The Bokken is a wooden training tool for those martial artists interested in learning the use of a sword. In Japan, the sword and the art of its use goes back before the times of written history. There are legends that tell of the mythical period of the gods concerning their use of swords.
During the earliest times, Japanese swords were copied from those used in china but as Japanese arts changed, so did their swords. The Chinese swords were mainly long and straight, perfect for thrusting into an opponent.
In Japan, swords began to be shorter with a curve to the blade as well as a longer, two-handed hilt. As Japanese warfare had turned to the use of cavalry, these types of swords were perfect for swinging in wide slashes from a top a horse.
It was during the Muromachi Period 1336-1600 A.D. that the use of the Bokken became popular. It was during this time the warriors began learning the art of dueling against a single opponent instead of fighting in a battlefield situation. It was from this single fighting man concept that the “Ryu” specialty style came into being. This concept also gave birth to the highly skilled and regarded samurai.
Historically, Bokken are as old as Japanese sword, and were used for the training of warriors, Miyamoto Musashi, a Kenjutsu master, was renowned for fighting fully armed foes with only one or two bokken. 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.