How To Tie an Obi

Photo Tutorial


Fold the obi in half with both ends of the same length to locate its centre.

Centre your obi on your stomach with the label on your left.

Place the centre of the obi flat across your stomach with both ends hanging down toward the floor.


Wrap your obi around your waist.

Keep the centre of your obi flat against your stomach with both ends of equal length.


Cross your obi behind your back.

After the ends cross in the middle of your back wrap them across to the opposite sides.

Remember to keep the obi flat against your body without letting it twist anywhere.


Smooth your obi around your waist.
Now wrap both ends of your obi around the sides of your waist to return to your front again.

Run your fingers along the obi all the way around your waist and smooth the belt in the back and around the sides so that it is doubled up and lies flat without any twists.

The obi should lie flat against your back and sides as if it were a single belt made of two layers.


Cross your obi on your stomach.
Keeping the obi flat and doubled-up wrap both sides around front to cross on your stomach. The left side will be the inside layer laying flat against your stomach. The right side will be the outside layer laying flat against the layer beneath it.

Where the obi crosses in the middle of your stomach, it will now be tripled up. Keep everything flat, as if it were a single belt with three layers on your stomach.

6. Wrap the outer layer under the others.

Wrap the end that originates on your right side under the other two layers, against your stomach, and pull it straight up and out the top of your obi.

7. Pull the two ends diagonally apart to tighten your obi around your waist.


Take the end of your obi that is coming out of the top left, and bend it down over to the right side.

Take the end of your obi that is coming out of the bottom right and pull it down to the centre.


Loop the bottom end around the top end.

Take the end coming out the bottom and loop it under the other end, then up, over and back down through the loop it forms with the rest of the obi against your waist.

10. Adjust if necessary to make both ends the same length, then pull the ends to tighten the knot.

This isn’t the only way to tie an obi but it makes a safe knot and is a common method

The knot will look like an arrow with a triangle pointing to your right. Both ends will be the same length with your kyu level stripes (if any) on your right side.


You will get better at tying your obi, the more you practice. Just like your karate will get better the more you practice.

Obi Information

A brief history

Before the modern dogi (karate training clothes) and the modern obi (belt) were invented, karateka would train in what ever suitable clothes they had. There was no formal training attire.

In 1907, Jigoro Kano sensei, the creator of the martial art of Judo, introduced the modern judogi and obi. At this point only white and black obi were being used in his school. It wasn’t long before Karate schools adopted the dogi and obi as their training uniform. In 1937 Judo sensei Mikonosuke Kawaishi introduced Judo in to France. He created the coloured belt system for his european students as a visual means of showing their progress. Judo adopted this system closely followed by Karate schools.

Wearing your obi

What ever colour your obi is, wear it with honour and respect; It is a symbol of your achievement. The karate obi is a relatively modern invention, there are no ancient traditions concerning this type of obi. It is wise to follow the conventions of your own style or dojo. The Matsubayashi Ryu convention is for the style name to be worn on the wearers left and the wearers name, or licence title, on the right.

Dying your obi

You may like the idea of keeping your obi and dying it. However this is not really practical for two main reasons:

  1. You will need to use a hot water colour fast dye, and this process will shrink the obi. Using a cold water dye will cause the
    colour to leach dramatically into your dogi when you sweat.
  2. The cost of the dye will be about the same cost of a new cotton obi. You can pass your obi on and you may get one
    passed on to you.

Cleaning your obi

Yes you can clean your obi.
Some people hold to the belief that you should never wash an obi because an unwashed obi shows how hard or how long you have trained.
It’s up to you and your school tradition.
Most kyu grade trainees wouldn’t have a particular colour obi long enough to enable it to get that grimy. Though an obi handed down through several people may need a clean at some point.

Cleaning a cotton obi

If you want to wash a cotton obi, the best option is hand washing in cold water using a very small amount of mild detergent or soap.
Wash separately!
You can then spin the obi in a washing machine and layout to dry out of direct sunlight. Do not tumble dry!
The reality is that you shouldn’t need to wash an obi on a regular basis.
The more you wash it the more it will fade.
If you wash a cotton obi in hot water it will shrink about one size. This can be useful if you obtain a cotton obi that is to long.

Cleaning a silk/satin obi

Regular wiping down with a damp cloth and hanging to dry is probably all that is required.
Never machine wash this type of obi. Never use hot water.
Gently hand wash in cold water using a very small amount of mild detergent or soap.
Wash separately!
You can then delicate spin the obi in a washing machine and layout to dry out of direct sunlight. Do not tumble dry!