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Review: Two Nittaku Goriki Blades

04 October 2022  | Posted in: Table Tennis Reviews

A Review of Two Nittaku Goriki Blades

     This time around, I was given the opportunity to try out two special edition blades from Nittaku, i.e., the Nittaku Goriki Super Drive and the Nittaku Goriki Danshi. The Japanese-made Goriki blades are unusually large and rigid blades, designed by Nittaku’s equipment advisor, Dr. Rokuro Sakuma. 

      The Goriki Super Drive blade has a truly unique 6-ply construction comprised of two thick central hinoki plies, two equally thick intermediate hinoki plies that are oriented perpendicularly relative to the core plies, and thin outer walnut plies. Nittaku categorizes the Super Drive as an OFF blade with a medium feeling.  

     The Goriki Danshi is a 7-ply blade made entirely of walnut plies. The three equally thick central plies are surrounded by four thinner plies. The word 'Danshi' means 'for man' in Japanese. Nittaku categorizes the Danshi as an OFF blade with a soft feeling.  

     The two Goriki blades are shipped in large, white cardboard boxes, which provide excellent protection during transport. Key blade characteristics, in Japanese, are listed on the front lip of the box. No other technical information is provided. A card, written in Japanese and presumably providing some generic information about Goriki blades, is provided inside the box with each blade. A wonderful cypress aroma unfolds when the box of the Super Drive is opened. 

      At first glance, the two Goriki blades look similar. Both blades look rustic due to the dark-brown walnut outer plies. The blade names are printed on the FH side while the BH sides are devoid of text. The handles are a similar walnut color as the playing surfaces and are additionally adorned with two vertically oriented burgundy red stripes. Both blades have a rectangular silver on black rectangular lens on the FH side of the handle. The BH side of the Super Drive does not have a lens, whereas the Danshi features a rectangular silver on black lens. Both handle butts feature a golden Nittaku tag and an engraved JTTAA symbol. The blades seem to be well-made with smooth playing surfaces. Moreover, the blade wings of the Super Drive – but not the Danshi – are lightly sanded.  

     The playing surfaces of the Super Drive and Danshi blades are larger than normal (height x width: 159 x 154 mm and 160 x 156 mm, respectively) with thicknesses of 7.0 mm and 5.1 mm, respectively. Both blades are extremely heavy at 100 g and 108 g, respectively. Bouncing a ball on the naked blades produces low main resonance frequencies of 1248 Hz and 947 Hz, respectively. This is likely a consequence of the relatively slow nature of the blades and the large playing surfaces (smaller blades generally are stiffer, with higher resonance frequencies). The FL handle dimensions are as follows: length 101 mm (both), width 27.6-34.0 mm (Super Drive) and 27.3-33.5 mm (Danshi), and height 22.4-24.0 mm (Super Drive) and 23.1-24.3 mm (Danshi). 

Testing Protocol

I evaluated the Goriki blades as received without further varnishing or lacquering and using well-used sheets of DHS Hurricane 3 (H3, 2.15 mm, black, provincial version, 40-degree blue sponge) in my FH and Spinlord Waran II (W2, 2.0 mm, red) short pips in my BH. The rubbers were attached using one layer of Revolution 3 Medium Viscosity glue. This resulted in very heavy test setups (204 g and 208 g for the Super Drive and Danshi, respectively), especially when considering that the rubbers used were originally cut for 158 mm x 151 mm blades, thus not fully covering the playing surfaces. I tested these set-ups over ~3 sessions each playing a mix of regular and match-like drills against my regular high-level practice partner. Neottec Neoplast Pro 40+ training balls were used throughout this test.


Playing Impressions Goriki Super Drive

Initial Impressions

     Considering the heft of the Super Drive set-up (204 g), it felt reasonably well-balanced during gameplay. Nonetheless, FH-to-BH and BH-to-FH transitions are slower than with regular, lighter setups. The blade’s balance is tilted towards the head to the point where it almost felt like slipping out of my hand. The feeling upon striking the ball is relatively soft on the index finger, despite the outer, harder walnut ply. I did, however, feel some reverberating vibrations in my palm, presumably due to the blade’s larger head size. 


     FH and BH drives feel solid and controlled but are not particularly fast (low OFF-). The ball arc is rather flat but high enough for the shots to clear the net. Unlike blades made exclusively of hinoki plies, the Super Drive is not springy, which I attribute to the stiffer walnut ply. The head-tilted balance helps overcome the blade’s moderate speed, as more forward momentum is generated, especially when the ball is hit toward the top of the blade.


     Whilst FH looping against blocking during warm-up, I enjoyed excellent consistency but was unable to put my hitting partner under any sort of pressure, since the blade – and the resulting loops – simply aren’t fast enough. However, the ball seems to stick on the Super Drive for a longer-than-expected time, which – along with the tacky H3 FH rubber – allows for the execution of spinny FH loops when looping against pushes. I found it necessary to use bigger arm swings and stronger weight transfer, to propel the ball forward, as the FH loops otherwise were too weak and went into the net. In other words, this is not a blade that does the work for you. However, if the ball is hit towards the top of the blade, the massive bulk of the blade contributes to forward momentum and bestows considerable authority to the FH loops. Thus, my practice partner’s blocks did overshoot the table at an above-average frequency. The downside of having to use larger movements is an increased risk of not being ready for the subsequent shot. 

     The Super Drive gives a sense of stability in FH loop-to-loop rallies far from the table, but it is difficult to overpower your opponent, as the shots simply aren’t fast enough. To win points from this distance, one needs to resort to well-placed loops that are played with strategic sidespin as demonstrated by, for example, the Chinese defender Hou Yingchao.   

     The Super Drive worked reasonably well for BH hits through backspin with the W2 short pips. The stiffer nature of the walnut outer ply helped in this respect, as the ball’s trajectory is flattened. I found it necessary to hit the ball towards the top of the blade for the shot to be sufficiently fast. Alternatively, one can hit the ball towards the middle of the blade along with a strongly forward-directed motion and utilize the heft of the blade to produce a rolling shot. BH hits executed using a wristier motion had a tendency of overshooting the table (and producing some discomfort in my wrist due to the unusually high weight). 


     FH flicks against short pushes worked best using the traditional mini-loop technique, as the blade’s longer dwell time and the tacky nature of the H3 helped curl the ball over the net. Pancake-style flicks were not fast enough to put my opponent under sufficient pressure, which rendered me vulnerable on the subsequent shot. Using the softer W2 short pip rubber in my BH, I was able to make wristy flicks that were reasonably effective and dangerous. 


     The Super Drive excels at pushes. The combo with H3 worked supremely well to generate flat, and very spinny FH pushes, which my practice partner struggled to attack powerfully against, as many of his shots went into the net. It is important to use soft hands, though, as overly aggressive stroke mechanics, coupled with the heft of the blade, can result in contact that is too thick and pushes that are too long. While I don’t quite understand the underlying reasons, I had a higher-than-normal percentage of pushes go into the net. Perhaps it is something about how I angled the larger playing surface relative to the ball? 

     The Super Drive also works supremely well on short pushes and drop shots, due to its large surface, heavy nature, and moderate inherent speed. The blade is also very linear, which allowed me to precisely titrate my input power, resulting in some of the highest-quality short pushes that I remember playing. 

     Outright defender-like chopping against topspin far from the table, using the relatively fast W2 short pips, was delightful since the blade was able to absorb most of the incoming energy. My chops were long and very spinny and challenging to loop aggressively against.  


     Unsurprisingly, given its size, weight, and moderate speed, the Super Drive can absorb a lot of incoming topspin energy, thus allowing for the execution of stable blocks. In fact, at times during match-like drills, I had to use more aggressive stroke mechanics to avoid the block getting caught into the net. When the larger motion is combined with a snappy wrist motion and the ball is hit towards the top of the blade, it is possible to produce very fast blocks. 

Flat Hits

    Considering the blade’s large and heavy nature, it requires significant physical effort to bring the ball up to speed. The walnut outer ply does seem to kick in on these shots and produces a cracking sensation.


     I struggled a bit with my short backspin serves as I couldn’t really feel the ball due to the blade’s soft and fairly vibration-free nature. However, as I started to use softer hands, I became able to impart more spin on the ball and produce high-quality serves.  


    In my opinion, the Nittaku Goriki Super Drive is simply too heavy and bulky to be practical for regular two-winged loopers or flat-hitters. It is much better suited for players with game styles like Hou Yingchao or Wang Xi. These are players who would appreciate the heavy, large, and absorbing nature of the blade, and use it to their advantage to generate spinny FH loops from mid- or long-distance distance, producing rock-stable blocks both close to the table and from mid-distance, and utilizing a mix of defensive strategies. I think Nittaku Goriki Super Drive may be very well suited for players using a non-traditional defensive rubber in their BH (e.g., pips or antispin) coupled with a fast offensive FH rubber.


Playing Impressions Goriki Danshi 

Initial Impressions

     The Danshi set-up weighed a whopping 208 grams. Despite being only four grams heavier than the Super Drive set-up, it felt significantly heavier since the center of gravity is tilted even further towards the blade head. Accordingly, the paddle really felt like slipping out of my hand unless I gripped it firmly. Also, the wings on the Danshi blade are massive, presumably as this allows for individual carving and customization. 

     Conventional wisdom dictates that a 7-ply all-walnut blade will feel stiff and have a short dwell time, whereas a thin blade with a large head will produce deep vibrations and extended dwell time. The result is, indeed, a blade with such dichotomous characteristics, i.e., a blade that overall feels softer and more reverberating than its hard outer ply would lead you to expect. 


     As we all remember from high-school physics classes, the kinetic energy of an object is given as one-half its mass times velocity squared (KE = 1/2mv2). Indeed, the kinetic energy that is produced when using the Danshi blade feels as if it primarily stems from its mass, rather than the speed of the arm swing. This results in a somewhat disengaged sensation whilst playing. Thus, the Danshi’s head-heavy and massive nature propels FH and BH drives forward with flat and stable trajectories, albeit with moderate speed only, as the Danshi is inherently slower than the Super Drive (high ALL +).   


     The head-heavy nature of the Danshi inherently encourages forward-momentum shots like FH loops. It is challenging to swing the paddle quickly through the ball, and once again the kinetic energy that is imparted on the ball feels as if it is a consequence of the blade’s mass. On one hand, the contact point feels short, but at the same time, it is as if the large blade head works against this effect, extending the dwell time. The resulting trajectories are rather flat and short, yet – somehow – loops seem to carry respectable amounts of spin. Be it as it may, my warmup FH loops were quite consistent albeit slow. Similarly, FH loops against backspin were also not fast, but I was able to impart dangerous levels of topspin, when using a more upward stroke and contacting the ball later than usual.

     The Danshi is slower, harder, and has less of a catapult than the Super Drive in FH loop-to-loop rallies. Accordingly, more physical effort was needed to put the shots on the table. While engaging in FH loop-to-loop rallies is possible, the Danshi is better suited for gameplay closer to the table.  

     The Danshi worked quite well for BH hits through backspin with the W2 short pips. As with the Super Drive, the stiffer nature of the walnut outer ply ensured a flat trajectory, while the blade’s moderate speed meant that I kept more shots within the confines of the table. Interestingly, it seemed as if the BH openers carried more sidespin than normal, resulting in bounces that confused my practice partner.  


     I found FH flicking with the Danshi to be somewhat challenging. The blade is too slow for pancake-type flicks to be effective, whereas the stroke mechanics of mini-loop-type FH flicks seemed to be compromised by the large blade head. I found the Danshi to work better on BH flicks in combination with the softer Waran 2 short pips as the shots were more lively. 


    Similar to my observations with the Super Drive, the slow nature of the Danshi gave me an extended contact that facilitated pushing close to the table. Thus, I was able to generate flat, and very spinny FH pushes, which were difficult to attack against. My consistency was higher than with the faster and springier Super Drive. Short pushes were a little challenging to execute because the blade felt too slow, necessitating a more active stroke, which in turn popped the ball up and too long.    

     I struggled to achieve good consistency whilst BH chopping with the W2 short pips as the Danshi felt too stiff on these shots. Also, the less springy nature relative to the Super Drive, meant I had to use a more active stroke, which was less forgiving of imperfect technique and timing.  


     The Danshi is exceptionally efficient at absorbing the energy from incoming topspins. Thus, the blade produces a deep thunk whilst passive warm-up blocking, resulting in stable and moderately fast blocks. Similarly, whilst on the receiving end of 3rd ball attack drills, I was often able to put the Danshi in front of my practice partner’s monster loop-drive, and the ball would simply float back with moderate pace to my partner’s amazement. I found the Danshi to be very effective in producing heavily spin-inverted chop blocks using my BH W2 short pips, resulting in hard-to-return shots.  

Flat Hits

     Unsurprisingly, given the above, the Danshi does not exactly excel when it comes to flat hitting and smashing, especially with the H3 FH rubber. It is possible to execute stable flat hits, but they are not exactly fast. 


     The combination of the Danshi and H3 worked very well for the generation of short, spinny backspin serves. The blade’s slow nature meant that it was possible to use a more aggressive motion on long top/side-spin serves, which accordingly were loaded with spin. 


     The Nittaku Goriki Danshi is a peculiar blade. It is big, heavy, slow, stiff, has an extended dwell time, and produces a somewhat disengaged feeling. And yet, I played very effectively with it!! Only, I am not sure that my old shoulders would be able to manage a 208-gram paddle for extended periods. Clearly, this is not a blade for an all-out attacking player, but rather for a player with a reactive game style, i.e., someone who focuses on strategic pushing, blocking, and spinny looping close to the table and doesn’t mind giving the opponent the initiative in the rally.    

Final Thoughts

     While the Nittaku Goriki Super Drive blade seems to be well-suited for modern defenders, I think that the slower but harder-feeling Nittaku Goriki Danshi blade is better suited for defensive players who use antispin or ox pips on one side and who play close to the table.      






About the Reviewer

     Patrick 'Pong Professor' Hrdlicka is a table tennis enthusiast with a Ph.D. in chemistry who combines his analytical and experimental skills with his love of table tennis in order to test and review a wide range of table tennis equipment.