View Full Version : Bokken For Smaller People!

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Mark Nicoll
01-19-2004, 05:11 PM
An Aikido friend of mine is only 152cm (4ft 11") tall and she has no end of problems with the normal sized bokken.

On searching the internet on her behalf, I have found sites that will make you custom "live" blades to your own dimensions, but not for the wooden bokken.

Can anyone please help me here, either with a contact or, url. Even if it means paying a little xtra for the weapon to be specialy made.

All help is welcome.

Thank you in advance.

Kent Enfield
01-19-2004, 09:26 PM
An Aikido friend of mine is only 152cm (4ft 11") tall and she has no end of problems with the normal sized bokken.What kind of problems?

Unless your friends hands are so large that they physically won't both fit on the tsuka (which would be enormous), or are so small that she is unable to grip it it (like a four year old), she should be able to use "the normal sized bokuto." I've seen plenty of Japanese teenaged girls, often less than 150cm tall, able to use standard kendo bokuto, which are the "generic" bokuto in most suppliers inventories.

If it's a matter of actual strength, frankly she needs to get stronger.

01-20-2004, 02:17 AM
Mark, to help her train up to a bokken you could get one of the wooden versions of the wakizachi (sp? - think they're called a waki nashga). They're about 3' in length but still have the same size grip as a bokken. I got one to prevent me having to replace light bulbs in my flat during those ling winter days of rain and snow.

01-20-2004, 05:59 AM
Buy the cheapest bokken you can find and saw off a little from both ends. Keep trimming the thing down until it seems right. When you've broken it buy a sturdy one and trim that one down to your desired dimensions. You'll want to experiment with a cheap one in case you trim too far. Be warned though, you might find that your econo bokken holds up just fine.

Karen Wolek
01-20-2004, 07:13 AM
I'm curious about the problems she is having, also. I'm only an inch taller than she is, use a regular-sized bokken everyday, and haven't had any problems due to size yet. Clutziness, yes, size, no! ;)

01-20-2004, 08:39 AM
just sharing,

Long before I trained aikido, someone presented me with a gift of 2 wooden swords. It's considered miniature, and is the size of wakizashi - the sword you hold with one hand.

I didn't know that at the time and is really proud to own two.

The first time I brought them to my aikido class, my sensei had a good laugh. He said 'it seems that you found a bokken made exactly for you' (i'm small, +/- 160cm)

But he also said that regardless of a person's physical size, he/she is always capable of handling regular bokkens and we just have to find the style that fits our stature.

So I bought a bigger bokken than everyone else's. :)

But I still keep my ni-to ryu bokkens.

Brion Toss
01-20-2004, 09:49 AM

If we can assume that the "standard-length" bokken is not an arbitrary length, then it is likely that its length was developed in relationship to the human body, specifically the size of human body likely to be found in genetically homogeneous Japan. Sure, people who are shorter or taller than the norm can use such a weapon, but why would they? The only answers I can come up with involve convenience for mass production, stocking, and such, or, worse, giving in to a "that's how things are" approach.

I've seen very tall Aikidoka wielding standard bokkens, and those weapons looked -- and performed -- like wakizashi. Ludicrous. In the same way, a standard bokken, used by a very short person, can look and perform like a broadsword.

If weapons practice is meant to improve and inform one's Aikido, then it makes sense that every student has a chance to work with the same sense of relationship to the weapon, and this means different size weapons. Sure, this can be inconvenient for teacher and student, and sure, it's a good thing to be familiar with the feel of other size weapons, but why impose those, as a matter of unyielding policy, on people who'd be better off with something else?

Different bokken makers will have slightly different lengths, and often widely different weights and balances. Start there, or with the judicious shortening recommended above.

Fair leads,

Brion Toss

Ted Marr
01-20-2004, 10:59 AM
A few months back I had the pleasure of attending a demonstration of Iaido at a nearby dojo. One of the things that the teacher said stuck with me, and I figured it would be appropriate to bring it to light here. Apparently, the practice swords iaido people use today would be considered children's swords back in the day. Mostly, he was talking about weight considerations, but to some extent length as well. Apparently, despite being a good deal shorter back then, the swords they were wielding were actually larger and heavier than what we see around today. That's what happens when you start training at 8 or whatever ridiculously early age. You get STRONG short people throwing around huge pieces of sharpened metal.

In some sense, that might explain why the cuts look pretty exaggerated (at least to me), and leave these huge openings while you're raising and/or preparing to cut with a sword. It was because you needed all the momentum you can get.

So really, discard any notion that we're doing things in a historically accurate way. Instead, look at it from a practical perspective. Practicing with a heavy sword is going to teach you more about generating power than picking up a 1/4 inch dowel and going through the same motions. It'll also build more strength in your arms, even if that isn't your primary reason for training. On the other hand, if you're actually doing something resembling sparring with them, a lighter sword might be in order so that you can move it about more quickly. Then again, not being able to move as quickly teaches something about economy of motion.

To sum up, my general idea is to train hard so you can fight lazy. If you did your weapons practice with a length of iron piping, if you ever had to pick up a bokken to actually defend yourself (riiiiight...) it would seem almost ridiculously easy to whip it about.

01-20-2004, 11:26 AM
She could try the Academy of Karate-Martial Arts Supply (http://www.martialartssupermarket.com/index.cfm?action=showProd&subid=202). They have something they call a bamboo sword (it's actually rattan). I have one and it's shorter and lighter than any other bokken I've seen. They also have an oak one that's made for a child.


Janet Rosen
01-20-2004, 12:20 PM
If your friend wants a slightly smaller bokken perhaps *weighted* differently for smaller hands and frame, I suggest she contact Kim Taylor


I had him make me a hickory jo and bokken customized for just those things very reasonably priced.

James Walls
01-20-2004, 01:12 PM
Someone may have already mentioned this (I didn't read all of the threads) but AWMA.com has a Youth Daito that is actually larger than the wakizashi but smaller than the katana. kinda halfway in between.

I think its $20... I can't remember.

I bought one for my daughter...

... she's due to be born this friday, thought I'd start investing in her future :)

Mark Nicoll
01-24-2004, 01:37 AM
Thanks to all for your replies.

I shall pass the website address' on to my friend.



Josh Bisker
01-24-2004, 07:17 AM
I'm curious -

don't we think that the idea of a standard sized bokken is modern and a bit rediculous? For how long has a dojo's supply of weapons been mail ordered by the dozen? Obviously there are different levels of quality and individuality that you can get, but don't we think that bokken used to be a more organically (as opposed to mechanically) produced thing? To my mind, the idea that there is a standard size for them seems unrealistic; this said, i'm sure that there are general sizes and shapes. But even this is not quite an honest picture - there are different kinds of boken for studying different sword arts, just as there were different ideal shapes and sizes for swords in different periods of history. People who practice tomeshigiri tell me that normal bokken are often too short in the tsuka, an effect of edo-period cosmeti blade shortening, and that real swordsmen would need the tsuka to fit their arm length.

I do not really understand the thinking that says "everyone should be able to train to the same benefit with the same equipment." For samurai, their swords were supposed to be manifestations of both body and soul, and they were supposed to be able to communicate their intentions through its physicality. To my mind, that says that the sword would have to be a non-standard, personal thing; the training sword would logically reflect this model. Evidence like in the above paragraph (and the idea that inheritors of a blade would often change its fittings for fashionable and practical purposes) would tend to support the idea that standardization is an imposed concept, and your sword, and bokken, should be your own.

Kent Enfield
01-24-2004, 05:03 PM
If we can assume that the "standard-length" bokken is not an arbitrary length . . . . The only answers I can come up with involve convenience for mass production, stocking, and such, or, worse, giving in to a "that's how things are" approach.
don't we think that the idea of a standard sized bokken is modern and a bit rediculous?No. Most koryu have specific dimensions and designs for their bokuto and other training weapons. In my limited experience, those that go in for "custom fit" are mostly Hayashizaki derived iaido or battojutsu schools, which, while by far the most common koryu budo today historically made up a small portion of the budo population. And they usually have a fairly specific method for determining the right size anyway. So either way, you use what you're told to use.

Larry Feldman
01-24-2004, 05:42 PM
I know Bu Jin Designs custmizes Bokken sizes


Kiyota offers a variey of bokken - from different sword schools. They can be quite different in weight an dlength.


Alsoo have ordered weapons from Artha Gallery, and they have been very willing to customize their usual products.


Kent Enfield
01-28-2004, 05:14 PM
So you're not going to let Karen and me know what your friend's problems are? I really am curious.