Uniform Standards

Within Tensoku Ryu we have a great deal of both flexibility and standardization in the uniforms we wear. This page establishes our standards for uniforms, our expected levels of maintenance, and presentation standards for the uniforms we proudly wear.

Standard Uniform

Our standard uniform, which may be worn by any Tensoku Ryu practitioner of any rank is a white Karate Gi. Both the pants and the jacket are white. The uniform top is wrapped at the waist by a double wrap belt (single wrap belts or other easily applied belts are acceptable for children under 12) signifying the practitioner’s current rank.

Students are encouraged to initially purchase a medium weight Gi.  A lightweight Gi is unlikely to hold up well during Tensoku Ryu Training and may be easily torn or otherwise damaged. A medium-weight Gi generally performs well for beginning to intermediate ranking levels. Students may optionally acquire a heavyweight Gi, but these thicker uniforms come with added weight, increased heat retention, higher cost, and initial stiffness of the uniform, which may be factors to consider.

Gokyu Uniform

Upon achieving the rank of Gokyu (Blue Belt) practitioners may optionally wear a black Gi of the same style as the Standard Uniform. The Standard Uniform may still be worn by any practitioner.

Students who have achieved Gokyu or above may wear any of the following uniform combinations:

  1. A solid white Gi (both jacket and pants are white)
  2. A solid black Gi (both jacket and pants are black)
  3. White Gi pants and a black Gi jacket
  4. Black Gi pants and a white Gi jacket

The Head Instructor of a Dojo may on occasion authorize a Rokukyu (Purple Belt) practitioner to optionally wear uniform option four defined above.  This distinction should be reserved only for practitioners who have demonstrated exceptional dedication or merit. Students must be awarded this privilege by the Dojo Head Instructor and may not wear it without clear authorization. No Rokukyu student may wear uniform options two or three above.

The Hakama

Practitioners studying and/or working with a Bokken or a Katana may optionally wear a Hakama while working with the weapon. The Hakama should be black. If you are unfamiliar with Hakama we suggest you discuss them with your Sensei or do some research before buying one. These are not inexpensive garments and it is easy to make an error when sizing and purchasing one. We also suggest you purchase an Iaido or Kendo Hakama instead of an Aikido Hakama. It is not a tragic problem if you purchase an Aikido Hakama, but the Iaido Hakama is more traditional and would be the better option if you entered an Iaido tournament or decided to visit an Iaido Dojo.

Grappling Uniforms

Students who participate in focused grappling activities may wear a Jujitsu style uniform. This uniform should be similar to the Standard and Gokyu uniforms in style and overall appearance. These uniforms have a heavy and thick jacket that can better withstand the increased stresses to which they will be subjected during grappling activities.

In most cases, this uniform will be worn by practitioners of Yonkyu rank or above, though allowances will be made for any individual who is involved in consistent grappling training activities.

Uniform colors should comply with those established for the Standard and Gokyu uniforms.

The Grappling Uniform should be worn only in situations where the practitioner can realistically expect to be involved in grappling activities. The Grappling Uniform should not be worn in place of the Standard or Gokyu uniform for normal Dojo or Tensoku Ryu activities or events.

While grappling, practitioners may opt to wear a NoGi uniform. This uniform consists of the following component parts:

    • A rash guard short or long-sleeve shirt
    • A pair of rash guard grappling shorts without pockets or other areas where fingers can get caught
    • Optional spats. Note that spats are optional, shorts are not.

The NoGi uniform can be of any color or have any abstract design. The design should not depict any person or object and should not contain any discernable message (textual or symbolic) or pronounced logo.

Yudansha Uniform

Upon achieving the rank of Shodan practitioners may continue to wear any previously defined uniforms. They may now also optionally wear what is generally referred to as a Kung Fu uniform.

These uniforms are generally lighter in weight and provide more freedom of movement making them more suitable for many of the training activities these practitioners will undertake.

Uniform colors are at the sole discretion of the practitioner, though both the top and pants should be of the same color. The uniform may have one single color or may have sleeves, buttons, and collars that have a secondary color. The top may have either short or long sleeves. This uniform may be worn with our without a black sash (no other sash color is authorized).

For most events, training, and instructional activities practitioners should wear a Standard or Gokyu uniform. While attending formal events such as ceremonies, tournaments, demonstrations, or other group activities the Standard or Gokyu uniform should be worn unless the practitioner will be engaged in some activity where the Kung Fu style uniform is appropriate. The Kung Fu style uniform should be worn primarily while practicing or demonstrating relevant material or while teaching this material to others.

Alternate Uniforms

The above uniforms definitions are the only authorized uniforms for Tensoku practitioners. These are the only uniforms that should be worn during testing, at tournaments, or any event sponsored or attended by the Sei Tensoku Ryu.

An individual Dojo may define and utilize an alternate uniform for practitioners involved in specialized activities. These activities may involve demonstrations or other functions intended to provide unique visibility for the Dojo and its practitioners. These uniforms may be of any style or color but should otherwise generally follow the other standards outlined in this document.

These alternate uniforms should not be worn during normal training activities at the Dojo and should not be worn to any ranking examination, outside tournament, or event sponsored by the Sei Tensoku Ryu. The alternate uniforms may be worn while practicing for those events or activities for which they are intended.

Uniform Adornments

Within Tensoku Ryu we do not permit any form of adornment on our uniforms or belts (with one single exception). Patches, decorations, ranking insignia, logos, pins, or other adornments should never be worn on a uniform. The only noticeable difference between a White Belt and the most senior Tensoku Ryu practitioner when both are wearing the Standard Uniform should be the color of the belt.

The only exception to this practice is that practitioners who have not yet attained the rank of Sandan may have a stripe applied to each end of their belt to visually signify having passed a specific stripe test.  These stripes should be black and should not exceed 3/4 of an inch (20 mm) in width. One additional stripe is applied each time the student has passed his or her next stripe test. In all, a maximum of three stripes will be applied.

Practitioners who have attained the rank of Sandan and above will have no adornment of any type on their uniforms or belts (aside from a potential discrete uniform manufacturer label). It should be impossible to visually tell, from the uniform itself, the difference between someone with the rank of Sandan and another with the rank of Judan.

Uniform Maintenance

We take pride in our somewhat austere uniforms and wish to ensure our uniforms remain in excellent condition, are washed regularly, and are readily replaced as necessary.

Uniforms fade, shrink, become outgrown, tear, tatter, fray, or otherwise reach a point where they are unsightly, indiscreet, or unusable. Uniforms need to be repaired or replaced when they approach these conditions. Your Head Instructor may periodically suggest it is time for you to consider a new uniform.

Some martial art styles relish having uniforms that are worn and tattered. They view it as a badge of distinction, dedication, and effort. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not our style. While we also highly prize dedication and effort, we also prize a clean and crisp uniform. The uniform doesn’t need to be dress military-grade uniform, but it should clean, neat, and in good general condition. Attention needs to be paid to any uniform that does not meet these objectives.

Belts are another area that requires some attention. Many martial artists put great pride in their first black belt. They will wear it until it is little more than a battered and faded white string around their waist. We admire that dedication and appreciate the affection one can have for that first black belt. But we think there are other ways to honor that belt.

The most obvious way is to have the belt framed and hung on your wall. Then go out and buy yourself another quality black belt that you can wear in the Dojo. Since we do not maintain any ranking information on our belts your belt will not look different than any others. Keep your original belt in its pristine condition if you like. Think of the belt you wear daily as merely part of a uniform. Replace it when it becomes frayed or tattered from use. Perhaps keep two belts, one that you wear every day and another you wear to ceremonial or group activities. We see little reason for any portion of our uniforms to be ill-maintained.

2 thoughts on “Uniform Standards”

  1. Why is it that Rokukyu level practitioners have the potential to be authorized to wear black gi pants and white top, but not the inverse? What is the significance behind this color combination?

    1. The limited uniform option is meant only as a means of recognition. Having more options does not provide more recognition. Limiting uniform options to one selection provides both recognition (few other Rokukyu students will wear a black Gi bottom) and some additional incentive to achieve the next ranking level.

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