Since there was a lack of reviews regarding this specific blade, I decided to write one. There are a number of reviews on the ORIGINAL Victas Koji Matsushita Blade, but the entire Victas Koji Matsushita blade line consists of: the original VKM (has no modifier words), the VKM Offensive, the VKM Defensive, and now the VKM Special. I only have experience with the VKM Defensive, so my review is about that one. I will compare it to my other blade, the Butterfly Joo Se Hyuk. The JSH is my only other blade, so I can only compare it to that one. Please keep in mind these are just my own opinions.
A little background on me so you can have reference as to where I’m coming from. I have been playing semi-seriously (1 club tournament a week plus 2-3 hrs practice every other week on average) for about 3 years. I got my first custom blade, Butterfly Joo Se Hyuk about a year ago (btw, Joo is my favorite player, and he should be yours too ;). I have always been a chopper, and worked to develop an offensive attack to put away points when I force my opponent into a mistake. My USATT ranking is likely around the 1500-1700 range, but I do not have an official ranking, so this is a rough estimate (my club ranking is right around 2100, but it is not based on an official ranking, just for that club).
I originally got the KM Def. blade to be a backup to my JSH blade. When I got this blade, I was actually trying to get the regular model. I didn’t realize there was an Offensive, Defensive, and now Special model as well. So, I actually got the Def. version by mistake.
As far as I can tell based on some google research, the main difference between the regular model and the Def. model is the top, thin layer of wood. The Def. version seems to have a softer kind of wood than the regular model. I always give a thin layer of sealant to my blades, as I want them to last a long time. I don’t think it affects the feel or playability of the blade, but if it does it is small, and is worth it to me to know I can switch rubbers and not worry about peeling or splintering as much.
DHS Hurricane 3 NEO 2.1mm red on forehand
DHS Cloud and Fog III (long pips) 1.0mm black backhand
After getting used to long pips (took like 2 weeks to change my strokes, and like a month before I was back to my base level), I found that the H3 NEO was great for attacking, but lacked control. It was especially hard to control when forehand chopping. So I got a new forehand rubber, Butterfly Tackifire C 1.9mm red. This rubber is much more controlled, and produces just as much spin. It is slower, but if you can create speed with your body, it’s not as big of a deal.
I’ve been using this set up for close to a year:
Tackifire C 1.9mm red forehand
DHS Cloud and Fog III 1.0mm black backhand
When I got my VKM Def. blade, I got this setup:
VKM Def. blade
Butterfly Tackifire C 2.1mm red forehand
TSP Curl P1R (long pips) 1.0-1.3mm black backhand
I have been using this set up for two weeks now. I was originally going to wait a month or so to review it, but after two practice sessions of about 3 hrs each, and a weekly tournament, I fully think I can state the differences between my two set ups. If anything changes, I will post the update, but I don’t think that will happen.
As you can see, the actual set ups have different rubbers, so it’s not a true direct comparison. However, I do not have time to switch them back and forth for testing purposes, and I don’t have money to buy multiple sets, so this is the best I can do for you. The forehand side is pretty much the same. They are the same rubber, but the VKM Def. has 2.1mm sponge, and the JSH has 1.9mm sponge. In theory, a 1.9mm sponge should have slightly more control, and slightly less speed and spin on hard shots, and the 2.1mm sponge should be able to produce slightly more speed and spin, but have slightly less control on hard shots. I’m willing to bet I would have a hard time telling the difference, even if they were on the same blade.
The backhand rubbers a more different. JSH has Cloud and Fog III, and VKM Def. has Curl P1R. Both are at or around 1.0mm. Since I can pretty much directly compare the forehands to get a feel for how the blades are different, I think I can tell the differences between these two rubbers. The P1R is definitely slower, and definitely has more grip. The C&F III has more speed and spin reversal. Both are solid rubbers, but the P1R more suits my game (active strokes, normally from a distance). Back to the blades…
Since I have only owned two different blades, I can only compare them directly to each other, not to other blades. So, compared to the JSH blade, the VKM Def. blade:
Is lighter. I actually think I prefer the weight of the JSH. However, I have always used heavy blades, so maybe it’s just because that is what I’m used to. You can get a nice solid feeling when hitting with the JSH. It’s not necessarily a better feeling, just different.
Has some vibration. I wouldn’t call it distracting or anything, but it is slight. It really is just noticeable on some blocks and touch shots. I don’t think it changes or effects my game at all.
Is slightly more top heavy. I believe this is completely due to the lighter weight of the blade. Since it is lighter overall, the weight of the rubber is more noticeable. Also, I am using 2.1mm sponge on the VKM Def. so that might make a difference as well. Not a major thing tho.
Blade heads seem about the same size. Joo blade might be like a mm or two taller, but if it is a different size, it's small enough that it shouldn’t effect playability at all. I didn’t measure them or trace them or anything, so not sure if rubbers would be directly exchangeable or not, or if the shapes are the same or not.
Maybe slightly thinner handle? Again, it felt fine to me, but I think it might actually be slightly thinner. Same length. The feeling smaller stuff also could just be due to the lighter weight. That is much more noticeable than any other of the physical differences.
Those are the physical differences I’ve noticed. The only immediately noticeable one is the weight difference. It’s not a super huge difference (I have used friend’s blades who had very very light blades, and actually swung and missed on three balls in a row due to the weight difference. This is nothing like that), but definitely noticeable. I don’t think one is better than the other. The JSH feels a bit more solid on contact, the VKM Def. Is quicker to maneuver into position (for something like a fast block close to the table or something like that). You should not make a decision of which blade to get based on any of these physical differences though. They are not different enough to make a decision based on that. You should make a decision based on it’s different playing characteristics, which I will discuss next.
In terms of playability, they are a good bit different. I wasn’t really expecting to notice much of a difference, so I was surprised when I felt one. It will depend on your playing style and preferences which one you prefer.
The VKM Def. is a slower blade than the JSH when you block with it. However, at least the way I attack, it is not slower on the attack. I mainly attack using bushing strokes, not driving strokes. I have heard people calling it the difference between European attacking style and Chinese attacking style. European style keeps the blade face more perpendicular to the attack, and has a more upward stroke. Chinese style has the blade more parallel to the attack, and uses a slightly more horizontal brushing motion. I have also heard the rubber you use can help decide which method is best for you to use. I will not pretend that I am an expert in this, but I can tell you my observations.
When I do a more open faced attack, the ball IS slower off the VKM Def., but also more controlled for me. When I do a brushing attack, I CANNOT tell the difference in speed between the VKM Def. and JSH. Most of my attacks are of the brushing kind when I am trying to put a ball away. I am able to generate the same amount of top end speed using both blades, but I have the ability to slow the ball down more with the VKM Def. than with the JSH. So if thinking in terms of gears, for my style of play, they have the same top gear, but the VKM Def. has one more gear at the lower end than the JSH. If you mainly attack with a more open faced motion, though, you WILL notice a difference in speed.
The biggest change I have noticed between playing with the two is my forehand. By using an open faced swing, I can create a lot of spin, and consistently do slow spinny loops that land on the table. Then if a ball is in a better place to attack, I can just adjust my racket with a little more angle to get a faster attack.
For off the table chopping, the two set ups feel pretty similar. Other than the C&F III rubber being a little faster, I feel like I have the same amount of control and spin generation with both paddles when chopping away from the table. However, when close or medium distance from the table, I feel like I have more control with the VKM Def. paddle. In all circumstances, close to far, fast or slow, I prefer the topspin of the VKM Def. Whether or not it is actually creating more topspin, I have much more control over the location and speed of my shot.
It’s hard to articulate, but I think the main difference is that I have a better tactile feedback as to what I did right or wrong on any given stroke. I can feel that I hit that one too far. I can feel that I put a lot of spin on that one. I can feel the angle of my paddle was off on that hit. Because I get better feedback, I make better adjustments throughout the game. For example, say there is a specific shot that I keep missing against an opponent. With the JSH, it might take me around 4 or 5 attempts at the shot before I had a good idea what I was doing wrong. With the VKM Def. I now normally have a good idea of what I was doing wrong after attempt 2 or 3.
That may seem insignificant, but that’s a difference of 2 or 3 points when trying to understand how to hit a shot that you are having trouble with. 2 or 3 points can be a big difference in any match, but what if they have 3 different shots that you have having trouble with? The difference there could be 6-9 strokes before you figure them out. That’s pretty much a whole game difference just to know what it is that you are doing wrong. Now, even though I know what I’m doing wrong, it doesn’t mean I have the skill or knowledge to fix it yet, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
So, in conclusion:
I was originally worried that the VKM Def. would be too slow. I have spent time developing an attacking game to go along with my defensive game, and I was worried that my attacks would be less effective, and that I would have to expend extra effort, which would offset the extra control I was gaining. However, for my skill level, preferences and style, I have found that I do not lose any top end speed, but I gain extra lower gears. I found that my away from the table game did not change much, but my medium and short game had better control with the VKM Def. Having more control gives me confidence and ability to attack more, which will help my game as well.
Will I get to the point where I find there are limitations on the paddle that are holding back my game? Maybe. This is a slow blade, so some may not like that at all. But right now, for my game and skill level, a slower blade will help me improve. Maybe once I “master” it and find that adding some more speed to my game will help me win more than I am currently, the JSH blade will still be there, and is definitely a harder and faster blade.
Hopefully this review will help someone decide whether or not this is the blade for them. On Victas’ website (I think), they say something like the VKM Offensive is similar to the JSH, and I can verify that the VKM Def. is noticeably slower than the JSH, so I’m betting the original VKM is somewhere in between.