- from humble beginnings...
What did we ever do without zippers and Velcro®? The bags we take for granted today would have been rare and unparalleled marvels in times of old. One might idly wonder just how martial arts practitioners transported their equipment from home to dojo a hundred years ago, or even more recently, for that matter.
Most judo practitioners simply folded their dogi in half lengthwise, then folded that over twice, tied the bundle with their belt (obi), slung the package over their shoulder, and walked to the dojo. Of course, such was possible because the only equipment necessary for judo was the dogi and obi. Male judoka preferred this easy kind of transport for their dogi, while women for the most part preferred to wrap their dogi in a large patterned cloth, called a furoshiki. This was the first dojo gear bag.
The furoshiki originated as a cloth about 30" x 30" in size that was wrapped around articles of clothing at a bath. "Furo" means "bath, and "shiki" comes from "shiku", which means "to lay on the ground." Years ago, most houses in Japan did not have baths so occupants made regular visits to the public bathhouses (sentou). In these early establishments, there were no lockers, nor even baskets for personal belongings, so one brought along his or her own large, square cloth to bundle clothing in. Most of the furoshiki were plain, solid colors and it was difficult to distinguish between each other's wrapped packages. Eventually, patterns and more colors were introduced to solve this problem, and the furoshiki became a general-purpose carryall. Beautiful furoshiki of assorted fabrics, patterns and sizes may occasionally be seen in use today.
As times changed, villages became cities, and the short walk to the dojo became the bus or train ride across town. As one might imagine, stepping onto a crowded bus with a package of sweaty clothing wrapped in a simple cloth did not appeal to many people. Fortunately, by then more sophisticated designs and new technology offered some better options. Today we have high-tech fabrics, multiple zippered pockets, and reinforced seams to carry everything from our credit-cards to seventy-pounds of clothing when we travel.
For more information about Bu Jin Design's gear bags, visit the Gear Bag FAQ.