Encouragement of Karate Pants

June 16, 2018

Karate Pants is the name of the product line by Yoshiyuki, which is a reconstructed form of karate gi as daily wear. Although called “karate” pants, the lower garments of other martial arts such as judo and aikido that do not use weapons like swords, spears and bows, also share the same basic structure. However, because karate gives the strongest impression of swinging the legs most among these martial arts, I was inspired to name this product line Karate Pants to emphasize its comfort instead of Judo Pants or Aikido Pants. Of course, it is also because of my particular feeling to this budo (martial arts) I have been learning myself for years.

karate gi

Karate Pants #15 (YOSHIYUKI)

Yoshiyuki started its clothing label with the production of these Karate Pants. This is why my feelings for this product range are especially strong. So why did I start to make Karate Pants as daily wear? Because this garment is rational, functional, and above all comfortable.

First of all, pants that allow a high roundhouse kick are bound to be stress free. If they are designed so that they do not hinder lower limb movements such as mawashigeri (roundhouse kicking) or shiko-dachi (square stance), it means you can also easily crouch, sit cross legged, or straddle something in everyday life. The design is very functional in the sense that it does not disturb the movement of the lower body and at the same time, while waist and hip area are loose, you can adjust the waist strings to your liking. There is no need to be so size-conscious as with western trousers, nor the need to wear a belt. They are so practical that it would be a pity to not introduce this kind of functional item to everyday life.

karate gi

aikido gi

However some people may hesitate to consider martial art gi as everyday wear or to perceive it as fashion. There may even be people who think it uncouth or even rude. Yet considering the fact that many of the garments that we Japanese who grew up in western clothing wear actually originate from sportswear or work clothes, it would not be strange at all to have garments developed for martial arts evolve into casual wear, entering into our everyday life.

For example, jeans were originally work clothes worn by coal miners, and T shirts were originally made as underwear for military uniforms. Sneakers evolving into various designs today are said to have originated as shoes for boat racing, and polo shirts developed for tennis wear and later worn by polo players received the latter’s name. All of these items were originally developed for a specific purpose, but their comfort and functionality came to be valued in everyday life, gradually became casual wear, entered the fashion scene of each era, to be loved and become indispensable today.

Ever since my student days, I had been wondering if such function-oriented gear could come out as fashion items from Japanese distinctive clothing culture. The Japanese have received ideas and techniques of various clothing culture from western civilization until now. It is now time to introduce good things from our culture to the world, to enter the stage of sharing our values. It is with this wish that Yoshiyuki produces jikatabi or split-toe shoes and how our first product, the Karate Pants came about.

Early models of Yoshiyuki’s Karate Pants

In addition to the basic elements of the traditional budo pants such as the waist string and the loose fitting crotch, Yoshiyuki’s Karate Pants have three other functions. One is a pocket. Another is a front zipper. And the third is an obi or waistband based on Yoshiyuki’s unique idea. There is no need for explanation for the convenience of pockets and front zipper, but the waistband is not attached only for convenience. I added this system with the aim of offering consciousness of the body core, especially by tightening the abdomen, the area below the navel that governs the body. I believe this has the effect of raising the ki or vital energy of the wearer.

Sanada-himo waistband

Because this waistband is given the special role of tightening the core of the body and focusing energy there, I thought the more special the string used, the more ideal. This is why we chose to use the bespoke Sanada-himo woven by Tosai Ichimura, the only Sanada-himo craftsman in Kanto region. The idea is, just like when precious teaware is given more value if it’s placed in a paulownia box gravely fastened with Sanada-himo string, you can also heighten the awareness of your self-value by tightening your body with this string. At the same time, like a gi without a belt looks odd, this waistband made in Sanada-himo string also plays a visual role.

Yoshiyuki’s Karate Pants has thus evolved with unique ingenuity. Just like we enjoy wearing jeans today even if we are not a coal miner, I hope that our Karate Pants can be taken into daily life, even for those who do not practice martial arts. Although it may just be an article of clothing, I believe that by taking in the wisdom and sensibility of martial arts in this small way can bring us spiritual focus and peace.

                 Yoshiyuki Ogata