The martial arts have a history dating back to the 5th century BCE and over the years they have developed into a culture deeply rooted in history and tradition. Much of this tradition stands strong today, even in the weekly Karate classes that you take your kids to. One such tradition shared by many types of martial arts, from karate to judo, is to practice and train barefoot.
The question is: Are these traditions still relevant, or should kids wear Karate shoes while in classes?
Our stance on this should be clear, since we sell Karate shoes for kids. We think that foot protection and safety is crucial, whether you just tied on your first belt or compete professionally. But for the sake of debate we’ll lay out both sides of the argument, so that you can make your own decision.
Why do people practice Karate barefoot?
There are a couple of answers to this, some based on tradition and some much more practical. Let’s look at each briefly:
- An ancient tradition - The story of Karate hearkens back hundreds of years to Okinawa when King Sho Shin banned weapons, so the peasants practiced Karate or “open hands” for self defense. The traditional footwear of the time were loose sandals, not conducive to the fluid movement and motions required for Karate. So, naturally, these early practitioners trained in their bare feet.
- Protecting facilities - Most of the places your kids go to train and practice Karate are inside, and most commercial facilities have protective, padded mats to help prevent injury. The primary reason for not wearing shoes in this case is to protect the mats, both from dirt brought in by shoes worn outside and from wear caused by hard soles.
- School and competition requirements - The fact is that many schools and sanctioned competitions require that students and competitors remove their shoes. As a practical matter, your children must, of course, resort to bare feet if they want to participate.
Why do we advocate Karate shoes for kids?
Instead of debating each of the points presented above, we’re going to jump right into why we think that kids’ Karate shoes are important:
- Hygiene - Wearing shoes will help prevent your kids from getting skin and fungal infections that can be particularly common around locker rooms and changing areas. These infections can be easily transferred from common areas onto the training mats, where they can be contracted by your child. Wearing shoes will prevent both the spread and contraction of these infections.
- Self protection
- Ankle Support - Martial Arts shoes, especially those with high ankle support, will help to prevent injuries from rolling the foot or ankle by providing extra support and a firm foundation. This also applies to other injuries resulting from improper landings or footwork mistakes that can happen frequently when your child is learning a new skill. This is especially true when not using proper training mats.
- Impact Protection - Padded Karate shoes protect the upper part of your kid’s foot, helping to prevent the nasty bruising and breaks that can occur from kicking improperly. This can be particularly important during sparring practice, when impact with surfaces harder than training bags occurs.
- Authenticity to real life - It is clearly no parent’s goal to have their child involved in a situation where they will have to use their newfound Karate skills. If you are at all considering the practical aspects of using martial arts for self defense, however, the fact is that you will never actually be barefoot when your training is put to use. To this end, at least a certain amount of training with shoes will ensure that they are not a disadvantage if the time comes.
Are kids actually wearing Karate shoes while training?
At the end of the day, you actually have to convince your kids to wear their Karate shoes if they are going to get the benefits. So, is this a thing that kids actually do? Well, it’s hard to find data about how many kids are wearing martial arts shoes, but in addition to the many martial arts organizations that have already approved the use of Ringstar products, we have several schools, like Bagwell Academy of Martial Arts in Milford, Connecticut that actually require their students to wear shoes.
Students at Bagwell Academy of Martial Arts in Milford, Connecticut
Even among teenage and adult practitioners, it is not uncommon to wear shoes while training. A recent survey by Martial Arts Business Magazine of more than 500 practitioners showed that 29% preferred to wear martial arts shoes while training and sparring, with a full 17% doing so chiefly for protection and to prevent injury.
Furthermore, there are several disciplines that have used shoes traditionally for years. Kung Fu is one example of this. It is traditionally used and practiced in outdoor environments, so footwear became standard procedure. Also, even the traditionally “shoeless” disciplines like Karate often use protective foot pads when sparring, but these pads don’t offer the support and safety of a fully encasing shoe.
So, what do you think? Will you follow Karate tradition by having your kid go barefoot, or will you opt for the extra safety and support of Karate shoes for your kids?