Bokken - Wooden Sword
The Bokken, or Ken for short, is a wooden training sword. When handling the Ken, and even the Jo, it is proper to accord it respect as a weapon. The student is only to hold the Ken by its handle, or "tsuka", during technique practice when "drawn" - treating the wooden blade as if it were razor sharp. The student is not to drag the Ken on the floor, drop it indiscriminately, use it as a walking stick or as a prop to lean on to rest.
In Ueshiba Aikido dojos, Aiki-ken techniques are practised based on Aiki principles. Seldom do partners parry or strike another's ken to block an attack. As an extension of the body and movement, students practise at using their ken to blend with the flow of the attack. Students also practise the 7 Suburi and Kumitachi.
Basic Positions and Strikes
The left hand holds the end of the bokken (Tsukagashira) firmly. The left hand pulls the bokken downward with each cut. The right hand guides the bokken in its cuts and is a fist-distance in front of the left. Grip firmly without choking the bokken. The arms are extended comfortably forward, with the elbows slightly bent and close to your sides.
HANMI - meaning half-body, the bokken is held with the right hand in front and close to the Tsuba. The tip (Kissaki) is pointing to the neck of your partner, extending your focus forward and outwards, maintaining Maai - a safe distance. Your back is upright, feet planted firmly on the ground in a triangular position. Your focus is on your centre - at the point near your navel, and under you.
Front Strike Draw the bokken up along your centre, raising the tip (Kissaki) first, followed by the handle (Tsuka). Raised above your forehead, the bokken should be parallel to the ground. To perform a cut/slice, pull and lead with your left hand, with the right hand directing and allowing the blade (Ha) to do its work. Upon completion, the bokken should be extended and parallel to the ground.
Bokken-Shomen Uchi Exercise
Execute a Shomen Uchi. Leaving the tip (Kissaki) steady and extended, raise the bokken into a Jodan Uke Tachi to protect your head. With the bokken aligned in this manner, keep yourself centred, pivot on the balls of your feet and turn from your hips to face the rear. Step forward with your right foot and perform a Shomen Uchi. Repeat.
YOKOMEN & GYAKU YOKOMEN UCHI Draw the bokken up along your centre, raising the tip (Kissaki) first, followed by the handle (Tsuka). Raised, the bokken should be parallel to the ground. Pulling with your left hand, guide the blade diagonally down with your right - aiming at your partner's neck or temple. Lead with the end of the handle (Tsukagashira) and allow the blade to do its work.
Bokken-Yokomen Uchi Exercise
Execute a Yokomen Uchi. Leaving the tip (Kissaki) steady and extended, raise the bokken into Jodan Uke Tachi. Aligned in this manner, with your forehead as the centre, rotate the bokken into a Gyaku Yokomen Uchi. Repeat.
Leave the tip (Kissaki) extended and pointing to your partner's throat. Glide your leading foot forward while turning the Tsuka (handle) on its side. In this position, the Kissaki should be in front of your leading shoulder with the Tsuka at your centre. With your hip, push and support the thrust, extending the bokken forward. Glide your other foot forward and tilt your bokken to prepare to deliver another thrust.
Bokken-Uke Tachi Exercise
'Uke' means to receive. This exercise will improve your eye, hand, and foot coordination. Move as though you are receiving an attacking thrust (Tsuki). Draw the leading foot back, while raising the tip (Kissaki) up toward the centre of your forehead to receive the thrust. Perform a mini-yokomen cut to finish with the Kissaki in front of your leading shoulder. Draw the other foot back to perform the same Uke Tachi on the other side. The aim is not to push the thrust away, but to receive it.
Ueshiba Aikido Victoria, BC, Canada: OWH Industries
Webpages & Illustrations by Rafael Oei Victoria, BC, Canada
Updated: 20 September, 2020