I read lots of articles about punching and the jury still seems to be out on whether punching is advisable or not in a self defence situation. Generally speaking if you have not taken time to condition your hands to impact, perhaps on a heavy bag or some kind of strike pad, then punching is not your best option in a fight.
The Karate Gi. Due to laws that prohibited fighting, people trained karate secretly, mainly at night. The white robe (gi) is said to resemble the sleeping robe and prevent authority from spotting the activity.