practical considerations

is karate for me?

i have no idea! but please do come and try it, and have a chat with the other students, and with the instructor. please don't make your decision before having been along to the club you will train at! movies and youtube videos and books will not - cannot - tell you whether you will personally get on with your instructor, or enjoy the particular combination of aspects they offer. not all karate clubs are the same, just as restaurants and radio stations and supermarkets and churches are not all the same.

health concerns

karate is taught in general as a mixture of fitness, sport, martial art, self-defence, meditation, philosophy, and so forth; the exact proportions of each is essentially up to the instructor, and so what you may expect from your karate class may vary. university clubs will tend towards more competition karate, and will tend to have a more athletic and physically demanding content. conversely, classes with high proportions of children will tend to be more light-hearted and less 'martial', and so forth.

in general, karate is suitable for all ages and people within sensible limitations. it is a physical activity, and demands a commitment of physical effort as well as mental effort to achieve all that it offers. if you have a particular limitation, it is often possible to train around it, as long as you agree with your instructor what the scope of this means. general advice that is given to all people undertaking any physical activity, and so also for those beginning karate, is to consult with your doctor and to raise any concerns before you begin. any specific injuries should always be brought to the instructor's attention before training.

specific dangers arising out of karate are surprisingly few, and again depend on the exact nature of your club. you may expect to gain injuries in exactly the same way as you do from all other sports, and you can also expect those injuries to be equally minor. kumite is always a part of karate, but different clubs may fight with different frequency and intensity. you may expect to get bruises from time to time, and yes, you will get hit, but only in a controlled way and appropriate for your level and if you implicitly give permission by taking part. you may refuse anything you like, and being routinely hurt is not part of the training or 'conditioning'. if anyone ever expects you to submit to this, either explicitly or implicitly - leave, and do not go back.

an extra word of warning: if you are aware of a problem, either extant before training or one that arises, you are ultimately responsible for the sensible management of such. your instructor may well be calling for more effort, or speed, or power, but they are by default speaking to the whole class, and you should never stretch yourself beyond your known limits. skill and fitness improve slowly, and there are no short-cuts.


here is a rough breakdown of what you may expect (approximately) to pay when taking up karate; in general, as well as at kenmei specifically:

initial costs: zero

it costs nothing to come along and try karate - any club that tries to charge you straight out is in it for the money, which means they're probably not in it for the karate. just turn up and ask if you can join in; some loose clothing like jogging bottoms and a t-shirt is ideal. cost: £0

ongoing training costs

it is generally recommended that you train twice a week to progress; once can be okay, but progress will be slower. when coming to gradings or competitions, training more frequently can be a benefit. generally speaking, training will cost around £7 per lesson of either an hour or 90 mins. at kenmei, we are lucky to have reduced overheads and so can offer training at £5 per lesson, with a further discount if you are paying monthly. in the event of special courses, fees will depend on the cost of engaging the guest instructor. cost: less than £10 per week for 2 lessons (3 hours).

grading costs

gradings happens three or four times a year, and will be with a senior guest instructor. the fees will vary depending on the how far the instructor travels to the club, and how long they teach, and also how many students grade. generally, £20 will include the grading cost and the training with the senior instructor. at kenmei, we operate an optional 'belt recycling' system and so the cost of your new belt is also included (while perhaps not unique, this is uncommon). dan gradings are done separately, and cost more money. gradings are also optional, but generally encouraged. cost: around £20 every 3 or 4 months.

equipment and paperwork

if you decide you like karate and want to try it for a while, you will be asked to buy a licence. this is a legal requirement; not because your hands are now lethal weapons (everyone's hands are lethal weapons, karate training or not), but because there are issues arising from public liability insurance. your licence is in essence your membership to the governing body (ie the KUGB), and it is renewable on a yearly basis. the club itself does not make any profit from this. from brown belt, your licence allows you to attend advanced training at no cost; it is also required to grade, and to compete. cost: £25 first year, £18 annually thereafter.

perhaps the most recognisable aspect of karate, the uniform, is expected for continued training and is usually required before undertaking the first grading. the basic gi is inexpensive (currently offered at £16), although there are more expensive ones available (anything up to around £ 100) that are of higher quality. it is not uncommon to have more than one gi, but this is entirely up to the individual. cost: £16 upwards.

optional extras

alongside the gi, there are a number of other things that you may want to buy along the way. sparring mitts, gumshields, and protective equipment are required for competitions (extra cost: £20), but can also be useful in regular training. lots of other aids to training (books, videos, etc) are available, but not required.

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