View Full Version : Bokken Etiquette

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02-20-2003, 12:22 PM
Hey guys,
I have been training in aikido for quite some time now, and I have a question bothering me for a while. I would appreciate any input from you. During the seminars I have attended I realized people with differnt styles put their bokkens differently when they sit in formal seiza. We usually put our bokken on our right side with blade facing towards us. Some people put in the front with blade either towards themselves or away from them. I have even seen people put it on their right side for quick access. Up to now I have assumed this was a breach of etiquette because you show hostility. Since Japanese are quite strict in etiquettes especially for those involving a katana. I was wondering what is the correct position of the katana, if there is one, when sitting in formal seiza.

02-20-2003, 01:20 PM
Re bokken etiquette,

My experience has been that before you begin training, the bokken is held on the right (unarmed) side. After bowing in with the weapon, it is transferred to the left (or armed side) and is placed next to you on the left with the blade facing away when you are seated. After training ends and you bow out, the bokken is returned to the right side.



02-20-2003, 01:22 PM

I personally have always put it on my left side, "blade" facing out. This may not be the proper way, however, and I look forward to others' comments on the matter.


02-20-2003, 02:28 PM
My understanding is the bokken should be on the right side with the blade facing toward you to prevent it being drawn quickly and signaling a safe situation. If it is on the left, it can be perceived as being "ready to rumble" and a potential threat. My two cents.

02-20-2003, 05:01 PM
at the dojo where I train bokken is held right side blade inwards when in seiza to be instructed.

same reasoning; presents the least aggressive posture...

02-20-2003, 08:29 PM
We keep the bokuto on our left side. My instructor explained that Toyoda Shihan, who founded our organization, and was my sensei's instructor, preferred that the blade be on the left, facing away from you, to express a state of constant readiness. It doesn't necessarily have to be aggressive. If everyone in the room had their bokuto on their right, and you alone put yours on your left (providing you knew the implications), it might be seen as an aggressive gesture. On the other hand, if everyone had thier's on their left, I wouldn't want to be the poor sap with mine placed at my right, either. :)

But then again, they're sticks, and this isn't exactly feudal Japan... I, for one, am not concerned about having my head go rolling. :p

Sarah, who loves etiquette, even if sometimes it is a little silly...

Fiona D
02-21-2003, 01:26 AM
Seems to be very variable, both in the aikido bokken training and in the formal sword arts. Where I train in aikido, we place the bokken in front of us, blade facing towards us and tsuka on the left, when we bow in; there seems to be no fixed ruling on how to hold it during instruction, from what I've seen so far.

Training iaido in the Ottawa club, we have the sword in front, blade facing away from us & tsuka on the right when we bow in, then when we bow out, we place the sword in front of us with blade facing towards us and tsuka on the left.

In the iaido group I train with in Copenhagen (which is a different style), we place the sword on our right, blade facing towards us, when we bow to sensei, but then place it in front of us, blade facing towards us and tsuka on the left, when we bow to the sword (both for bowing in and bowing out).

One of these days I must remember to find out *why* it's done in these different ways....

Fiona D
02-21-2003, 01:37 AM
For the sake of completeness, I guess I should also add that, when you're working with a sword in iaido, the question of where you put it while being instructed won't usually come up. By that time, it's securely placed through your obi on your left hip, and you won't be removing it from your obi until the end of the session (unless you switch to exercises/suburi that don't require the iaito). When I'm being instructed in aikido, I tend to hold my bokken in such a way as to simulate the position of the iaito, but that's mainly because I started iaido before aikido. Noone's reprimanded me for it yet...

George S. Ledyard
03-02-2003, 09:27 AM
As far as I can tell, most of the bokken etiquette in Aikido tends to follow iaido relatively closely. Rpbably because many of the deshi had that as their weapons background. Of course the iaido conventions were derived from classical batto jutsu so they're not that differnt.

An excellent book is Japanese Swordsmanship: Technique and Practice by Gordon Warner. It is an iado book featuring Mitsuzuka Sensei but it has a wonderful section on blade etiquette including the rationale behind some of it.

In most Aikido dojos there isn't anything like a formal set of pratices that have been handed down. As in most things connected with etiquette you can't go wrong being too formal so you can follow your own conventions if the dojo seems lax in this area. People who really know will not judge you based on what you do but rather how you do it. Are you consistent? Are you mindful when you are doing it? That is one of the most important as far as I am concerned. Whether the handle is on the right or the left on the weapons rack is decided by the teacher, blade in or blade out, on the right or on the left, same thing. Just know that what you do has significance, don't be haphazard when doing it and you'll be ok. When you visit other dojos take a quick look around and see what they do and you'll do fine.

Kelly Allen
03-07-2003, 05:51 AM
Off with their heads!!!