Karate-do literally translated is, "the way of the empty hand". In essence, it does not require any equipment and is also practiced without footwear. This makes it easily accessible to all people without the need for expensive outlay in order to train. What you may purchase is of course the karate-gi (do-gi) and perhaps some protective pads depending on the style and nature of your classes. Advanced students might also seek to expand their skill-set by learning kobudo, using traditional weapons such as the Bo, Sai, Nunchaku, Tonfa and Kama. When it comes to traditional karate, any such equipment you do obtain has almost no ties to the latest fad designer brand culture normally associated with commercialised sporting goods.
Firstly, it should be noted that the recommendations here are for the traditional karate-ka. Sports and competition karate tends to be more commercialised, which is reflected in the availability of non-traditional styles and branding, particularly for the competitive sports kumite specialists. Such options tend not to be hard wearing enough for all-round training and are not considered here.
There will come a time when you feel your karate gi should reflect the level of skill that you have reached. You might consider replacing those limp looking light weight pyjamas with something of more quality that shows your commitment to the art. But what will be a good replacement choice? Should you order a heavy do-gi from your club and leave it up to them?
There are numerous UK and international brands that supply medium to heavy weight do-gi that will last you a good many years. As you would expect, most manufacturers sell mass-produced off the shelf sizes. You could purchase according to your height measurement and just hope it all fits. If low cost is your main criteria, then choosing a generic brand will be perfectly adequate for you. There is not a lot of difference between them. Ordering a larger size and getting tailoring done to shorten the sleeve or leg length (or do it yourself) would be the way to go. However bear in mind that the stitching and finish will never be the same. You will notice that the design of a karate gi entails a certain style of multiple lined reinforced stitching for added strength. We are not all built the same and the fit of the do-gi also depends on its shoulder width, width around the arms/legs and proportional length of the top, etc.
If you are after the very best fitting gi with the looks to match, the ultimate product by far is one that is fully tailor cut to your size requirements by the do-gi manufacturer. This will exactly cater to the look you are after, whether it be loose and roomy, slim cut, longer or shorter hanging tops, lower leg fit and length, etc. But where can you get such a suit?
Well, you can get one. Its more expensive, as you can imagine and it'll take time to be made and..., it'll come from Japan. Why spend such money on a karate gi? Well you might consider how much money people spend on a new set of golf clubs, tennis rackets, cricket equipment, road/mountain bike, a wardrobe of fitness wear and designer trainers, etc. In thinking about the time and dedication you have given to your karate and your plans to hopefully progress to even greater heights, you might get a different perspective on it. No, it won't elevate your skill, more expensive sports equipment rarely does! But it will look the part, add a nice 'snap' to your techniques, provide a little more protection, maintain its shape wicking sweat away from your body and have greater longevity. Its more a matter of taking a little pride in your achievements and perhaps further enjoying this life pursuit. Its all subjective of course, but if such a thing interests you, feel free to have a look at the recommendations here.
You should bear in mind that there are many martial arts suppliers that sell expensive premium gi that cost about the same as the mentioned fully tailored Japanese gi, but do not provide full tailoring options. For such a costly purchase, why would you opt for a mass-produced off the peg sized product and risk putting up with a poor fit?
The most famous Japanese brands that supply gi with fully tailored options are probably Hirota, Tokaido, Tokyodo and Shureido.
These Japanese brands all have top tier do-gi in their line-ups with full tailoring and also options for integrated embroidery during the gi's manufacture. You would not go wrong ordering from any of these brands. After training in various types of tailor made Hirota brand do-gi and the top of the range Tokaido 'Ultimate', a personal recommendation would be the Hirota Pinack for Kata. This is a medium weight do-gi but with the snap and strength of a heavyweight. More comfortable with less chafing than heavyweight options but without sacrificing the look and sound.
You can order direct from Hirota in Japan, but the easiest option is to order using option 1 below:
This company is owned and run by Hamid Abassalty Sensei, a British senior karate-ka permanently living in Japan for many years. Your order will be checked and put to the manufacturer exactly as required, checked again prior to sending to you with help in smoothing things with UK customs charges.
This is the official Hirota site in Japan and you can order direct. The base price may work out around the same, however the order application is little more laborious and you will probably pay more import tax and duty charges prior to delivery.
The black belt
Are you a black belt? If you are thinking of celebrating your achievement with an embroidered belt, you might consider ordering your silk belt from either Hirota or Tokaido, the famous gi manufacturers in Japan. This will be your belt for many years to come and indeed it could be your last to keep as a life momento. The characteristic wearing out of the black silk from the cotton core on a traditional belt will differ from a cheaper brand. The embroidery is applied to the belt prior to it being finished and sewn together giving it a beautiful finish (beware the cheaply embroidered belts that will have the front embroidery showing through back-to-front on the reverse side). Available from https://www.kuroobiya.com/shop/
We understand that students, particularly juniors and ladies, may wish to limit risk of bruising or injury during regular weekly classes. Junzen Karate Club has an internal policy allowing the use of protective equipment for sparring exercises. Students can use as much or little protective gear designed for karate as they see fit, with the condition that it does not cover-up their karate gi.
Please note that official SSKA centres do not allow the use of protective equipment in gradings or courses, except chest protectors for women and groin guards for men/boys. Light controlled contact may be expected for higher grades during free sparring. The only exceptions will be in official kumite competitions where specified kumite equipment is allowed.
What gear should you get?
When considering purchase of protective gear, there are no particular rules for what equipment can or cannot be used in our club bar what is mentioned above. A basic combination you might consider is hand mitts, forearm pads and shin and instep pads. Gum shields are not necessary as there will strictly be no front of face attacks. These can be ordered from Amazon or most online martial arts supply shops.