I love bokuto and own more than a few… maybe about 20 in total nowadays. For the first few years of my kendo career I had a single kendo odachi and kodachi pair, but over time, as I got more into classical swordsmanship and the history of kendo, I started to collect bokuto from different koryu. I didn’t limit myself to the styles that I practised personally, but picked-up basically anything of interest. I also have a small section of different kinds of shinai as well, but there is much less variation to be had there.
Anyway, a few months ago I spotted a nice series of videos by a Kanto-based (Aikido-centric) company called Seido that piqued my interest. In the series they interview some bokuto craftsmen and chat about the various ins-and-outs of the trade. Here is the first video in the series:
After watching the interviews and going through the site, I decided to purchase a lovely looking white oak “kotobuki” bokuto by the gentleman in the linked video above. Of course, I didn’t need another bokuto, I just wanted to have another nice one for my collection.
A few days after ordering, this lovely thing arrived:
And what a nice bokuto it is! I now use this as my main suburi bokuto at work, and swing it a couple of hundred times most days.
Here is a close-up of the detail on the kotobuki bokuto compared with a normal (though older-styled) kendo bokuto and a Yagyu shinkage-ryu one:
The next gallery shows some of the various koryu bokuto I have at home: Keishi-ryu, Jikishinkage-ryu, Itto-ryu, and Katori shinto-ryu. Note the kodachi that a sempai of mine hand made for me – he left tree bark on the back of the kodachi, giving it a kind of mohican! As this kodachi gets bashed around a bit, I usually use this with one of my hand made tsuba in order to protect my fist.
This last gallery shows some normal kendo bokuto that I have at home. Actually, the two at the top are maybe 20-30 years old and are thinner and much better quality that the usual ones you get nowadays (like the third from the top). In the mix you can also see a taihojutsu tanto that was given to me by a police teacher.
I think everyone who reads kenshi 24/7 probably has their own odachi and kodachi pair. Unfortunately, general bokuto for kendo are pretty bog-standard, low-quality, machine-made affairs. Sure, for general bashing around they might be good enough, but there is a whole world of interesting bokuto variation out there, so why don’t you consider experimenting with different bokuto, if not for kata practise, then at least for suburi? You don’t need to study a classical martial art to try out some of the interesting bokuto out there. Be adventurous!