You know what the first photo is. Yes, you are familiar with this karate uniform that you wear every time you go to your dojo. Then what is the Japanese term for this uniform? Surprisingly, many people do not know. If your answer is “Keiko-gi 稽古着”, “Karate-gi 空手着” or simply “Gi 着(衣)”, I congratulate you. However, I know some people call it “Kimono”. This is the problem.
Let’s look at what kimono (着物) really is. Literally, ki (着) means wear and mono (物) things, thus together it means clothes. However, when we say kimono it specifically means the Japanese traditional clothes. There are formal and informal kimono for men and women. You may be more familiar with the formal men’s kimono which is also called haori hakama (羽織袴) and the informal one which is called Kinagashi (着流し). If you stay in a Japanese inn, then they may have a similar kimono for the guests. As you can see a kimono is a one piece clothes and does not have a pair of pants as we see in karate uniform.
If you tell your Japanese friends that you would wear a kimono when you train karate, now you know why they will be very surprised. Here is a photo of Nakayama sensei in kimono but you know that he never trained karate in this way.
So, please stop calling a karate uniform as “kimono”. Please call it “karate-gi” , “Gi” or “Keiko-gi”. If you plan to visit Japan to train there, you want to be careful with this term. I am sure using the correct term will save you from a lot of embarrassment.