be the world’s elite Karate Gi (Not sure we agree), so the price of Tôkon we feel should come in at around the $140USD mark.

Conclusion:  If it’s in your budget to pay a bit more, and you love the Tôkon brand – then this is the Gi for you.  High quality points scored in both fit and craftsmanship.  You can’t go wrong with a Tôkon.

Number 3: Tokaido WKF Yakudo

Since 1956, Tokaido has been manufacturing and distributing Karate uniforms world wide.  Tokaido first started distributing products in Japan, where the company was founded.  Since 1956, Karate practitioners all over the world have trusted Tokaido to deliver a quality product.    The company has an interesting history as well – you can read about it here.

Website: http://www.tokaidojapan.com

Fit: Tokaido uniforms are very traditional.  The WKF Yokudo Gi features a boxed cut on Jacket and Pants.  The Pants tend to be a bit shorter, with ample room in the legs.  Conversely, the arms tend to be a bit longer – again giving that traditional look.  The collar fits slightly tighter as well – but not uncomfortably so.  Tokaido is steeped in tradition and that shines through in their designs.

Quality: Tokaido quality is equal to that of even White-Tiger Gi.  The material is quite soft and durable and the craftsmanship is excellent. The uniform as a whole is very well put together.  re-enforced stitching and re-enforment around jacket ties, etc.  These uniforms are made to last.  You’ll be wearing this uniform for years to come and the quality of the workmanship is up to the task!  Tokaido has been making Karate uniforms since 1956 and it shows.  You will not be disappointed with this product!

Price: This is where Tokaido falls flat.  The Yukudo heavy-weight is a great uniform, but it’ll cost you $204 USD!  And that does not include shipping.  An expensive investment and perhaps if the nostalgia of the Tokaido story is important to you, it’s worth every penny, but comparing apples to apples, from a quality perspective, the uniform is slightly over priced.

Conclusion: Although a little more on the expensive side, Tokaido offers a uniform that is steeped in history, while also offering a high quality Karate uniform.  Truly an investment for years to come.

Please comment below if you’ve also had the pleasure of wearing any of these brands.  Thanks for reading!

Happy Training
Sensei Pennell

Karate Uniform – A Guide for Buyers.

Related post: Best Karate Uniform

Are you confused by all the different variables that need to be considered when buying a Karate uniform (or GI)?  This guide will provide you with everything you need to know about buying a GI, plus some great information on how to care for it once you’ve made your purchase. A Properly fitted GI, made from quality materials should last you a number of years – assuming you take proper care of it.

Karate Uniform Material – Cotton vs. Polyester

When choosing a GI, you will eventually have to grapple over whether to choose a uniform made from cotton, polyester or a cotton/polyester blend.  This is a huge decision, because you will be making significant investment in your uniform and you will be using it for several years.  When trying to decide, take the following into account.


Cotton has a number of great advantages over its polyester counterpart. Firstly, cotton is naturally absorbent – which is really important during your training. A cotton GI will whisk sweat away from your body, making you comfortable. A cotton uniform is also less likely to cause skin irritation; a huge plus for all of us out there who want to feel comfortable not only during training, but after training as well. There is nothing more frustrating than leaving the Dojo with a rash caused by a irritable product. Cotton is also a naturally occurring product – so one can argue that there is less industrial refining that goes into its production. You can do some research about Cotton here.  One more thing to consider: when I train I like to think that I am doing so in a similar fashion to those who trained long ago in Japan. Back then, cotton was the only option – so if you’re like me and you want to stay traditional, cotton is the way to go.


Oh wonderful polyester. If my rant above about cotton did absolutely nothing to resonate with you, then maybe polyester is the better choice. A Polyester Karate GI is not as likely to shrink as cotton. Of course, this advantage is meaningless because most high quality GI are pre-shrunk (one more reason to avoid a cheap uniform). Of course, polyester is arguably more durable – because of its un-natural origin (think petroleum and chemical refinement). A polyester uniform may be able to last a bit longer than its cotton counterpart. Polyester may also resist stains more efficiently – a good advantage if you don’t wash your GI regularly?  You can check out some more information on polyester here.

Stitching – Spot The Difference

You want to make sure that the ends of the GI (the arms, legs, jacket opening) are all at least triple stitched.  This will ensure a durable product.

Weight Matters – How Heavy Should Your GI Be?

 8oz., 14oz., what’s the big deal?  There are several different weights of Karate GI – it might be tough to decide which one is right for you.  Here are some useful tidbits to keep in mind when you’re deciding on the weight of your uniform.

8oz. Karate GI

Ahh – the 8oz. GI. You can probably pick one of these up from an online distributer for $20! Prepare yourself for serious disappointment. The real shame is that some people don’t realize that you have to wear white underwear under these uniforms, otherwise your classmates will be distracted by the slight visibility of your gitch underneath. Didn’t Lululemon get some blowback from a similar debacle last year involving razor thin pants? Umm – ya, they did.  Read about it here.  Of course if you’re trying to seduce your enemy with your perfectly chiseled butt – then by all means… otherwise, avoid at all costs. In addition to on occasion being partially see-through, 8oz. uniforms don’t last long. They are void of any kind of durability; you’ll be looking to replace it inside of a year if you train regularly.

10oz. Karate GI

The 10oz. is a the right choice for the first time buyer who wants to buy a GI, but are not sure whether or not they want to make a serious commitment to the art. If you’re just ‘giving Karate a try’, or if you’re a beginner, then the 10oz. is for you. The material is thick enough to provide a reasonably durable product, but it’s not overly heavy (read expensive). 10oz. is also a good choice for parents, who have enrolled their kid(s) in Karate and don’t want to blow too much money on a uniform because their child will probably out grow it in a couple years anyways.

12oz. Karate GI

12oz. uniforms are not entirely common.  Most uniform makers do have a 12oz. option but most people end up settling on a 10oz.  This is probably because if you’re going to invest more money in a Gi, it makes more sense to just go all the way to a 14oz. or a 16oz. product.  Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with a 12oz. uniform.  They are quite durable and make a great snap when you execute your technique properly – you just won’t see them around as much as the 10oz. uniform.  They are like the middle child in a family – they get no respect.

14oz. Karate GI

14oz., okay – now we’re talking. At a certain point in our training (usually when we are older than 16) we develop a need to further define our individually through our training. We want to come into our own as it were. It has become more then just learning Karate – it’s becoming a way of life for us. We train hard, we train regularly and we want to have a high quality product. The 14oz. uniform can be a great solution. It will be more expensive than the 10oz. that we’ve been using for years – but it will be worth it because like an old baseball glove, this uniform and you will be spending many years together.

16oz. Karate GI

The reigning King in the Karate world.  Many instructors will use the 16oz. GI.  Why?  Well, it’s extremely durable, which is useful when you are training daily.  Additionally, the 16oz. GI ‘looks’ a little different.  It’s a bit heavier, it’s a bit thicker, and it sits nicely on your shoulders.  It ‘looks’ like the uniform of a professional Karate practitioner…because it is!  It will cost you though.  A 16oz. GI will be quite a bit more expensive than lighter uniforms.  It’s well worth the investment however.  A 16oz. GI will serve you loyally throughout the years.

Proper Fitting – A Dimension All Its Own.

Now that you’ve got the basics sorted out, it’s time to discover the important points with regards to fit.  Of course, everyone is unique and we all have our preferences but there are a few fundamental points we all need to be aware of.  Here we go!

GI Top

Since this is the focal piece of the uniform, it’s best to start here.

Length (amount of GI hanging below the belt)

There is a bit of room for your own personal preference here. Some Karate practitioners enjoy it when their GI top has plenty of length. You’ll see some students with several inches of GI hanging below their belt. This is not entirely unusual, but too long can look a bit strange. You do however want enough material hanging under your belt, so that it does not ride up your body when you’re executing your techniques. A GI that consistently becomes un-tucked (from under your belt) has been fitted improperly and is too short. I would recommend around 4 inches of material hanging below your tied belt but no more than 6 or 7 inches.

Length Of Arms

As with the legs of your GI, you don’t want your fingers getting jammed in your sleeves while punching, etc. Make sure the arms end above your wrists (at the very least). Take a look at some old Japanese Karate videos… you’ll notice the arms are quite short. Functionality is more important than looks – at least that’s what ancient practitioners thought.  I believe they had it right.

Room Under The Arms (armpits)

The sleeves should not be tight under the arms.  There should be plenty of room for you to move around.  You want to avoid Karate uniforms that chafe under the arms.  This is bad.

Room Around Chest, Etc.

Generally speaking, you should have plenty of room inside your GI.  The uniform should not be tight around your body at all.  Your body needs room to execute all the various techniques, etc.  Additionally, you don’t want to be stifled to death while you work out – give yourself some room to breath.

GI Bottom

Efficient and effective use of your legs cannot be understated while practicing Karate.  Long stances, quick movements, kicks, sparring – the list goes on.  You need to make sure that your GI bottoms are up to the task.  When you’re fitting for a proper GI, keep the following information in mind.

Waist – Draw String vs. Elastic

When choosing your GI, you will notice that most uniforms come with either an elastic waist or a more traditional drawstring.  The advantage of elastic may be noticeable for children.  They seem to have more problems keeping a traditional drawstring pant from falling down.  But for adults, the traditional drawstring is the way to go – you wont get as sweaty around the waistband.  Avoid zippers and buttons.  They can have sharp edges and can scratch/cut either you or your sparring partner.

Legs – Width Of Thighs

One of the most annoying things that can happen with a GI is when you kick, and the material stretches tightly over your thigh.  This restricts movement and is really just uncomfortable.  The GI should be cut wide in the legs, giving you lots of space to move around.  Avoid uniforms that have narrow legs.

Legs – Length of Leg

You want to avoid getting a GI with legs that touch the floor.  In fact, 4 or 4 inches shorter than your legs is ideal.  You don’t want your heal and/or toes getting caught up in your GI.  It’s awkward and can even be painful – if for example, you twist a toe during a kick.

Groin – Lots of Room

This is pretty self-explanatory.  You don’t want a GI that hugs your groin area.  It will restrict your movement.  Make sure your GI leaves space in the groin for free movement of your legs.

Other Things To Consider 

If you’ve chosen a cotton GI, you should pay considerable attention to the softness of the cotton itself.  You have two choices: Brushed or Non-Brushed.

Higher quality GI are usually manufactured from brushed cotton – Also known as flannel.  So what’s the deal with brushed cotton?  Well, it’s super soft (read non-irritable). You can literally feel the difference.  Uniforms made from non-brushed material can feel a bit like canvas.  Since you’ll be working hard wearing your GI, a brushed product is the way to go.

 Caring For Your GI

When To Wash

Immediately after training in it.  You want to wash it while it’s still sweaty.  If it’s wet, the sweat (and thus sweat stains) will not have had time to set.  If you wait until it’s dry, you risk staining it.  And wash it all by its lonesome.  Don’t combine with whites or colours.

Washing In Cold Water

Washing you GI is obviously very important, but there seems to be some confusion around water temperature.  So I’ll setting the debate right here.  Wash your GI in cold water.  Why?  It’ll retain its natural colour longer. Period.  Washing it in hot water will shorten its lifespan.  If you spent any kind of real money on your GI, you want it to last as long as possible and look as good as possible.  Cold water is your best friend.

Bleech (NO!)

Huge mistake! Bleech will weaken the material over time. I learned this the hard way. If you are washing your Gi regularly in cold water, you won’t need bleach.  Please, please, please avoid using bleach at all costs.  If your GI is turning yellow, it is because you are not washing it before sweat stains have a chance to set in.  Wash your GI when it is still wet from your sweat.

Drying (UGH! NO!)

Please do yourself a favor and DON’T use a tumble dryer… or a dryer of any kind. Allow your uniform to air dry. Using a dryer will stain the GI, and will slowly damage the fabric over a period of time. You might want to use a hanger to properly hang the top portion. You can hang the pants on a coat hook or something similar. It actually does not take too long for a cotton GI to dry.  Dryers shorten the lifespan of clothing – GIs included.

 Conclusions and recommendations.

I hope you have learned some useful tips from this article.  I have been training in martial arts for over 25 years and as such, I’ve gone through my fair share of GIs.  I have learned all these lessons the hard way – through trial and error.  Please take it from me, this information will help you choose a GI that is right for you AND will help you maintain it.

Any Particular Brand?

Disclaimer:  I have NOT tried every brand of GI in existence.  There are literally hundreds of manufactures of GI.  I have picked my top three choices of Karate GI and included them as my recommendations.  Does this mean that there are no other great brands? NO! I am simply giving recommendations based on my own personal experiences.  If you have a suggestion for a brand to buy (or avoid), you comments below are really appreciated!

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White Tiger GI

Manufactured by a small, family run operation in Pakistan, White Tiger GI offers a really great product which is sold out of Great Britain.  What I like about White Tiger GI is the quality of the stitching and the cut of the product.  The stitching of the GI is tight, even and consistent.  You can see if you look closely, great care and quality control exists.  Because of the great stitching, the GI is quite durable and is built to last.  The sleeves and pant legs are cut at the proper length and there is plenty of room in the groin, chest and under the arms to execute your technique freely, without obstruction.  The GIs are priced perfectly too.  They will be less expensive than brands like Tokon, but are totally on par with regards to quality.  And Bruce, the owner of White Tiger GI has been training in martial arts all his life.  He has poured his heart and soul into the design of his product.  White Tiger GI is my personal favourite.  I sell them to my students and I use them myself almost exclusively.

Tokon Karate GI

If big brand name attracts you – then Tokon GI could be your answer.  Tokon has been around for a long time and has offices in the US as well as other countries.  They are like the ‘big fish’ in the pond.  They make a good quality product and offer a selection of sizes, cuts and weights.  You will notice that Gi has a decent feel to it.  If cared for property, it will last you many years.

Tokaido Karate GI

Okay – I had to include Tokaido in my recommendations because they are considered by many to be the most ‘traditional’ Gi around.  They make a high quality product, which is custom fit (if you so desire).  Proper care of the GI will ensure it lasts many years.  You’ll pay for this GI though – they are very expensive.  Be prepared to bust out the serious dollars to get your hands on a Tokaido GI.

Close Runner up!

KI International

These guys make a lot of martial arts product!  It’s that big box type feel that we are all familiar with.  But they make a good quality product.  They offer a variety of weights, etc., just like any good supplier.  KI is a solid product.