Looking for the perfect gift for yourself or someone you know studying karate? This guide is our effort to share what we like and works best for us and our family.
Before we turn to ourselves we want to encourage you to consider who will receive the gift. One simple question to ask is what belt level are they today and where will they likely end up in 2017? Take a look at our dojo ranking and see the accessories or equipment you may want to consider. For example, a white belt does not require a bo staff. As the student progresses and is a gold belt in our system the next level (blue belt) does train using a bo staff. We have purchased and been very pleased following the link on our dojo ranking page to Century Equipment. Since I began this discussion on bo staffs I will recommend a bo staff as a belt appropriate gift. Our family of four has purchased the non-tapered white wax bo staffs and they have worked great. My son and I have the adult bo staff. The only difference between the adult and youth bo staffs is the adult bo staff has a wider circumference and that extra width adds some weight. The adult staff is “heavy” and may be too big for some. The youth bo staff is a thinner bo and great for most uses. Pricing: About $35.
For any belt level, a punching or kicking stand alone bag is a great gift. At our house we love kicking class. We own the Wave master bag. This bag is almost the same as the one used at the dojo, just smaller and works well inside our house. This bag is very versatile and fits me and Sensei Mae as well as our other two black belts in the house. Because the bag surface can be moved up and down, it fits us all. I know that several times after class we have gone back to the bag to re-create the class and discuss the technique as well as recall the drills performed. Of course we kick and strike the bag. We cannot pass the bag today without throwing a few kicks or punches at the bag. It is one of our most used at home pieces of equipment. At the dojo we use the bag often for punching and kicking. This is a great gift for a student who wants to practice and does not have a family to hold pads or practice with. Pricing: About $140 for the basic bag, or $360 for the one used by the dojo.
A notebook is an essential item for any student at the dojo. Sensei Mae discussed the importance of taking notes. Of course all adults should have a journal. My recommendation is a blank page notebook to capture notes from the class. Either a sketching pad or lined notebook paper will work depending on the student. Studies have shown that writing things down is much more effective in retaining knowledge than just using a memo app or thinking you will remember. You can have fun and personalize this item. I know Sensei Mae would like a batman notebook. I would encourage any karate student who can write to have their own journal. Parents may have to help the child take notes. It could be a community journal. My favorite journal was purchased at a bookstore in India. My second favorite is a moleskin large plan journal. Of course I am more interested in the contents than the art on the outside. That is not the case for everyone. We started our notebook as a family and soon learned that we each wanted a personal notebook. Our beginning notebook was the wire bound subject notebooks which most students would have and are relatively inexpensive. Pricing: Moleskin notebooks range from $10-15 and wire bound notebooks range from $1-2 at most stores.
The best dressed at the dojo wear a good heavy weight gi. I look at the gi as an essential piece of equipment often overlooked. Our Sensei can make his gi sleeves “pop” running kata or striking the air. Of course Sensei has great technique. I never felt better than training in a uniform that was of quality material. Our introductory gi tops did not have the same fabric quality. After we became serious we purchased from KI International their MUGEN Orange Label (white Karate uniform/gi). We are now able to get a pop out of our sleeves. We have all used this uniform at tournaments, and it stood up well when we took our black belt test. We could not be happier with the choice. When Sensei Mae received her latest promotion we went one step up for her with the MUGEN Yellow Label – Mugen cut (white karate uniform/gi). Pricing: Orange label about $50 and Yellow label about $80.
Sensei Mae says the only other essentials are gloves and a helmet for sparring. We are part of the AAU and participate in their tournaments. As a participant in their system, we purchase white gloves and helmets. Of course if you are part of the competition team we are now recommending a red pair of gloves as well for sparring. You will know why if you are on the team.
When purchasing gloves, we are actually talking about and recommend purchasing the “Karate Mitts.” You and I call the “karate mitts” gloves, like we would call them boxing gloves. For headgear we are looking for a helmet with a shield on the helmet. We also highly recommend a mouth guard. These are inexpensive ways to keep away from dental work. This does make a difference. We had a friend over for Thanksgiving and she shared that her only training injury on the way to black belt was a fellow student who kicked her on the bridge of her nose and her toenail left a mark (she can still see it—we did not). A face shield will help in preventing these injuries. Pricing: helmet with shield (white) $85, Mouthpiece $2, Karate Mitts $25.
Of course you can always encourage family members to purchase a month of quality classes or lessons at your favorite dojo. We are looking forward to seeing you in a new gi for 2017 with some accessories at home and others to bring to the dojo. See you in class soon.