Dressing for Energy

No, not a recipe for a healthy salad topping but a guide to discovering that how you dress influences your energy levels, state of mind, physical preparedness for confrontation, comfort and even spirituality.

Forget The Labels

First off, forget the labels (unless of course this turns out to be the one style of clothing that turns you on). Paying large amounts of hard-earned money for the privilege of wearing some designer’s name on your butt is a dubious undertaking. Far better to go through those old piles of clothes you have hidden in the back of the closet and see what rings an emotional bell. Were you wearing a red T-shirt when you met your guy- or galfriend? Maybe you need to haul it out again, now that you’re divorced!

Think of the colors that make you feel powerful, confident and alive, then stock up on those colors in as many articles of clothing as you can. Shoes to shirt, pants to suit, coat to gloves, even the hat – get at least doubles (and hopefully triples) of every piece of “power” clothing you have. The more you wear them (and the less they’re sitting on the laundry pile) the better you’ll feel.

I tend to look at clothing in several ways, all of which seem to come into play in my life at various points, and a few have even dovetailed together and been my reasons for wearing a certain color, cut, or style of clothing at a given time.

Back in Black

For me, black has always been my best color for several reasons. It’s a color I’m used to – been wearing black clothing since the start of my martial arts training back in 1970 when I was 12 years old. It’s compounded by the fact that I spent 7 years living in New York City’s Greenwich Village, that Grand Old Dame of Bohemia where black clothing was de rigeur. Some of my happiest (and financially most lucrative) times have been spent wearing black, so perhaps you can understand my fetish for that color. I did experiment with white and gray but the results were never the same, thus sending me “back in black” once again.

TOTALLY forget about yellow!

I like clothing with lots of pockets. Not that I have so much stuff to carry around (as a Taoist, I’m usually always seeking to lighten my load) but that I like the option of being able to place certain items in certain locations on my body. The keys have to go in a specific place; the money, another; the 6-foot Scottish Claymore, yet another.

Loose clothing is almost a necessity in my line of work (teaching martial arts, among other endeavors). The ability to move without restrictions, to not have the constant binding and chafing of too-tight clothing, is a miracle I’m unwilling to part with.


Pants – My favorite pants right now for martial arts training sessions (and actually all-around use) is oddly enough a pair of black cotton karate pants (12 ounce fabric weight) that are fantastically cool in the summer, gusseted in the crotch to allow freedom of kicking and sitting, and unfortunately without a single pocket.

That’s the self-defense mind-choice of clothing. When I want to catch the eye of a member of the opposite sex, those pants also come to the rescue by giving me a more self-confident bearing. I can kick butt – look at me LOL!

Multiple-use clothing – what a concept!

Women might prefer either well-cut jeans, sweats or “casual” clothing for the same reasons. Just keep in mind that you’re dressing for your energy and practicality and you won’t go far wrong.


Shirts – again, I like flowing shirts. Perhaps the most comfortable one I own is not even really a shirt, although I use it as one. It’s a black raw-silk Taijiquan jacket from Yang’s Martial Arts Association. Like the pants, it’s flowing, cool in the summer and warm in the winter – but once again, no pockets.

I really don’t want to start wearing a purse, so I’m going to have to come up with something soon…

Ladies, a roomy blouse is ideal for most occasions. T-shirts, also practical – in the right weather. Remember, this article is focused on energy and self-defense, so take that into account when you read this. If you have a frilly Cardin blouse that you can’t stop wearing, go ahead and enjoy; just realize that when you make concessions in one area it’s best to balance things out in others.


Shoes – well, the times they have a-changed, and what I used to call sneakers are now called Cross-Training Athletic Footwear Support Systems. Nonetheless, a comfortable pair will be worth what you pay. Nothing like being on your feet all day long to really appreciate the support a well-constructed pair of sneaks can offer. Personally I like New Balance but whatever brand you go for, as long as it isn’t because the rest of the “in-crowd” is wearing it, should do fine.

My other favorite style of shoe is, believe it or not, cowboy boots. Although I think I’ve discovered why the ladies complain about wearing high heels all day, once you get used to the new center of balance they’re an awesome addition to the urban guerrilla’s arsenal! They give massive support to the ankles, some come with steel tips and shanks, and if you’re odd like me you’ll even add those silver tips, heel protectors and various and sundry chains – nothing like jingling into a room to show people who not to mess with LOL! Seriously, the tips and heel plates are handy for added strength and tearing action in self-defense scenarios.

Ladies – I hate to break the news, but as much as I LOVE seeing women in them, high heels are out as practical footwear. Flats, athletic shoes or low pumps will do the trick. If you have some cowgirl in you, go for the boots – just stay away from the “Urban Cowboy” 6” heels, OK?


Jackets – ahhh, finally – pockets! My favorite is the short leather jacket, with two outside and two inside pockets. The one I have now is pretty worn – a ten- or twelve-year-old Claiborne – but it fits just right and has that comfortable, easy-moving fit. I’ve played with the long “dusters”, and though they might be the rage now (think “Matrix”) and might offer a bit more protection from the elements, movement-wise they’re a bust.


Hats – many energy workers believe that energy accumulates at the top of the head, and Mom always told us to “Put that &$^#%* hat on!” when we went out in the winter. It actually makes sense to keep the head covered; in the winter for warmth and in summer for shade. Not much to say on this topic except to repeat the “if it feels good, do it” mantra, with one precaution: a hat can be used against you in a self-defense situation, as when your assailant pulls the bill down over your eyes. Be advised.


Gloves – keeping the fingers warm and protected is necessary if you’re in certain fields – physicians, musicians, manicurists, actors – and probably not a bad idea for everyone else. If you’re a trades-person you already know how gloves can save you yards of peeled skin and adverse chemical reactions to solvents. From a self-defense standpoint, gloves are an obstacle to grabbing but an aid to many strikes such as punches. Make your decision as to hand-wear and be ready to drop them, if at all possible, at a moment’s notice.

To recap –

  • Dress comfortably for YOU.
  • Your energy levels, self-respect and ease of movement in adverse situations will depend to a large extent on how you dress.
  • Don’t be a slave to fashion – be an advocate of pragmatic style and utility.
  • Wear your “power” colors whenever possible – your energy will increase and you’ll find you can accomplish more than usual, simply because of the physical and psychological changes brought about by those colors.

Good luck and happy dressing!

Martial Arts | Martial Arts Philosophy | Lifestyle

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