What to Wear for Aikido: The Complete Guide


Most dojos require that you wear a uniform made up of a gi; a white jacket, pants, and a belt. But for your 1st class, or when training at home, many wonder what to wear for Aikido.

Here’s what I know from training in it:

For a 1st class at an Aikido dojo or for training Aikido at home, it is best to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing such as sweatpants and a T-shirt and train barefoot. When signing up for classes at an Aikido dojo, the full uniform would typically be purchased at the time of registration.

The uniform is not an attempt to put everybody in the same mold.

Aside from its utility as gym wear, it’s also a reflection of respect for others in the dojo. Japanese culture, as you probably know, places a high premium on etiquette.

There are different models of uniforms, as you’ll expect, ranging from $30 to as much as $500. But on average a uniform will likely cost closer to $100.

There’s also an attire known as the hakama, and I’ll share some fun facts about it with you in a bit. If you’re training at home, you simply need comfortable clothes (make sure the floor is not slippery).

But ultimately, you just want clothes that aren’t restrictive and are easy to move around in.

Let the fun begin…

Will an Aikido dojo give me a uniform?

Most Aikido dojos will provide the uniform for a fee, while others may include it in the registration fee. But it is unlikely they would require you to purchase it elsewhere.

So, it depends, but either way, you will get it from the dojo when you sign up following the initial trial class(es).

So don’t sweat it. It’s nothing to worry about.

In most cases, the uniform might be $99, and if there’s a registration fee over $100, it’s not uncommon for the uniform to be part of that.

That doesn’t mean you couldn’t buy one online and just wear it your first day.

But I wouldn’t recommend that. Many dojos offer branded gi clothing, and you might feel out of place wearing something totally different from all the other students.

Naturally, you don’t need a uniform if you opt to train yourself. 

Is it even realistic to entertain the thought? Can you teach yourself Aikido? You could easily find out in a recent article of mine. I get into the best ways to train yourself and which moves you’ll never be able to master on your own.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the Aikido uniform called?

Aikido uniforms are known as Aikido Gi. Traditionally this is a wrap-around jacket, loose-fitting white pants with a drawstring, and a belt. Sometimes Aikidokas wear hakama pants which almost look like a shirt. But often, those are reserved for black belts.

The uniforms contribute (even if in a small way) to making martial arts appealing. They’re simple and exotic.

However, they’re not called Aikido Kimono.

A Kimono is apparel that’s worn for special events. You’d agree that it’s probably not smart to wear an outfit designed for special ceremonies to the gym.

You can see that it would be incorrect to think of the Aikido uniform as Aikido Kimono, but the error is understandable. Aikido Gi (or Aikidogi) is the correct term. You could also use the short form: Dogi. But most people simply call it Gi.

You’ve probably also seen some people wearing skirt-like pants.

What is it called, and why are they wearing that? We’ll get to that in a bit. But if you do train at a dojo, how much will that cost?

To learn about how much the uniform goes for, check out a recent article of mine: How Much are Aikido Classes. I get into average tuition rates, registration, uniforms, and whether or not you’ll have to pay more to attend multiple times per week.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How do you wear the Aikido uniform?

An Aikido uniform is made up of the gi jacket, pants, and belt. Put on the pants first with the kneepad’s face front and tie the drawstring tight. When you wear the jacket, make sure that the left part is over the right part. The belt goes on over the jacket to hold it closed.

The pant loops that the drawstring passes through should also face upfront.

You pass the drawstring through the loop and tie a regular bow in front. The ends of the cord shouldn’t exceed the Jacket. They should be about 2 inches above the end of the Jacket.

The belt, called an obi, can be about twice the length of some people’s bodies, depending on their size.

It can be a tad tricky. So, let’s check it out.

To tie an obi effectively, the first step is to find the midpoint of the belt. You do this by folding it such that both ends touch each other. Then you can easily determine the midpoint. It’s exactly where the other end curves.

Place the midpoint of the obi above your navel.

Then wrap its two ends behind your back, ensuring they cross the midpoint, and that one side is lying beneath the other. Now bring both ends back to the front. Holding the upper part of the obi in your left hand, place the lower part under it, holding it with your right hand, in a kind of “x” shape on your stomach.

Ensure you cross the ends as close as possible to the center of your body. 

If you don’t, the knot or bow in the obi won’t be beautifully centered. Tuck the belt’s left side under both layers of the belt to the left of your body.

Tuck the right side under both layers to the right side, in a similar fashion, then tie a bow. But honestly, it will be easier to “get it” by watching a video or an instructor.

When I was first learning, I watched some videos and then just spent an hour practicing until I could do it blindfolded.

Who wears the hakama pants in Aikido?

In some dojos, a hakama is reserved for black belts only, while in some dojos, everybody wears them. And in some dojos, the women wear them first. 

Why is it worn at all? To understand why let’s find out a bit about the hakama.

It’s a traditional Japanese outer attire that the Samurai wore. The Samurai were the military and highest caste. They’re often on horseback. The hakama’s long length is designed to serve as protection for their legs while they rode on horseback.

So, the hakama was originally worn by nobles. 

But as time went on, it became an attire worn by everybody. It became the standard formal attire. The Gi, as we know it, is underwear.

The hakama is the standard formal attire that’s worn over the Gi.

The seven pleats in the hakama symbolize the seven virtues of budo. The virtues are:

  • jin (benevolence)
  • gi (honor or justice)
  • rei (courtesy and etiquette)
  • chi (wisdom, intelligence)
  • shin (sincerity)
  • chu (loyalty)
  • koh (piety)

The Samurai is expected to embody these virtues.

Permit me to share an anecdote by Misugi Saotome in “The Principles of Aikido” that underscores how times change.

“I vividly remember the day that I forgot my hakama. I was preparing to step on the mat for practice, wearing only my dogi, when O Sensei stopped me. “Where is your hakama?” he demanded sternly. “What makes you think you can receive your teacher’s instruction wearing nothing but your underwear? Have you no sense of propriety? You are obviously lacking the attitude and the etiquette necessary in one who pursues budo training. Go sit on the side and watch class!” 

To truly grasp Aikido, one shouldn’t simply focus on the fighting techniques…

..but also its cultural and philosophical underpinnings. To help in this regard, a recent article of mine goes deep into Aikido’s philosophy. I get into the true message behind Aikido, but I was really surprised at just how deadly some of the moves can be despite that!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What clothes are best for Aikido training at home?

To train Aikido at home, wear clothes that are loose-fitting and easy to move around so that your movements won’t be restricted. Sweatpants and a T-shirt will be ideal. Shorts are not ideal as both carpet or training mats can rub against the knees.

You want clothes that are “invisible.”

You shouldn’t have to be thinking about your clothes while you’re trying to grasp a technique that you’re following on a YouTube video you’re watching.

Speaking of techniques, seeing as you’ll be training at home, a recent article of mine explores some of the most important beginner and expert Aikido techniques.

One of the facts that I shared in it is that Aikido has about 10,000 techniques! And, these techniques are based on 20 vital ones.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Choosing the best clothes to train Aikido at home is not rocket science. Choose clothes that won’t constrict your ability to move freely, and that won’t slip off your body while you’re moving. And, you’re golden.

Conclusion

Who knew that an exploration of the kind of attire worn in Aikido could be fun?

In the article, we learned about the GI, the hakama, why both are worn, and by whom. We took a look at how to wear an Aikido uniform, paying special attention to the belt, which can be a tad tricky.

We ended our exploration by looking at what kind of clothes would be good for practicing at home.


Photo which requires attribution:

Dogi by hadaiku is licensed under CC2.0 and was color adjusted, cropped, with a text overlay added

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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