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7 Essential Pieces of Karate Sparring Gear


So, you’ve decided to start karate classes. Congratulations! Karate is a fun way to get in shape, meet new people, and develop discipline and other life skills. Before you get too far into your practice, you’ll want to invest in some basic karate sparring gear. The right equipment will help you improve your technique while keeping you covered. Here are seven pieces of essential gear for the beginner karate student.

 Sparring is a fun part of karate that develops valuable skills.



You’ll need a uniform (called a gi) whether or not you spar. This uniform will include both pants and jacket. This is probably the most recognizable piece of karate equipment, and it’s likely the first piece of gear you’ll purchase – but don’t just buy the first one you find. Chances are you’ll be wearing it in every class, so do some research first.


What you wear has a direct effect on your abilities. Most karate uniforms are lightweight and loose fitting to maximize your range of motion. When you’re kicking, spinning, and striking, you don’t want to be restricted by tight-fitting clothes or heavy material that drags you down. The smooth cotton of a karate uniform makes for a breathable fabric, so you don’t overheat during an intense training session. Reinforced stitching also prevents against tearing that may be caused by regular use.



Karate students wear colored belts to signify their level of experience in the discipline. Belt order typically goes white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red, and then black. Additionally, many schools will use stripes to designate advancements within ranks: for example, green with a stripe is higher than green, but still below blue.

Children of different belt levels working together under a black belt instructor.

However, you don’t need to worry about buying all those belts right now! All you’ll need is a white belt. Some karate uniforms (particularly the ones intended for beginners) come with a belt included so there’s no need to purchase one separately. Of course, you’ll need to buy a new belt each time you advance, but that’s an expense you’ll be thrilled to incur. Some schools may also factor the need for new belts into the cost of training, and will provide them for you.


Groin Protectors

Cups are an essential part of martial arts gear for males. Even if you’re not participating in full-contact sparring, it’s a valuable piece of equipment. It doesn’t take much force for to make an accidental kick quite painful. For light sparring, a simple compression short/cup combo may be all you need, but if you’re going to ramp up your training, you might look into something heavier-duty.


Mouth Guards

You know that a mouth guard covers your teeth, but it has a more important role too. A correctly fitted mouth guard can also help your jaw, and may even reduce the risk of concussion. Most mouth guards are designed to fit any mouth, and come in adult and youth sizes. Many martial artists and athletes use simple “boil and bite” mouth guards, which use hot water and your teeth to get a custom fit.  


Hand Guards

Hand guards, also called gloves, come in many different shapes and sizes. Karate gloves are different than MMA or boxing gloves.  Boxing gloves tend to be the largest of the three. They have closed fingers and thumbs and thick padding all the way around the fist, as well as a “mitten” shape, with all the fingers together and thumb separate. MMA gloves have open, separate fingers and an open thumb, and have thinner padding for more hand dexterity.

MMA (mixed martial arts) gloves

Boxing glovesKarate gloves








                         MMA Glove                                              Boxing Gloves                                        Karate Gloves/Hand Guards


In some ways, karate gloves look like a cross between the two. They have the rounded padding over the fist like boxing gloves, but typically do not have a covering on the underside of the fingers. Instead, molded plastic or elastic straps hold the fingers in place and secure the gloves to the hand. The thumb can be either closed or open.


Chest Protectors

A chest protector reduces the chance of injury to the ribs and stomach during karate sparring (plus, the look kind of like armor, which is pretty cool). This equipment is specially designed with lightweight material to allow for a large range of motion. As a result, you don’t have to sacrifice agility for coverage. Chest protectors come in a variety of designs. Vests may feature adjustable straps and hook-and-loop closures for a secure fit. Rib guards may fasten with clips for easy on and off. Many are dual-color and reversible so that sparring partners can be easily distinguishable to judges and spectators during tournament competitions.


Foot Guards

Karate has a lot of kicking, so you’ll definitely want this piece of equipment! You can reduce your risk of painful bruising or broken bones with the right foot guards.

Karate shin guards and boots for sparring.

Karate foot guards are usually two-piece: a shin guard and a removable or separate boot. These pieces may be sold separately or together, but no matter what style you choose, you will want to make sure you get something that covers both your feet and shins. 

Foot and shin instep guards are typically constructed out of vinyl-dipped foam, or another durable, lightweight material, so your feet don’t feel heavy. They’re easy to put on and they even provide extra traction to keep you from slipping on the mat. Ventilation can also keep your feet feeling cool and dry. Many foot guards are reinforced at stress points, increasing their ability to keep you on your feet and out of the doctor’s office.



At the end of the day, karate is a wonderful martial art, and sparring in karate is great for honing your skills within the art as well as improving balance, coordination, and timing. Don’t let the gear intimidate you – just jump in, start training, and have fun!


Did you know? Century is the official US retailer of Punok karate gear! Punok specializes in offering a small selection of high-quality equipment, including uniforms, bags, and sparring gear, that’s World Karate Federation (WKF) and/or Pan American Karate Federation (PKF) –approved, so you can use it in competitions across the world (or in daily training – or both)!


                                        Shop Punok gear now!                     See all karate gear!


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