Category Archives: Dojo

New Karate Dojo

Hey folks!  In an effort to spread the word about good karate, I almost exclusively post about related subjects: proper training, proper diet, proper instruction, etc. It’s great however, when I get the chance to deliver positive news of other sorts.  It brings me great pleasure to tell you that a new Shorin-Ryu Karate dojo will be opening in Oshawa Ontario. Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo Association will be opening a location in November.  Renovations are currently under way and I’m proud to tell you that this new Dojo will be my home base for the foreseeable future.

This new location will be closely affiliated with the SKKA out of Gardena California – you can check out their website here:

The new location will boast a traditional hardwood floor.  The entire space is around 2000 sq. Feet and will has high ceilings (perfect for practicing bo technique!)

I’ll be sure to post more details about this development as they become available. 

Until then – happy training!

Sensei Pennell. 

Best Karate Uniform

Are you purchasing a new Karate uniform (Gi)?  There are hundreds of brands out there!  It can be a bit like trying to find a particular needle, in a stack of needles  – there are so many options!  Material type, weight, stitching, sizes, etc., etc., etc.  If you’re confused, well you’ve come to right place.  We’ve taken the work out of buying a Karate uniform.  That’s right!  We’ve painstakingly tested hundreds of different Karate Uniforms and have come up with a list of the top 3.  We based our decision on three criteria:

  • Fit
  • Quality (Material and craftsmanship)
  • Price

A Karate uniform is an investment.  You’ll be using it for years, so you want to make sure you invest your cash in the Karate uniform that is going to stand the test of time.  So, without further delay, here we go!

Number 1: White Tiger Gi – 16oz.

It’s lonely at the top, but someone has to lead.  And make no
Mistake, White Tiger Gi leads the way.  Their uniforms make no assumptions about what it takes to be the best.  They tick all the boxes: best material, best fit, affordable, long lasting, quality.  Lets dive into the details…


Fit:  Lots of sizes to choose from kids all the way up to adults.  White Tiger Gi has tons of options to choose from.  The cut of the Gi is great;  lots of room in the legs but not too bulky.  Space in the crotch area, so you can throw those high kicks out until your heart is content!  The legs are cut at the right length as well – just above the ankle so you’re not getting caught up when doing leg work, etc.  The jacket fits like a glove!  It’s the perfect length below the belt, so you’re not having to constantly adjust the jacket after ripping through an amazing Kata.  Plenty of room around the chest area to help you feel like the uniform is breathing.  And the armpits have lots of room too –  because you don’t want to feel constricted when punching, etc. and the Gi delivers in this regard.  Oh, one small detail reveals White Tiger’s eye for cut:  The design around the neck is perfect… not so tight that it feels like the collar is choking you, but not too loose that it feels like the jacket is going to slip off over your shoulders.  White Tiger Gi designers obviously spent a great deal of time on the design of their uniforms – it’s a small detail, but it’s important.

Quality: Not sure where White Tiger gets their cotton – but it’s amazing!  Their 16oz. Gi is heavy-weight, but as soft as a feather AND white as snow!  Honestly, their Gi is so comfortable, you’ll probably want to sleep in it – which could be useful if you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and want to rip out some cross-decks.  And the stitching is super high strength.  An important factor if do any type of work with a partner (sparring, ground work, throws, etc., etc., etc.).  Honestly though, the quality is in the finer details; re-enforced jacket ties, extra stitching in the parts that need it most like the seams around the arms and legs.  Oh, and the uniform does not shrink like crazy when you wash it.  This will come as a huge relief to many.  We tested this on several brands and shrinkage is major concern.  Thankfully, White Tiger has taken care of this and minimized the effects of shrinkage due to washing.

Price:  If you have any doubts about this uniform, they will melt away when you see the price.  From a quality standpoint, this Karate Gi stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the best brand names in the world – yet from a price-point, it’s leagues ahead.  You’ll get the same (if not better quality) from White Tiger then you will from vendors like Shureido, but you’ll spend way less.  A dream come true for folks who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a uniform.  They ship world-wide, so no matter where you are, you can get your hands on their product.

Conclusion: Pound for pound, White Tiger Gi is the best Karate Gi – period.  It offers quality that is on par with some of the “top” brands you’ve heard about, but it delivers on price and has made no compromises on the finer details.  Looking for a high quality Gi?  Look no further; White Tiger Gi is the way to go.

Number 2: Tôkon Takeshi

Based out of Sacramento California, Tôkon has been a long time player in the Karate Gi market.  Recently, they’ve gone through bit of a re-branding exercise, eliminating some of their less popular uniforms from the product line.  A good move actually, because having too many products can be a bit confusing for customers.  Fortunately, Tôkon had their wits about them and didn’t axe their best product – their heavy weight, Takeshi Gi.


Fit: The Takeshi heavy weight has a great, standard cut.  The arms and legs in particular are the appropriate length – not too long, but not too short either.  The Jacket is cut well – perhaps more of a boxed or squared type feel, but only very slightly.  Don’t misunderstand, the Gi’s design is very top-end.  This uniform is meant for the serious martial artist.  Tôkon obviously has benefited from a long tenure in this business, and it shows.  The collar around the neck and the cut through the chest is pretty much perfect.  It provides the Gi with that perfect balance between a heavy-weight feel, but allowing for ample movement.  This uniform won’t restrict your technique in any way.  We have also noted that the sizing of the legs gives the user freedom of movement – while not looking too oversized.  A really great product!

Quality:  Material wise – we’re very impressed with Tôkon’s Takeshi line.  The cotton they’ve for the Takeshi is a great balance of breathability and heavy-weight, for the more serious Karate practitioner.  As expected, Tôkon didn’t disappoint in durability either.  Stitching is tight and clean… and very strong.  Overall, the uniform is built to last a very long time.  We did notice a very, very slight proneness to sweat stains, but this was so very slight that it was hardly even noticeable.  Tôkon provides a great guide on their website here for the care and maintenance of the Gi.  Workmanship was very impressive.  Stitch lines are tight and edges are sharp.  We’d expect nothing less from Tôkon in this regard.  All-in-all, a great quality product!

Price:  If there is one detractor from Tôkon – it’s the price.  Tôkon is certainly on the higher end for what we think is reasonable to pay.  Lets compare:  The Takeshi is currently selling for $169USD.  Our winning GI, White Tiger 16oz., is currently selling for $118USD.  That’s a substantial difference!  All in all, Tôkon is quite affordable when compared to brands like Tokaido or Shureido, however the two ladder brands claim to be the world’s elite Karate Gi (Not sure we agree), so the price of Tôkon we feel should come in at around the $140USD mark.

Conclusion:  If it’s in your budget to pay a bit more, and you love the Tôkon brand – then this is the Gi for you.  High quality points scored in both fit and craftsmanship.  You can’t go wrong with a Tôkon.

Number 3: Tokaido WKF Yakudo

Since 1956, Tokaido has been manufacturing and distributing Karate uniforms world wide.  Tokaido first started distributing products in Japan, where the company was founded.  Since 1956, Karate practitioners all over the world have trusted Tokaido to deliver a quality product.    The company has an interesting history as well – you can read about it here.


Fit: Tokaido uniforms are very traditional.  The WKF Yokudo Gi features a boxed cut on Jacket and Pants.  The Pants tend to be a bit shorter, with ample room in the legs.  Conversely, the arms tend to be a bit longer – again giving that traditional look.  The collar fits slightly tighter as well – but not uncomfortably so.  Tokaido is steeped in tradition and that shines through in their designs.

Quality: Tokaido quality is equal to that of even White-Tiger Gi.  The material is quite soft and durable and the craftsmanship is excellent. The uniform as a whole is very well put together.  re-enforced stitching and re-enforment around jacket ties, etc.  These uniforms are made to last.  You’ll be wearing this uniform for years to come and the quality of the workmanship is up to the task!  Tokaido has been making Karate uniforms since 1956 and it shows.  You will not be disappointed with this product!

Price: This is where Tokaido falls flat.  The Yukudo heavy-weight is a great uniform, but it’ll cost you $204 USD!  And that does not include shipping.  An expensive investment and perhaps if the nostalgia of the Tokaido story is important to you, it’s worth every penny, but comparing apples to apples, from a quality perspective, the uniform is slightly over priced.

Conclusion: Although a little more on the expensive side, Tokaido offers a uniform that is steeped in history, while also offering a high quality Karate uniform.  Truly an investment for years to come.

Please comment below if you’ve also had the pleasure of wearing any of these brands.  Thanks for reading!

Happy Training
Sensei Pennell

5 Reasons Why Your Karate is Terrible (and how to fix it)

Have you ever wondered if your Karate is any good?  Well, firstly I commend you for asking this of yourself.  To get the answer, you really need to be honest with yourself.  You need to critically analyze your Karate training routine and give yourself the feedback required.  It can be a tough pill to swallow; many who practice Karate are not as ‘good’ as they think they are.  But how do you know?  What sorts of behaviors lead to poor Karate?  Below we touch on 5 important points.  Remember, the purpose of this article is not to cut you down.  It’s to help you critically analyze your training and make adjustments if necessary.  If you’re too sensitive to take critical feedback, then it’s simple – don’t read this article.

  1. Lack of serious training.  Do you go to the Dojo 2 or 3 times per week?  Do each of those sessions last about 90 minutes or so?  Well guess what – your training routine is amateur and you’ll never progress to the level that you want.  Professional fighters train every day.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.  And when they train, they don’t just go to the Dojo and train aimlessly.  They have a specific plan and they follow it.  They have specific goals and they work to achieve them. If you’re going to the Dojo a couple time per week – your karate is not as good as it can be.  Good Karate (just like anything else) requires tons of practice and training.  If you’re not willing to make the sacrifice, then your Karate will always be amateur.  If this is your goal then okay.  There’s nothing wrong with training just for fun and never really being great.  However,   if you’d rather pull up your socks and get better – then keep reading.

2. Your instructor is terrible.  Karate has to be one of the only activities I know where basically anyone can  pretend to be a “expert”.  You just need to buy a black belt.  Why is this the case?  Well, there are several reasons but if I may be blunt, perhaps one of the main reasons is because ultimately, the only way to really PROOVE your karate is any good, is to fight another person (preferably someone else who trains) and beat them.  Then fight another person… and beat them too.  We can safely assume that the more people you beat – the ‘better’ you are.  Now I know I’m taking a slightly skewed perspective here, because Karate is not all about fighting.  There is the “art” part of Martial arts.  But let’s boil this down to its most common denominator – the preface for the very invention of Karate was because Okinawans wanted to be able to defend themselves against armed opponents.  The ‘art’ aspect of it merely incorporated many of their pre-existing cultural behaviours into the practice of Karate.  Not the other way around.  Anyways, where was I?  Oh ya, your instructor (unless they are a recognized MMA fighter or has some other qualitative and verifiable reference including who trained them) has likely never had to prove that their Karate is any good.  So, what are we left with?  Scores of instructors who can TALK about what good Karate is – but very few instructors who are actually good at Karate.  THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS!  I’m generalizing here folks – and this logic does not apply to EVERY SINGLE Sensei.  I’m merely pointing out that the vast majority of instructors (and there are literally tens of thousands of them), don’t know what they are talking about.

3. You don’t exercise.  Karate has developed this weird characteristic where-by many people who practice it have come to believe that practicing Karate in itself represents a complete and effective exercise tool.  WRONG!  My God, this is so wrong.  Actually, it’s completely the opposite.  Your karate will only be as good as your physical conditioning.  And you can only condition your physicality by exercising – in addition to your karate training.  People are always looking for shortcuts.  There are not shortcuts.  Do you want to be better at Karate?  You need to go to the gym, ride your bike (hard) for cardio, lift rocks, squat your refrigerator – do whatever it is you need to do to build strength (a.k.a muscle) and develop your cardiovascular system.  You will not be able to do these things by just going to the Dojo a couple times a week.  Honestly, if you want to really make good Karate a priority, then stop being lazy and get your butt to the gym.

4. The training you do focuses on the wrong things. This is a HUGE problem.  Not just with Karate but with many other activities like golf, weight lifting, running, skiing, etc., etc., etc.  If your Karate is lacking – you’re probably focusing on the wrong things (by the way, this could very well be your Sensei’s fault.  See Point #2).  Being able to fight is about developing amazing body dynamics (at least, more amazing than your opponent.. hopefully).  All too often, lack-luster Karate instructors spend all of their time focusing their students on the wrong things.  It’s difficult to write a quick reference guide to this element – because I could write an entire book but here are some of the wrong things:

  • Endlessly drilling out Kata
  • Endlessly drilling out basics
  • Compulsion around hand and feet positions (e.g., 45 degrees instead of 50 degrees, etc.)
  • Too much time dedicated to wrist locks and other ‘defensive’ techniques.  If you’re an instructor reading this – don’t get bent out of shape.  Of course there is some element of this – however for the context of this article, it should be a minimal amount.
  • Bonkai.  Totally useless.  Fun?  Maybe.  Effective? No.

Writing this article (specifically this point) it’s clear I need to write an article on what IS proper training.  I’ll have to begin putting some points together.  But you can start here: O’Brien Sensei: The Feeling Of No Cap or here: Pennell Sensei: Rohai Kata or here: Hotton Sensei: Inside Breathing

5. You diet and/or lifestyle is horrible.  Honestly, this is something that EVERYONE can improve on.  Generally speaking, the “North American” diet is the Worst. Diet. Period.  Once again, I can probably write a rather lengthy article on this subject, but for now let’s keep the following things in mind.  You likely eat:

  • Too much refined sugar
  • Not enough protein
  • Not enough vegetables
  • Not enough fruit
  • Not enough water (drink)
  • Too much processed/refined food

There are tons of resources online about proper diets – and opinions vary greatly.  It takes time to figure out what works right for you.  No pre-arranged diet is perfect for you.  If I could give some advise – Start researching a balanced diet.  A diet that consists of ample protein.  A diet that consists of ample minerals and vitamins from fruits and vegetables.  Then – use that diet for a while and adjust it to suit your needs.  Lastly, drink water.  In fact, I challenge you to only drink water for 1 month and see what happens.  You’ll almost definitely loose weight.  Especially if you generally drink lots of juice and soda-pop.  Yes – orange juice is horrible.  Eliminate it from your diet right away.

I sometimes get some critical feedback about my articles.  I certainly don’t mind.  It means people are reading them!  People sometimes say my point of view is so black and white.  Firstly, I couldn’t agree more.  I tend to look at something as either right or wrong.  The whole ‘grey-area’ concept does not sit well with me.  In my opinion, the ‘grey-area’ exists because people can’t make decisions.

Happy Training!

Sensei Pennell


By virtue of you reading this blog article, chances are, you are involved or at least interested in the martial arts of some form or another (karate probably.)
How involved is your interest and/or training? Are you a casual participant at once or twice a week and this endeavour is recreational, or are you more involved and your martial arts training is more intense with more often workouts and you’d consider yourself more of a ‘serious’ student?

Wherever your answer lies, – how do you apply your training in your everyday life? Is it for Sport or is it treated as an Art?  
There is a difference. On starting your chosen martial art, whether it be karate, judo, aikido, boxing or anything else, the start of our training is always so physical – learning steps, moves, techniques (both offensive and defensive), terminology, philosophy, etc., etc.  

Over time as we progress and attain proficiency, the natural high that we experience from our chosen art, feeds a place in our heart that moves us now, in a direction that maybe emphasizes ego and the need for displaying our expertise, whereas, some may be nourished by finding that they are defeating inner conflictive demons, finding solace within an art and realizing the quiet confidence that may permeate their life. I’ll expand.
I believe that if we use our newfound skills within a sport platform to attain personal status via hurting someone in competition or vying for medals and trophies in contests, then we are just an empty vessel holding nothing of true value for ourselves or to those around us. Our medals and trophies soon sit on a shelf collecting dust and then our moments of adulation are long gone – what’s the next fix for ‘ego’?
When we study our chosen interest and embrace the teachings with an open heart really trying to develop skills, over time we find that the relaxed inner confidence and healthy self esteem oozes out to all other areas of our being and thereby to the rest of our lives. We don’t just do our ‘art’, we are now living our ‘art’. These people tend to attend class more often. We become the vessel holding wonderful personal attributes that can only serve to enhance our lives!

Developing that kick or punch and trying our best to be the best we can be just because we like to improve for ourselves spills over into other areas of our lives. We develop an intolerance for mediocrity and form the habit of trying to do well and then do well at much of what we do. Good!
Living our art helps us in so many ways and as a result, we are naturally on a ‘high’ without need of peer adulation or a need to feed that ego by attention grabbing activities.
Sport is healthy, no doubt, but all too often the tenets of sport (camaraderie, fair play, fun, skills building, etc.) are waylaid and we get caught up in a competitive atmosphere that only serves to break true relationships with ourselves and others – for what? A medal?

How long do we really think we could last treating our interest as just a ‘sport’. Our bodies wear down as we go on, injuries occur, that old buzz we used to get when we ‘won’, has gone.
As an ‘art’, sure we still get injuries, we still age, but now our injuries are dealt with in a way by which we deal with it in a more spiritual way, accepting it and taking it easier only doing what we can do until healed. The mental attitude shifts as we recognize that our art is a lifelong endeavour and our skill sets can be applied to all aspects of our lives – gardening, driving a car, dealing with issues, raising kids, etc., etc. Yes, when we accept the ‘art’ of our training, we become more than we ever could have realized, growing older with so much more substance within AND we have also developed physical skills.  
A question; faced by a situation in which two martial artists (one sport minded, the other trained but with an ‘art’ attitude) are accosted by someone aggressively confrontational.  

How do you think each would deal with the situation and how do you think it would end?
You’ll notice that I haven’t emphasized the lethal aspects of our arts. There’s more than enough material around that does just that, but we’ll talk another time about that aspect.
Yours in the arts,

Gary Christensen – Renshi