Written by Akira Onishi, Kendo Bogu craftsman(Tozando)
First of all, the point most people would prioritize would be to choose a Men that doesn’t hurt too much when you are hit. However, this is hard to know, so let me explain from the beginning.
The Men Futon is usually stuffed with varying layers of cotton and felt, thanks to these, when you are hit by a Shinai the padding absorbs the impact. In a good Men, the padding will not only be soft, but also highly elastic, which means that the padding after being compressed by the impact of the Shinai, will strive to return to its original state, dispersing the energy and protecting your head from the impact.
So if the top of the Men is made with a Futon that is too thin or too hard, you should avoid it, and choose a Men that has a thick padding, yet feels very flexible and elastic when you touch it. The best is to stuff the Futon using soft cotton and felt, which is stuffed very densely, however, sometimes hand-stitched or machine-stitched Bogu might be stuffed with rather hard materials from the beginning, instead of cotton which would make them very stiff. If you have no idea what to look for, the best is to ask the seller what the Bogu is actually padded with.
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Another thing to look out for is how you wear the Men. Watch out for Men where the back of your head protrudes outside of the Futon too much, as it might cause injury if you fall backwards and hit your head. Be especially careful of this when choosing a Men for your children. If you can try the Men in a store, it would be the best, and if you can’t find a Men that fits properly, you should consider buying a custom-made Men.
Lastly, if your Men fits properly, your eye-line should line up with the Monomi. A few years ago the Monomi was made slimmer to provide more protection, but because of that it has become harder to find a Men which has a perfectly fitting Monomi. If you wear a Men with a Monomi that is not properly aligned, it will eventually affect your posture and even your technique.
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After choosing your right Kendo Men, you need to know the proper way to take care of it. Once you have finished your Keiko, you have to wipe your Bogu using a tenugui or a towel, this is a must. If you let sweat and dirt stay on your Bogu, it will become a growing ground for bacteria and cause the Bogu to smell bad. So you need to wipe your Bogu after using it to prevent this. Take extra care of wiping the part where you put your chin as it tends to absorb sweat the most. After wiping of the Bogu, please put it in a place with good ventilation and in the shade to dry. During summer when you sweat extra much, you might want to consider drying the Men in a sunny place for 20~30 minutes to sterilize the Men. However, be careful not to leave it be for too long as if dries out completely, it will affect he longevity of the Men itself.
If you are going to put the Men or Bogu away in storage for a longer period of time, please take care of where you put it. If you put it in a place where it becomes exposed to a lot of dust over time, it might cause bacteria to grow and ruin the Men from the inside out. In case there is some dust on the Men, you can clean it using your vacuum cleaner. If your Men has become very dirty and perhaps even have traces of mold, please use a slightly wet hot towel to wipe it off before drying it in the shade. Unfortunately, even if you don’t use it, Bogu that are padded with a lot of cotton, will deteriorate with time.
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