My daughter will soon test again for her brown belt in taekwondo. On her first attempt months ago, she did not pass but they provided a "report card" of sorts. One of the notes written was that her belt was "well tied". Even so, in that category, it was possible to score higher.

I am considering helping her to do better in that category (this alone will not enable her to pass the rank exam).

I was thinking that a new gi specifically for tests might help in that regard. Something that looks nice. Can these (or should these) be ironed/pleated? Can/should these be starched, would that help with making her punches and kicks sound snappy?

Is there a specific type of gi that I should look for, for this? The only requirements her school has ever given is that during rank exams, the students' gis should be all white. She would be sparring, performing poomsae, and other drills/techniques without any pause to change (if that matters).

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    I'm just kinda chuckling at the thought of getting graded on how nice a uniform looks or how a belt is tied. Sure, if your belt is uneven or tied wrong, you need to be corrected on that. But that's a daily thing, and by brown belt, it shouldn't even be a question. But as for your gi, if you have holes in it, that might be an issue. But going further than that to have a perfectly stain free, pressed, starched gi is just a complete waste of time. Totally should not matter. But then, I'd also say testing is something that shouldn't even be necessary if an instructor really knows the student. May 9 at 17:35
  • @SteveWeigand It shouldn't matter. I don't disagree on that. Would you bet money though that it won't make a difference, even a subconscious one? As for me, I could care less about the brown belt, I just want her to strive to be good at this. And if a new uniform gives her a little more confidence, that seems like a small price to pay.
    – John O
    May 9 at 17:38
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    ^_^ And, probably not relevant, but I think they call it a dobok, not a gi. It may make a difference when shopping (I know that the cut varies slightly in some schools). May 9 at 17:42
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    @JohnO: Heh, and confusing things slightly, Tang Soo Do is pretty widespread (possibly in part due to Chuck Norris's influence), which is often advertised as "Korean Karate", and uses a mix of Japanese and Korean forms and terms. And, of course, the question of how much to translate... it reminds me of the Catholic Church and how they used to do everything in Latin, to provide a common tongue for all services. There's benefits and drawbacks. May 9 at 17:50
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    @MacacoBranco I've often wondered if Tang soo do might not be a better label for this school. But it's theirs, and they can call it what they want. The master that retired a couple of years ago was either stationed in Korea himself, or was taught directly by someone who was and learned it there. And this came over to the US by the early 1970s I think... though whether part of a more general migration of korean martial arts to the US, or as its own specific thing I can only guess.
    – John O
    May 9 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


This is likely something highly dependent on her school. When I did Chun Kuk Do, the criteria for uniforms were:

  • Clean
  • Unwrinkled
  • Bearing proper patches (we had specific patches that were required for our organization, and also a list of allowable additional patches)
  • Properly tied:
    • Uniform ties tied such as to keep the uniform closed without the belt
    • Belt not hanging loose
    • Belt ends equal length
    • Belt tips (electrical tape tips showing that we'd passed interim tests during classes) on the correct side

For competing, we were generally advised to wear a starched heavy uniform for form demonstrations, indeed because it provided a "snap" with punches and kicks, and to wear a lighter-weight "soft" uniform for faster movement, but we were not graded on the type of material or whether it was starched for testing purposes, so I think I wore a heavy uniform for my first two years, and then a soft one for the rest.

Primarily, the uniform should be clean, unwrinkled, and neatly worn (and often this rolls in things like presentation and grooming). Unfortunately, this can be a very subjective thing, and one where my experience is that a lot of biases can creep in, from more well-off students being able to afford more frequent replacements and better cleaning methods to teachers "grading" on things like hair-ties, hairstyles, and whether the the student has bleached or re-dyed their uniform, and not applying those criteria to everyone. Not saying that would be the case for your daughter, but sometimes it is worth pushing back if you're not being provided a reason for a lower rating. Often, when someone is forced to justify their grades, they realize that they're not grading objectively (or in some cases, will inform you of what you're facing, if you find out that they downgraded for things like "ethnic hairstyle" or their reasons clearly weren't applied to other people).

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    Her lower ratings were mostly due to her unwillingness to take the test seriously and prepare for it. The test appears to be structured in such a way that she could wear rags and pass if everything else were perfect. But I think I can help her get an extra point or two on this, and it doesn't feel like I'm helping her cheat if I do. That extra point or two won't be enough on their own to have her pass, and her teachers have hinted that they're not willing to fudge it for her if she's merely close. I guess I'm just hoping to give her a confidence booster with this.
    – John O
    May 9 at 17:35
  • {nods} And, without getting too sexist about it, the framework of preparing the "right outfit" may work for her. :) The same way that, were she interviewing for a job, she would make sure that she showed up in a clean non-wrinkled outfit. Her school probably does have a set of guidelines that you can ask for (or which she has in her class materials), but it does usually come down to "clean, pressed, and with the belt tied firmly in a square knot with both ends the same length". May 9 at 17:41

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