Mom, can I take karate lessons?
It’s a question that’s bound to come up if you’re raising boys – and increasingly girls. Martial arts training has become as popular with girls as dance and gymnastics used to be. The media attention to such martial sports and fighting arts as kickboxing, muay thai, karate, jiu-jitsu, tae kwon do and other forms of martial arts have fueled their popularity among youth and adults.
One of the least discussed aspects of martial arts training among non-initiates is the equipment and gear that you’ll need. If you or your child(ren) are considering signing up for martial arts classes, here’s a brief overview of the types of equipment that you may need to purchase for training.
Martial arts uniforms may all look alike to the uninitiated, but each style of the martial arts has specific styles of uniforms that have evolved or been designed specifically to fit that style of fighting and competition. Many schools sell the uniform that they expect you to wear for class and competition, but if they don’t check with the instructor to find out exactly what you should be wearing. Some special considerations for the various forms are the following:
Tae kwon do
The tae kwon do uniform generally has a v-neck pullover top and more close-fitting pants than a standard karate uniform. Students are generally required to wear white uniform pants and shirts, while masters and instructors may wear black uniform tops. The belt is long and designed to double-wrap and tie in the front, and its color designates the training level of the wearer.
Judo focuses more on grappling and throwing techniques than on kicks and jabs. The uniform has evolved to reflect this, featuring a tighter fit and more reinforcing and padding than the uniforms worn for most other martial arts. Look for a uniform that has reinforced stitching at stress points, and quilted padding to enhance gripping ability and protection. The judo gi consists of two parts – the top or joi, and the shitibaki, loose drawstring waist pants. Student uniforms are typically white or black – though black is not officially endorsed – and competition uniforms are white or blue.
In addition to practice uniforms, there may be team uniforms and competition uniforms, so be sure to check with the school or instructor to find out what kind of uniform you’ll need for various events.
Martial arts equipment – shoes and footwear
As with most other aspects of martial arts training, footwear is often decided by the individual dojo or instructor. For many, bare feet is the only acceptable footwear in class. Others require students to wear shoes with flexible, soft, gripping soles. Major sports shoe manufacturers like Adidas make shoes designed especially for wearing in martial arts training and competition.
Protective Martial arts equipment
In addition to the uniforms, you may also be required to purchase protective gear for training and sparring. At the very least, most schools and instructors require that students wear mouth guards when sparring, and may require that students wear head protectors, chest guards, shin guards, athletic protectors and wrist/hand guards. The uniforms in some forms of martial arts are designed to offer protection, but it’s not a standard rule. As with uniforms, check with the school or instructor to find out what sort of protective martial arts equipment you’ll need.
Training Equipment for Martial Arts
More advanced students may be looking for training equipment to continue their training at home. Among the most popular and useful pieces of martial arts equipment for training are stretch bands and stretchers. These training aids offer resistance training and conditioning that are necessary to prevent injury in martial arts training and competition. Other martial arts equipment that students will encounter at the dojo include training dummies, wave trainers, body bags, breaking boards, kick shields and targets.
Martial arts weapons
For many students, the use of exotic Eastern weapons is one of the most fascinating parts of martial arts. In most martial arts forms, training with weapons is an advanced subject, not attempted until students have mastered using their own bodies and have been trained to focus their strength and power. There are, however, some forms of martial arts where empty hand and weapons training take place concurrently. The most popular martial arts weapons are the following:
Nunchaku are lengths of wood connected by a cord. In trained hands, they make an extremely effective and very flashy weapon. Possession of nunchaku is illegal in many countries. In the U.S., legality is regulated at the state level.
Escrima are staffs or sticks used for fighting and blocking.
Shuriken are also known as throwing stars. They are small bladed stars used for throwing.