Wooden Weapons

Here are some tips on what to consider when buying your own weapons set (bokken, jo & tanto). Wooden weapons come in a very wide variety of models and materials, and there are very different opinions on the "right" choice. We limit our tips to well-established choices.

BOKKEN (wooden sword, also called BOKUTO)

  • The bokken which are common in Aikido have a length of about 102 cm. The handle (tsuka) should be about 27 cm long, in no case shorter than 25 cm, because then the bokken is not well balanced and not suitable for large hands.
  • The weight should be between 500 - 700 g; heavier bokken are not recommended for partner exercises (kumitachi).
  • Red oak and white oak are the usual woods; white oak is somewhat more durable, denser and heavier. Very important: Please make sure that the wood is untreated, it can be oiled, but never varnished!
  • The bokken must have a continuous smooth surface, without carvings or other decorations. Only the transition from blade to handle is usually slightly highlighted.
  • There are models with pointed or flattened ends ("Iwama Ryu" style). At our dojo, the choice is a matter of personal taste.
  • A hand guard (tsuba) is usually included, but is not used in aikido – nor is a sword sheath (saya).
  • Entry-level models start at about 20 EUR, but with models between 40 - 50 EUR you will surely make a better choice. More expensive models are usually made of hand-selected wood with even grain and high form stability.
  • Please make sure that the supplier gives you exact information about material, surface treatment, length of the handle (tsuka) and weight.

JO (wooden stick)

  • The jo should be about 128 cm long and have a diameter of about 22 - 25 mm. Smaller people can also choose a shorter model: The standard measurement is "floor to armpit".
  • The weight should be between 500 - 700 g; heavier jos are not recommended for partner exercises (kumitachi).
  • Red oak and white oak are the usual woods; white oak is somewhat more durable, denser and heavier. Very important: Please make sure that the wood is untreated, it can be oiled, but never varnished!
  • A good jo is straight and has a very smooth surface, without cracks and scars, as it slides a lot through your fingers.
  • Entry-level models start at about 20 EUR, but with models between 40 - 50 EUR you will surely make a better choice. With even more expensive models, the weapons are usually made of hand-selected wood with even grain and high form stability.
  • Please make sure that the supplier gives exact information about material, surface treatment, length, diameter and weight.

TANTO (wooden knife)

  • A tanto is usually about 28 cm long.
  • The choice of material is purely a matter of taste. In case of doubt, simply use the same material as for the bokken.
  • Tantos are available from about 10 EUR.
  • Here you can hardly do anything wrong with your purchase.

We recommend that you treat the weapons with a fine sandpaper right after the purchase, so that they get a silky touch. Especially the jo should glide smoothly through your fingers. After sanding, use a good wood oil or (carnauba) wax, so that the wood is better protected against moisture.

Be sure to mark the weapons immediately after purchase! At seminars, nothing is swapped as quickly as a bokken or jo. Mark the flat ends with a lacquer or marker pen or carve them (oval tips of the bokken/tanto, round tips of the jo).

Weapon bags are available at most budo shops. A good alternative is a stable fishing rod transport tube (with inside padding). This protects the weapons better and can even be checked in as bulky luggage – with some fishing stickers on the tube customs won't ask what you are carrying ;-)

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