Choosing the right threads…hhhhmm…Part 2

A . Choosing your belt

Choosing the type of Outer

There are basically three different types of outer material for belts to choose from. Each has its own particular properties.

  • 100% cotton
  • 100% satin
  • Silk

The advantage of the 100% cotton outer is that it is the most traditional. The colour fades naturally over time and the belt ages beautifully. It also has very good durability and tends to tie better as there is more friction so less slip of the knot.

The advantage of the satin outer is that it has a nice shiny look and retains its deep colour for longer. It also has good durability and doesn’t fade or fray as much.

The advantage of the silk outer is that it is undoubtedly the best looking belt and is truly a luxury. It has a nice shine (but not glare) and ages the most beautifully giving faded, experienced look desired by many. Because of the delicacy of the material it tends to sit the most naturally of the three types, and is the most malleable.

Choosing the Belt Width and Thickness

This is controlled by the properties of the inner core. All three manufacturers offer a range of belts based on the width and thickness of the belt. Please see each manufacturer’s belt types for description.

The normal belts are of normal thickness (single cotton core) and are usually 3.5cm wide. The thinner normal belts have the advantage that they are cheaper and easier to tie and keep in place.

The upper range belts tend to have a double thick cotton core and are usually 4.5cm wide. The thicker, wider belts have the advantage that they look much better and are far more durable. Long term, they are a much better investment.

Choosing a Manufacturer

All major manufacturers produce the highest quality of products and choosing the manufacturer is again down to personal choice. This can be based on personal preference, club standard or recommendation. Many people will try to match their belt with their dogi.

Choosing the size

For the standard thickness and normal belts, I recommend using the formula:

  • (Waist in cm) x 2 + 110 to 120 cm (depending on if you want a standard length belt or long hanging belt. This can in turn be dependant on the amount of embroidery.)

for the extra thick and wide belts I recommend:

  • (waist in cm) x 2 + 120 to 130cm (depending on if you want a standard length belt or long hanging belt. This can in turn be dependant on the amount of embroidery.)

This is because, as the belts are thicker and wider, the knot tends to be bigger and the belt will hang shorter when tied.

Getting Embroidery

Getting embroidery done on belts is standard practice in Japan and very common elsewhere. It is the best way to show recognition of one’s achievement, or respect for ones style or associations (besides looking fantastic).

All these manufacturers pride themselves on their embroidery. On the special order made belts in particular, the belt is made after the embroidery is done onto the material. Thus the embroidery does not go through the belt (as seen on cheaper belts sold by other companies). This is a sign of true craftsmanship in the eyes of these manufacturers.

Each manufacturer uses a different standard font to distinguish themselves (but other fonts may be available on request). The standard colour is golden brown but all manufacturers can do a range of colours.

Regarding the type and language of embroidery, again this is based on personal choice or the standard within the club or association.

B. Caring for your belt

Contrary to popular belief, you can actually clean your belt! There is no need to possess an old smelly, mouldy belt in order to prove your dedication to training or your seniority.

If you follow some simple rules you can have a quality belt which will serve you for a long time.

Cotton Belts

These belts are machine washable though I personally recommend hand washing and gently spinning in a machine.

1. Wash as needed

You do not need to wash your belt so often, but regular washing is viable. Depending on your training frequency, I recommend about once a month for frequent trainers. In summer and humid climates it is better not to let sweat dry on it too often, so more frequently might be advisable. Be aware however that the more you wash, the more likely your belt is to fade.

2. Wash seperately on a delicate cycle

Do not wash with your belt with your dogi unless grey is your preferred dogi colour. Also washing with a lot of clothes will cause it to be tangled and mangled with the clothes. Satin belts may be damaged by mangling with the fibres of rougher cloth.

3. Do not hot wash

As with dogi, only cold wash. This not only preserves the colour of the belt, but also prolongs its life. Note: It is easier to cold wash by hand.

4. Use mild detergents only

Obviously don’t use detergents with bleach. “Hand wash” or “delicates” detergents are best and you only need a little.

5. Do not use commercial dryers or tumble dry

I recommend a light spin and hang drying outside. Stretch and flatten the belt before hanging out, but not in direct sun..

Silk and Satin Belts

As the outside covering is more delicate, I recommend only lightly hand washing with “delicate” or silk detergent and not machine washing at all. A delicate spin cycle can be used to dry the belt a little, before hang drying. See above.

Frequent wiping with a lightly damp cloth/towel after training and allowing to fully dry by hanging outside, will prolong the lifespan of your belt as well as negate the need for frequent washing.


Should you wish to ignore the recommendations above then, again, I suggest soaking your belt in acid overnight then drying in bright sunlight. I then recommend purchasing a new belt from me and repeating the process every month!


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