Bokken, Jo and Staff: Grade Information

bokken and jo in katanakake display stand


variations in wood color for bokken and jo


Wood Quality Information

These smooth-sanded bokken, jo and other staffs are made from tough, air-dried Appalachian hickory from the American Southeast. More shock resistant than any commercially available wood, Appalachian hickory is also known as "impact grade hickory." Not only is it better mechanically, it's also sourced from well managed domestic forests—not endangered tropical or rainforest environments. The same cannot be said for other species, including Japanese and Asian white oaks, red oaks, ebony and others.

There are 2 choices within this group, Quality grade L5 and Quality grade L7.
The images show both grades in lighter, ivory colored wood but color variations will occur. Notice the tighter grain structure in grade L7 as well as the domed end.
quality grade L5 aikido jo closeup
Grade L5 wood has color variations—sometimes all white, sometimes all red and sometimes a combination of the two. Level 5 is strong and serviceable but not excessively heavy. It would be a good choice for martial artists seeking speed and maneuverability in paired practice.
Grade L7 also has color variations. The defining characteristic of L7 is its higher density. Its fine grain gives it a superb tactile smoothness. Weapons of grade Level 7 would be a good choice as a gift for a senior practitioner or for a martial artists seeking top quality.


More information on the wood we use for bokken, jo and related martial art products

Appalachian hickory (Impact Grade Hickory) refers to specific varieties of hickory from a Southern Appalachian micro-climate that produces the strongest wood. We use thick slabs of air dried stock including shagbark, shellbark and bitternut hickory. It has a graceful grain structure, smooth texture and comes from well managed domestic sources.


Its shock strength exceeds all native and exotic species including the commonly used Japanese white oak (shiro kashi). While white oak becomes brittle as it ages, Appalachian hickory retains its phenomenal toughness indefinitely. Over time, normal practice with similar weapons will create an extremely tough tempered surface with an optimal combination of hardness and ductility. Even after years of heavy use, it is less likely to snap into dangerous pieces like other harder (and more brittle) woods including white oak ebony, rosewood, purpleheart, lignum vitae, ipe, and others.

Ability to temper

Despite its tremendous shock strength, it's best not to bash your new bokken or jo recklessly but to temper the wood through everyday use and let the surface “run in” evenly. Gradually increase impact energy. If done with reasonable care, the surface will attain a very hard state, while the core will retain ductility.

Ability to Straighten

Appalachian hickory is the only wood that can be adjusted for trueness. While all wood moves in response to atmospheric humidity changes, the ensuing warp cannot be corrected in other species. Air dried Appalachian hickory, however, has a unique cellular structure which allows for the wooden sword or staff to be adjusted for straightness as needed during seasonal humidity swings.