Earlier this year I was delighted (jealous!) when my friend Andy decided to break free of the shackles of Japanese company life and go independent. Out of his new projects, his new online bogu company with a super cute name – KendoStar – is what interests me the most. The idea behind KendoStar is to provide Japanese-made bogu tailored specifically for the international kendo community (rather than for the domestic Japanese market).
KendoStar’s flagship Kaisei model looks delicious but, since I don’t reaaaaaally need something of this quality at this time, I couldn’t justify picking up a set (maybe later!). The more reasonably priced Shinsei model, however, I could.
As the website description stated that it is designed “to be a functional and practical armour set… with a simple, yet elegant design” and “a fantastic option for experienced Kendoka, who need a second set for travel, or as a good-value main set to replace a borrowed, or worn-out armour” I had a couple of jobs perfect for the Shinsei model:
1. to act as a rotation-set for my work keiko sessions;
2. to use sometimes when I travel directly from work to a degeiko session.
I used to keep two full sets of bogu at work for these reasons, but I was forced to retire one after it fell apart after 10 years of abuse (that men was also very heavy and not conducive to lugging around). So with these two excuses in mind I ordered myself a set.
After using the set for the past two weeks here are my thoughts.
(Note that I got the men, kote, tare value set, no dou)
I had two immediate impressions of the men when I unboxed it at first, first that it looked really nice (as you can see on the picture above), and second that it was super light. Putting it on that first day it basically felt like I wasn’t actually wearing anything it was that light. At first this was quite disconcerting, but eventually I forgot about it and got on with keiko.
Despite being so light the men stood up to getting struck repeatedly during hard kihon sessions over the past two weeks easily. I think this is the 6mm tighter stitching working it’s protective magic. Off-target strikes on the mendare also benefited from extra protection/durability due to the use of gunome-zashi (check the description on the website).
I do have one aesthetic caveat about the men, which is complete personal preference – I prefer longer mendare. It is the fashion here in Japan nowadays to have shorter mendare, and I do know many people that have taken their old men and cut them down, but I personally prefer them long. YMMV.
The kote are excellent: the wrist area is super flexible, they felt comfortable from the get-go (they fitted snuggly into my hand after about 10-15 minutes of practice), and the 6mm tighter stitching and extra padding/cushioning protect you from overly heavy strikes.
But what I actually like best about the kote was the shape when holding a shinai. Some kote are kind of inflexible around the wrist area which leads to an uncomfortable or compromised grip position, these kote didn’t have that problem. Happy George!
The tare is basically a tare. It does it’s job! One thing of note is that the obi is of a less thicker material than normal, making it easier to tie and to tuck-in in front of your abdomen.
A nice, no-frills set that does exactly what it sets out to do: offer a reasonably priced yet good quality (and nice looking) bogu that either beginners or advanced people will be happy to use. I plan to use this bogu mainly at my work dojo over the next few years (where I do my most intensive keiko sessions) but I can also see myself using it when I travel due to it’s lightness.
In the future (as soon as I can justify it!) I’m looking forward to picking up one of the more fully customisable sets from KendoStar, but at the moment I’m happy with this one!