The bokken is a wooden practice sword used in a variety of traditional Japanese martial arts. It typically features a curved shape, similar to that of the katana, with a handle at the bottom. Because it's made of wood, there's little to no risk of serious injury when using the bokken. There are several different types of bokken, however, some of which we're going to explore.
The daito bokken is characterized by a length similar to that of a traditional Japanese katana. It's the preferred type of bokken by many seasoned martial arts practitioners. With an average length of 23 5⁄8 to 28 3⁄4 inches (70 to 73 cm), it's the perfect size for kenjutsu and other forms of martial arts. However, the daito bokken's long length means it requires greater maintenance and upkeep than other bokkens.
The shoto bokken is characterized by a medium length, rivaling that of a traditional wakizashi or kodachi. As you may already know, the wakizashi features a blade length of about 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm). The moderate length makes it an excellent choice among martial arts practitioners.
The tanto is a third type of bokken. With an average length of just 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm), it's the smallest of the three bokkens mentioned here. Its short size limits its application in martial arts. Nonetheless, some practitioners use it to perfect their swordsmanship skills in a particular style of martial arts.
The three aforementioned types of bokken are characterized only by length. There are literally dozens of different bokken, each with its own specific features. When choosing a bokken, it's important to consider the thickness. Some bokken feature a thicker construction, whereas others feature a thinner construction. Thicker bokkens are usually stronger and more durable than their thinner counterparts.
Furthermore, bokken vary in weight. Some are heavy, whereas others are lightweight. If a bokken is too heavy for a practitioner, he or she may struggle to use in martial arts. On the other hand, if it's too light, it may lack the power needed to perform certain moves. This is why it's also important to consider weight when choosing a bokken.
From kenjutsu and kendo to aikido and laido, bokken are used in a variety of traditional Japanese martial arts. It's no substitution for an actual sword with a live blade. However, it's often preferred because of its lower risk of injury. In the past, practitioners of Japanese martial arts would often inadvertently injure themselves or others. Using a bokken nearly eliminates the risk of serious injury. Practitioners may still sustain injury, but it typically consists of minor injuries like bruises instead of serious lacerations.