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As with any sport, karate requires a certain amount of equipment. Our local club is quite good at trying to keep costs down for parents, and they do provide the protective gear to the children to borrow for the sparring matches, but I really prefer for each boy to own his own. First off, there is the issue of cleanliness. It just doesn't seem the most sanitary for one person after another to be wearing and sweating in the same foot gear. Karate is practiced with bare feet, so this go directly on the skin, and the ones at the club do look rather sweat stained.
The second issue is that by buying my children their own set, I can insure a better fit rather than the one size fits all 5 - 50 year old sets. Additionally, I have noticed after use that these tend to end up shaping themselves to the individual wearer's foot. I had originally thought I could pass sets on from the oldest to the youngest, but now I do believe it is best to buy each child a new set as I really like the way this guard ends up wrapping around the child's foot with time, giving added protection. The guards cost about £6.50 for a set which really isn't too bad assuming you will get at least two years out of each before the child needs a larger set.
They do have some have age guidelines on Amazon now, but I would warn the reader that I feel these tend to run small. My five year old fits an age 5 -9 perfectly, but my eight year old does not and he is thin as a bean pole ( although he is tall). He wears the junior size which I feel suits him about right. It is meant to be snug, loose padding will not provide quite the same protection. If you have any doubts, ask the children's Sensei for advice on fitting. This means they probably will have to be replaced after a few years, despite the fact that I feel they would last much longer. I will of course wash mine and donate them to the club when my boys outgrow them.
The shin guard portion of these is 9 1/2 " x 5 1/2". A separate pad protects the foot, fitting over the instep, and after a few uses wrapping around the sides of the foot. These are very oft and flexible so rather than having bulky rectangles attached to their legs the children have perfectly moulded protection. I would recommend the Junior size for ages 7 - 10 - but of course children of the same age can vary quite a bit in size. I really can't see this fitting my son past age 10 though, and I will want to make sure he has properly fitted protection.
My boys can be a real nightmare with different materials, declaring many things too itchy, but they have no problems with these. They have also stated that it really does not hurt when they get kicked with these, but do keep in mind children are not allowed to use full force blows in my sons' club. The idea is to touch the opponent, not batter them. I specifically chose a club that was not overly aggressive but empathised respect and self control.
These guards are available in a variety of colours : pink, white, blue, black and red. They are also available in adult sizes. I chose black. I really wish we could do the gi's in black as well. I'd rather have them dressed up as ninjas. White just does not suit my sons. They have some internal magnetic force which attracts dirt. I have not washed these yet. While the company claims they will retain their shape through several washings they only worn for 30 minutes at a time, so I prefer just to give them a good scrub with a damp face cloth now and then. Thankfully, being black they never look the least bit dirty.
My sons use these for karate, but I know they are used for several other martial arts. I would be happy to use the same brand again, but I would order a size for children at least 2 years older than my child actually is at the time. I have had a few sets as one set was lost. I have found this brand to run smaller than other brands so would strongly advise to adjust size when ordering unless your child is very petite.