Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A Bokken (木剣, bo, "wood", and ken, "sabre") is a wooden Japanese sabre, usually the size of a katana (though wakisashi and tanto-sized are available). In Japanese, and in some martial arts, they are called bokutō (木刀, "wooden sword").
They are used for the practice of kendo; to learn to make proper strokes and get accustomed to the curvature of the blade, as well as to practise the kata (forms). More than a few kata take advantage of the curvature of the blade and the presence of the tsuba to block the opponent's sabre. This is not possible with the straight "blade" of the shinai.
Bokken are also used in the early stages of iaido when a practitioner has not yet reached the level where use of a metal sword would be safe. They are to be found in kenjutsu, and in kata in judo and aikido, where the practitioner learns to disarm a sabre-wielding attacker.
A suburito is a bokken designed for suburi . Suburi, literally "bare cutting," are solo cutting exercises. Suburito are thicker and heavier than normal bokken. One wielding a suburito has to develop both good technique and strong muscles to wield one. Their weight does, however, tend to make them poorly balanced; consequently, they are not used for paired practice.
Historically, bokken are as old as Japanese blades, and were used for the training of warriors. They are heavier than an actual blade, which emphasises the delicacy of the real blades. Miyamoto Musashi, a legendary kenjutsu master, was infamous for fighting fully armed foes with only one or two bokken. He defeated several master swordsman in this way, including Sasaki Kojiro. Sasaki was armed with a deadly Nodachi great sword, but Musashi slew him with a bokken made from an oar.
The suburito has been popularised in Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk novel Snow Crash as the "redneck katana". It is described as "a one-meter-long piece of heavy rebar with tape wrapped around one end to make a handle. The rebar approximates a katana, but it is very much heavier."
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