Most martial arts practitioners begin with a simple unpatched and unmarked uniform. As you move through the ranks and practice over time, you may be awarded patches that you'll either put directly on your uniform or on your equipment bag or jacket. These differ based on the martial art you practice and even your club/academy/school. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to patches. Patches come in both embroidered and woven styles, typically depending on the level of artistic detail in the patch. You'll also need to think about the placement of the patch itself: where it goes on the uniform and how to attach it securely.
Kinds of Patches
Depending on your martial art, there are a variety of patches that could potentially go on your uniform. In Taekwondo, for example, you may have specific instructors collars and black belt club patches, along with more traditional chevrons and leadership program patches. Karate patches signify various achievements and becoming an instructor.
Embroidered Patches vs. Woven Patches
While patches come in many different shapes and sizes, two main types you will come across are fine woven and embroidered patches. Embroidered patches are densely stitched and tend to have a lifted, three-dimensional feel to them. Some people feel that embroidered patches give a "classier" and more traditional look to the patch. Woven patches, on the other hand, are woven with a much thinner thread. The thinness of the thread enables a tighter weave, which in turn allows for the production of a patch with a much more precise level of detail. If the artwork on a patch is precise, contains fine detail, or contains very fine lettering, a woven patch is often the best choice. Woven patches also have the benefit of being very flexible, so they can be placed either on the inside or outside of uniform or clothing. A woven patch provides a cleaner line and flatter appearance, giving the patch almost a printed look.
It is highly likely that the particular martial art that you are practicing has guidelines on patch placement on the uniform and requires you to adhere strictly to these. So, start by looking into this and plan accordingly. If you can't find the information online, your sensei or the head of your martial arts club will be able to steer you in the right direction.
Securing a Patch
There are two ways you can secure the patch to your uniform: by sewing or using a special glue. If you've decided to go the sewing route, you want to ensure you sew the patch on quite securely. A poorly secured patch risks being ripped off during a grappling session.
If you've decided to sew your AWMA patch on by hand yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind. Choose a sewing needle with a very sharp point. Martial arts patches tend to be quite thick, so a small or dull needle will be difficult to work with. You also want to choose thread that is as close to the color of the patch as possible, so that it blends nicely and the stitches are not visible. Pin the patch into position. If you want to be extra sure you have the placement right, put on the uniform with the patch pinned on to ensure the positioning is perfect before beginning to sew. Try using a round stitch, twice around the perimeter to ensure the patch remains securely attached.
If you prefer to secure your patch using glue, you can order Patch Attach, a non-toxic glue designed specifically for use with fabrics that won’t be compromised by washing or dry cleaning.
It is also worth keeping in mind that depending on your school or club, your teacher or coach may insist that, even with iron-on patches, all patches should be sewn onto the uniform.
Patches on Jackets and Bags
Some martial arts schools forbid the placement of any patches, or restrict how many you can affix to your uniform. This doesn't mean that you have to give up some favorite patches that you may have collected or received. These same patches can be placed on your jacket and your AWMA equipment bag as well via sewing or patch glue.