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Old 08-02-2005, 12:10 PM   #1
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 8
Post bokken comparison (long post)

Hi everybody,

So here's the story.
3 years ago I purchased a "deluxe" white oak Japanese bokken in a specialized shop. I thought I'd be happy with it, and I was for a few months.
Then it started to bend (flame like)
in the beginning of this year it really p..... me off so I decided to look for a really good bokken.
Apparently a renowned wood for weapons is the ironwood, I found a shop delivering weapons in that wood, I ordered a jo and a bokken.
What I received was surprisingly great! Really over my expectation, and it also surprised my master with it's energy, density, finish...
Really great sensations to practice with these weapons.

Unfortunately we had a cold winter, and one morning it was like -2 for the 20 mn to walk to the dojo
the bokken didn't survive that
it got an angle of approx. 20 in the middle, so we can was bended! in the following weeks the bend came back a little only, I had it replaced.

The merchant replaced it instantly, unfortunately the replacement I received was not of the same size
so I sent it back, they sent a new one, that arrived bent

I lost trust in that merchant (, and decided to order in different places

I selected 3 new furnishers: one in the US, one in Philippines and one in Indonesia.

As the first one did send a new bokken, I had 5 pairs of weapons to compare!

here is a description of each with impressions:
- Japanese white oak (local shop)
weight: 520g bokken, 538g jo
40$ each approx
not very nicely polished but felt OK in the hand
wood felt...slack in comparison with all the other ones
both weapons clearly bent after a few months
not an investment...

- ironwood from Philippines (bought through
weight: 578g bokken, 654g jo
64$ and 76$
nicely polished, probably sanding paper "240"
dark brown and large yellow stripes
same curve than the Japanese bokken
light and rigid, really pulled the energy forward. Very nice feeling.

- composite wood from US (from
weight: 904g bokken, 790g jo
very expensive: 174$ and 106$
acrylic finish, thin dark/light grey stripes
the bokken looked like nothing I had ever seen! curved and pointy tip, but so massive! sides of the blade flat, it really looked like a very basic shape out of a board of the correct thickness
dimensions really superior to the other ones

I re-shaped that one, to match the previous ones' dimensions
weight was down to 680g, much better!
removed the finish, polished with sanding paper (up to "600", I can see myself in it!)
only then it became usable
it still feels a bit heavy, and a bit "dead"
but the material is a non bending ever promise and that's nice especially if you travel a lot! Plus the color matches my striped hakama. Who said cocky?

- ebony from Indonesia (
weight: 810g bokken, 706g jo
100$ and 75$ approx
not exactly polished, like the Japanese one
bokken dimensions superior to the Japanese one's
dark brown with large dark red stripes
I had to re-shape that one too, weight was down to 604g, much better for my taste!
slightly more curved than the Japanese one
great impression of density, but much less accurate than...the next one!

and the best for the end:

- macassar ebony from Philippines (
weight: 742g bokken, 862g jo
75$ and 100$
best polish out of the box, certainly paper "400" or "600"
bokken dimensions slightly superior to the Japanese one's
very dark wood, black and very thin dark green stripes
a little less curved than the Japanese bokken
this one gave a really great impression of accuracy and power, great "inner energy"
I showed this one around at a training and had to arrange a group order! And so I did
The upcoming ones will be slightly lighter as I asked for the profile to be reviewed, I expect a lot from the result!

I can provide full details of all merchants to anybody who asks
In my opinion the best of all the weapons I tried is the last one described. Plus Steve is really open to changes, suggestions, and answers with care to all the questions.

One thing that was hard to get through in the web shopping was the different names given to the same wood in the different countries, or sometimes same name given to different woods...

from what I understood: ironwood = tetsuboku
sometimes it is called asian ebony but it is not ebony
there are several kinds of ebony in asia, the ones used for the weapons I have are:
the tiger ebony, has brown with large red or yellow stripes
the macassar ebony, is darker with dark green stripes (nearly black/black)

Hope this will help/ give ideas!
Waiting to read your reactions ;o)
I'll this reviewed by Steve anyway, to see if I'm correct about the woods and if he can tell more!

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