I started dreaming of a gi that fit, was comfortable, and that would last a long time without wearing out. I loved wearing my gi, but I wanted more. I searched far and wide for a heavy fabric that was not stiff, scratchy, or rough. I finally found hemp and recycled polyester blend that had enough durability and strength to last, a feel good to the touch, and was relatively earth friendly.
My next step was to look at gi design. I wanted functionality, good fit, durability, and efficiency/low waste in layout and cutting.
As I cut and sew each gi, I like to think about training and how the martial artist this gi is for will enjoy their training, allowing them to maximize their performance on the mat by wearing this gi.
I cut the drawstring of most pants at 108 inches. The number 108 is a mystical number in many cultures and belief systems. It is often the number of repetitions one uses for a spiritual practice. Since aikido is part of my spiritual practice, having a 108 physically present somewhere in my practice is a good reminder.
I chose the five green mountains as a logo for similar reasons. The five mountains represent earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. These five elements are always present in the practice and in life. Green mountains represent the beautiful place that I live, Lake Tahoe, and the natural basis of Aikido.
When I sew each gi, I double stitch each seam and hem in the smoothest possible way. This results in a very sturdy, well crafted, and comfortable product. This method produces a gi so easy to wear and comfortable that it feels like pajamas or loungewear. All martial artists should be able to focus on their training, not on having to adjust their uniform.
I wanted to avoid 2 common problems often witnessed in mass produced cotton gis: the knees wearing out relatively quickly, and the collar fraying, long before the rest of the gi is worn out. Also the skimpy knee reinforcement patch is often too high or low on the pant leg, rendering it relatively useless.
I resolved these problems in simple ways. I reinforced the pants fronts from mid-thigh all the way to the hem. No matter how tall you are or aren’t, no matter whether you are doing standing technique or sitting, your knees have a double layer of fabric protecting them.
The collar problem was a little trickier. The answer laid in traditional Japanese clothing design. Most traditional Japanese clothing was made to last. Cloth was costly. Since collars get dirty and worn quite easily, causing the entire garment to look shabby and old, the collar guard was invented. The collar guard is a separate piece of fabric stitched over the collar band. When it is worn out, it is relatively simple to detach and replace with a new one. The entire garment lasts much longer and maintains a nicer appearance.