Century Martial Arts, the world’s largest martial arts equipment supplier, has come up with a new, traditional cut Karate gi that will not break your, or your students bank! I have had the fortune of helping test, develop and work on this project with them over the last year and was very honored to do so. The new Century Kata Gi is a 13.3 oz special fabric and is traditional cut. After testing four different samples the final one they sent me was incredible!
How this began was through a phone conversation with Leon Rogers, the Senior Vice President from Century. We were discussing the fact that our industry has a lot of options for martial arts uniforms but there is an entire segment missing for people that teach traditional Karate. We have many brands to select from including Mugen, KI, AWMA, Tokaido, Seishin and Shureido to name a few but all the great uniforms run in the $179 to $250 price range which really doesn’t work for school owners wanting a great uniform for their students that is traditional at a decent price. Sure these manufacturers make lower cost uniforms but the ones I have had the material was not very nice and they didn’t perform too well. So the process began on developing just that…a traditional Gi that looks, feels and performs like a high Shureido but doesn’t cost nearly as much.
Century began by ordering uniforms from the companies I mentioned. They then began the process of researching material and build methods. The goal was to have a top of the line type of traditional Karate uniform, such as Tokaido or Shureido, at around $100 retail price range. It was also something we wanted to build that was more wash and wear capable and didn’t require dry cleaning or a lot of ironing to keep it looking nice. The gi had to be traditional cut (shorter sleeves and pants), roomy enough for great movement and strong enough for Kata, Kobudo, Self Defense, Kumite and every purpose in the dojo, as well as being professional enough for competitions. The result was the new Century Kata Gi.
Although this is called a Kata Gi it is much more. I have tested this uniform in all the above mentioned capacities but also in grappling and even in a Judo class. It held up, not just nicely, but incredibly. Here are some of my thoughts about this gi:
The material: The fabric is a special blend and comes in around 13 oz but feels much lighter when wearing it. It snaps audibly when good technique is issued through both strikes and kicks. It feels smooth when wearing it and doesn’t bind in the joints or waist. It is beautifully bright white which the odd white color of other gi available is something I had complained about. It has a subtle yet gorgeous pattern to the fabric that helps it to maintain its strength.
The stitching: The cuffs on the arms and legs are 6 rows of perfectly tuned stitching. They are not too thick to get in the way or weigh the uniform down but yet are thick enough to withstand being grabbed, pulled and used. The lapel on the top is also 6 rows of double stitching and is separate material wrapped then stitched on to the top. This is much better than a folded lapel type which often, and does, rip out.
The waistband: on many of the uniforms I have had over the years the waistband was always a problem. Either it was too tiny and the drawstrings dug into my waist or it was too large and the pants came undone quite often. The Kata Gi has a one inch drawstring waistband. It wears very nicely and the drawstrings don’t bunch up in the wash which is very important. Movement in the waistband is excellent as well, never impeding my kicks, strikes in Kata or in all out Kumite.
Wash and Wear: The material that Century has chosen did require a some ironing the first few washes but after it was broken in it has pretty much become wash and wear capable. There are a couple of methods that I have found to keep it very nice. First take it out of the washer and then smack the wrinkles out of it, then hang dry. Second take it out of the dryer when it is halfway dry, spray with fabric releaser, shake it and hang to finish drying it. Both worked great and, compared to my Seishin Gi, it is A LOT easier to keep looking nice. Another great aspect was it didn’t shrink hardly at all! I have washed mine in hot water and dried it at least 9 times with hardly any shrinkage at all. This is a big pet peeve of mine with many of the other high end brands because they shrink a lot and often are so wrinkled after washing you spend an hour ironing them.
So, how does this Gi perform? Without sounding biased it performs like a high end Shureido gi and more! Let’s look at some of the things I noticed when wearing and testing the gi in my dojo and other areas:
Kata & Kobudo: For training it is awesome. For competition it is incredible! The gi flows nicely, maintains it functionality and snaps really well when doing Kata. Stances look great due to the flowing nature of the pant leg and the top looks great with no binding sleeves to get in the way of your Sai or Kama.
Kumite: Well I tested this in three types of Kumite. Point sparring, Yakusoku (prearranged) and Knock Down. For each one it did great! I never had to worry about the uniform slowing my techniques down and it takes a solid beating in the knock down Kumite. In our Yakusoku Kumite we do throws and sweeps and it performed perfectly with me being able to get back on my feet immediately and not have to worry about fixing my Gi. For being called a Kata Gi it works great for Kumite just as well. I even wore the Gi to a Judo class to work out with some friends and it performed very well; however, it is not designed for Judo so I won’t be doing that too often.
Teaching classes: I have been telling everyone that this Gi is built “Dojo tough” and it was designed, tested and built in the dojo…and that is the truth. It is very sharp for the Sensei to wear and will make a solid statement of professionalism when teaching classes. The audible sounds when teaching Kata and the fact you can teach all facets of Karate make this by far one of the best Gi I have ever had for teaching plus it didn’t cost $200 so the price point is perfect for an instructor. I know my black belts can’t wait until it is in stock and keep asking me when they can order it…as well as several of my martial arts friends.
So, with all these accolades are there any cons to owning the new Century Kata Gi? The only one I can think of is we haven’t made it in black yet because there is a market out there for that as well. The small amount of ironing needing done until it is broken in is adequate.
If you have ever owned a Shureido Shihan Gi then you are going to want this one! Everyone asked me when I was wearing the unbranded version how I got a Shureido Gi without the label on it. If that is not a testament enough then I am not sure what it is. After being in the martial arts for 38 years and teaching for 25 now I can honestly say I believe I have found the perfect Gi for my dojo and students!
Century Kata Gi…designed, built and tested in the dojo…truly built DOJO TOUGH! They will be in stock in February.