If you are one of the many people in the world that already practices the martial art of Shotokan Karate, or are even simply thinking of taking up this endeavour, then you'll probably be aware that this form of self-defense requires a fair bit of physical fitness, mental preparedness, and dedication beyond that of a simple weekend hobby or afternoon pastime. This martial art aims to discipline body and mind and is the most widely practiced form of Karate Do as a direct result of the efforts of the founders of this style, Gichin Funakoshi and later his son, Gigo Funakoshi. Even if you're prepared in all other aspects of the martial art, you're eventually going to need to invest in some of the essential equipment and gear that is at least required of you, and some that is recommended in order to increase your output and make your training a whole lot easier. This isn't a list of luxuries for an expensive martial art: this is a list of essentials and recommendations for gear that will prove invaluable to anyone that is serious about practicing Shotokan Karate.
This one is the first and foremost consideration for anyone practicing Shotokan Karate, or any kind of karate for that matter. The Karate gi is what many will often associate with the martial art since it is what one sees whenever one watches any kind of karate class. The Karategi is one of the most recognisable symbols of martial arts in general (particularly Judo and Karate) and is designed to be lighter and have a looser fit than the similar-looking Judogi, which is the correct uniform for practising Judo in. There are three types of Karategi: Japanese, Kata, and European. It is unlikely that the Kata or Japanese style will be required if you're practising Shotokan Karate in the UK, but it's best to check with your local instructor if there are any particular requirements or considerations when purchasing your Karategi.
One can find Karategi at many online stores, though some are better priced than others. You will find some great Adult Karate Suits at Blitz Sport as well as Kids Karate Suits if you have children who want to take up the martial art. Some high-quality branded gear can be found at the Martial Arts Shop Karate Uniforms section, though expect to pay higher prices here due to the official names on these garments.
Because cannot simply purchase a karate belt and instantly expect to be able to perform at the level that the colour of the belt indicates, the purchase of any particular belt shouldn't be too much of a concern. However, if you wish to find out more information about where to get your own belts for purposes of replacement or cost, the Arawaza.com Karate Belts section has plenty of information and belts of various materials.
While sparring gloves are not generally used during most sessions, they are nevertheless handy for beginners wishing to practice with reduced risk of injury to themselves or others. There aren't any regulations in place restricting which kind of glove you are to use in your own time, so heading on over to MartialArtShop.co.uk's section dedicated to Martial Arts Gloves will give you ample choice when choosing which protective padding you wish to use for your hands.
The Makiwara is often considered to be an essential component of training for anyone wishing to engage in serious Shotokan Karate training. It is essentially a training post that protrudes vertically from the ground, though it can come in various forms including a square pad that can be attached to surfaces or a free-standing Makiwara that is convenient for storing wherever you please. Though you can find hard Makiwara with very little padding, the best kind for people looking to supplement their training are padded because of the relatively inexperienced level most people will be at when looking to train with these instruments, reducing the risk of injury and improper technique when utilising this piece of equipment.
It is quite difficult to find stockists of Makiwara that sell an abundance of different types online, but there are a few places such as MartialArtsShop.co.uk that stock a rectangular version that can be bolted to a wall at any height you desire. You will find their Makiwara page to be quite sparse but containing the aforementioned kind as well as a straw covering for any post you may already have erected.
You can also contact the owners of Makiwara.com, an international website that specialise in Makiwara though shipping costs may deter most from using this as an option.
Finally we come to the Wall Dome. Said to be a traditional Karate Makiwara training alternative, the Wall Dome is a relatively recent invention that utilises special design and careful padding for a safer and even a superior experience when compared to the Makiwara. In fact, there are articles that paint a fairly negative picture of traditional Makiwara training and put forward the ideat that Makiwara-trained hands are not necessarily effective at striking blows (this short excerpt from a Makiwara article is an interesting take on the subject).
The WallDome is particularly useful in lieu of the traditional Makiwara because it allows trainers to deliver a much wider variety of strikes from various angles. Whilst Makiwara does allow you to train and strength some strikes, it limits you to the angles that can be used to attack and often places you in positions that would leave you vulnerable if this was in actual sparring or an actual encounter. The WallDome on the other hand offers protruding posts and three large pads that enable you to practice a wider range of strikes from a variety of different positions more akin to the natural positions you would find yourself in during actual sparring. The official WallDome website offers more information on the nature of this product and allows you to purchase its various parts and levels equipment.