Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why a Broken Bokken?

I am sometimes asked why we named our dojo, The Broken Bokken. The basic story is a simple one. Verna Micik (Shodan), a white belt then, broke a bokken during a training session. She felt so bad cause she thought she did something wrong. Verna has always trained vigorously (former military). From there, her son Rick (also now a Shodan), thought we should call the dojo, The Broken Bokken. I liked it and it stuck. Little did they know, or me, what the name would come to represent.

Now, looking back at the name of the dojo, it is so appropriate, but on a deeper level. This is one of those stories where there are 'no accidents'. When you think about it, the Bokken is a wooden Samurai Katana used for training prior to engaging in the practice with a live blade. It is safer, period. As most of my readers know, the Samurai's sword was considered his soul, his spirit and was held in very high regard. In Japan, this identification exists through today.

A broken bokken, to me, symbolizes the delusional state of humanity's perception. Their soul or spirit appears broken, fractured, split into the delusion of individuality, black and white, us and them. A broken bokken also symbolizes the wounds we have as we travel through life. It can be the loss of a loved one, someone yelling racist remarks at you or even as simple as slipping on the ice and feeling stupid. Emotional wounds that hurt us, and if not healed properly, alter and shape the way in which we go about our day. These wounds can make our life feel heavy and full of pain.

As a Karateka, a dojo is not only a place where we practice the martial arts, it is a place of transformation and healing. It also means 'hall of enlightenment' in some circles. So, those of us who have 'broken bokkens' come to the dojo to heal, to grow and to shape new lives. Here, the wounds of our lives can be healed as we gain new perspectives about ourselves and life in general.

Most importantly, it is to help us see past the illusion that we are even broken, because on a deep level we are perfect just as we are. Nothing is actually needed. It is just that we live in this delusion that we are broken, that our spirit is damaged and we need restoration, salvation, enlightenment.

It is through the vigorous physical, mental and spiritual training of a traditional dojo (those who still house a shrine) that we can begin to see this wholeness and that we were never broken in the first place. But there are those of us who are hard-headed, like me, who need to get bopped on the head a few times with a real bokken to see this!

So, this is what the Broken Bokken Dojo is about and how we came about.

Hands palm to palm,


  1. Very cool, I had been wondering that myself.

  2. Thanks Adam...just thought the bokken broken across the head can also be the proverbial 'stick of enlightenment' to wake us up.

  3. In another sense, as you said the bokken itself represents relative safety, and possibly the illusion that people may have when first coming to a karate class. Indestructible, strict rules, etc. The 'it'll never happen to me' perspective, just as no one ever really thinks they'll break a bokken until they do. In that, a broken bokken is the breaking up of those illusions. Be they illusions of safety, of perfection, imperfection, or what have you.

    As well as; a bokken is, in a sense, a false sword. Still a perfectly viable weapon, but nothing compared to a well crafted and properly used katana. To me, as we grow and learn, we're slowly cracking away at our false swords and learning to weild our real (mind) swords.

  4. Hi Shinzen, I love these words:

    "A broken bokken, to me, symbolizes the delusional state of humanity's perception. Their soul or spirit appears broken, fractured, split into the delusion of individuality, black and white, us and them."

    Actually I've just re-read the whole thing, it's that good . . . educational for those of us not involved and a real eye opener, thanks.

  5. Where is this dojo? Sounds interesting.

  6. We are located in Shawano, Wisconsin (30 miles west of Green Bay)