Lately many different styles of Kote have been popping up. Different stitching patterns, materials, designs, etc. And although having options is great, it can also be confusing. So I want to give a quick explanation of the different materials used to make Kote, and how they can benefit you according to the way and consistency of your practice.
Note: I am refraining from writing about brands or models in order to not be bias.
There are mainly 3 types of materials that Kote are made out of now a days. Leather, Synthetic leather, and Fabric (called Orizashi, and it’s made with patterns like you will find on a kendogi).
If cared for leather tends to be the more durable of all materials, specially deer leather. There are two types of leather that are generally used when manufacturing Kote, Cow and Deer (beware often manufacturers use both and claim it to be deer)
It is stiffer in comparison to deer leather but also less expensive. When use at the palm it will get stiff after sweat from practice dries, this is mainly why is les. It is recommended that you wet the palm and rub it to soften it before using it.
It offers great protection, and durability; it is also flexible and elastic. It feels softer and many kenshi feel this allows for better grip of the shinai.
The complaints you will find against leather Kote are:
- Slightly heavier than synthetic leather and fabric kote.
- Tends to develop a particular smell (some people enjoy it).
- It takes some time to adapt the kote to your hands when they are new.
- It takes longer to dry, specially if the palm and the Atama are made out of leather.
Synthetic leather Kote are becoming very popular given the fact that synthetic leather has improve tremendously through the years and it tends to be less expensive than real leather. Many kendo shops now offer very high quality synthetic kote that feel soft, are durable and allow for a good shinai grip.
Synthetic leather kote dries faster than a real leather one, but it does tends to stiffen a bit after use specially in the areas where sweat accumulates. Although synthetic leather has improve tremendously, it is still not as durable as deer leather.
The complaint you most hear about synthetic leather is its durability, specially on the palm and if it has micro punching.
Orizashi (fabric kote):
First it is important to know that the fabric area is only at the Atama (head of kote) and not the palm. The palm will still be leather or synthetic leather.
Orizashi kote offer great comfort, flexibility, adaptability, and quick dryness. They are becoming very popular lately specially among practitioners that are constantly doing keiko and shiai since the are lighter, flexible, and dry the fastest.
The disadvantage of Orizahi kote are:
- Generally offer less protection.
- Less durable (but it is considerably easier to patch at home).
You will find Kenshi who practice 2 or 3 times a week having a pair of leather kote. Leather kote will last and offer great protection, also practicing 2 to 3 times a week will allow the Kote to dry before the next practice extending it’s life. Also most kenshi as of now tend to prefer the look of leather kote (although I feel that is slowly changing)
Synthetic leather and orizashi (specially orizashi) is becoming more popular now among kenshi who practice more than 3 times a week. Not only because they tend to be lighter, but also they dry fast in between practices. Also is common for them to have an extra pair of leather kote for days when the first pair didn’t dry, or for when a bit more protection is needed (like long basic kote practice).
Also Orizashi kotes are being made with leather reinforcement on the areas where damage caused by wear and tear is most common, making them slightly more durable.
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