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Fingernails and Toenails

When I first meet a Karate student or instructor, I generally observe their fingernails and toenails. If I am going to pair off with them, I want to make sure that it will be safe.

If the student or instructor is a male and has very long and/or untrimmed nails, I will usually suspect that they do not train regularly. Men who train regularly tend to have neatly trimmed nails. One reason for this is safety. The other is that it is difficult to make a proper fist with long fingernails.

Women should be permitted to have longer nails because they can be used effectively in self defense.

Sensei Mitsugi Kobayashi told me that he thought that Seko Higa observed his neatly trimmed fingernails and realized that he must be a Judo student, which he was. Kobayashi was accepted as a student -- something pretty rare for foreigners at that time.

I usually keep my fingernails very short. I cut them as soon as the tips turn white. Because I am the senior instructor in my dojo, I want to make sure that I do not cut or scratch any students.

Students should be aware that seniors will observe their nails. Students should carry a clipper in their bag, just in case it is necessary to trim their nails before class.


Charles C. Goodin