Obi – Unique Belts

Obi is a sash used as a belt for traditional Japanese dress. It is also used as part of Samurai Suit like uniforms worn by Japanese martial arts practitioners even during Feudal Japan. This belt is worn by both men and women as well.

The man’s version is narrow and longer than a woman’s formal belt. Today, the woman wore this as a decorative piece and a separate one is used to close the Kimono like sashes and ribbons.

These are categorized based on its design, formality and material use. An informal version of this Samurai Armor is narrower and shorter. Originally these were tied in front however, fashion dictates have changed its position to the side or back.

This is because as the knots grow bigger it became cumbersome that explains the change in positioning. Man’s obi is narrower than those for a woman. It is also in simple designs and wraps simply around the waist below the stomach using a simple knot to tie it.

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  • Heko Obi. This belt is considered as informal Samurai armor. It can be made of cotton, silk, and other materials. This form of Obi is only worn at home however, younger boys can wear it in public like during summer festivals with a Yukata.
  • Kaku Obi. This is referred to as a stiff belt and is used during formal occasions. This is usually worn in the simple Kai-no-kuchi knot.

There are certain Japanese martial arts that feature the use of this belt as part of their exercise outfit. This Obi is made of thick cotton. However, this is tied up using a Koma-Musubi knot.

The color of the Obi refers to the wearer’s level of skills in martial arts. The beginner wears white while he advances into the black or red and white as those worn by Martial arts master. This belt can be difficult to put on without assistance.

Hayakawa Kyuukei [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In case there is nobody to support the use of temporary ribbons to hold it in place until the belt is tied properly. Taiko Musubi is the most common use version nowadays.

This is because this style is simple and resembles a box. This was inspired by a drum but, is not connected to this instrument in any way except for the similarity in shape. This is the focal point of the Kimono.

How to Tie an Obi

  • For those who are into Aikido or any formal martial arts training here is how to tie this belt. It matters a lot to tie this in the right way. Put on your Gi top just like one does with the use of a jacket.
  • Ensure that the right flap is folded towards the left side first. Tie the strings together. Do the same thing with the other side repeating the same procedure on the other side.
  • To check whether the right sequence was correctly made the left side flap should be on the outside.
  • The ends of the belt are referred to as tang. The Karate Uniform is a Gi. Place the belt over the belly button and wrap this around the waist. This should seat above the hips.

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