Bokken are traditionally constructed from hardwood (traditionally red or white oak) and are roughly the same shape and weight as the Katana. However, there is a version known as the Suburi Bokken which is much heavier. The Suburi was designed to develop the muscles used in sword based martial arts and to increase the speed of practitioners. The idea is that students will get used to training with a heavier weapon and then a "normal" sword/Bokken will feel lighter to the user (much the same principle as training with ankle/wrist weights).
While the Bokken is generally used as a practice weapon, it can also be an effective weapon in its own right and was allegedly used by one of Japan's most famous swordsmen Miyamoto Musashi to compete in (and win) in duels against opponents using Katana.
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