Can I Use a Judo Gi for Karate?


Grips from the guard in brazilian jiu jitsu bjj training sparring two female women athletes fighters drilling techniques for the competition closed guard holding kimono gi

The uniforms used for Karate and Judo are similar, but if you used to do Judo and now want to train in Karate, you’ve probably wondered, can I use a Judo Gi for Karate?

Here’s what I discovered:

A Judo Gi cannot be used for Karate because they differ. Karate Gis are lighter and looser-fitting, while Judo Gis are usually tighter and heavier because of reinforced stitching. These serve to make certain parts stronger because they are gripped a lot, as is the case with the chest, shoulders, and sleeves.

At first glance, both look similar.

But on closer inspection, one notices the differences, which are reflections of the difference in the purpose of both uniforms.

The Karate Gi is what the Judo Gi is modeled after, but it is a lighter version, and that’s fitting (pun intended) when one considers the difference between Karate (a striking art) and Judo (a grappling art).

In this article, we’ll explore whether you could make do with your Judo Gi as you head off to Karate class and other riveting issues. I have been involved in martial arts on and off my whole life and seriously for the past 7 years.

Let the fun begin…

Is Judo the same as Karate?

Judo is different from Karate. Both are of Japanese origin, but Judo involves grappling and throwing an opponent and submitting them on the ground. Karate involves strikes and kicks. Judo uses very few kicks or throws.

Relative to Karate, Judo is defensive because there is no pronounced desire to hurt the opponent. Judo means “the gentle way.”

The emphasis in Judo is leverage, how to use smart techniques to subdue an opponent, not to harm them. It’s about using minimum energy for maximum efficiency.

A small, lean, nimble Judoka could easily submit someone a lot bigger because they’re taught how they could easily upset the other party’s balance and throw them!

Karate is not gentle. It allows for directly striking and kicking an opponent to hurt them!

Truth be told, Karate seems more exciting, not to say Judo is dull, oh, not at all. But, Karate is more offensive. It’s a blend of techniques and brute force.

And, there’s a part of us that probably enjoys watching people getting beaten. This is why Karate is more entertaining. You remember Karate Kid, right?

One other vital distinction is that even though both martial arts start with the fighters standing.

A Karate match rarely goes to the ground. Judo always ends on the ground.

Judo is won by pinning an opponent or holding them in a highly uncomfortable way. A Karateka, on the other hand, gives their opponent a gruesome beatdown!

But which one’s better for self-defense? Check out a recent article of mine where I shared why Karate is a better choice.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How does a Karate Gi differ from a Judo Gi?

Karate and Judo gis look similar, and it is difficult to tell them apart. But, since Karate is a striking art and not a grappling art like Judo, a Karate gi uses lighter fabric and does not have the reinforced stitching that Judo gis have.

The Karate Gi is modeled after the Judo Gi.

But, certain modifications have been made to it. A karate gi is not only lighter; it is looser-fitting to allow for more unrestricted movement.  This is because the Karateka needs to be mobile and swift to be able to kick and strike effectively.

A Judogi has reinforced stitching at key grip points such as the chest, shoulder, sleeves, and knee.

Judokas land on their knees a lot.

The reinforced stitching is there to make them strong because they are the parts that are often gripped.

Judo suits are almost always made of 100% cotton, while a lot of Karategi is a mix of cotton and polyester. Of course, one can find those made with pure cotton, too.

In effect, the Karate gi is lighter. The heaviest Judo gi weighs 1 kg, while the heaviest Karategi is 0.5 kg.

While preparing to get a Karate gi, you might want to check out a refresher on why it’s vital to learn martial arts. It’s the theme of a recent article of mine where I shared many of the benefits.

I also mentioned the fact that it’s one of the “secrets” of most successful people. You’ll find out why in the article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Will a Karate dojo give me a uniform?

Most Karate dojos sell gis in their studios and will be included in the fees paid at sign-up. While there are several places online where Karate gis can be purchased, if the school’s Gi is customized in any way, it will be better to purchase the gi from the school so the appearance will match your classmates.

You’d get away with using your former Judo gi for the first class (or the first few classes, depending on the dojo).

But, in order not to be the “odd man”, it’s wise to plan to buy a gi that’s designed for Karate as soon as possible. And, the Judogi is a tad heavier to be used as a Karate gi.

Fortunately, most Karate dojos sell gis.

But, there are also several places online where one can buy Karate gis. And you may find them better because you have an array of choices.

You can also check out the reviews, and you can have the luxury of taking your time so that you can get the “best.”

Do I keep my colored belt from Judo when starting Karate?

One would have to give up the belt acquired in Judo and start as a white belt in Karate. Belts earned in one martial art do not translate to an equivalent belt in another. Even the most similar martial arts differ substantially, requiring that one starts learning fresh and progress gradually.

As we’ve explored earlier, Judo is a game of grappling and throws, while Karate is one of strikes and kicks.

One is defensive and “gentle” while the other is offensive and brutal. Grappling is incredibly different from striking. So, in effect, you’d have to become a beginner again and learn what Karate entails from scratch.

Apart from both arts coming from the same culture, they’re highly intense. So much so that you get a full-body workout while engaged in them.

In other words, having done Judo, you’re physically fit to do Karate. You simply need to be patient as you learn Karate techniques.

Don’t want to train at a dojo or can’t find one?

Guess what? That doesn’t have to stop you from learning Karate! There are plenty of people who learn Karate at home. In a recent article, I detail all the best ways to do that. I get into the plusses and minuses including the 1 dealbreaker for about 30% of people.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Should I wash my Karate belt?

Many schools do not recommend washing a Karate belt as the wear and discoloration on the belt over time is seen as wisdom earned by the wearer. The belt will naturally become softer over time as it is worn and used.

Of course, if it becomes dirty or bloody, throw it in the wash.

The important thing is to ensure that one buys high-quality uniforms and belts in the first place. Not those that cannot withstand being washed!

As I mentioned, there’s an unspoken rule in martial arts circles that belts should never be washed.

The idea is that, originally, only white belts were given and that through years of hard work and devotion, these morph into the black from dirt and debris.

That these black belts are symbolic of the rare skills and tenacity of the wearers. It’s an interesting, even alluring story. But is it just an urban legend?

By the way, can Karate help you lose weight?

In a recent article of mine, I showed that it could but that you’ll get the best result by combining it with other fitness and dietary changes.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

Karate and Judo are similar, so can one use the same uniform for both?

In the article, we learned that Karate and Judo are quite distinct. The former is a striking art, while the latter is a grappling art. Consequently, the Gis (uniforms) differ.

A Karate Gi is a tad lighter than Judo Gi. We learned that most dojos sell Karate Gis, so you could get one there.

You could also decide to take your time to check out and buy online. But, you don’t get to use the same belt you had while you were doing Judo.

You’ve got to start from scratch. Lastly, we looked at the elephant in the room: to wash or not to wash your belt. It’s okay to wash it. You simply have to be careful.

But before you decide, cost needs to be factored in too. After all, martial arts, including Karate, can be expensive. So make sure you know all the costs involved before you sign up.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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