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-   -   Further advices regarding Bokken, anyone? (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2128)

Daniel Brandt 07-02-2002 07:16 PM

Further advices regarding Bokken, anyone?
 
Hi there!

I have read some eralier prostings regarding the weight and design of Bokken and Jo and though it seems to have been discussed frequently I still feel I could need some further advice...

I have just bought my first Bokken (itīs still enclosed in itīs plastic cover!), but as I brought it with me to todays training (no weapontraning today) several who tested my new Bokken found that it was not heavy enough. As I asked my Sensei he said the same, although he ment that a not so heavy Bokken is okey to start with - but they all also said that itīs a matter of taste, so this is my problem: I donīt really know my taste regarding Bokkens yet.

The one i bought was a mid-price Bokken in white oak. I choose it because I liked the balance in it (uh well... It feels good to hold anyway) althogh the shop also had a cheeper one (and this is quite confusing!) in red oak that was both heavier and had a bigger handle. I thought it felt more like a sword of a Viking rather than a Bokken, so I choose the prior one.

Well, what I really would like to ask before I return to the shop to test out the other Bokkens again is:

1) Is a white oak Bokken better (stronger etc.) than red oak one?

2) Is it better to start with a heavier Bokken or do I risk to learn the movements wrong?

That should be it, generally... (If anyone have read this far) I feel quite confused!

Well, I think I like my Bokken although I suppose that it could have been a bit heavier to feel more like the real thing. Maybe I should just keep it, call it "sting" (well, for any Tolkien fan out there it should be obvious why) or "Toothpick" (as some at the dojo called it) and keep on learning.

Thankful for any answers!

IrimiTom 07-02-2002 07:23 PM

I'm pretty sure white oak is a lot stronger than red oak, at least when it comes to North American woods. Pretty sure it's the same for Japanese ones.

Tony Peters 07-02-2002 11:38 PM

movement
 
Too heavy a boken and you will be slow too light and you will loose control. Many Iwama schoold use big heavy Boken. I guess it's tradition because it can't just be for durablity my Kashi boken gets hammered weekly in Jodo nad is none the worse for wear

Bruce Baker 07-03-2002 06:41 AM

weight verses use
 
One way to determine if the bokken you have is right for practice is to practice ... say 1000 cuts. This will determine right away if it is too heavy or just right.

Another way to cheaply see if you need a heavier piece of wood, is to get a heavier piece of wood, either an ax handle, or four foot replacement handle from your local hardware store, or shovel supply store.

It isn't as pretty as a finished bokken, but for home practice, and strengthening your arms and wrists it works out pretty good.

I have two about the house bokkens that are fashioned from ten dollar replacement handles that serve very well for practice purposes.

The weight of the practice wood is about the same if not a bit more than the heavier commercial bokkens that range from $80 to $120. Most of the time, during class, it makes no difference as to using either the cheapest made bokken or the best as there is no direct contact made, only glancing contact, if that.

Before you discard the lighter bokken, try the ax handle, sledge handle trick first with 1000 cuts, it will either be too hard or tell you you can go to heavier wood.

There are some pretty good articles on types of wood to make Bokkens on the Aikido Faq ... at least there were, as things keep changing.

Chris Li 07-03-2002 07:49 AM

Re: weight verses use
 
Quote:

Originally posted by Bruce Baker
One way to determine if the bokken you have is right for practice is to practice ... say 1000 cuts. This will determine right away if it is too heavy or just right.
This is pretty common advice, but I wouldn't put too much faith in it. It might tell you if the bokuto is too heavy - or it might tell you that you are tiny and puny - or it might tell you that you're just cutting completely incorrectly. With no experience there's no way for you to tell which one.

Further, as I stated further up in the other thread, different schools use different weights of bokuto because they train in different ways. Some places use heavy weights - for everybody, some places use light weights - for everybody. Often the weight is tied into the methodology of the training - too heavy or too light and it may be difficult to stick with the pedagogy in that particular school. Too light - too heavy - there's really not much of a standard, it depends what you're doing.

Best thing - ask your instructor. If they think it's ok then go with it - it's not a life choice, you can always switch later on.

As a side note - I'd stay away from red oak, in general.

Best,

Chris

akiy 07-03-2002 09:23 AM

Re: Re: weight verses use
 
Quote:

Originally posted by Chris Li
This is pretty common advice, but I wouldn't put too much faith in it. It might tell you if the bokuto is too heavy - or it might tell you that you are tiny and puny - or it might tell you that you're just cutting completely incorrectly. With no experience there's no way for you to tell which one.
True. And, as a friend of mine who does kenjutsu asked, "Why do 1000 cuts when you might be dooing 1000 cuts incorrectly? Why not do 10 cuts correctly instead?"

Quote:

Further, as I stated further up in the other thread, different schools use different weights of bokuto because they train in different ways.
I have at least three differently weighted bokuto in my weapons bag. Oftentimes when I pair up with someone, I'll ask them what "weight" weapon they have and then fetch one that's more appropriate if necessary.

These days, though, I've taken to using a very lightweight bokuto -- I believe it's the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu bokuto that Kiyota Company sells.

-- Jun

Greg Jennings 07-03-2002 10:54 AM

I don't mean to sound flip, but if you're in an Iwama dojo, it would be best to have an Iwama bokken.

They are of white oak, have a thicker cross-section and have squared-off, blunt tips.

Best Regards,

Tony Peters 07-04-2002 01:35 AM

not alway
 
Greg not all Iwama Dojo's use that big baseball bat like bokken. I know the Iwama dojo here in Hawaii doesn't. Some prefer to have a tsuba
My younger brother insisted on using his to practice Jodo with me. That lasted until hikiotoshi then he used mine with a tsuba.

mike lee 07-04-2002 04:15 AM

splintering
 
I've been told by several good sources while travelling in Japan that the primary advantage of white oak is that it is less likely to splinter when struck because the grain is a bit tighter and the wood is slightly softer than other types of wood. You can actually see this, because if you strike it, it will "dent" slightly.

Some dojos strike each other's weapons often. If the wood were to splinter, fragments could fly into someone's eye. For such dojos, white-oak weapons should be required.

Another option, if your dojo is bent on doing a lot of striking in ken practice, would be to use a shinai. Although they can splinter too, they're a little safer if you actually hit somebody.

When some of us want to get down and dirty and have a "real" sword fight, we pull out the kendo equipment.

Although I have a white-oak boken, I seldom use it during practice because I like the solid feel of my heavy red-oak boken. It looks nice and it builds strength. I also teach to never strike another's weapon because it's a waste of time and could easily leave an opening if you miscalculate.The way I was taught, there is no defense, only harmonize and attack, attack, attack -- that's for both aiki-ken and aiki-jo

Nevertheless, I always use the white-oak boken for demonstrations because it is very lightweight and has an excellent feel. It feels fast. I would say that if I could only have one boken, it would be the white oak.

I also have a white oak jo. It has a much smoother surface than the others. It's the only jo I will ever use. For me, it's the Cadillac of jo's.

Daniel Brandt 07-04-2002 05:59 AM

Thanks!
 
Thanks for all your advice! This really seems to be a bit tricky, but as you say this will not be the only bokken I buy. I think I will try with the heavier red oak bokken although itīs cheeper than the white oak one I bought. Some at my dojo uses similar ones and they seem to be quite alright - at least they are heavier so my sensei canīt complain there. Also I personally like darker wood better (staedily going against every current design trends, so it seems :rolleyes:).

Again, thanks to all of you who have replied! This is really a great way to share information!

Chris Li 07-04-2002 07:41 AM

Re: splintering
 
Quote:

Originally posted by mike lee
I also teach to never strike another's weapon because it's a waste of time and could easily leave an opening if you miscalculate.The way I was taught, there is no defense, only harmonize and attack, attack, attack -- that's for both aiki-ken and aiki-jo.
Different approaches for different places, of course. I will note that there is at least one major school of Japanese sword that includes a large amount of contact between the swords, but in which the contact between the swords (bokuto, actually) masks the real intent of the cuts (on purpose, or so I was told) from outsiders observing the training.

Also, in places like Iwama there is a great deal of tanren uchi training, so the bokuto takes a lot of punishment even without coming in contact with another weapon. Case by case, as always :) . Even more so because there is nothing even approaching standardization in weapons training between Aikido schools.

I'd agree with the splintering with red oak - that's one of the reasons that white oak is pretty much the standard for weapons (both bokuto and jo) in Japan.

Best,

Chris

Bruce Baker 07-04-2002 10:22 AM

Point of 1000 cuts
 
I get to wonder about some the "Expert" advice some of you guys are giving?

There is a simple view of 1000 cuts, but then there is another purpose for bringing it up.

If you can do 100 cuts perfectly, but then your form deteriorates after 100 cuts is the weight of your bokken correct?

If this person who asks about weight is rather large, well muscled ... is it good advice to have him use a lighter bokken that doesn't challenge him to pay attention to form because he easily muscles it to adapt to form?

Maybe, some of you experts should sit and take notes on how badly many of the beginners mistakenly try to muscle form rather than taking the time to let form become the strength of practice?

Hence, the futility of bad form for 1000 cuts forces the individual to correct form.

You cannot continue to cut badly and not feel physical feedback that tells you something is wrong. Simple advice? Maybe.

How many thousands of times did you go through practice before someone commented that the last technique you did was really good? The words can only lead the mind up to a point, then the body must be the teacher to performance/ execution.

I have been in too many classes where beginners do no more than 50-100 cuts, and their form quickly deteriorates into tired, lackluster cuts ... because they chose a weapon that was the same weight as sensei's when a cheaper, lighter bokken would have been fine.

There will almost never occur a need or time to carry a sword into public to defend yourself, it has become a training tool for hand to hand techniques.

If I was to use the logic of 10 good cuts are better than a hundred bad cuts, then in about fifteen minutes we could conclude all Aikido practice sessions with 10 well performed techniques rather than 100 bad ones?

Absurd? Well, that is what I gather from that type of logic.

What is more likely, the percentage of your good cuts, or techniques, will increase with practice over a period of time.

Maybe we need to exceed your weight for bokken to apply the theorey that your form will overcome weight once you have been physically exhausted?

Just a training technique I have used to find the easiest path without muscling a bokken.

Chris Li 07-04-2002 04:36 PM

Re: Point of 1000 cuts
 
Quote:

Originally posted by Bruce Baker
I get to wonder about some the "Expert" advice some of you guys are giving?

Did anyone call themselves an "expert"? Not me, that's for sure...

There is a simple view of 1000 cuts, but then there is another purpose for bringing it up.

Quote:


If you can do 100 cuts perfectly, but then your form deteriorates after 100 cuts is the weight of your bokken correct?

If they're "perfect" then your form shouldn't deteriorate.

Quote:

If this person who asks about weight is rather large, well muscled ... is it good advice to have him use a lighter bokken that doesn't challenge him to pay attention to form because he easily muscles it to adapt to form?
So a school that uses lighter bokuto for all of its students (regardless of size) is giving bad advice? I know traditional sword styles here in Japan that do just that - and have done so for hundreds of years.

Quote:


Maybe, some of you experts should sit and take notes on how badly many of the beginners mistakenly try to muscle form rather than taking the time to let form become the strength of practice?

Hence, the futility of bad form for 1000 cuts forces the individual to correct form.

Maybe people don't really need to get instruction in form at all - just hand them a bokuto and let them cut until the correct form comes "naturally"...

Sorry, I don't buy it.

FWIW, 1000 cuts (although it sounds like a lot) really isn't that many. Someone even somewhat muscular or with a light bokuto should be able to do 1000 without a problem even cutting fairly poorly. Without experience, of course, they would never know this.

Best,

Chris

jk 07-04-2002 08:20 PM

In my experience, shiro kashi does splinter, especially if you're as ham-fisted as we are. This happened with a couple of Iwama-style bokuto, even though we were quite conscientious with the application of tung oil. It is a better material than red oak for contact work though, and with a bit of sanding and reapplication of tung oil, the shiro kashi remains serviceable.

I'm using a pair of hickory bokuto that have received a severe dosing of tung oil. They will dent more, and are lighter than shiro kashi weapons, but so far they have never splintered. I figure tung oil impregnated/stabilized hickory would be hard to beat in terms of price/performance, at least for those of you with access to hickory.

Regards,

Chris Li 07-04-2002 08:27 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by jk
In my experience, shiro kashi does splinter, especially if you're as ham-fisted as we are.

All wood splinters, under the right conditions :).

I once spoke to a furniture maker who was, to put it mildly, horrified at the way we were using wood.

Quote:

I'm using a pair of hickory bokuto that have received a severe dosing of tung oil. They will dent more, and are lighter than shiro kashi weapons, but so far they have never splintered. I figure tung oil impregnated/stabilized hickory would be hard to beat in terms of price/performance, at least for those of you with access to hickory.

Regards,

I have a hickory bokuto that's held up pretty well - as well as my white oak one. A lot depends on the quality of the particular piece of wood used, there can be a lot of variation. Since white oak is hard to find outside of Japan if you're buying locally made weapons I'd say that hickory is usually a pretty good choice.

I actually haven't seen that much difference between oiling and not oiling, but YMMV if you live in a very dry area, I suppose. Rubbing two bokuto together can smooth out some of the surface grain (or so I'm told), which is supposed to help.

Best,

Chris

jk 07-05-2002 02:58 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by Chris Li


I actually haven't seen that much difference between oiling and not oiling, but YMMV if you live in a very dry area, I suppose.


Tung oil and boiled linseed oil are supposed to polymerize, thus giving you a nice yummy candy coating on your weapons. If you saturate your wood with tung oil or anything else that polymerizes, I think you may find that your wood becomes somewhat more impact-resistant...I think this is the theory behind "stabilized wood." Of course, I don't have the laboratory tests to back this up, so whatever works for you. :)

Regards,

Chris Li 07-05-2002 03:28 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by jk


Tung oil and boiled linseed oil are supposed to polymerize, thus giving you a nice yummy candy coating on your weapons. If you saturate your wood with tung oil or anything else that polymerizes, I think you may find that your wood becomes somewhat more impact-resistant...I think this is the theory behind "stabilized wood." Of course, I don't have the laboratory tests to back this up, so whatever works for you. :)

Regards,

Yup, I tried that maybe fifteen years ago. I got a nice smooth finish - didn't seem to extend the overall life of the bokuto by any significant factor though...

OTOH, it was hardly a scientific experiment :).

Best,

Chris

Don_Modesto 07-05-2002 02:44 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by Chris Li
Rubbing two bokuto together can smooth out some of the surface grain (or so I'm told), which is supposed to help.
Yes, but what would this imply about the social station of the BUDOKA? I say this appropo of a come-uppance I once received from my girlfriend's sister who, upon seeing me rub the splinters ofF my chopsticks, admonished, "High class people don't do this." (Because they don't freqUent the slop-shops which provide cheap WARIBASHI.)

cdwright 07-05-2002 03:05 PM

Re: Further advices regarding Bokken, anyone?
 
[quote]Originally posted by Daniel Brandt
[b]Hi there!

I have read some eralier prostings regarding the weight and design of Bokken and Jo and though it seems to have been discussed frequently I still feel I could need some further advice...

I have just bought my first Bokken (itīs still enclosed in itīs plastic cover!), but as I brought it with me to todays training (no weapontraning today) several who tested my new Bokken found that it was not heavy enough. As I asked my Sensei he said the same, although he ment that a not so heavy Bokken is okey to start with - but they all also said that itīs a matter of taste, so this is my problem: I donīt really know my taste regarding Bokkens yet.

The one i bought was a mid-price Bokken in white oak. I choose it because I liked the balance in it (uh well... It feels good to hold anyway) althogh the shop also had a cheeper one (and this is quite confusing!) in red oak that was both heavier and had a bigger handle. I thought it felt more like a sword of a Viking rather than a Bokken, so I choose the prior one.

Well, what I really would like to ask before I return to the shop to test out the other Bokkens again is:

1) Is a white oak Bokken better (stronger etc.) than red oak one?

2) Is it better to start with a heavier Bokken or do I risk to learn the movements wrong?



I would only use a heavy bokken(suburi) for practicing sword cuts that strengthen the wrist. I have a few bokkens and I have seen other types of wood bokkens that my friends have. You should check out the wood for weapons training article: http://aikiweb.com/weapons/goedkoop1.html. James Goedkoop did an extensive test on the shock strength of different woods and their failure points. I found out that not all white oaks and not all hickories are the same or any wood for that matter. You can also contact Brad Goedkoop at Kingfisher woodworks. He, like his dad knows a bit about different woods also. Good luck.

Leslie Parks 07-05-2002 04:30 PM

Wood for Weapons
 
I second the above referral to the article on woods for weapons. I found it very interesting and informative reading. All my weapons are Japanese white oak.

What I've been taught about suburi (10, 100 or 1000, whatever) is that first you teach basic correct form, then practice, practice, practice, make necessary corrections to form, practice, practice, practice, and so on and so on. The combination of instruction/ correction with practice leads to more correct striking (along with everything else in MA...well, and life also).

Tim Griffiths 11-25-2004 11:23 AM

Re: Further advices regarding Bokken, anyone?
 
I'm going to go against most people here and say its better to use a lighter bokken.

Sure, train suburi with a heavier one to feel where you're tense, and to strengthen the right areas. But when practicing, switch to a lighter one. A lighter one is much harder to control, to keep on line and to stop from bouncing (this is a good thing - your technique has to be better). We are not using axes - its a finesse weapon, able to change direction and cut quickly. As far as damaging it goes, you actually want to reduce the impact between the weapons to glancing blows, steering or pushing - no 'hitting' the blade.

As for doing 1,000 bad or 10 correct cuts - that's all well and good, but it takes a while before you can do 10 (or 1) good cuts. One of the ways of finding out what correct means is to feel what its like to do it badly.

Tim - of to another weapons-heavy seminar for the weekend.

rachel 11-25-2004 01:37 PM

Re: Further advices regarding Bokken, anyone?
 
Wow! This is an old thread, but I'll respond anyway, just in case it's of use to anyone. In my opinion, it's probably better (if you're not sure) to begin with a lighted weight bokken as a beginner. As you progress, you will get stronger, hopefully develop good form, and then you can move on to using a heavier weight bokken. Also, I think that when you consider the strength or softness of the wood, consider what type of bokken your partner is using. The most important thing is that you have bokkens of (approximately) matching strength or weight for practice. This will help avoid breaking your practice tools! :) Personally, I like to use white oak weapons, but there are many times that I choose something else because of circumstance (the type of weapon my partner is using, how strong/good my muscles are feeling that day, etc...) Please, look at our website http://www.homestead.com/floatingmountain/ where we sell hand crafted weapons from a variety of woods. If you have questions about woods, sizes or weights of weapons, just e-mail them in. Thanks and good luck!

Lyle Laizure 12-05-2004 11:08 PM

Re: Further advices regarding Bokken, anyone?
 
Well said Rachel.

mfischer 12-06-2004 12:13 AM

Re: weight verses use
 
Thanks for bringing this thread back to life. I have been training in Boulder for about six months now and have only spent about two years training total. For some reason I have taken on a love of training with Bokken (and Shoto). One of my first days in class for double sword I was paired up with Jun. With double swords the cuts are much different and I found myself using way too much muscle as I smacked his sword time and time again the wrong way. I could see him turning red with frustration over time as guilt seeped in to me, but I didn't know what I was doing wrong. Eventually I figured it out and am working through my guilt. Here is the amazing part. Per an earlier post by Jun:
Quote:

Jun Akiyama wrote:
These days, though, I've taken to using a very lightweight bokuto -- I believe it's the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu bokuto that Kiyota Company sells.

I am not sure that that is the bokken he was using, but it was a light bokken made of white oak. I was hitting it with all of my might the wrong way over and over again (at least 20 times, I am 6'3", 200lbs). It may have taken on a couple small dings, but I couldn't see them. That white oak is STRONG when taking and giving hits. I don't know at this point in my training what weight is best or what wood is best, but I do know that I have a strong respect for Japanese white oak.


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