A bokken is a Japanese wooden sword used for training. It is the size and shape of a katana, but is sometimes shaped like other swords, such as the wakizashi and tantō; some ornamental bokken are decorated with elaborate carvings. Sometimes it is spelled "boken" in English. Bokken should not be confused with shinai, practice swords made of flexible bamboo. Bokken were designed to lessen the damage caused by fighting with real swords and were used for the training of samurai warriors in feudal Japan. Bokken became lethal weapons themselves in the hands of trained experts. Miyamoto Musashi, a kenjutsu master, was renowned for fighting armed foes with only one or two bokkens. In a famous legend, he defeated Sasaki Kojiro with a bokken he had carved from an oar while traveling on a boat to the predetermined island for the duel. Although it is hard to determine when the first Bokken appeared due to the nature of secrecy in ancient martial arts training, the oldest Bokken known to have been used as training tools date from the Edo period.
Before the Meiji era, Bokken likely manufactured by woodworkers not specialized in Bokken manufacture. It is at the beginning of the 20th century that Bokken manufacture started in Miyakonojo. Today, the last four workshops of Japan are still located in Miyakonojo; the "standard Bokken" used in Kendo and Aikido was created by master Aramaki in collaboration with the All Japan Kendo Federation in the 50's and was the first standardized Bokken created. The bokken is used as an inexpensive and safe substitute for a real sword in several martial arts such as aikido, iaido and jodo, its simple wooden construction demands less maintenance than a katana. In addition, training with a bokken does not carry the same mortal risk associated with that of a sharp metal sword, both for the user and other practitioners nearby. While its use has several advantages over use of a live edged weapon, it can still be deadly, any training with a bokken should be done with due care. Injuries occurring from bokken are similar to those caused by clubs and similar battering weapons and include compound fractures, ruptured organs, other such blunt force injuries.
In some ways, a bokken can be more dangerous as the injuries caused are unseen and inexperienced practitioners may underestimate the risk of harm. It is not a sparring weapon, but is intended to be used in kata and to acclimate the student to the feel of a real sword. For sparring, a bamboo shinai is used instead for obvious safety reasons. In 2003, the All Japan Kendo Federation introduced a set of basic exercises using a bokuto called Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho; this form of practice is intended for kendo practitioners up to Nidan ranking, but can be beneficial for all kendo students. Suburito are bokken designed for use in suburi. Suburi "bare swinging," are solo cutting exercises. Suburito are thicker and heavier than normal bokken and users of suburito must therefore develop both strength and technique, their weight makes them unsuitable for paired solo forms. One famous user of the suburi-sized bokken is Miyamoto Musashi who used one in his duel against Sasaki Kojiro; as late as 2015, bokken were issued to the Los Angeles Police Mounted Unit for use as batons.
Bokken can be made to represent any style of weapon required such as nagamaki, no-dachi, naginata, etc. The most used styles are: daitō or tachi, long sword shoto or kodachi or wakizashi bo, short sword, tantō bo suburito can be made in daitō and shoto sizesAdditionally, various koryu have their own distinct styles of bokken which can vary in length, tip shape, or in whether or not a tsuba is added; the All Japan Kendo Federation specify the dimensions of bokken for use in the modern kendo kata, called Nippon kendo kata. Tachi: Total length, approx. 102 cm. 24 cm. Kodachi: Total length, approx. 55 cm. 14 cm. Bokken has been depicted in film, manga and comic books. In the film The Last Samurai, the bokken is seen in multiple instances. In one scene a group of children is playing/sparring with them. In the film, Nathan Algren is seen undergoing sword training with a bokken. In Hiroyuki Takei's manga and anime series Shaman King, Umemiya Ryunosuke possesses a wooden sword and uses it as his main weapon, is accordingly known as "Wooden Sword" Ryu.
In the anime "Outlaw Star" Twilight Suzuka utilizes a bokken with immense skill and is able to use it more efficiently than an actual sword. In the anime "Demon City Shinjuku", the hero Kyoya Izayoi wields a bokken which he can infuse with spiritual energy. In the Wolverine limited series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, Wolverine is nearly killed by Shingen Yashida, using a bokken to deliver nerve strikes. In the anime and the manga, Gin Tama, the protagonist, Gintoki Sakata, uses a bokken as his main weapon, his skills with it are powerful enough to overpower real swords. In the anime and manga, Rurouni Kenshin, Kamiya Kaoru uses a bokken as her main weapon. In the anime and light novel series, Toradora!, Aisaka Taiga can be seen wielding a bokken. In the anime and manga, Ranma ½, Kuno Tatewaki wields a bokken and a shinai. In the anime and manga, Highschool of the Dead, Saeko Busujima wield a bokken, she replaces it with a katana in the series. In the anime and manga, Hunter x Hunter, Kurapika wields two wakizashi-sized bokken attached via a rope.
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Glossary of Japanese swords
This is the glossary of Japanese swords, including major terms the casual reader might find useful in understanding articles on Japanese swords. Within definitions, words set in boldface are defined elsewhere in the glossary. Ashi - thin line that runs across the temper line to the cutting edge. Ayasugi-hada - regular wavy surface grain pattern. Known as gassan-hada after the name of a school which produced swords of this type. Bokutō - an authentically shaped wooden sword. Bōshi - temper line of the blade point. Chikei - black gleaming lines of nie that appear in the ji. chirimen-hada - distinctly visible mokume-hada with a clearer steel than in similar but coarser patterns. Chōji midare - an irregular hamon pattern resembling cloves, with a round upper part and a narrow constricted lower part. Chokutō - a straight sword produced during the ancient period, their definition as tachi is chronological, as it refers to ancient pre- Heian swords, unlike tachi which refers to swords. These ancient Japanese swords are known as jokotō.
Chōken - Commonly used as a calque for the broadest definition of long swords. Chōtō - either a nagakatana or a naginata. Daishō - in context any pair of Japanese swords of differing lengths worn together. Daitō - any type of Japanese long sword, the larger in a pair of daishō. A katana. Fukura - the cutting edge of the blade point. Funbari - tapering of the blade from the base to the point gassan-hada - see ayasugi-hada. Gendaitō - swords produced after 1876; the name for the period in sword history from 1876 to the present day, i.e. the period that succeeded the shinshintō period. Goban kaji - swordsmiths summoned by the retired Emperor Go-Toba to work at his palace in monthly rotations. Gokaden - the five basic styles of swords which during the kotō period were associated with the provinces: Yamashiro, Bizen, Sagami/Sōshū and Mino. gomabashi - pair of parallel grooves running partway up the blade resembling chopsticks. Gunome - a wave-like outline of the temper line made up of sized semicircles.
Ha - the tempered cutting edge of a blade. The side opposite the mune. Called hasaki or yaiba. Hajimi - misty spots in the temper line resulting from repeated grinding or faulty tempering. Hamachi - notch in the cutting edge, dividing the blade proper from the tang. hamon - border between the tempered part of the ha and the untempered part of the rest of the sword. Hasaki - see ha. hataraki - patterns and shapes such as lines, streaks and hazy reflections that appear in addition to the grain pattern and the temper line on the surface of the steel and are a result of sword polishing. Hijiki-hada - see matsukawa-hada. hira - see hiraji. Hiraji - curved surface between ridge and temper line. Called hira. If polished, the hiraji appears blue-black. Hira-zukuri - a nearly flat blade without ridge or yokote. Hitatsura - temper line with tempering marks visible around the ridge and near the edge of the blade. Hon-zukuri - see shinogi-zukuri. Ichimai bōshi - a tempered point area because the hamon turns back before reaching the point.
Ichimonji kaeri - a bōshi which turns back in a straight horizontal line with a short kaeri. Ikubi-kissaki - a short, stubby blade point. Iori - top ridge of the back edge, the back ridge. Itame-hada - surface grain pattern of scattered irregular ovals resembling wood grain; the small/large grain pattern of this type is called ko-itame-hada/ō-itame-hada. ji - area between the ridge and the hamon. Jigane - used to refer to the material of the blade. Jihada - visible surface pattern of the steel resulting from hammering and folding during the construction. Ji-nie - nie that appears in the hiraji. Jokotō - a sword produced before the mid-Heian period. Unlike blades, these are straight swords; the term is used to refer to the respective period of swordsmanship, followed by the kotō period. Juka chōji - multiple overlapping clove shaped chōji midare patterns. Jūken - a bayonet. Kaeri - part of the temper line that extends from the tip of the bōshi to the back edge. Kaiken - a dagger concealed in the clothing.
Kasane - blade thickness measured across the back edge. Katana - curved sword with a blade length longer than 60 cm. Worn thrust through the belt with the blade edge facing upward, it superseded the older tachi starting in the Muromachi period, after 1392. A general term for single-edged blades, see tō. kataochi gunome - a gunome with a straight top and an overall slant. Kawazuko chōji midare - a variation of the chōji midare pattern with the peaks
Japanese sword mountings
Japanese sword mountings are the various housings and associated fittings that hold the blade of a Japanese sword when it is being worn or stored. Koshirae refers to the ornate mountings of a Japanese sword used when the sword blade is being worn by its owner, whereas the shirasaya is a plain undecorated wooden mounting composed of a saya and tsuka that the sword blade is stored in when not being used. Fuchi: The fuchi is a hilt collar between the tsuka and the tsuba. Habaki: The habaki is a wedge shaped metal collar used to keep the sword from falling out of the saya and to support the fittings below. Kaeshizuno: a hook shaped fitting used to lock the saya to the obi while drawing. Kashira: The kashira is a butt cap on the end of the tsuka. Kōgai: The kōgai is a spike for hair arranging carried sometimes as part of katana-koshirae in another pocket. Koiguchi: The koiguchi is the mouth of the saya or its fitting. Kojiri: The kojiri is the end of the saya or the protective fitting at the end of the saya.
Kozuka: The kozuka is a decorative handle fitting for the kogatana. Kurigata: The kuri-kata is a knob on the side of the saya for attaching the sageo. Mekugi: The mekugi is a small peg for securing the tsuka to the nakago. Menuki: The menuki are ornaments on the tsuka. Mekugi-ana: The mekugi-ana are the holes in the tsuka and nakago for the mekugi. Sageo: The sageo is the cord used to tie saya to the belt/obi when worn. Same-hada: the pattern of the ray skin. Same-kawa: same-kawa is the ray or shark skin wrapping of the tsuka. Saya: The saya is a wooden scabbard for the blade. Seppa: The seppa are washers above and below the tsuba to tighten the fittings. Shitodome: an accent on the kurikata for aesthetic purposes. Tsuba: The tsuba is a hand guard. Tsuka: The tsuka is the hilt or handle. Tsuka-maki: the art of wrapping the tsuka, including the most common hineri maki and katate maki. Tsuka-ito: Tsuka-ito the wrap of the tsuka, traditionally silk but today most in cotton and sometimes leather. Wari-bashi: metal chop-sticks fit in a pocket on the saya.
A shirasaya, "white scabbard", is a plain wooden Japanese sword consisting of a saya and tsuka, traditionally made of nurizaya wood and used when a blade was not expected to see use for some time and needed to be stored. They were externally featureless save for the needed mekugi-ana to secure the nakago, though sometimes sayagaki was present; the need for specialized storage is because prolonged koshirae mounting harmed the blade, owing to factors such as the lacquered wood retaining moisture and encouraging corrosion. Such mountings are not intended for actual combat, as the lack of a tsuba and proper handle wrappings were deleterious. However, there have been loosely similar "hidden" mountings, such as the shikomizue. Many blades dating back to earlier Japanese history are today sold in such a format, along with modern-day reproductions; the word koshirae is derived from the verb koshiraeru, no longer used in current speech. More "tsukuru" is used in its place with both words meaning to "make, manufacture."
A more accurate word is tōsō, meaning sword-furniture, where tōsōgu are the parts of the mounting in general, "kanagu" stands for those made of metal. Gaisō are the "outer" mountings, as opposed to the "body" of the sword. A koshirae should be presented with the tsuka to the left in times of peace with the reason being that you cannot unsheathe the sword this way. During the Edo period, many formalized rules were put into place: in times of war the hilt should be presented to the right allowing the sword to be unsheathed. Koshirae were meant not only for functional but for aesthetic purposes using a family mon for identification; the tachi style koshirae is the primary style of mounting used for the tachi, where the sword is suspended edge-down from two hangers attached to the obi. The hilt had a stronger curvature than the blade, continuing the classic tachi increase in curvature going from the tip to the hilt; the hilt was secured with two pegs, as compared to one peg for shorter blades including uchigatana and katana.
The tachi style koshirae preceded the uchigatana style koshirae. The uchigatana style koshirae is the most known koshirae and it is what is most associated with a samurai sword. Swords mounted in this manner are worn with the cutting edge up as opposed to the tachi mounting, in which the sword is worn with the cutting edge down; the han-dachi koshirae was worn katana-style but included some tachi related fittings such as a kabuto-gane instead of a kashira. The aikuchi is a form of mounting for small Japanese swords in which the tsuka and the saya meet without a tsuba between them. Used on the koshigatana to facilitate close wearing with armour, it became a fashionable upper-class mounting style for a tantō (literally, "small
The chokutō is a straight, one-edged Japanese sword, produced prior to the 9th century. Its basic style is derived from similar swords of ancient China. Chokutō were worn hung from the waist; until the Heian period such swords were called tachi, which should not be confused with tachi written as 太刀 referring to curved swords. The production of swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods: Jokoto Koto Shinto Shinshinto Gendaito Shinsakuto Chokutō was among the earliest in the history of Japanese sword-forging as its basic style and forging techniques originated in ancient China and were brought to Japan by way of Korea in the 3rd centuries, it was created before the development of differential tempering in Japanese swordsmithing. Chokutō come in hira-zukuri and kiriha-zukuri tsukurikomi which make them distinct from tachi and katana which use these forms; the distinctive feature of the chokutō is the straight blade, similar to the ancient Chinese swords found in China around the 2nd century BCE to the 10th century CE.
Though curved blades are as old as the sword itself, they did not become widespread in Asia and the Middle East until after the dominance of the Mongol Empire. Japanese warriors of the Kamakura Shogunate experienced the effectiveness and lethality of curved blades firsthand during the Mongol invasions of Japan. Rudimentary forms what would become the tachi began to eclipse the chokutō in popularity as the curved blades demonstrated greater ease of handling and lethality in mounted combat. Few examples of chokutō mountings remain, although enough to reconstruct their various typologies which always followed Chinese and Korean models. Japanese sword Tsurugi
Guntō is a Japanese sword produced for use by the Japanese army and navy after the end of the samurai era in 1868. In the following era, samurai armour and ideals were replaced with Western-influenced uniforms and tactics. Japan developed a conscription military in 1872 and the samurai lost the status they had held for hundreds of years as the protectors of Japan; the transition from hand-made blades to machined-assisted creations was hastening. Early in the production of guntō swords and artistic additions continued, but fell into heavy decline following Japan-wide increases in mass production. Thus, guntō swords became the standard in the new military, transitioning the swords worn by the samurai class to an advancing battlefield. During the Meiji period, the samurai class was disbanded, the Haitōrei Edict in 1876 forbade the carrying of swords in public except for certain individuals such as former samurai lords, the military and police. Skilled swordsmiths had trouble making a living during this period as Japan modernized its military and many swordsmiths started making other items such as cutlery.
Military action by Japan in China and Russia during the Meiji Period helped revive the manufacture of swords and in the Shōwa period before and during World War II swords were once again produced on a large scale. During the pre World War II military buildup and throughout the war, all Japanese officers were required to wear a sword. Traditionally made swords were produced during this period but, in order to supply such large numbers of swords, blacksmiths with little or no knowledge of traditional Japanese sword manufacture were recruited. In addition, supplies of the type of Japanese steel used for sword making were limited so several other types of steel were substituted. Shortcuts in forging were taken, such as the use of power hammers and tempering the blade in oil rather than hand forging and water tempering; the non-traditionally made swords from this period are called Shōwatō and, in 1937, the Japanese government started requiring the use of special stamps on the tang to distinguish these swords from traditionally made swords.
During this wartime period antique swords from older time periods were remounted for use in military mounts. Presently in Japan showato are not considered to be true Japanese swords and they can be confiscated; the first standard sword of the Japanese military was known as the kyū guntō. Murata Tsuneyoshi, a Japanese general who made guns, started making what was the first mass-produced substitute for traditionally made samurai swords; these swords are referred to as Murata-tō and they were used in both the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. The kyū guntō was used from 1875 until 1934, many styles resembled European and American swords of the time, with a wraparound hand guard and chrome plated scabbard, the steel scabbard is said to have been introduced around 1900. Prior to 1945, many kyū guntō were distributed to commissioned officers to fill a demand for swords to Japan's expanding military officer classes. To distinguish individuality, wealth or craftsmanship, many swords were produced in batches as small as 1–25 to maintain the legacy of sword culture.
Styles varied with inspirations drawn from swords of early periods, familial crests, experimental artistic forms that the Meiji Restoration period had begun to introduce. Some examples have included European style silverworking, cloisonné, or metalwork and paint for artistic relief. After the Second World War's conclusion, most produced guntō were made to resemble the traditionally cloth wrapped shin-gunto swords, but out of a solid metal casting. On models the hilts were made of aluminum and painted to resemble the lacing on officer's shin-guntō swords; these swords are nearly always machine made. If the sword is all original, the serial numbers on the blade, tsuba and all other parts should match; the shin guntō was a weapon and symbol of rank used by the Imperial Japanese Army between the years of 1935 and 1945. During most of that period, the swords were manufactured at the Toyokawa Naval Arsenal. In response to rising nationalism within the armed forces, a new style of sword was designed for the Japanese military in 1934.
The shin guntō was styled after a traditional slung tachi of the Kamakura Period. Officers' ranks were indicated by coloured tassels tied to a loop at the end of the hilt; the corresponding colors were gold for generals. The blades found in shin guntō ranged from modern machine made blades through contemporary traditionally-manufactured blades to ancestral blades dating back hundreds of years; the Type 94 shin guntō officers' sword replaced the Western style kyu gunto in 1934. It had a traditionally constructed hilt with ray skin wrapped with traditional silk wrapping. A cherry blossom theme was incorporated into the guard and ornaments; the scabbard for the Type 94 was made of metal with a wood lining to protect the blade. It was painted brown and was suspended from two brass mounts, one of, removable and only used when in full dress u
The sasumata is a pole weapon used by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. Although some sources place the origin of the sasumata in the Muromachi period, most sources discuss its use in the Edo period. In Edo period Japan the samurai were in charge of police operations. Various levels of samurai police with help from non-samurai commoners used many types of non-lethal weapons to capture suspected criminals for trial; the sasumata together with the tsukubō and the sodegarami comprised the torimono sandōgu used by samurai police and security forces. Samurai police in the Edo period used the sasumata along with the sodegarami and tsukubō to restrain and arrest suspected criminals uninjured; the head of the sasumata would be used to catch around the neck, legs, or joints of a suspect and detain him until officers could close in and apprehend him. The sasumata had a long hardwood pole around two meters in length with sharp barbs or spines attached to metal strips on one end of the pole to keep the person being captured from grabbing the pole.
The opposite end of the sasumata pole would have a metal cap, or ishizuki like those found on naginata and other pole weapons. There were firefighting versions of the instrument known as a chokyakusan, tetsubashira, or tokikama. A similar weapon in China was known as a chang jiao qian, sometimes called a cha gan or huo cha, which had a similar firefighting role; the sasumata type implements were used by firefighters to help dismantle burning buildings, raise ladders, otherwise assist with their duties. Today, a modern version of the sasumata is still used by the police and as a self-defense tool; these modern sasumata are made of aluminum, without the sharpened blades and spikes found on their medieval counterparts. They have been marketed to schools due to a growing fear of classroom invasions, which has prompted many schools in Japan to keep sasumata available for teachers to protect themselves or students and to detain a potential threat until the authorities can arrive. Sodegarami Tsukubō Torimono sandōgu Man catcher Cunningham, Don.
Taiho-jutsu:Law and Order in the Age of the Samurai. Boston. 神之田常盛. 剣術神道霞流. 萩原印刷株式会社, 2003. Mol, Serge. Classic Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts. Tokyo. Media related to Samurai pole weapons at Wikimedia Commons
The naginata is one of several varieties of traditionally made Japanese blades in the form of a pole weapon. Naginata were used by the samurai class of feudal Japan, as well as by ashigaru and sōhei; the naginata is the iconic weapon of the onna-bugeisha-archetype, a type of female warrior belonging to the Japanese nobility. Naginata for fighting men and warrior monks were ō-naginata; the kind used by women was called ko-naginata. Since the naginata with its pole is heavier and much slower than the Japanese sword, the blade of the ko-naginata was smaller than the male warrior's ō-naginata in order to compensate for the lesser height and upper body strength of a woman than an armoured male samurai. A naginata consists of a wooden or metal pole with a curved single-edged blade on the end. Similar to the katana, naginata have a round handguard between the blade and shaft, when mounted in a koshirae; the 30 cm to 60 cm long naginata blade is forged in the same manner as traditional Japanese swords.
The blade has a long tang, inserted in the shaft. The blade is removable and is secured by means of a wooden peg called mekugi that passes through a hole in both the tang and the shaft; the shaft is oval shaped. The area of the shaft where the tang sits is the tachiuke; the tachiuchi/tachiuke would be reinforced with metal rings, and/or metal sleeves and wrapped with cord. The end of the shaft has a heavy metal end cap; when not in use the blade would be covered with a wooden sheath. The naginata was developed from an earlier weapon type of the 1st millennium AD, the hoko yari. It's difficult to tell. Though claimed as being invented by the sōhei during the Nara period, physical evidence of their existence dates only from the mid-Kamakura period, earlier literary sources are ambiguous; the earliest clear references to naginata date from 1146 in the late Heian period, with one suggesting that the weapon may have been recent. Earlier 10th through 12th century sources refer to "long swords" that while a common medieval term or orthography for naginata, could simply be referring to conventional swords.
Some 11th and 12th century mentions of hoko may have been referring to naginata. The assumed association of the naginata and the sōhei is unclear. Artwork from the late-13th and 14th centuries depict the sōhei with naginata but don't appear to place any special significance to it: the weapons appear as just part of a number of others carried by the monks, are used by samurai and commoners as well. Depictions of naginata-armed sōhei in earlier periods were created centuries after the fact, are using the naginata as a symbol to distinguish the sōhei from other warriors, rather than giving an accurate portrayal of the events. During the Genpei War, in which the Taira clan was pitted against the Minamoto clan, the naginata rose to a position of high esteem, being regarded as an effective weapon by warriors. Cavalry battles had become more important by this time, the naginata proved excellent at dismounting cavalry and disabling riders; the widespread adoption of the naginata as a battlefield weapon forced the introduction of greaves as a part of Japanese armor.
The rise of importance for the naginata can be seen as being mirrored by the European pike, another long pole weapon employed against cavalry. The introduction in 1543 of firearms in the form of the matchlock caused a great decrease in the appearance of the naginata on the battlefield; as battlefield tactics changed, the yari took the place of the naginata as the pole weapon of choice. During the Edo Period, as the naginata became less useful for men on the battlefield, it became a symbol of the social status of women. A functional naginata was a traditional part of a samurai daughter's dowry. Although they did not fight as normal soldiers, women of the samurai class were expected to be capable of defending their homes while their husbands were away at war; the naginata was considered one of the weapons most suitable for women, since it allows a woman to keep opponents at a distance, where any advantages in height and upper body strength would be lessened. An excellent example of the role of women in Japanese martial culture is Hangaku Gozen, famous for her naginata skills, led the garrison of 3,000 warriors stationed at Toeizakayama castle.
Ten thousand Hōjō clan warriors were dispatched to take the castle, Hangaku led her troops out of the castle, killing a significant number of the attackers before being overpowered. The naginata saw its final uses in combat in 1868, at Aizu, in 1876, in Satsuma. Due to the influence of Westernization, after the Meiji Restoration the perceived value of martial arts, the naginata included, dropped severely, it was from this time that the focus of training became the strengthening of the will and the forging of the mind and body. During the Showa period, naginata training became a part of the public school system in 1912, it "remains a staple of girls’ physical education"Since World War II, naginata has been practiced as a sport with a particular emphasis on etiquette and discipline, rather than as military training. Although associated with smaller numbers of practitioners, a number of "koryu bujutsu" systems (tradit