High water or carpet dragger?

Over the years, perhaps decades, I’ve notice a trend in marital arts uniforms. Back when I started training there were two choices, black or the white gi (karate uniform). The sleeves usually came down to your wrist and the pant legs stopped at the ankles.

For many arts, the traditional length of pants and sleeves are different from this manufactured standard. In our school we call it Hawaiian style. The pant legs stop just below the calf muscle — high water height. Sleeves stop at the mid-forearm — 3/4 sleeve or softball length.  This is the classical look of many Karateka.

Recently, I noticed a lot of schools are allowing students to have their pant lets drag on the floor. The pant legs are so long they reach or pass the heel. Likewise, the sleeves fall to the mid-hand or knuckles. It makes students look as if they’re wearing their parents’ uniform. I’ve also seen uniform jackets without sleeves, exposing the upper arm.

The benefit of having high water pants and short sleeves is ease during training. When you kick, shorter pant length keeps the pants from catching on one’s foot. Shorter sleeves allow you to execute arm- and wrist-locks without catching on the long sleeve. It also helps those watching and learning to see what the instructor is doing to the joint.

At the end of the day, the individual must choose which style they like. It’s really a case of appearance over function. So are you a high water or carpet dragger?