Thursday 25 September 2008

Hirota 163 Dogi

Tomorrow marks one and a half years since we moved back to Japan. And what a great year and a half it has been! To celebrate, Mizuho suggested I buy a new do-gi (karate uniform), and of course I didn’t resist this idea... So we travelled to the Hirota shop in central Fukuoka to get my measurements perfect, and enjoy Hakata. As winter is coming, and many people have asked me to review the ‘Ichi roku san’ (The Hirota #163), I decided to purchase one.

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:

‘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 ( 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.

OSU, André


© André Bertel, Japan 2008

Sunday 14 September 2008

Paul Kallender's Blog - A must read!

Paul Kallender-Umezu recently launched a blog about his training and experiences at the KWF Sohonbu dojo. It goes without saying that this blog is and will continue to be fantastic, as it is ‘training focused’ and written by an experienced journalist. Paul's intelligence, great sense of humour and hard training can only result in great articles! When I saw Paul for the first time he was training hard out standing in a pool of sweat. After having a chat with him in the changing room I clearly remember thinking “what a cool guy!” Since that time we have kept in touch and I’ve always enjoyed corresponding with him.

Paul kindly put a link to my blog, which again I really appreciate. I don’t have a links bar, however, I'd like to highly recommend Paul’s blog here. If you are interested in authentic karate his blog is a ‘must-read’!

What makes it a 'must read' is that it is highly unique... You can get a taste of a karateka's journey at 'the source'. I'm positive that his blog will really encourage more people to join the Karatenomichi World Federation, as it will give them a taste of real karate. Click here to check it out! Better still, bookmark it as a favourite!

© André Bertel, Japan 2008

Friday 5 September 2008

True Kata

I recently read a superb article on kata by Shaun Banfield (Co-Creator, writer and designer of 'The Shotokan Way' website). The article for me is literally the best I've read (on the subject of kata) in the last few years. His points really summed up my approach to kata far better than I ever could, and in my opinion, summarized what 'true kata' is ('martial art kata'). The statements that Shaun makes in his article technically oppose the present-day competition kata, which has literally become a lame form of gymnastics. To me, his article defines the difference between the Sochin of Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, and the Unsu of Yahara Mikio Sensei, and the kata performed by the majority of current ‘champions’. Essentially karate kata as a martial art - functional form, verses karate kata as a performance – nothing more than an athletic display.

Ironically, kata performed as a martial art really turns heads (amongst the general public who appreciate fighting arts) as it displays fighting, a perfect connection to kihon and kumite. Whereas the 'sports karate kata', whilst perhaps appearing more 'tidy'/'accurate', typically lacks ferocity and effective fighting technique. Arms and legs flapping around fast without harnessing the power of the entire body, pauses long enough for a commercial break (yawn), and no aim to achieve a finishing blow with each action.

Shaun's approach to his kata is a great example for everyone. Especially those who are seeking to make their kata training an effective part of their overall training regime.
Follow this link to check out this excellent article:
© André Bertel, Japan 2008