All Japan Pitch - Guardian

For the past month I've been using this bogu set exclusively. 

From regular dojo practice, high-level company keiko, national championship winning university training to summer gasshuku. I feel like I have really put this set of bogu through the mill.

Japan Pitch Guardian Bogu
All Japan Pitch - "Guardian" Bogu set (Dou is my own.)

When looking for new bogu for intensive practice, I spoke to Andy at Team AJB.  I told him I was expecting to use the bogu more than 4 times a week. I'd be using it at my regular dojo and out and about and different practices around Tokyo.

Andy suggested I try out Guardian, AJB's current "protective" bogu set. The bogu has a more solid construction than the more shiai oriented jissen-gata gear. 

Featuring extra padding in key protective zones and wider stitching, the futon is thicker and more cushioned adding an extra layer of protection.

Its designed as a set for those who often act as motodachi, or for first time bogu buyers who are concerned about painful strikes.

This is the description of the bogu from the All Japan Budogu product page. (click)

Guardian has been especially designed to give and extra element of protection. Using new, lightweight materials, we have increased the padding in the ares that are frequently struck with the shinai.

Does it live up to it's billing as a protective bogu set? Read on to find out.

First Imressions

I was really excited to try out the bogu. Its my first new "set" in almost 5 years so I was looking forward to some matching equipment!

Opening the box I was imidiately drawn to notice the stitch width. Wide stitching has been popular in recent years. And at 8 - 10mm in some places on this set, it initially seems very wide. However, between each row of stitches is a slightly firm cushion, which seems like it will absorb strikes very well. 

Stitch Width Guardian Bogu
For comparison, 10 mm on the left, 3 mm on the right.

The next detail to catch my eye were the materials used.

Firstly, the whole bogu is made from beautifully dyed Shoaizome* orizashi cotton. Not just the reinforced areas, the whole futon, men, kote and tare are made from this material. This gives the bogu are truely unique look! 

As a result of using Shoaizome, the bogu is a beautiful dark navy. The dye gets all over your hands and makes everything it touches blue. Excellent!
* What is Shoaizome? This refers to the type of indigo dye used on the bogu. Bogu sets dyed with Shoaizome have a beautiful navy blue/indigo colour which fades over time. Creating the unique appearance which kendo bogu is known for.

Second, and a key feature in my opinion, is the use of  genuine Shoaizome deer leather  for the heri-gawa, or trimming leather, on this set; the back of the men-dare, the trim on the tare, and most importantly, the trim on the kote palm.
Japan Pitch Guardian Kote
Note the lighter blue colour on the trim. This is a clear indicator that the trim is Shoaizome dyed. 

Deer leather is soft and flexible from the very beginning, there is less breaking in, an less stiffening with age when compared with other types of leather. Using deer leather on the kote makes an instant difference. Giving you the flexibility in your grip to truly hold your shinai naturally.

This for me is a key feature. And I am so happy that the kote have it.

Finslly, I was a little shocked at the length of the men-dare! As you can see below, they are super short!

Japan Pitch Guardian Bogu
Just out of the box, note the short men-dare

I made this one large, Just look at that sexy bogu!

Comfort and protection

Japan Pitch Guardian Men
Inside of the men. Note the wide stitching, and velvet Uchiwa. 

The bogu is quite comfortable to wear. The cotton used on the futon is of good quality so isn't scratchy against the skin. The wide stitching makes the futon cushiony for added comfort. 

As you can see in the picture above, the men has a velvet uchiwa (the oval ring your face sits against). I found it to be a bit stiff initially but after one or two practices, it begins to soften and form to your face for a comfortable fit.

The inside of the kote fist are lined with a soft fabric which is something I've seen but never had, it's a nice addition. The tare is flexible and fits snugly at the waist and dosen't cause any problems when making Sonkyo either. Due to it's weight is barely noticeable when worn. 

Due to the additional padding in the kote-futon (the area struck) there is little to no pain from kote strikes.  On top of this, the over all more sturdy design of this bogu, means that it is thicker than a Jissen-gata set. The kote fist and wrist joint also offer good protection against off target strikes. 

The top of the Men is also features additional padding. In my time using the bogu I have received a lot of strikes and I find this men to be very comfortable even receiving for hard hitters.   


The bogu set is incredibly light. I know this bogu is designed for practice, but I would honestly not have a problem using this in shiai. It makes me wonder ust how light the Jissen-gata bogu sets are!

Even with all of the extra padding used in the men and kote, I can barely feel them, they are a little thicker than some bogu, but don't let that fool you into thinking they are heavy.

I was most surprised by the tare. I have two older tare one hand stitched and the other machine stitched.  It must weigh at least half of the other two.


Japan Pitch Guardian Bogu
The "Gold mark of Victory" and Naname-zashi on the Men-dare

Wider stitching on the bogu means that the futon is less stiff, and more pliable than some other bogu sets.The men dare are very flexible featuring naname-zashi (diagonal stitching). The thickness of futon makes them a little springy when bent, quickly poping back to their original shape. After a bit of use they will begin to form naturally to your body and movements.

This men definitely makes swinging the shinai over your head very easy.

Japan Pitch Guardian Tare
Tare Obi. 

The reinforcement on the tare-obi is made form orizashi cotton, this makes it very soft and easy to tie to your waist. It gives a good range of movement at the hips while remaining snug to tense your abdomen against.

Japan Pitch Guardian Kote
Kote with yoroi-gata decoration on fist.

These kote are amazing. The All Japan Pitch Jissen-gata kote have a very flexible wrist joint, but perhaps trade off on protection (which isn't really necessary for shiai).

The Guardian kote (primarily made for protection) are astoundingly flexible.

This is accomplished by some AJB magic and the full orizashi construction. The wrist joint is solid yet flexible. The fist with its yoroi-gata decoration and added bonus of deer leather lining around the plam forms perfectly to the hand allowing correct grip on the shinai, while being bulky enough to withstand missed hits or crashing together in tai-atari.


Lets face it, it probably shouldn't be a factor in choosing your bogu, but it totally is! The Guardian bogu has an absolutely killer appearance. The short men-dare give this bogu a sleek look that would make Jissen-gata sets jealous.

The full ori-zashi construction and wide stitching width is very unique. Added to the over all simple design it will make this bogu stand out subtly from the crowd.

The Shoaizome dye gives the bogu a regal dark navy blue colour. Perfect for looking the part as a moto-dachi or impressing your dojo mates in keiko.


A great looking well designed bogu. Protective with additional padding in the men and kote

Light despite the extra padding and very flexible. Shoaizome dye to give it a quality appearance over time. Top quality materials for the money paid. 

Designed as a protective keiko set, but definitely usable in shiai. 


I am honestly nit picking here...

A lot of loose/broken threads especially where the men himo tighten. Possibly due to the amount of thread exposed by pitch stitching?

I personally find the chin area to be a little wide and not what I would call "snug". I have to really tighten the strings to get a good fit. A number of my dojo mates have noted this about other All Japan Pitch men.


This review is of the "value set" Men, Kote, Tare only. For the price paid, this is an excellent set of bogu. 

As is the trend these days, it is a machine stitched set, but made to the very highest standard. The materials used are top quality, but they are not so expensive as to make the bogu affordable. 

Top quality orizashi is cheaper than deer leather, but that doesn't mean the bogu is "cheap", it means that it can be made to a higher standard, with better features for a lower price. 

I would rather pay this price for a well thought out and designed bogu set, than spend the extra cash just to have a standard deer leather set. 

Final thoughts

I am very happy with this bogu, as I said earlier, I've put it through the mill.It's been subject to a little over two months (sorry for the delay Andy!) of long hard practices in the summer, receiving a lot of men and kote, university shiai practice and lots and lots of sweat at summer gasshuku.  

It has kept me protected through all of that, and still looks as good as when I got it. 

The thickness of the bogu might put some people who want "light" bogu off. But I would seriously stop and consider this bogu before spending on a Jissen-gata set. 

Will you really be doing that much shiai, that you need a bogu especially for it?

Or will you be actually mostly be doing normal keiko? 

If I could only have one bogu set, I personally would rather have this than a Jissen-gata one. It offers much more protection, and is easily lighter than other "normal" sets for the same price. 

Verdict: The All Japan Pitch "Guardian" bogu set is the perfect set for someone looking for an extra bit of protection as a moto-dachi. It could just as easily be used as an great all round set for practice shiai and grading. 



  1. After seeing a couple of members at my dojo purchase sets from them, I agree, their men do not fit well along the checks and jaw. Very wide.

    There are quite a few missing photos from the article, looks like only 3 of 8 are present.

    1. Just noticed if I go to gallery view those 5 missing images don’t have thumbnails, but will show the photo if I go to them.

    2. I have primo bogu. The Men do not fit well in my jaw. I have to buy Men protection to make it fit my head, But still its not fit. So i put something on my chin to fit the men into my head.

      Though my infinitum Men fits well.

    3. I feel like the Guardian is the ONLY AJP bogu that is worth buying... Really feel like there is not much difference in each bogu they sell. Just marketing to sell more.

    4. Sorry. Is this the same person who said they only have one pair of kote from AJB?

      I would have to disagree. There is a big difference in weight and flexibility between this bogu and the Jissen-gata for example.

    5. I have infinitum bogu..Men do not fit well along the checks and jaw. Very wide.

  2. I just own the GUARDIAN kote so far, but i can agree to a 120% with this review!
    really great stuff!

    1. I own guardian kote 2 sets but its version 1. The protection isnt that good. I have to buy kote pad from them. Every strike stings alot! But i love how the kote looks!

    2. A lot of people say that kote stings when you receive it.

      Honestly it gets less painful over time!

      Most likely pain is caused by not receiving to kote propperly. Or your opponent hitting way to hard.

  3. I bought my Guardian bogu set last year (November 2013 to be precise) almost everything was great (no problem with jaw area) and accurate with this review - the main problem was palm skin in kote, it was that type with holes in it (for faster drying after keiko I think), after two months of very frequent use (4-6 times a week) it was all stretched and full of big holes.

    1. Hi Christopher, thanks for your comment. Do you have the older version of Guardian?

      I think the problem was over use.

      If possible you should have more than one pair of kote. Honestly, your kote will last longer if you give them time to dry between uses, 4-6 times a week is too much for one pair.

      I'm not surprised the palms wore out so fast! You would be better off buying two pairs of kote next time.

    2. I'm kinda scared what might happen in my version 1 Guardian Kote. Which i ordered last December. Until now its still good. 3x a week practicing Kendo.

    3. They should be fine, just be sure to give them two days to dry if possible.

    4. Hi John, I had 4 sets of Kote at that time and was using two at the same keiko (changing in the middle of keiko). There was enough time for them to dry I think. If I could choose now what type of palm they can install in my Kote , I would choose solid type without these tiny holes.

  4. Hi John, can you compare the A1 men vs the Guardian? Can you comment on the quality of materials used, fit, comfort and etc?

    1. Hi Ben Hin Ooi. You already asked this question more than one time. On the facebook page you asked it twice.

      As I said on the facebook page. It it's t fair to compare the two.

      Let me ask you. What do you want the new men for?

      Shiai? Maybe try All Japan Pitch Jissen-gata.

      Regular Keiko/shiai try A1

      Keiko with beginners/ regular practice try the Guardian

    2. If its not fair to compare it to the A1, the Guardian is good in comparison to which men or kote?

  5. Hi John, thank for your feedback. Sorry for the repeated question. I didn't know you already posted a reply in Facebook(should have checked).