People love to have their own personal sense of style. And that’s all right, provided you aren’t wearing to doing something that racist or criminal, of course. But there are aspects of one’s clothing that need to be taken into consideration if you practice the martial arts. I’ll be the first one to say that fighting should always be the last recourse. But once the fight is inevitable, it’s incumbent on you to ensure that you walk away safe and whole once the encounter is over.
The type of clothing you wear can have a direct impact on the outcome of a fight, especially if the clothing you’re wearing is confining, restrictive or has accessories that may hinder or get in the way of a safe encounter. So let’s start from the bottom and work our way up, shall we? As a karateka, kicking holds particular importance as kicks are an integral part of my art. So let’s start with footwear.
In the dojo, most practitioners will be bare-footed. I say “most,” because there will the odd exception of some students wearing athletic footwear or so-called “Kung fu shoes.” But for the most part, we spend our time on the mats bare-footed. For the sake of form and muscle memory, this is fine. So picture doing a front kick… In Uechi Ryu, we practices the front kick by pointing the big toe towards our target. Some other style will strike using the ball of the foot, some will use the heel. It all depends on what style and technique you use.
Now, picture being on the street during the winter months, wearing thick winter boots with little to no flexibility. Executing a front kick in the way you’ve trained to do so may not be possible. You’ll notice I said “the way you’ve trained” and not “the right way,” because the correct way to kick is subjective to one’s style and technique. But trying to execute your kick with restrictive footwear will result in either improper technique, inability to deliver the kick or perhaps even some level of injury, your opponent taking advantage of the situation notwithstanding.
Your pants or shirt/sweater can have the same issue. Hell, if you’re wearing a coat of a sweater, you’ll hinder yourself, as well. Most martial arts practitioners will be used to wearing a loose-fitting gi or fitness apparel that will allow freedom of movement for your techniques ands blocks. But wearing regular street clothes can present unique challenge, especially if they’re restrictive and/or form-fitting. If your jeans are so tight that you can barely lift and bend your leg, you’ll easily find yourself compromised as it relates to using your kicks.
Coats and tops present the same problem. Uechi Ryu uses some rather circular blocks and having a thick, winter coat would hinder the proper execution of a lot of these coats. All of this is bearing in mind that one should be able to find an alternative, of course. Proper martial arts shouldn’t be restricted to a limited set of techniques. And by no means am I suggesting that one shouldn’t wear specific types of clothing. My goal is simply to get one’s mind turned towards the potential obstacle and take it into consideration. After all, the average person, even a martial artist, won’t spend their days fighting.
I know some people who prefer slim-fitting clothes, which can be fine. Not for me, since it tends to make me look like someone poured too much batter into the muffin cup. But it’s important to be cognizant of what may restrict or hinder you, should you need to protect yourself or someone else. I’m a boot cut jeans kind of guy and I usually manage to find those jeans that have one or two percent spandex in them, making the denim flexible enough to kick properly. I also make sure they fit properly as opposed to looking like a second skin. this ain’t yoga class! Food for thought… ☯️