Kendo is generally considered a classical budo (martial way), being formulated before the Meiji Restoration. In its most modern form it is practiced more as a sport and to improve the mind of the individual, rather than a form of combat. Kendo, is the art of Japanese fencing. "Ken" or tsurugi is from the character meaning sword. The character for "Do" or michi includes the meaning way or path which translates as "The way of the sword". Kendo equipment consists of the swords, uniform and armor. There are two types of wooden swords used. First, the bokken or bokuto, a solid wood sword made of oak or another suitable hardwood. The bokken is used for basics and forms practice (kata). Second, the shinai, is made up of four bamboo staves and leather.
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A bokken (Äľ„‡, bok(u), "wood", and ken, "sword"), is a wooden Japanese sword, usually the size and shape of a katana, but can be made to replicate any type of sword. Other common shapes are wakizashi and tant¨. They are also known as bokut¨ (Äľµ¶, "wooden sword"), which is also the usual term in Japan.
While bokuto and bokken would generally be shaped like swords, the suburito is a heaftier wooden sword than the bokken and can often look more like a paddle.
Bokken 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 practice 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 sword. This is not possible with the straight "blade" of the shinai.
The quality of the boken is derived from several factors. The types of wood used, along with the quality of the wood itself, and the skill of the craftsman, are all critical factors in the manufacture of a good quality bokken. While most species of North American red oak are pretty much unsuitable for any serious work with a boken, there are some Asian species of red oak that have a significantly tighter grain, and will last longer. Superior woods, such as Japanese white oak, also known as Kashi, have been a proven staple, having a tighter grain than any red oak wood. Another choice, hickory wood, seems to have a very good blend of the factors that contribute to a wood's suitability (toughness, impact resistance, hardness, etc), while still having a relatively low cost.
The use of exotic hardwoods is not unusual when looking at some of the more expensive boken. Some wooden swords are made from Brazilian cherrywood (Jatoba), others from purpleheart, and some very expensive ones made from Lignum Vitae. Tropical woods are often quite heavy, a feature often sought in bokken despite the drawback of these heavy and hard materials having a tendency towards brittleness. Many of the exotics are suitable for suburi (solo practice), but not for paired practice where there is hard contact with other wooden swords or sticks.
A suburito is a boken 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, boken are as old as Japanese blades, and were used for the training of warriors. Miyamoto Musashi, a legendary kenjutsu master, was infamous for fighting fully armed foes with only one or two boken. He defeated several master swordsmen in this way, including Sasaki Kojiro. Sasaki was armed with a deadly Nodachi great sword, but Musashi slew him with a boken he made from an oar during the ferry boat ride to the duel.
The term Shoto describes one of the swords that the Samurai of Japan would carry around with them. The Samurai carried two swords.. a long Katana, and a short Shoto. The shoto sword was ALWAYS on the Samurai's person. He would leave his Katana by the door, but would wear his Shoto, even he went to bed.
A tant¨ (¶Ěµ¶) is a common Japanese single or, occasionally, double edged knife or dagger with a blade length between 6"¨C12". The tant¨ differs from the others as it was designed primarily as a stabbing instrument, but the edge can be used to slash as well. Tant¨ were mostly carried by samurai; commoners did not generally carry them. Women sometimes carried a small tant¨ called a kaiken in their obi for self defence.
Myths about the ninja say that it was a favorite weapon of theirs because of its light weight, and was favored for assassination. It was also a popular weapon among the yakuza. Tant¨ with a blunt wooden or blunt plastic blade exist and are used to practice safely.