If you’ve studied iaido, kendo, or aikido before, chances are that you’ve used a bokken. Alongside the shinai, this wooden practice sword is typically used in training for those martial arts systems and is typically made from a single piece of Japanese white oak, which makes it more durable than the shinai, which is made from bamboo.
The bokken allows martial arts students to practice the different stances and techniques safely. It’s just as important to learn to use the weapon properly, and using a bokken means practitioners develop both the strength and dexterity needed. If you’re interested in progressing to weapon use in your own martial arts training, here are a few bokken techniques you can expect to learn.
Bokken and katana – traditional curved-bladed Japanese swords – are similar in shape, so cutting and slashing techniques are among the first you’ll learn once you know how to grip the bokken comfortably.
The most basic of these basic techniques is a single downward slash. Essentially, you’ll have to grip the handle with both hands, your non-dominant hand at the bottom, then raise the bokken over your head in a straight line. If you’re in the correct position, your elbows should point straight upward. Then carefully but quickly swing the blade down in a straight cut. If it helps, visualise the bokken travelling along a vertical line right down the middle of your target.
Another technique is the side cut, where you need to grip the bokken with your dominant hand and then slash outward to the side. As with the vertical cut, imagine the path your bokken will travel, only this one is horizontal.
As the name of this technique implies, this is an angled cutting or slashing attack. With both hands on the handle, you need to aim at the side of the neck and cut down toward the opposite armpit, or at the shoulder and cut down toward the opposite hip.
With the right techniques, a bladed weapon can be used defensively as well as offensively, and the same goes for the bokken. The basic block you learn when training with a bokken is meant to deflect any overhead cuts and slashes. To do this, you’ll need to grip the bokken handle with both hands, then raise the wooden training weapon above your head, with the curved part pointing upwards.
Side blocks also call for a two-handed grip on the handle, and as the name implies, these are meant to block cuts aimed at the side of the body. This time, you’ll have to hold the bokken vertically in front of the body and to the side where the attack is coming from. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but you should become used to it with time and practice.
All of the above is simply an overview of what you can expect to learn, so if you want to become adept at using a bokken, or indeed any weapon, you need to properly understand these techniques, which means learning them from a certified martial arts instructor.
To learn bokken techniques from a certified Aikido master in Sydney, join a class here.