The Kyoto-Pro Series - The Evolution of Next Generation Bogu

Posted On: 28 November 2019

The Kyoto-Pro Series is an exciting new range of Japanese Bogu designed and produced especially for the European and world market.

For 25 years Nine Circles have religiously followed the trends for Bogu as led by the Japanese market.  Those trends have slowly but surely moved towards more lightly built models, emphasising enhanced freedom of movement, reduced weight and marginal competitive gains over protection.  Well, we decided it was time for a revolution!

Working with our trusted manufacturers for more than a year to research, design and exhaustively test the perfect armour solution, the Kyoto-Pro Series Bogu are built upon three core principles. Protection, Quality, Value.  

Protection – Japanese Kendo is often characterised by its speed and precision, a prerequisite of which is a lightness of handling and touch with the Shinai.  In contrast, probably due to the majority of Kendoka outside of Japan starting their practice later in life, Kendo in “the West”, is often comparatively that much heavier in nature, changing the demands on Bogu considerably and making the trending lighter styles less appropriate. 

When it comes to Protection, there are several factors at play.  Impacts brings with it two elements we can single out through experience.  The first is the shock of the strike, and the second is the penetration of the impact.  Depending on the nature of the Futon (fabric pads in target zones) the way the shock and penetration are transmitted changes considerably. 

A dense pad will prevent significant penetration, stopping the heaviness of the impact from going through and preventing bruising, but the shock of the impact will be transmitted through the structure and into the wearer.

A spongey pad will absorb that shock, reducing the vibration which reaches the Kendoka, but it will deform more on impact and the heavier strikes can impact the body below.

A useful analogy here is that of a riot shield and a light mattress.  A big rock hitting a riot shield you are holding will not really hurt you, but you’ll know about it from the shock at the moment of impact.  Throwing the same rock against a mattress, the shock will be largely absorbed, but the weight of the impact will likely go through and give a heavy surprise to the person holding it.

The Kyoto-Pro models have been specially designed to balance those two factors to help absorb shock, whilst maintaining the ideal density to resist deformation on impact.  Futon in Datotsu-Bui (target areas) have been significantly thickened to increase the density of material in the pad with special attention to the primary Men targets and the right Kote which tend to receive strikes with greater frequency.

As well as being made thicker the shock absorption of the Futon is improved by increasing the pitch of the stitching.  The length of each stitch is increased in this “Pitch Zashi” style, so that whilst thicker, the Futon is less compressed, balancing the density with an enhanced cushioning aspect.

Quality – When you consider quality in Bogu, it is often difficult to visually see why one set or part is considered better over another.  Assessing Quality we are primarily looking at the quality of materials, of part components and of final assembly.

Materials – We want to make extra protective Bogu available to everyone at an affordable price, and so our sets are available in a variety of combinations which start with more basic materials and work their way up to the highest grade deluxe materials on the market.  Materials all have their own intrinsic pro’s and con’s, for example choosing synthetic leather Tenouchigawa (Kote palms) will usually result in greater longevity, but smoked deer leather will offer a balance between greater comfort whilst retaining greater durability than unsmoked deer leather.  We endeavour to describe materials used throughout where possible in the product details, and we are always available to discuss the positives and negatives of those materials if you are unsure on the best option to suit you.

Components – Bogu are made of set components, be that the specific Futon selected for a pair of Kote, the Do-dai paired with Do-mune or the Mengane selected to complete the Men.  Some components are built to our custom specification (such as the Futon), whilst others are bought in from specific sources (there are only so many manufacturers of Mengane in the world after all!)  Sourcing the industries finest pre-made parts and ensuring our custom specified components are both built from the quality materials and finished to Japanese market standard ensures that the building blocks for the best quality Bogu are firmly in place.

Assembly – Bringing all of those components together is the final essential part of the puzzle.  Final fit and comfort rely entirely on the careful and accurate assembly of the Bogu parts.  Luckily our suppliers have more than 3 decades of experience in the manufacturing and assembly of Bogu for the Japanese market.  We couldn’t ask for a more expert team to ensure the truly outstanding quality we demand is delivered in the final production stage.

Underlying all these elements is a strict quality control procedure, checking the specification of materials, components and assembly at each and every stage.

Value – Perhaps the most important factor for most Kendoka, value for money is high on our list of priorities with this new range.

Buying Bogu is a significant investment for every Kendo practitioner and with a good quality armour typically being suitable for practice for up to 10 years, it’s critical that buyers achieve value for money in their Bogu selection.

Due to the complex and specialised nature of these traditional products, the Bogu marketplace can be a minefield, with radically differing prices offered for identical or similar specifications, so that it is entirely possible to pay a lot more for your Bogu, without achieving real gains in performance or quality.  Be sure to do your homework on the final specification so that you can effectively compare and make an accurate judgement on cost vs benefits. 

We have compiled a handy comparison chart so that you can easily see the differences between each of the Kyoto-Pro Series Bogu sets and parts here and our expert sales team are always available to answer any questions regarding materials, construction or performance you might have.

With the Kyoto-Pro range we have worked incredibly hard to balance gains in performance, aesthetics and comfort against costs, resulting in what we firmly believe to the best value extra protective Bogu on the global market.

With the Kyoto-Pro Series Bogu we guarantee you maximum performance and maximum value!