Starting Karate

Starting Karate

Starting age

We accept children from the age of 5 years at our afternoon class for kids and beginners, and from 7 years at our regular sessions. There is no upper age limit for adults wishing to start. Karate is physically demanding but we will help you to improve your fitness levels gradually. If it has been a long while since you’ve exercised, or if you have a health condition that could affect your ability to exercise safely, you may wish to seek advice from your GP prior to starting.

All you need for your first karate session is comfortable clothing that will enable you to move freely, such as tracksuit bottoms and t-shirt, and the lesson fee. There is no need to buy a karate suit or any other equipment before you are sure you wish to continue.


Training fees

Our classes cost £10, payable before the start of each class. After you have attended three lessons, if you wish to continue training with us you will need to register with the association that we are members of, The Japan Karate Association in England. Membership costs £25 per annum.

Karate outfit

For your first few lessons, we suggest wearing clothes that are easy to move in like tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt. Once you are sure that you wish to continue then you should purchase a white karate uniform. A reasonable quality entry-level uniform embroidered with the club crest can be ordered through your instructor. The cost sometimes varies depending on sizing, but you can expect to pay about £35 for a child’s suit and £45 for an adult’s. Superior quality karate uniforms from Japan are also available, but these cost substantially more.

How often to attend classes

We recommend attending classes twice per week along with regular practise at home. Karate is a challenging but enjoyable activity and a consistent approach to training will give you the best chance of reaping its benefits. If you wish to take gradings, those training twice a week are more likely to be eligible to grade at 3 month intervals. If you train less often, or to an irregular pattern, then the time between each exam will be more widely spaced.

What to expect from your first lesson

Before training starts, we line up in grade order, kneel and bow to the front of the dojo, the instructor, then to each other. One of the senior grades will lead the warm-up exercises. The lesson itself consists of kihon (basic techniques), kata (forms) and kumite (partner work) to develop techniques. Beginners will be introduced to the range of karate techniques gradually with the emphasis being on developing coordination and big movements. The class ends with another formal, kneeling bow.

Karate is not just something to be learned, but something to be lived. And that takes a lifetime.


Grade levels and belt colours

There are 10 different kyu grade levels. The colour of each belt changes to denote progress through each level.

Grade LevelBelt ColourTime period before attempting the next level
10th Kyu
White3 Months Minimum
9th KyuOrange3 Months Minimum
8th KyuRed3 Months Minimum
7th KyuYellow3 Months Minimum
6th KyuGreen3 Months Minimum
5th KyuPurple3 Months Minimum
4th KyuPurple, White Stripe3 Months Minimum
3rd KyuBrown3 Months Minimum
2nd KyuBrown, White Stripe3 Months Minimum
1st KyuBrown, 2 White Stripes6 Months Minimum
1st Dan+Black1 Year Minimum, Rising 1 Extra Year for Each Subsequent Level

In the weeks approaching a grading, the instructor will make an assessment of which students have made sufficient progress to be able to attempt the next level. Exams cost £30 and are conducted by an independent, qualified examiner from The Japan Karate Association in England. Members can find details of grading dates for the year on our events calendar page.


There is some formality in class, like the bow at the start and the end of the lesson, but much of what we expect is simple common sense and good manners. Students need to remove all jewellery, be attentive, and actively engage with the class. Fingernails and toenails must be clipped short and karate uniforms washed after each lesson. Mobile phones should be switched to silent unless expecting an urgent call.

Try to be on time to class and bow to the front of the room when entering. If you arrive late, leave your belongings to the side and your lesson card (if you have one) on the table with the others. Then, kneel down near the dojo entrance, in line of sight and facing the instructor, who will invite you to join the class at a safe and convenient point. Bow to the instructor and join at the end of the line. If you arrive very late or after the warm-up has finished, the instructor may suggest that first-timers just watch the class on that occasion. Regular students arriving after the warm-up has finished should warm-up away from the main group first, then kneel down when they are ready to join in with the class.

Karate training should always feel challenging but is hopefully an enjoyable experience. Classes at Shiranamikai are certainly not like boot camp! All we ask is that you contribute to the positive atmosphere of the dojo by trying your best and show respect to the other students.

When to start

Come along to our next class – you’ll be most welcome!
More questions? Have a look at our FAQs page…