Traditional Karate for adults is not the same as kids karate.
It might surprise some people to learn that karate was not originally intended for children.
Which can be shocking, since nowadays, the majority of dojos are mainly made up of kids! Many also have a healthy amount of adults, but let's be honest: most karate students are children.
Back in the day (like, the early 1900s and before) the youngest people allowed into any training space were fourteen years old!
Because of this, kids class and adults class are two very different experiences.
Where kids classes are often partner drills, games, kata and basics, adults class purposefully includes more conditioning, weight training, and resistance training to build the proper muscles for proper karate.
So here's a comprehensive list of everything you'll need to train in the adults class (if you're training from home).
Training with the gear mentioned below is called:
In the same way combining many techniques into a pattern is called "Kata". Hojo Undo means "Supplementary Exercises", and this kind of training was what karate-ka (practioners) would train for many months, or even years, before ever learning technique or kata. Things are different now, but traditional dojos will always include hojo undo.
Please note: this is for people in my dojo. Every dojo is different. But if you train with me, you'll need all of this stuff at some point in class.
Pronounced: Chi like "cheese", +she. Chi-she
Usage: weight, momentum, and balance training & conditioning
Frequency of use: weekly
Chi-ishi is a classic weight training device. Think of it like weight-lifting, but specifically for karate. It helps us build the muscles we need for certain techniques, while also improving our use of momentum and grip strength, amongst other things. We use Chi-ishi to strengthen arms, hands, legs, our backs, blocks, core, and more.
Chi-ishis come in as many weights as you like, and the weight of chi-ishi you start with will not be the same weight you will use in a year. As you get stronger, your chi-ishi should get heavier. The absolute lightest, for a small woman or a teenager, would be 2.5 pounds. A beginner adult who is not very strong should hand a chi-ishi no lighter than 3-4 LBS. Someone stronger or larger should try for 5 pounds and up.
Where to buy:
While you can buy them, that can get a bit expensive, and they are actually very easy to make!
We made ours using this how-to video. If you live within driving distance or are willing to pay shipping, one of our students actually makes great chi-ishi for low cost. Email me for details!
Usage: Conditioning, hand strengthening, joint strengthening, knuckle/fist strengthening
Frequency of use: regularly
Alternatives: there are actually many options. See bottom
The makiwara is one of the oldest and best tools used to strengthen our training. Makiwara is traditionally made of a hard board mounted to the floor with concrete. The top of the board (as seen above) is wrapped in rope, leather, canvas, or sometimes padded (just a bit) and then wrapped, and then struck in various ways, the most common of which is with a punch. This trains the skin of the hand to be strong, as well as strengthening the wrist and joints up into the arm, as well as forming proper punching technique. There are many stories of young karate-ka being made to both punch Makiwara and make new Makiwara when the old ones were broken as part of their training.
Where to buy:
If you want a traditional Makiwara like the ones we have in the dojo, and are able to mount it to the floor, contact me: I know someone who makes beautiful ones.
You have many options for getting a Makiwara.
If you can't floor-mount it: Buy a hard punching bag, preferably one like the Wavemaster. The effect here will not be the same, but I understand not everyone wants a Makiwara in their home
You already have a punching bag: If you have a punching bag but want to step up your game, do this: remove the pad, exposing the hard plastic stand. Glue some rope into a ring the size of the stand, so it can be slipped on and off of the punching bag. You'll see what I mean here. Century actually used to make pre-formed rope, but I don't think it's on the market anymore.
You want the real thing: Buy or Make a traditional Makiwara. There are many videos and guides online! Be warned: it will need to be mounted into concrete. I'd recommend installing it in the garage, or even a covered outdoor porch.
The real thing, but not floor-mounted: A wall-mounted Makiwara. These are all over Amazon, and only need to be screwed into a stud in the wall.
The easiest option: is the Sandbag. You won't be able to stand up to use this unless you can hang it from a very sturdy wall, but it can be placed on the floor and struck for a very similar effect.
3. A punching bag
Punching bags allow a student to test and improve their strength in a way nothing else does.
I did a whole article on punching bags, here. Take a read for ideas on which kind to buy.
While I didn't begin training in a dojo that used punching bags regularly, I began to love them during Covid, and someone training from home simply cannot get stronger without one. We use them weekly, if not daily, and for teens entering the adults/teens class:
A parent or sibling holding a pillow simply will not do.
In a pinch, someone holding a large kick shield like this one from Reevo will work. But ideally, a punching bag is what you need.
4. Weights (assorted kinds)
This is probably the easiest item on this list! You'll need a few different kinds:
**Dumbbells of different weights (pictured) (found at Walmart, or any sports store. 2 of each weight needed)
Kettlebells (2 of the same weight, can be found at any sporting store, Amazon or Walmart)
You'll need all of these, not just one or two kinds because each one has a different use. The only one you might be able to omit is ankle weights, but I'd still suggest having them.
**(Dumbbells can also be used as a substitute for Nigiri-Game (gripping jars) seen below)
Students should have ones that feel very light (2-3 pounds) as well as ones that feel much heavier (5-7 LBS or more) as both sizes have different sorts of training that go along with them.
English: Gripping Jars
Pronounced: Nee-kiri gam-ey
Usage: grip strength training, weighted leg training, forearm strengthening
Alternatives: dumbbells (above)
Gripping jars are one of the most traditional kinds of Hojo Undo, like Chi-ishi and Makiwara. Traditionally, or even in some modern dojos nowadays, but thankfully, we have a much easier solution to making these:
Take two EMPTY peanut butter or pickle jars (can find easily at Value Village if need be). Remove the labels and wash the jars. Fill each jar with the same amount of pebbles or sand -- enough that you can hold it as seen in the image above. If your jar is glass, wrap it in duct tape to be sure that if you drop it, it does not shatter. Easy!!
6. Resistance Band and Tube Set
These are a must-have, especially for people training alone (without a partner). We use these for training proper form, as well as arm/back strength. They're super cheap and can be found on Amazon or at Walmart. The kind pictured is a small circle, which is used around arms or legs, but you'll also need the long tube-style ones. I like this set from Amazon because it comes with all of the above, as well as a door mount for keeping the band in place.
The adult's class and the kid's class are not the same things. All of this gear is meant to improve your muscle strength, your posture, your karate, and more. Without it, your training will only be half of what it could be.
To get the most out of your class, you'll need to stock up.