A list of questions and answers relating to a range of karate-related and club-related issues. This list is by no means complete; if you have a question that's not answered here, please email Joe Elliott (JoeElliott/at\YKarate/dot\org). I'll be happy to answer the question for you, and I'll probably also post the answer on this page.

New Student Questions

Does your program run in monthly sessions, or in eight-week YMCA sessions?

  • Karate runs month-to-month, and continues year-round. We always begin accepting new students on the first class day of each month, even if the Y's eight-week session starts during the first week.

How many classes should I attend?

  • Pre-Karate students (four and five years old) should attend two classes per week (classes are available Monday - Thursday evenings). As far as we are concerned, it doesn't matter which two days of any given week. If you need to make up a missed class, you're welcome to do so on a day you're not signed up for.
  • Karate students (six and older) are strongly encouraged to attend at least three classes per week (classes are available weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons). See our schedule for more details.

What style of Karate do you teach?

  • The West Chester Karate Club is a Shotokan Karate dojo. We are also a member club of the International Shotokan Karate Federation (iskf.com).

What should I wear to class?

  • Until you have a karate uniform to wear, sweats and tee-shirts are ideal. Generally shorts, skirts and dresses are not allowed.
  • Plain white tee-shirts are to be worn underneath the uniform by female students. Male students are not to wear a tee-shirt under the uniform, except during cold-weather.

Will I be required to wear a uniform?

    • Karate students (six and older) are required to wear a uniform starting within the first month of training. 
    • Pre-Karate students (four and five year olds) are not allowed to wear uniforms until they have passed their first test. This usually happens within the first couple of months. Once the uniform has been earned, it becomes a requirement.

    I have prior experience with Shotokan Karate. Can I keep my rank from my old dojo?

    • If your rank comes from another ISKF dojo, then absolutely! Just be sure to bring your rank certificate and ISKF membership card with you to your first class. If you haven't trained for some time, please remember to wear your white belt until you're back up to your old level. If your Shotokan experience comes from outside the ISKF, please read the next answer.

    I have experience with another style, and I'd like to try Shotokan. Can I wear my old uniform and belt?

    • Generally, no. Because different arts and styles vary so much, and because different organizations have different ranking standards, our belt colors may not be equivalent to the same colors in your style. When you start with us, you'll begin as a white belt. You may take a Shotokan rank examination after training with us for three months, and in most cases students who've earned rank in another style progress very quickly in Shotokan. You may be back in your old belt sooner than you think. As for your old uniform, you may wear it as long as it is a plain white karate uniform that still fits you well, but not if it has markings on it like emblems, logos, flags, etc.

    Uniforms and Supplies

    Where can I buy a uniform?

    • A karate uniform, or "gi," can be purchased through us. We collect orders from students during the first week of every month. To order, visit our downloads page to download and print the Karate Supply Order Form. Bring the completed form and payment to class with you, and we'll take it from there.

    How can I find out what size uniform I need?

    • The Karate Supply Order Form includes a product list with sizing information by height and weight. Find your height and weight on the list, then order the corresponding size. If you find that you match the height range for one gi size, but the weight range for a different size, it is generally best to order the larger of the two sizes, especially for youth students who are still growing. Even for adults, it is generally better for your uniform to be a little too big than a little too small.

    What is the difference between normal, medium-weight and heavy-weight uniforms? 

    • The standard uniform we offer is a six-ounce student uniform. These are very light and inexpensive uniforms, good for very young students, especially those unsure whether they will continue practicing karate long-term. Medium and heavyweight uniforms are more durable, hold up better under sweat and strain, and look nicer. Generally, a brand-new youth student should wear a lightweight gi, while an older and/or more experienced student should wear a medium or heavyweight gi, depending on preference.

    What are all of the other supplies on your product list? Do I need any of them?

    • Generally speaking, new students will only need to order a uniform, which comes with a white belt. Color belt students should own a copy of the book "Best Karate #5 - Kata: Heian & Tekki," and brown belt students should own at least "Best Karate #6 - Kata: Bassai & Kanku." All students green belt and above, and all tournament competitors, must own a pair of sparring gloves (or "fist protectors") and a mouthguard. All of the other items are optional for most students.

    When can I pick up my order?

    • We accept orders during the first week of every month, then submit them together at the end of the first week. The items usually arrive at the YMCA within a week of that, though sometimes busy shipping conditions (for example, the holiday season) can extend that time. Please come to class to accept your purchase; the YMCA front desk staff will not have access to your items.

    Can I place an order before the first week of next month?

    • Yes, you can; however, your order will incur an additional ten dollar service charge. This will not reduce the shipping or processing time on your order, but it will be in the system sooner, so expect normal delivery conditions.

    Payment Questions

    I need to pay for something; to whom should I make out the check?

    • Checks for YMCA membership and the monthly karate enrollment fees should be payable to "West Chester Area YMCA," and should be presented to the front desk when you sign up each month. For the current monthly program fee, please visit our Schedule/Cost page, or visit ymcabwv.org.
    • Checks for uniforms and other karate supplies, kyu exams, and tournament entry fees should be payable to "West Chester Karate Club," and should be presented to Sensei (Todd Elliott) or Joseph Elliott at class time.
    • Checks for black belt test (dan exam) should be payable to "IKA," and should be submitted to PSKC with your other registration materials.

    Rank Examinations

    When is the next rank exam at the Y? How often can I test?

    White belt and color belt exams:

    • That depends on the examiner. Because we belong to the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF), we need to schedule our exams ahead of time with an official ISKF examiner. We usually try to schedule three or four examinations per year. These normally fall at the end of the month, during the months of March, June, September and December.
    • White belt and color belt students, ages six through thirteen, may test:
      • Up to three times per year;
      • No more than two times in a row;
      • Only after waiting at least three months since their last exam;
      • Only after attending at least thirty classes since their last exam;
    • All students ranked brown belt or above, and all students age fourteen or older, may test:
      • Up to four times per year;
      • Without skipping any exams;
      • Only after waiting at least three months since their last exam;
      • Only after attending at least twenty-four classes since their last exam.
    • All students of all ranks and ages must have Sensei Elliott's permission to take each test.

    Pre-Karate exams:

    • In order to be allowed to wear a Karate uniform, Pre-Karate students must pass a basic test. Most Pre-Karate students will be prepared for this test after attending classes for a couple of months. These examinations are given by the Pre-Karate instructors. They are unofficial, so they don't depend on an official ISKF examiner, and they are easier to schedule. We aim for six Pre-Karate tests every year; one each in January, March, May, July, September and November. If you have already earned your uniform, you may test for new belts. The belts worn by Pre-Karate students are white belts with a color stripe; when you turn six and move to the full Karate class, this belt will count as your white belt until you test for a full color belt.

    Black belt exams:

    • You can take a black belt test (dan exam) one year after passing the 1 kyu brown belt test. You need Sensei Elliott's permission to take this test. You should talk to Sensei well in advance of the exam (at least a few months in advance, and more than once leading up to the test), because it usually requires significantly more preparation than other rank exams you have taken.
    • The exam is held twice a year at the ISKF headquarters dojo in Philadelphia; it is usually scheduled for a Friday and Saturday in May, and again for a Friday and Saturday in November. (You only need to attend one of the two days.)
    • If you don't earn your black belt on the first try, you can re-test in three or six months, depending on how well you did on your test.

    How much does it cost to test?

    • Pre-Karate tests and belts are included in the enrollment fee you pay to the Y every month. The cost for a uniform depends on the size you need; check the Karate Supply Order Form on the downloads page for uniform prices.
    • If your ISKF membership is current, the exam fee is $30.00. ISKF membership is good for one year at a time; if yours has expired, it's $25.00 to renew it, so your test will cost $55.00 total. If you've never tested or competed in a tournament, you'll have to apply for ISKF membership when you're ready to test. Ask Sensei Elliott or Joe Elliott for an ISKF membership application (a.k.a. "green form"), which has to be filled out, notarized and returned to Joe Elliott before the test, along with your $55.00.
    • The black belt test (dan exam) fee is $80.00, the dan registration fee is also $80.00, and because you have to wait a year after earning 1 kyu brown belt, you'll probably also have to renew your ISKF membership for $25.00, for a grand total of $185.00. (If you renewed your ISKF membership for a tournament during the year before the dan exam, you don't have to renew it again; the test will cost you $160.00). Your dan registration fee only has to be paid once for each dan rank you test for; if you have to take a re-test, you only pay the $80.00 test fee. Your ISKF membership still has to be current. The check for your dan exam should be made payable to "IKA."

    I can't make it to the test; will there be a make-up exam?

    • Pre-Karate students who have to miss a test may be tested in one of the classes following the test. If you just tested and want to try again, you should wait for the next test.
    • Kyu exams (white belt and color belt tests) have to be scheduled with an examiner from another dojo. If you have to miss our test, Sensei may let you test either at CCSKC (the Chester County Shotokan Karate Club in Thorndale, with Sensei Hoffman), or at the ISKF Headquarters dojo (the Philadelphia Shotokan Karate Club).
    • Your black belt test is a big deal. It should be worth adjusting your schedule so you can take this test. There are two test weekends every year, and on either of these weekends you can test on either Friday or Saturday.

    Tournament Competition

    Where can I find more information about tournaments?

    • There is some general tournament information on this page: General Club Info
    • If there is a tournament coming up, you may be able to find links to information on the homepage.

    Other Questions

    When will I get to break boards?

    • Karate is for self-defense. We don't practice breaking boards, but if you are attacked by one, by all means, break it!