|This is pretty close to what is traditional, click for large view.|
Sue of the "My Journey to Black Belt" blog posted on "Karate Belt Issues" that prompted me to consider the subject of the karate-gi which includes the obi as to what is considered the most acceptable way to wear them, care for them, and such mundane things a new practitioner may wonder about when starting on the path to karate-do, or any martial practice.
Some things that irritate me a bit when in the dojo, mine or others. Wrinkled uniforms, sleeves to short or to long, pant legs to short or to long, a belt that is extremely worn and frayed, a belt that has ends that are way to long and hang down to far when worn, belt ends that are so glaringly long they hang down seemingly to the floor, patches-patches-patches, incorrectly tied knot [a big one for me], other additions or what could be called "flare" that have nothing to do with karate-do, etc. and on and on ...
Now, here is my view on the subject. Dojo should have a minimum standard on what type of uniform is used and how it is worn and lets not forget as to how one should care for it, transport it to and from the dojo, and cleaning it properly.
First, the jacket. The sleeves should be between about three inches below the elbow but not longer than the wrist area of the arm. Second, it should be the version that relies on closing the jacket left side over the top of the right and the set of cords at the hips must be tied adequately to prevent them from loosening up in practice. Older more traditional style of karate-gi actually had a tie at the upper chest level used to hold the jacket closed.
There are cultural reasons for the jacket ties and the fold of left side over the right but that is an old post of mine worth learning about if you feel your practice should be of a traditional nature.
The pants, the length of the legs should be no shorter than the mid shin to the ankle. The length of the legs, and the jacket sleeves, has a point to it as well.
In general my practice uses a more "traditional" uniform or karate-gi much like described and as seen to the left in the graphic. I want to express that what I propose here is my view of my practice and when I instructed it was what I asked my practitioners to wear, if they wanted to [I usually asked this if they desired to wear a uniform otherwise I only asked for loose clothing, i.e. sweats of similar and conservative athletic wear.]
Karate-do in my view is a serious path that warrants a modicum of respect and a traditional conservative view in practice, etc.
The BELT or OBI:
There are standard lengths that are sold according to a persons sizing. In my case I wear a size five karate-gi and obi. I find that the standard lengths are not always a good fit. Even if you find size 5 a bit long you may find a size 4 way to short. In my case, example, I get a five and then adjust it manually to fit at a good and what I see as a proper length. I cut of one end and then use some of the material to fold in to the cut area to make sure it is one solid color, i.e. the white underneath is obvious if not covered, and then use a same color thread to close it properly and keep it neat in appearance.
I do not wash it and bleach it to make it look cool, i.e. faded, and I do not drag it behind a vehicle to get it frayed looking either. That is crap that ego uses to look like a person has experience and longevity. It is also perceived as "cool," as well as many other descriptive views.
The belt is used for two things. One is for a large class type teaching environment so Sensei can readily see where a person is as to the level of knowledge, experience, and proficiency. The other is to hold your jacket closed and keep it as neat as possible during practice, i.e. a decorum thing. It is worn around the "waist." It is NOT worn around the hips. It is not loose so the knot and ends hang down from the hips in a "cool looking" way [can not describe this well enough but it is representative of someone who is wanting to stroke the ego and tell every one he/she is cool and wants it to look cool and acceptable to others views and such stuff ...]
If you wear an obi then the very first thing you learned was how to tie the knot properly yet I see again and again, both novice and yudansha, who still cannot tie a knot well or just don't care and also have varying lengths and ends, etc. To me its like showing up for a job interview in your sweat pants and t-shirt with a stubble on your face where you sit down, lean back, and take a cocky guy pose with a cocky guy attitude; you ain't getting hired dude VS coming to a interview in a suit with polished shoes pressed and clean, clean shaven and you sit tall with respect and proper assertive posture, etc.
All of this does have a purpose in the practice of karate-do and all martial systems even if not apparent to a novice or one who "thinks" they are a master but just don't know so don't take it all for granted.
Now, all this is in regards to "budo" as I perceive it and to "traditional/traditions" of the system be it Aikido, Judo, or Karate-do. To me it speaks volumes of character of the individual and by osmosis the dojo, the other practitioners and the Sensei. If you don't think what you wear, how you wear it and the presence it projects is not valuable or noticeable from others you just are not getting it.
If you wear a good and properly fitted uniform. If you wear it properly. If you keep it cleaned and pressed, somewhat, and the belt is clean and in good condition [when it wears, frays, fades then put it in a box-frame, put it on your wall for posterity if a belt given to you with special meaning, and get a new clean presentable belt for training, practice and instruction/teaching.
Oh yea, for the length of the ends that hang down, in my view it should not extend when hanging naturally after tying the knot "no more than between 6 and 8 inches which brings it down to slightly past the groin area on each side and they should be as close to even as possible with no more than one inch variance maximum. Attention to details and a pension and ability to see and do things in detail just to name one thing of importance in taking this view.
Yes, it does come from a bit of the military way but even those who are Okinawan traditional practitioners today tend to pay attention to such things and you will note that they do wear a clean, orderly and properly tied belt and uniform. Gotta say it, it is mostly American's who tend to go more for flare.
My uniform is a white traditional cut one with only a red kanji for Isshinryu on the left side of the jacket. It is a summer weight canvas type and the sleeves are at the shorter end of the specifications I present here. I have a special custom obi that is all white with some special markings that is worn on special occasions but in general I wear a all white belt or all black belt as appropriate to the occasion of wearing.