Getting Started in Karate

Karate is an extremely popular martial art in the UK and there are clubs for all ages in most towns across the country. See the database of karate clubs and associations in England for more information on clubs local to you.

Karate is a sport that requires discipline, practice and commitment, and prospective karateka should be aware that it will take months to learn the basic techniques. Whilst Karate demands dedication and hard work to develop muscle strength, power and concentration, it is a very rewarding sport and provides principles that Karate students can apply to their general life.


There is very little equipment needed to begin Karate, but all karateka must wear a uniform. This consists of:

  • A ‘Gi – Adopted from the uniform introduced by the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, the Gi – a white cotton suit – was brought to Karate in 1939 by Gichin Funakoshi.
  • An Obi – Varying in colour depending on the ability of the karateka, the Obi is a belt that ties around the waist securing the Gi.
  • A Tatame – A type of mat used for practice which protects the karateka against falls.

Advanced Equipment: Weapons

While Karate is literally translated as empty handed, weapons are used to increase the strength, coordination and skills needed for empty handed fighting. Karateka are not usually introduced to weapons until they have perfected the basic techniques but weapons are useful tools in advanced forms of training.

  • Kama(Sickle) – Traditionally used for cutting grass, the kama was adopted in the 15th century when weapons were banned in Okinawa. The kama was originally used to trap the opponents weapon or for striking, but is now used to demonstrate blocking techniques by wielding the blade in a circular motion.
  • Katana – A traditional Japanese sword, the katana was traditionally used as a thrusting weapon favoured by samurai warriors and is now used in kata competition and demonstrations.
  • Tonfa – A bean or rice grinder in its traditional use, the tonfa is used for blocking and as an aid for developing upper body strength.
  • Jo – The jo was created for competition in the 16th century and today jodo (the way of the jo) is practiced in Japan and America, as well as a part of sparring competitions and kata demonstrations.
  • Tanto – One of the weapons used by ancient samurai, the tanto is a dagger traditionally used in close combat and is today also used in certain kata demonstrations and competitions.

Statistical Resources

  • The English Karate Federation sets the nationally recognised standards for karate and its website has regularly updated competition information, Karate news and details of courses happening around the UK.
  • The World Karate Federation has links to championship results, competition information and international Karate news.