Continuing our series of articles on Martial Arts Gear, today we will talk about the equipment needed to practice Karate. As we know, each sport requires some equipment. Whether it’s something basic like sneakers and specially designed clothes or something more demanding such as a full set of martial arts equipment, each sport has something.
Karate is no exception, and we shall present you with an overview of what is needed to participate in karate training sessions successfully. Before we continue, though, we’d like to stress that, unlike judo, karate has a very similar equipment set to Taekwondo, so you can also check our article on that topic as a point of reference.
The most basic equipment for a karate student is the uniform or gi. It is usually a two-piece white uniform with a belt tied around the waist. Unlike the similar Taekwondo uniform, whose top is usually a pull-over and is only held in place by the belt, the karate uniform is an open jacket, where the belt is used to tie the jacket and close it.
The trainee uniform is usually either white (most common) or blue (less common). Unlike similar Taekwondo uniforms, they are completely in one color, collars included. Instructors can also wear white and blue uniforms and are distinguished by belts. Karate also has other colored variations – such as black and red – but they are generally very rare and usually have a symbolic or ceremonial meaning.
They are usually lightweight and tend to maximize the movements of a karateka.
This is the most basic piece of equipment necessary for karate practitioners. Someone with no competitive ambitions and who doesn’t aspire to be a professional fighter doesn’t need any other equipment.
The belt is always tied around the waist, above the top part of the uniform. Since karate uniforms are open jackets, the belts are necessary as they hold the jacket together and keep it close during training sessions and events. Belts are not necessary during training sessions but during any ceremonial or competitive event.
For more on belts in Karate, check out our article.
Chest armor is an essential part of competitive karate. They are made of special, lightweight material that simultaneously allows for both agility and speed and the protection of the vital part of the fighter’s body – the chest and rib areas.
Unlike Taekwondo, where WT and ITF have differing standards, chest armors are essential for all karate competitions. They do come in different sizes and shapes – the design varies more between different models than in, for example, Taekwondo, where the models are more or less alike – but also tend to use the same – white plus blue/red – color scheme as in some other martial arts (p.e. Taekwondo, boxing, etc.). Some are designed to be carried like bags, while some have shoulder covering pads.
Where electronic point keeping is used, chest armors have special sensors allowing point collection.
Special padded helmets are also part of a competitive equipment set. They are an obligatory part of one’s competitive equipment sets. Since karate is a contact sport, sparring can be potentially dangerous for the combatants, so headgear is necessary to avoid serious injuries.
The helmets are usually red or blue and always correspond to the armor’s color (see above).
Karate Gloves and Hand Gear
Karate has special hand gear, i.e., gloves, which are different from other martial arts and combat sports. They’re not the same as the padded equipment used in Taekwondo but are also quite different than regular boxing or MMA gloves. Boxing usually loves larges, while regular MMA gloves resemble the padded Taekwondo gear more than regular karate gloves. Karate gloves are smaller than boxing gloves but are similar in design, yet are closer in size to MMA gloves, although the best way to describe them would be to say they’re a cross between boxing and MMA gloves.
Other Competitive Gear for Karate
While karate does not have as much protective gear as Taekwondo, they still have some additional pieces essential for a competitive career. The most important part is the footgear, a piece of two-piece protective equipment that functions together as a unit. One part is located on the feet – the smaller feet guards that also have special sensors where points are taken electronically – and the other covers the shins – they’re larger and are used exclusively for protection. They’re made of a soft material that reduces the opponent’s attack force and keeps the bones from breaking.
Although not necessary, competitors are encouraged to wear special protective gums for their teeth. This is especially important in sparring competitions, where head contact is allowed and gives higher points.
The question of footwear in karate is relatively interesting. Namely, although there are special shoes for karate (and other dojo-based martial arts), most schools either prohibit or discourage their use. They are prohibited in official competitions and ceremonial promotions because they give the wearer an unfair advantage and/or go against the guidelines. They are also prohibited during breaking demonstrations.
Regarding training sessions, using footwear is generally discouraged, but it is rarely forbidden. Trainees are encouraged to train barefoot or, during colder periods, wearing socks, but wearing specialized indoor shoes can also be a possibility for the trainees.
On a final note, we can conclude that amateur karate students only need to have a uniform and a belt. However, schools don’t always require them during training sessions, especially during warmer periods, when students can come in plain clothes. As for competitive professionals, they have a very long list of necessary equipment, without which they cannot regularly compete.
And this covers our analysis of the equipment necessary for karate. I hope you enjoyed our text, and see you next time!