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Victas Koki Niwa - A Stiff, Dynamic, and OFF Rated Composite Blade With an Unusual 5+4 Ply Construction

30 May 2017  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

About the Reviewer

Patrick HrdlickaPatrick Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast, who was introduced to the sport by his parents at the age of six. Patrick progressed to play in the highest national cadet and junior team leagues in his native Denmark and was among the top 40 players in his age group, which fostered several long-standing members of the Danish National Team. With college looming, Patrick quit the sport for almost twenty years. During this hiatus, he obtained a Ph.D.-degree in chemistry and accepted a position as professor of chemistry at the University of Idaho.

At the beginning of 2014, the mid-life crisis and yearning for table tennis grew too strong for Patrick and he decided to pick up the sport again. Bitten again by the table tennis bug, he plays 4-6 times per week. 

Since his comeback to table tennis, he has enjoyed combining his analytical and experimental skills with his love for table tennis, testing and reviewing a wide range of table tennis equipment.

Victas Koki NiwaVictas have named their new high-end offensive blade after the rising Japanese superstar Koki Niwa who won the 2010 Youth Olympic and 2011 Youth Junior World Champion Men’s singles titles, reached the quarterfinals in the 2016 Olympics and the semifinals of the 2017 Asian Championships and, more recently, reached quarterfinals in the World Table Tennis Championships 2017.

The Victas Koki Niwa is a very thin (approx. 156 mm x 150 mm, 5.2 mm thickness, ~84 g) and innovative composite blade that is built using the so-called Double Synergy Effect (DSE) technology, which optimizes energy transfer to the ball. This entails a 5+4 ply construction, in which the core wood ply is surrounded by an aramid carbon layer that “develops great speed while maintaining good feel that is just perfect for fast mid-distance topspin rallies with optimized stability in extreme situations.” A thin and elastic fleece carbon layer is placed between the outer and middle wood plies and provides “excellent feel and great spin development.”

The blade is made in China and comes in a matte silver box that has a reflective image of Niwa on the front. The forehand side of the blade also has a blue-colored print of Niwa. The handle has a thick vertical blue line and two parallel thin white lines. The blue, black and white lenses, present on both sides of the handle, spell “Koki Niwa” in Japanese and English. A silver Victas tag is placed on the bottom of the handle. Overall, this OFF rated blade has a fresh design and the build quality seems to be excellent. The surface layers are smooth with a nice vertical grain and do not look like needing additional varnishing. The squared straight (SQST) handle is comfortable and sufficiently long (~100 mm) to fit my large hands, although some players might want to sand the wings a little bit more. The balance point without rubbers is tilted towards the handle.  

Bouncing a ball on the bare blade produces a high-pitched sound, characteristic of a stiff blade. The sweet spot appears to be quite large as the high pitch was produced evenly throughout the blade except for the very edges of the blade. 

Testing procedure
I attached a DHS Hurricane 8 (FH, 2.2 mm, black, 39-degree sponge, >50 h) and a TSP Spinlord Waran (BH, 1.8 mm, red, >50 h), respectively, on the blade using one layer of Revolution 3 normal viscosity glue. I tested this setup for a week, playing a mix of simple drills and matches against my regular practice partners using seamless 3-star 40+ plastic balls.

Victas KNPlaying impressions 
The Victas Koki Niwa offers a crisp and well-defined contact on FH drives. Excellent speed can be produced even when using slower rubbers like DHS’ Hurricane 8. The OFF nature of the blade is clearly felt when stepping 2-3 steps behind the table, where sufficient speed can be produced to put the opponent under pressure. I could feel the blade’s OFF pace and above average stiffness particularly prominently when playing BH drives with the Waran short pips, which resulted in fast and dipping ball trajectories that gave my practice partners considerable difficulty. FH loops, especially fast loop drives, can be played very reliably. The dwell time is average, which means that spin production on slow loops is slightly less than with softer blades, whereas very high spin levels can be produced on hard loop drives. For the same reason, I found it more productive to return heavy and flat backspin balls with well-timed fast penetrating loops rather than soft loops. The blade is perhaps a little bit more dependent on proper placement and shot execution than softer blades, a characteristic that likely became even more pronounced because of the hard DHS H8 rubber, which is less forgiving than softer rubbers. The blade allowed me to generate a lot of pace on FH flat hits thanks to the stiffness and extra carbon kick. Backhand punch shots or flicks played with the short pips were particularly fun to play due to the crisp feeling that the blade offers in combination with the soft-sponged Waran. The blade’s direct feeling also made blocking a lot of fun. I could reliably redirect the kinetic energy from my opponent’s loops to produce blistering fast and well-placed blocks, which more put them under pressure or outright resulted in winners. Considering the stiffness and relative high speed of the blade, it provides surprisingly good control on serves and short service returns. It is as if the kick from the carbon layers is not fully activated on these low impact shots. As far as I could tell, my serves were as spinny and well-placed as with my normal all-wood set-up and the same could be said for serve returns and touch shots, which could be kept short and low.

Conclusion
The Victas Koki Niwa is a stiff, dynamic and OFF rated blade with a surprisingly high level of control. To me, it feels like an all-wood blade with hard outer plies, rather than typical composite blades, which often result in a somewhat disconnected feel. While the blade allows for spinny serves and short touch shots, it is clearly geared toward an aggressive loop-driving, smashing, and blocking game style played close to the table and/or from mid-distance. Players with excellent footwork and technique will be able to really harness the many benefits of this blade. The test set-up with a DHS Hurricane 8 in the FH and TSP Spinlord Waran short pips in the BH was fast, yet controllable. Pairing this blade with European, Japanese or Korean rubbers such as Tibhar’s Evolution MX-P, Nittaku’s Fastarc G-1, or Xiom Omega V Tour will likely result in extremely fast set-ups, suitable for very advanced and professional players. No question: the Victas Koki Niwa is an interesting addition to the blade market.

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