Tokyo Shobudo - Tetsu Kote 1 year review

Review of the "Tetsu" machine stitched kote from Tokyo Shobudo. You can find other equipment reviews - here

If there is one thing I have hyped on this blog, it's the "Tetsu" line of bogu from Tokyo Shobudo. I blogged about the store and their equipment previously here.

Full sets of  bogu from Shobudo don't come cheap. The entry level set in the Tetsu line costs close to $2500 for a machine stitched set in orizashi. This is most certainly a high price, but over time these bogu sets have proven to be a worthy investment.

So, to reward myself for passing 4th dan, I decided to purchase a set of their machine stitched kote.

"Tetsu" Kote - 8mm stitching with deer skin reinforcement.

Initial reaction 

After measuring, fitting and ordering, it took a few weeks for my kote to arrive in store. I had planned on purchasing the orizashi model, but as the store was already having a sale, and I received an additional discount (teacher at a local school, thank you Japan), I splashed out the extra few yen for the deer skin model.

My initial reaction was one of glee. The kote were beautiful and gave off a real sense of solid craftsmanship. The richly dyed indigo cotton and deer leather felt wonderful to the touch and the generously cut palm leather was soft, supple and smokey.

While wearing the kote, the staff examined my grip both holding and swinging a shinai. To help break them in, one of the craftsmen placed the kote on a wooden stump and then hit them with a wooden mallet. Japanese technology ftw.

This helped to begin softening the heri-gawa (trim leather on the palm) as well as loosen the deer hair padding in the kobushi. It was a nice touch and left the kote fitting even better than before.

"Tetsu Original" -  I love how these Kote have aged in their first year. 

I was also quite bewildered when presented with a bright orange box emblazoned with the stores' name. This final touch made me feel like I was receiving something special, extraordinary kote deserve extraordinary presentation! Thanks to Emilie for the below photo, as I have lost my own.

First year of use

From day one I have been totally happy with my purchase. As soon as I took them to the dojo for practice, I noticed a difference. Like many kote produced today these have a kobushi that has been designed and shaped to help give a more natural grip.

The position of the fist relevant to the futon, and the overall shape of the fist compared with "classically" designed kote means that my hands are already positioned better when gripping the shinai. This has allowed me to work on relaxing my grip and overall kamae.

The smoked deer skin palm feels substantial and is holding up well after a year of use.

The kote futon is light but solidly built with an 8 mm stitch width. This gives a nice cushion without being too heavy or cumbersome and I have never felt any unusual pain from kote strikes (correct ones anyway).

Although these kote are not jissen-gata style, they have served me well in shiai, allowing for a full range of motion in the wrist. For those who might want a pair of "shiai only" kote the orizashi model would be a fantastic alternative.

Why deer skin?

As I had previously mentioned in another post, I personally think that Orizashi offers the best balance between value for money and durability. But as I said above, these kote were a gift to my self, and kind of a parting purchase as I looked towards leaving Japan. An investment for many years of use.

The deer skin looks fantastic and is very soft to the touch. It takes quite a while to dry between practices, so I usually use these only once or twice per week. I also use them for shiai and special practices.

Initially I was a little surprised at the stiffness of the deer skin compared to the other kote I use, which are mostly all orizashi. It did take a little bit of time, but over the past year they have really softened up and begun to mold to my hand. 

A note on fit

The key to the fit of these kote is the wide range of proportions available, instead of S, M or L, Shobudo boast over 20 different kobushi patterns. 

The chart above has 31 sizes, and Shobudo also offer a custom made service.
Image: Tokyo Shobudo


I am completely satisfied with these kote. They were expensive, and although I initially wanted the orizashi model, I'm happy with my investment. I know that these will serve me for many years to come. My only negative is that I cant use them for every practice, as they do take a while to dry.

For those looking to invest in a great set of comfortable, protective kote, that can handle either rigorous keiko or shiai with ease, I would recommend taking a look at the Tetsu Original kote from Tokyo Shobudo in either deer skin as above, or in orizashi for a quicker drying model. 



  1. Nice review. I personally am using the orizashi kote myself and so far it has proven to be the best kote I've ever had. I'm really thinking about getting a full orizashi set in the future, but I'll have to see how my finances add up.

    Meanwhile, this article prompted me to ask if you have any opinion about the Shobudo men. Aside from high build quality, which I have no doubt of, does the men feel balanced/lightweight and comfortable? Of course, I'm asking in reference to the orizashi 8mm version. One friend of mine said that the men feels too heavy for him.

    (I'm currently using the Hakkodo A-1 custom men. Perhaps you have insight into comparing Hakkodo and Shobudo?)

    Chris Ong

  2. HI Chris,

    Thank you very much for your comment. Unfortunately, I can't really compare the A1 and the Tetsu men. I have the A1 men myself, but I haven't gotten around to the rest of the set!

    What I can say is that the Tetsu bogu seems to be more substantially built over all than the A1, the A1's futon is a bit thinner and more flexible too. I would estimate that the tetsu is heavier than the A1, but I can't say for certain as I don't own both.

    Those who I have spoken to with a full set of Tetsu bogu have all said that it feels comfortable but none have mentioned weight being an issue.

    Could you ask him to describe the weight? It could be the mengane balance?