Bokken - Wooden Long Swords

Japanese wooden swords (bokken) can be roughly divided into two groups: the old school (koryu) and the more modern designs generally associated with Aikido. The differences are somewhat subtle. This is because Japanese swords, which evolved over a thousand year period, have rather similar parameters, their variations being that of small refinement rather than big stylistic features.


There are some differences in shape, weight and balance. For many martial artists, this offers a range of weapons that could be selected based on the basis of personal preference. However, there are some some caveats:

1) If your dojo uses a wooden sword from a particular school, for example the Katori ryu, the Yagyu ryu, the Iwama ryu or the Kashima ryu, use that design.

2) If your dojo uses bokken with hand guard (tsuba), choose a bokken with a transitional step that accepts a tsuba like the Aikiken, Shinto or Kenjutsu. The Kashima bokken is probably the most specialized. It's an old school design that is always used with a tsuba.

3) Some dojo allow a degree of flexibility. Probably, the most versatile design is the Aikiken medium. This bokken has elements of both old school and Aiki related wooden swords, accepts a tsuba if needed. If it were possible to describe one bokken that's representative of them all, and is proportionally very close to "benchmark," it would arguably be the Aikiken medium.


For more information on choosing a bokken, see our informational pages below.