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Karate Uniforms - A Review
as we all know can be very deceptive.
What we believe to be the product of a famous European sporting goods company,
is these days more likely made in Taiwan, China, or Indonesia. The name on
the label means nothing any more, or does it! Clearly it is not possible to
produce textile goods economically in the wealthier western nations. Apart
from the need for plentiful cheap labor, it is difficult, because of the very
nature of textile production, to find workers in the more developed-countries
who are willing to work in the chaos of a cotton mill. Multinational manufacturers
such as Adidas, Nike, Dunlop and Wilson simply send their work to reputable
makers in the third world, and impose upon them a harsh set of quality requirements,
which, if not met, usually results in the cancellation of the order.
It is possible, therefore and I have done it myself, to visit factories in
all parts of the world and see the self same brands being made in every one
of them. Until now these offshore manufacturers of everything from training
shoes to tennis balls have accepted this situation. They have made anonymously
for the major American, European and Japanese manufacturers, and by doing
so, developed resources of experience and skilled manpower that are unequaled
in the Western nations and Japan where the textile trade ceased to be profitable
several decades ago. Those manufacturers who have only in the past made for
the famous label general sporting goods companies, are now able now to manufacture
for the smaller more specialized customer who is expert in a particular field
and, if anything, has higher quality standards that the famous name brands.
Increased factory capacity, better technology, and innovative computer-assisted
production techniques have resulted in a range of martial arts goods from
MEIJIN that are world class, and that meet, and often far exceed in quality
the famous brands that are made by the same people, in the same factory, using
the same equipment!
When I was asked to evaluate the new uniform by Meijin I admit that I was
somewhat taken aback. Having been a national distributor for Tokaido for more
winters than I care to remember, I felt that I knew all there was to know
about uniforms, and having seen the best, could only give report that would
upset, and possibly make lifelong enemies of the people responsible for MEIJIN
uniforms who, for the record, are a very nice bunch of people. Old dogs can
learn new tricks it appears, and this one did. The uniform I was given to
test was excellent in every way, and not surprisingly has made a major impact
in the market already. I have handled the very best uniforms for more than
25 years and can say with confidence that MEIJIN is in almost all respects,
better than the best at often less than half the price of the big name brands.
Sweeping endorsements are one thing , but I was asked to use my special knowledge
to evaluate this new product, which is exactly what I intend to do.
Briefly, what sets MEIJIN apart from all others is the quality and refinement
of the design and construction. It took me about one minute to realize that
they had fixed all the problems that I had complained about to my manufacturers
The best sort of material for karate uniforms is medium weight, long fiber,
finely woven canvas that is usually bleached to make it look attractive. An
interesting side note is that the traditional, pre 1925 uniforms were almost
brown in color due to treatment with an extract of persimmon which reputedly
greatly strengthened the basic cotton fabric. This same treatment was traditionally
used on ninja clothing and accounted for the rust/black mottled color fabric
used in their garments that provided a natural and very effective camouflage.
Contrary to popular belief ninja did not wander around feudal Japan in black
uniforms because it made identification easy and more often that not, fatal.
The material in the MEIJIN uniform I was given was first class. It was tightly
and evenly woven, free of the flaws so often found in canvas, and had not
been overbleached, a fault that weakens fabric considerably. The way the uniform
had been cut out was also very good with the waft and warp of the fabric carefully
taken into consideration during the planning of the garment. The thread used
was better than the industry standard. Although I could not identify it with
precision, it had the look and feel of Japanese manufacture, and the stitching
throughout the garment was exactly what you would expect in the highest quality
As stated above, when it comes to design this uniform is ahead of all others.
The team that developed the measurement grid must have had a lot of experience,
some rather fancy computer software, or more likely, both. The MEIJIN uniform
is literally tailored for the job it has to do, and as a result surpasses
all others I have seen in fit and comfort. For example, at the back of the
pants the cut is tailored-up, into the waist, eliminating the excess material
that "bulks " uncomfortably in other uniforms when the waist string
is tightened. The opening in the sides of the pants and jacket are fully reinforced
with tape all around and not just a triangular scrap of waste material sewn
in to stop the seam running. The trousers are cut wide and long for and freedom,
and so they resist binding, even when very damp The jacket is full in the
chest, but not bulky about the midriff. It is comfortably loose, but does
not hinder movement in any way, even during hard training. Uniquely, the jacket
has gussets discretely sewn into the armholes, and equipped with ventilation
holes finished with stitching to prevent the fabric running. This gives a
level of comfort never experienced before, and reduces stress on the fabric.
The design is a work of genius, and should be regarded as such.
Having spent years selling size 5.5 pants with size 4.5 jackets, and asking
the factory to change their standard sizes to suit American and European karate
men, (they always refused) the MEIJIN uniform is a dream come true. Unlike
nearly all other uniforms which are based on the original patterns developed
in Japan during the fifties and sixties in the factories of Tokaido, Mitsuboshi,
and R.K.Mizuno, this is designed for the European American market exclusively.
Rather than doing as everyone else does and slavishly following a measurement
grid that will never ever fit Occidental proportions perfectly, the manufacturer
has started afresh and the result is the first really new and worthwhile product
for karate enthusiasts for decades. The only uniform that I have seen that
approached this for fit is the GI uniform which was produced in limited quantities
for a short period in the mid seventies with sponsorship from WUKO (World
Union of Karate Organizations). It was made from a revolutionary new material
from Japan's very best textile company that allowed the canvas to stretch
a little, and was cut along very similar lines to the Meijin, although not
quite as well in my opinion. Despite the backing of WUKO, and the support
of some very substantial and well known companies, production costs were so
high that it never made it on to the market. As far as I know the material
was never produced commercially.
Using Tokaido uniforms as a bench mark I would say that MEIJIN is better in
almost all areas, particularly cut and therefore fit and comfort, except in
the quality of the basic material where Tokaido scores a narrow victory. If
you are willing to pay twice as much just to have marginally better material
and a well-known label it's your choice. Please don't misunderstand me--Tokaido
produce a good uniform that has very few faults other than the size and fit
which my company used to, more or less, overcome by mixing and matching pants
& jackets. The only other complaint about Tokaido that was common related
to the blue dye that's used in the bleaching of the Tokaido material. This
becomes excessive from time to time, and varies, sometimes greatly, from batch
to batch. This made matching the size 5.5 pants with 4.5 jackets from different
batches (to get a uniform that would fit a non-Japanese) difficult, if not
impossible to say nothing of the nightmare it created for our inventory manager.
At around $95 retail for the adult sizes I can honestly recommend MEIJIN as
the very best I have seen for the money in ages and light years ahead of the
the publication of the review above I have been asked any number of questions
about these uniforms, and about my own qualifications to make the statements
I made. Answers to the most frequently asked questions follow.
Am I qualified to write such a review?
I feel I am. I have been distributing karate uniforms since 1968 and have
professionally represented, as a sole national distributor, Tokaido, Mitsuboshi,
and R.K. Mizuno for more than a decade. Additionally I have written a
number of books on the martial arts, acted as a martial arts technical
advisor to governments in the Middle East, including the construction
and outfitting of one of the largest and certainly the most lavish karate
dojo in the world, and a number of European police departments. My other
credits include martial arts technical adviser to major film companies.
were originally known as TENKI and are essentially the same uniform. The
name was apparently changed for legal reasons, and the uniform has gone
through a number of upgrades since it was sold under the TENKI name, notably;
Extra waist loop (making three)
Improved collar material and construction
Longer waist tie
Full cut sizes now available.
the instructors who appear in the Tsunami videos really wear MEIJIN
they do! but it's not blatant commercialism. MEIJIN
sponsor Tsunami because so many top professional instructors use MEIJIN
I think you would refer to it as a symbiotic relationship.
about reproducing the Tide
label in their adverts. Can MEIJIN
tested many detergents
to find an ideal one for their karate uniform. They discovered as a result
of their research that Tide(R)
With Bleach, met all their requirements and recommend it strongly as the
powder of choice for their uniforms. Use of the Tide(R)
symbol and Tide(R)
name is covered by a contract between MEIJIN
Proctor and Gamble, the manufacturer of the Tide(R)
CHOICE OF THE DISCERNING
to Classical Fighting Arts magazine!
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