Dressed for the Occasion

I would imagine that the majority of you who are reading this are practising martial artists. Out of those of you who that are, I would dare say that a high percentage wear specific attire to train in. Whether it be a traditional Gi of some sort, or merely just comfortable clothing that allows ease of movement and practicality whilst training. Basically, you will wear what you, or your instructor, deem appropriate for the type of activity you will be covering. What I want to do is try to explain how the clothing you are wearing has an effect upon your mindset with regard to handling a real physical engagement. It is my opinion that the type of clothing you dress in will have an effect on how you will feel on a psychological level.

In all fairness, with the exception of people who are seriously ‘reality’ minded in their martial arts pursuits, many practitioners have never attempted a training session in their ‘regular’, everyday clothing. Ultimately, it is during our ‘everyday’ activities that we will likely face the threat of an attack of some sort. There are some very important issue that can, and really should be, addressed concerning this topic. During the course of this text I hope to elaborate and highlight many of these factors.

First of all, let’s look at the kind of dress (not that I’m trying to say that many martial artist of secret cross-dresser), that you wear to train in. If your system is a ‘traditional’ type, maybe, Karate, Judo, Kung Fu or Jiu-Jitsu, then you are likely to wear some type Gi. Even those who train on a more informal level, will still wear suitable clothing and footwear. Obviously it makes sense to dress in a way that makes training as comfortable and practical as possible. Now, here’s the point that many people seem to overlook, and please bear in mind that I’m looking at this from a realistic perspective. If you are going to be attacked, unless you always dress in a Gi or tracksuit and trainers, the clothing you will have on will probably alter the range and comfort of movement that you will have. Therefore, not only will your selection of applications be effected, but also your overall mindset will be disturbed. This in turn will dramatically influence the outcome of the incident you are facing.

The type of clothing that people wear during a normal day is usually function specific, i.e. to suit a certain purpose such as employment duties (uniform/safety wear), or for a particular leisure activities (sport/pastime). Apart from that, people dress in a certain manner for social activities, which, in most people’s cases, is where they become most vulnerable from confrontation. More often than not, we dress to express the type of mood we are in, although this can be influenced a great deal by the social settings we are intending to be part of. Certain social functions require a ‘dress code’. This could be anything from not allowing patrons wearing training shoes into the establishment, through to having to abide by stricter rules of dress (shirt sleeve length, trousers not jeans, etc). In order to cut the scale of possibilities down, and to make a general point, I’m going to focus my example, I shall use a social ‘night life’ environment to illustrate my reasoning.

If you were meant to go out at an evening, but wasn’t particularly looking forwards to it, then you might not make a considerable effort in getting ready for it. By this I mean that you may dress down slightly for the occasion, wearing a more casual selection of clothes as opposed to putting on your ‘Sunday best’. From the other extreme, it may be that you feel it necessary to make a real effort, or are excited about the event you are going to attend. If this is the case, then you will care more about how you are going to present yourself, maybe even going to the extent of buying a complete new outfit. If your attire is of what you class as casual status, then you will be fairly comfortable, feeling at ease with yourself. If you have gone to a lot of effort in your appearance, then you are likely to be concerned with maintaining a high level of presentation. I know myself, that if I were wearing jeans and T-shirt, that I wouldn’t be overly upset if I was to spill something on them for example. However, if the clothing was something that I had saved for weeks towards buying, a designer label for instance, and was then to inadvertently damage them, I would be quite annoyed with myself about it. You can see just from this that already your mindset and your resulting behaviour can be effected by the clothing you have on. If we look at the clothing you would normally wear for a training session, it will probably be specific for the activity you are doing. You wouldn’t wear a £80 designer shirt to do Tachiwaza (Judo standing work) in and expect it to stand up to treatment it would receive. Common sense would dictate that you would wear a proper Gi for practise. If we now relate this to a street environment, when someone mistakes your Yves St. Laurent shirt, which incidentally you have had to save for several weeks to be able to afford, for a competition Judo Gi and tries to throws you for a perfect ippon, you will not look favourably upon this individual.

As you can already see, the clothing you wear can, and will, make you feel different. From this perspective it is easy to understand how a confrontation can develop through someone accidentally spilling a drink on somebody’s shirt or trousers, some people become incensed if their clothing becomes marked or damaged. Things all too often get out of hand, usually resulting in the outcome proving a damn sight more costly than the garment in question.