Ironically I gave my last 163 to one of my students in New Zealand who is now in the Singapore Army, and since then, I have not worn one, so I was unable to directly compare the ‘Pinak kata’ with with ‘Ichi roku san’. Finally, with both a Pinak kata, and a 163 on hand, I can provide a comprehensive review, by supplementing my March post (here’s a quick link to that article: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2008/03/pinak-kata-dogi.html).
‘Ichi roku san’ – The Hirota 163 Do-gi
I’d like to begin by stating some obvious facts about the Ichi roku san. Firstly, it is Hirota’s premier ‘custom made’ heavyweight karate uniform. In comparison to the Pinak Kata it is much harder to maintain (harder to wash and takes much longer to dry; looks like someone is still wearing it, whilst on the washing line. – Bonus: if you are a farmer it doubles as a ‘scarecrow’). Secondly, when ordering, you must take into account the large amount of shrinkage that all heavyweight do-gi suffer. Naturally I’m stating the obvious here, however, I know of several people who have ended up having dogi, which look like something out of Peewee Herman’s closet. Thirdly, the Ichi roku san will never ‘feel’ as free as the Pinak Kata, even if it is perfectly sized. So if comfort is what you want, the Pinak Kata wins hands down. Fourthly, if you make an error with your measurements, heavyweight dogi’s will distort your form, and usually for the worst. Fifthly, in all cases, if you are not in Japan, or can’t get over here before ordering, consider contacting someone who is a karate dogi professional to help you. My suggestion is Hamid Abassalty (http://kuroobiya.com/shop/). Hamid offers an excellent service, and is obviously getting uniforms and belts for much cheaper for his company; therefore, by using his service you won’t lose any money, and ensure that you get what you want!
I’d like to conclude by mentioning the positive points about the Ichi roku san, besides the ‘free scarecrow on the washing line’ feature. For those of you who are kata competitors, probably the 163 is the best Hirota dogi for you as it is more ‘snappy’. For me that is a turn off, but I’m sure that it does sway the judges in sports karate competitions, if that’s what you’re into. Also, in my opinion, in colder climates, and colder seasons, it is much better to wear a heavier karate suit, and you can’t go past the 163 as a heavyweight. As surprising as it may sound, it does make a difference in cold weather keeping your bones just that little bit warmer! Another advantage over the Pinak kata is that when you are drenched in sweat, the 163 still sits beautifully, whereas the Pinak kata becomes pretty much ‘see-through’ and hangs like you just went for a swim in it. Lastly, in kumite, especially if you train with heavy contact, the heavyweight dogi helps to absorb blows. Likewise, they are better if you practice a lot of kata applications (with grappling) and don't want your dogi shredded.
All in all, unless proven otherwise to me, I believe that the Hirota ‘Pinak Kata’ and Hirota ‘Ichi roku san’ (163) are the two best 'delux karate uniforms' in the world. The difference is merely preference, and the ability to ensure, that what you order, is exactly what you want! As a very demanding customer (perfectionist) who knows the complexities of ordering the ideal do-gi, I hope this review has been of some help for you.