A bokken (木剣, bok(u), "wood", and ken, "sword") (or commonly as bokutō 木刀 in Japan), is a Japanese wooden sword used for training, usually the size and shape of a katana, but sometimes shaped like other swords, such as the wakizashi and tantō. Some ornamental bokken are decorated with mother-of-pearl work and elaborate carvings.
Bokutō should not be confused with shinai, a sword made of bamboo that is used for practice in kendo.
The bokken is used as an inexpensive and safe substitute for a real sword in several martial arts such as kendo, aikido and kenjutsu.
In 2003, the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) introduced a type of practice using bokken. Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho is a set of basic exercises using a bokuto. This form of practice, is intended primarily for kendoka up to ni-dan (2), but is very useful for all kendo students.
Suburito are bokken designed for use in suburi. Suburi, literally "bare swinging," are solo cutting exercises. Suburito are thicker and heavier than normal bokken and users of suburito have to develop both strength and technique. Their weight makes them unsuitable for paired practice or kata.
Historically, bokken are as old as Japanese swords, and were used for the training of warriors. The bokken is a wooden training tool for those martial artists interested in learning the use of a sword. In Japan, the sword and the art of its use goes back before the times of written history. There are legends that tell of the mythical period of the gods concerning their use of swords.
Miyamoto Musashi, a kenjutsu master, was renowned for fighting fully armed foes with only one or two bokken. In a famous legend, he defeated Sasaki Kojiro with a bokken he had carved from an oar while traveling on a boat to the predetermined island for the duel.
Types of bokken
The following list is the basic styles of bokken made:
Bokken can be made in any style of weapon required such as nagamaki, no-dachi, yari, naginata, kama, etc. The examples above are the most widely-used.
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