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.
Last edited by mike lee : 07-04-2002 at 08:05 AM.