Bokken, bokuto, or both?

Discussion in 'Japanese Swords and Sword Arts' started by Aiki Lee, Feb 10, 2017.

  1. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    Hey,

    I have always been under the impression that bokken and bokuto are interchangeable terms, and that both are correct.

    Recently I have heard that bokuto is actually the preferred terminology in Japan. So I have some questions specifically to those who train in sword arts or in Japan.

    1. Does the terminology used depend on the system being studied?

    2. Is it accurate to use the terms interchangeably?

    Thank you for your time.
     
  2. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    Hello,

    Great question. For modern do arts practitioners, the word bokken is used. For classically trained jutsu practitioners, the professional word is bokuto. It is like the difference between saying a "wooden sword" and "sword made of wood". For a warrior class practitioner, we would want to use a sword...not anything wooden. it is simply the use of vocal that differentiates between amateur (peasant) and professional).

    If you use the term bokken, we will know about your training.
     
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  3. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    It has been my experience that you are right in that they are pretty much interchangeable. Different arts refer to it in different ways depending on where in the country they developed among other things. Depending on the art you practice and where in Japan you go, you'll hear one more often than the other.

    That has not been my experience, and I have never heard anything like that. It sounds a bit overly-romanticized to me. Given the fact that the kanji used in bokken (katana) and bokuto (tsurugi) both mean sword, I don't see how you can assign them different definitions. Japanese doesn't work like that.

    What exactly is it supposed to let you know about my training? :)

    P.S. There hasn't been a warrior class since the Meiji restoration. It's pretty important to not get caught up in the hype and hoopla.
     
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  4. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    Understand that the kanji for Katana is not found in bokken...but found in bokuto...there is a lot more to this. You assign different definitions because different kanji are used and the context in which it is used is important.

    What does it tell me of your training? It simply tells me that you are not classically trained in koryu bujutsu. It may have a name resembling koryu bujutsu, but the training is not reflective of it.
     
  5. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    What koryu have you trained in, so that I may know where you are coming from?
     
  6. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    Sogobujutsu Menkyo Jokyou
     
  7. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    if you say his name 3 times he will appear.
     
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  8. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    anyone ? any takers?
     
  9. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

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    What about @Chris Parker's name?
     
  10. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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  11. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    One more......?
     
  12. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Godsdammit....

    Yes, it's dependent on the ryu-ha, dojo etc... most commonly in Japan, you'll hear "bokuto"... it seems more Westerners use the term "bokken"... I was brought up using bokken, but have changed to bokuto, as it's more prevalent in the systems I'm training in now. But yeah, they can be used interchangeably for the most part.

    But here's some fun... some systems will then use the term "kidachi"... "wooden tachi"... others use the term "mogito"... imitation sword... some will just use "tachi", or "ken"... and imply the wooden version is the same as the metal one... then you'll get one teacher, in one art, use different terms in the one class... just when you think you're getting the hang of which term to use...

    Er... no.

    For one thing, there's no distinction between "modern do arts and classical jutsu arts" in the terminology here... it can be preferred in one system over another, but that's about it. And no, it's not quite like saying "wooden sword"/"sword made of wood"... finally, "for a warrior class practitioner, we would want to use a sword... not anything wooden". What on earth are you talking about here? Are you saying that the members of the Katori Shinto Ryu, the Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, the Maniwa-nen Ryu, the Kashima Shinryu, all of whom developed their own wooden forms, were not "warrior class practitioners"? The Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, the Ono-ha Into Ryu, the Kashima Shinryu... all of whom developed fukuro shinai... split bamboo in a leather bag/casing... were also not "warrior class practitioners"? Really?

    Seriously... just no to all of that.

    Yep.

    (Psst... other way round, Paul... bokuto is boku/moku - 木 [wood], to - 刀 [sword, also pronounced katana], bokken is boku - 木 [wood], ken - 剣 [sword, also pronounced tsurugi]). In the original usage, there was a distinction between the two forms of "sword"... but these days, and especially in relation to the weapons in question, the difference is largely a case of personal preference.

    Good question...

    Yep.

    Yes, Paul got the kanji the wrong way round... and yes, there can be a difference and a reason for a particular choice... but the distinction is made by the school in question, and there just aren't any hard rules the way you suggest above. So... no.

    Paul is training in Koryu Bujutsu... that I will verify. As am I, for the record... more than one.

    That said...

    What the hell? Dude... the number of holes in John Viol's resume, the questionable claims, and the bizarre, inaccurate ideas of Classical Japanese martial arts he's putting forth, especially in that laughable "Sogo Bujutsu" pdf article, and you think you're in a position to question Paul's pedigree?

    Honestly, looking over John's page/site, the "information" presented there, and more, tells me simply that you are not classically trained in koryu bujutsu... it may have a name resembling koryu bujutsu (sort of, at least... well... not really), but the training is not reflective of it at all. Sorry bout that.
     
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  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    Out of purely intellectual curiosity, Chris, what was the original distinction between the two forms?
     
  14. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    Chris...please list the holes, the issues, and the consensus. On the other hand...have you come and trained with us? Have you had a conversation?
     
  15. gpseymour

    gpseymour Sr. Grandmaster

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    Are you really asking Chris to not make an evaluation on little information, after doing the same, yourself?
     
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  16. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    Well, all I did was ask if he could cite the holes, or if he had met or trained with John Viol.
     
  17. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

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    I think this is fascinating, and would appreciate some references to sources for the historical information.
     
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  18. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    Ha! Dyslexic much! (hate when I do that, since I don't even have the excuse of really being dyslexic!) :)

    The mention of John Viol clears some things up, and explains where the romanticizing comes from. Mr. Viol was mentioned in several discussions years ago on e-budo, and is known for being a bit over-the-top in his ideas and credentials.
    Go to e-budo and do a search if you're interested as I'm not inclined to get into a discussion about him here.

    Suffice to say that his ideas about koryu do not mesh with those of any of the koryu organizations or schools with which I have had contact.
     
  19. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    So are there any assumptions made about people who use one term over the other? For example, if I were to go to a dojo in Japan and use the term "bokken" instead of "bokuto" would they make assumptions of what I had trained in?
     
  20. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    He was mentioned...much in the same way he is here. What he says does not jive with what I believe, so I am sure he is wrong, and I am right. I do know there is someone who contacted him and never received an answer. That I can confirm to be true...I will ask again. Has anyone come and trained? Has anyone come and asked questions? Umm...no.
     

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