“New eras don’t come about because of swords, they’re created by the people who wield them. ” ~ Nobuhiro Watsuki
The study of sword forms enhances both the understanding of physical principles of movement, distance and dynamic and mental focus.
Aikido has many forms of practice with a bokken (wooden training sword) but as a rule these forms are taught with the intent of increasing understanding of Aikido principles and improving posture, movement and coordination.
In aikido the movements in all of the techniques are sword movements, just without the sword. O Sensei often referred to the arm as ‘tegatana’ – arm like a sword. The more you train with a bokken the better your techniques will become. It is your ‘at home’ training partner and I always took it when going away camping so that I could keep my form honed.
Also bokken training gives the martial artist a deeper understanding of martial arts concepts and principles which include movement relative to an opponent, distances from which to operate, and the coordination of feet and hands when holding and moving with an object. I have found that not all aspects of aikido come from O sensei, but there is much to be found in the writings of Musashi, Takuan Soho and the Shogun’s sword master Munenori Yagyu. Yagyu’s concept of No-Sword could seriously been taken as an aikido philosophy.
More modern writers would be Mitsugi Satotome Shihan (Aikikai) and Dave Lowry (Yagyu Shinkage) for both aikiken and shinkendo practice methods
Also part of practice is the reigei or etiquette. The sword, often referred to as the soul of the samurai is a serious weapon, deserving of serious consideration of the consequences of its use and careful handling and needing serious mental focus. The reigei is designed to imbue the practitioner with the correct frame of mind that builds respect for the weapon and the philosophy behind its use.
The bokken, although made of wood, is also a serious weapon in it’s own right. Although used extensively for training a bokken in skilled hands can be deadly. Not just that, but also less blood on the dance floor, so to speak!
It is said that Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary ronin samurai, by age 28 had fought over 60 duels to the death, but only two were with a live blade (shinken), the rest were all with his bokken, and often against a shinken. Also many samurai in battle conditions preferred to fight with a bokken rather than risk chipping the blade of their precious katana. So, never think of the bokken as a toy or just a training weapon!
Remember also that training with a bokken represents training with a sword and a bokken should always be considered as one and treated with the due respect that a shinken deserves. Training with a sword is in all it’s essence a Bushido practice.
Bushido is the Warrior Code, the Samurai “way”. The philosophies are deeply seated in the Jidai (traditional) Samurai methods, etiquette and respect (rei ho). The whole ethos has developed from the warrior class over many centuries and commands a quiet presence of place and worth.
The main thing to remember is to do everything with full attention to every detail and commitment to the essential values of the form.
Photo – Bokken with saya. Also great for the practice of Aikibatto – See developments by Stefan Stenudd, 6th DanAikikai, Sweden – https://www.stenudd.com/aikibatto/