Why a Black Gi?
When James Mitose returned to Hawaii in 1937 from his Kosho/Kenpo training with his Grandfather, Sukuhei Yoshida (20th Great Grand Master) in Japan, he knew that people would assume his “Art” was just another Japanese/Okinawan martial art.
He immediately wanted to send a message to all the other martial artists in Hawaii that this was not the case. He did this by wearing a black gi, which was contrary to the nature of the traditional Japanese martial arts. James Mitose wanted all to know that while there were some similarities to other martial arts, Kosho/Kenpo had taken a different path of development and was a style of its own – not to be considered Japanese in nature or origin.
The Japanese government recognized this when they did away with the Samurai as a class and outlawed the traditional wearing of swords. At this same time the Japanese Government’s edict went out: when the sanctity of human life was affirmed, Kenpo was made an illegal art. Jiu Jitsu was allowed to be practiced because it was more scientific. Meaning: Kenpo was a “killing art” that had its true origin in China.
To keep the sword pure when it was tested on a corpse or live prisoner, the prisoner could not be a murderer, have tattoos (tattoos from an early date were associated with the Yakuza Japanese Mafia), have a disease or be from the untouchable class. The finished Sword took on a life or soul of its own – which had to be pure! Today some of these exceptional swords are worth millions of dollars. The final polishing of the blade was usually done by someone other than the person who had forged and given the blade its soul – this person did not have to be dressed in white.
Black by its very nature took on the opposite meaning: night- death- evil. The Ninja were dressed in total black from head to foot – even covering their faces. The Ninja were always identified with darkness and evil.
The message the black gi sent was that Kenpo is a War Art; black was an indication of death and bruising. To this day traditional Japanese and Okinawan tournaments will not allow the wearing of a black gi.