View Full Version : hakama or not to hakama

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Paula Lydon
10-08-2003, 05:29 PM
~~Are there Aikido schools out there were no one wears an hakama? Which is your preference, if you had a choice? :cool:

10-08-2003, 06:44 PM
In my dojo, we wear hakama from the first test forward. I kinda like it actually and (givin the choice) would opt for it. I wish I had a profound reason, but I don't.

10-08-2003, 07:25 PM
We don't - aside from a picture I've never seen my Shihan in one.

Clayton Kale
10-08-2003, 07:42 PM
At my dojo hakama's aren't worn unless you've reached shodan. Even then, hardly anybody wears them. The CI does on occasion. We recently had a seminar with a Godan, he didn't. Only one student in my class wears one regularly. When I have earned the right to wear one, I will... But I doubt I'd wear it every night! Looks like a pain in the butt to fold! ;)

Suzanne Cooper
10-08-2003, 07:52 PM
Our black belts wear them and it is the neatest thing to see them working together. I agree with Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere when it says that hakamas add "a certain plastic beauty" to the movements.

Clayton, I love your signature statement, too, BTW. True in all skills!

10-09-2003, 03:43 AM
Preference - no hakomas ever, they are just not useful when things get rough.

Yours disgruntedly wearing a hakoma once a week 'cos he stupidly agreed to a compromise one night in the pub...

10-09-2003, 03:55 AM
I really enjoy wearing a hakama. Can't really say why, but it's a part of aikido the way I know it, and I wouldn't be without it.

10-09-2003, 07:10 AM
I noticed that beginners pick up the footwork and techniques much quicker when they can see my feet and movement so I have taken to wearing no hakama.

10-09-2003, 07:32 AM
In the dojo where I train, they start wearing hakama after testing for the rank of 3rd kyu. However, the federation I belong to, USAF, starts wearing hakama after obtaining shodan.

I like dojos were hakama's are worn from day one or after the first test, as there seems to not be as many egos and you don't really know what "rank" you are training with initially. Of course, after you grab a 5th dan's wrist, you know it's NOT a 5th kyu's. :D

Bruce CB
10-09-2003, 10:02 AM
Our dojo/group wear hakama only after reaching shodan. Everybody who obtain shodan up are required to wear it, “no hakama no practice”. Ironically, on the first few months of wearing the hakama, I intend to stumble and or step on the pleats and at times find it hard to maneuver. However, when getting use to it, it helps me keep my center and gives me the advantage in performing suwari waza (it help me glide smoothly through the mat).

Although I agree that for practicality reason hakama is on the disadvantage…but getting use in performing with a hakama I believe is part of the training and could help me perform better specially when not wearing it.

Kensho Furuya
10-09-2003, 10:22 AM
I think schools like Yoshinkan and Tomiki, they do not wear the hakama, although Shioda Sensei of the Yoshinkan was often seen in a hakama.

Wearing the hakama is a symbol of the samurai and perhaps we may consider it an antiquated throw-back today and inconvenient to wear. In O'Sensei's day, wearing the hakama distinguished Aikido as a "traditional" martial art and not a "sport," as "Western-style" sports were the emerging and popular activity in his days. Kano Sensei of Judo invented the uniform of pants and jacket as we know them today as our "keiko-gi" or practice uniform. I imagine that he was inspired from the priet's "work" uniform called a "samu-e" to which it closely resembles. Kano Sensei practiced Judo in an old temple in his early days. Before this new convention, all jujutsu schools in those days wore the hakama as part of their uniform. Still today, we hold to this convention of the hakama to always remind us that Aikido is a true martial art and not a sport or exercise.

In the 30's, some martial arts reverted, for a while, to practice in Western style clothes. Toyama Ryu Iaido was invented to be practiced in trousers. I think the Japanese went back to the traditional hakama because it doesn't restrict the movement of the legs like pants and pants to not support the abdomen like the obi and hakama. Also, the uniform in martial arts smacks of old right-wing militarism and this was found to be very offensive.

As a sidenote, the long bindings which we tie to hold the hakama to the body actually firmly support the tanden or lower abdomen. Still Japanese today, as the samurai of the past also thought, believe this is important and very comfortable in all martial arts movements which originate from our tanden. Still today, many of the traditional arts in Japan, maintain the use of the hakama, not only for its formality and beauty and tradition, but because it is comfortable and offers this vital support. For this reason alone, the hakama is an important part of our training. At the very least, it is a reminder of the legacy left to us by O'Sensei. Thank you.

10-09-2003, 03:06 PM
hakama's are worn in Yoshinkan. Typically by the instructor only during regular keiko.

10-09-2003, 03:26 PM
Ours are worn when a person hits nikyu and takes on some sort of teaching responsibility. Either assisting in a class or teaching one of their own. We do have nikyu students who don't teach so they don't wear one.


10-09-2003, 07:12 PM
Most of my training has been with the ASU, so this could be biased. I did some training with the USAF as well. In the ASU, we wear hakama after our 6th kyu test. From what I gather, the USAF students don't wear hakama until they become yudansha.

I really like wearing a hakama and I think all aikidoka should wear one (after testing.) I see a positive side to the USAF's philosophy too, in that it's much easier to tell who is a black belt. Once you go to class a few times, though, you quickly learn who are the instructors and who are the students. You can recognize them by their faces. They don't need to be dressed differently.


10-09-2003, 09:05 PM
Do any other dojos use more than one color? In our dojo, nidan and above wear white hakama. Does anyone else do this, or does everyone just wear black?

Paul Sanderson-Cimino
10-09-2003, 09:14 PM
Yoshokai (which I would guess is similar in this respect to Yoshinkai) does not use hakama very often at all. The only person I've seen wearing one is Kushida-sensei himself. I hear that sandan and above wear them to formal occassions, but that's it.

I think the idea is to make the footwork easier to see.

Although I will confess that hakama have a certain gliding grace to them, and there are numerous historical (possibly practical?) reasons mentioned by Furuya-sensei above, I personally wouldn't want to wear one, or try to learn from an instructor wearing them. (I do the latter when I study Iwama-ryu...it's not a horrible problem, but especially for a style like Yoshokai that is known for being meticulous about detail, it'd be an issue.)

10-09-2003, 09:20 PM
With apologies to Reverend Furuya, but if abdominal support is the thing, I'd just as soon wear a truss or a spandex leotard. I personally find the hakama to be a PITA, especially when doing the 40-yard dash. :) Still, the hakama does look elegant, especially when one is practicing with weapons.

Kensho Furuya
10-09-2003, 09:40 PM
No apology to me is necessary, just to the last 800 years of samurai and artists who wore them! The support of the hakama and a truss is quite different. . . . when I say "abdomen," I am actually referring to the "tanden" - a truss does not support the "tanden" although what it does support may be considered equally important. . . . . . Many thanks!

10-09-2003, 09:54 PM
I think hakama coloration is an interesting phenomenon.

While most Aikido dojo’s that wear the hakama wear black for yudansha, some wear blue (kendoish in my mind), but I have only see masters (8th, 9th, 10th dan) wear the white hakama and truthfully I like it that way.

When we start out Aikido we should wear a white belt (because we have no knowledge of our art and our mind is empty ready to receive instruction).

When we get to a certain level of technical ability (dan) we should change to a black belt and black hakama (full of knowledge).

Then as we progress we gradually strip away what is not necessary, and starting to glean the principles from the techniques – so essentially we are emptying our minds of unwanted baggage.

When you reach a master level, you are white belt again (because your mind is “enlightened” (like the pun?), and ready to receive the next great thing) – so the white belt and white hakama embodies this.

That’s just me, but I like it. Nidan wearing a white hakama is funny.

Now interesting to note, Kisshomaru always wore a light brown colored hakama (I believe that color is common in Kyudo – very stylish I thought). It separated him from any rank issues don’t you think?

The reason for no hakama until black belt, in my mind, is not status but that beginners have enough to worry about without having to add the hakama to their list of things to learn – while black belts are at a level they can afford a little more challenge and it gives them a tool to humble themselves once again – forcing them to start that process of shedding unwanted habits and knowledge (including pride issues).

Just me thinking aloud – not any dojo’s policy per se.

10-12-2003, 01:51 AM
We don't wear hakamas until 3rd kyu but I'm visiting a dojo on the island next door next week and they wear hakamas from day one.

The sensei there said he prefers it that way as the hakama forces people into smoother motion. Jerky footwork tends to trip you up in a hakama he said.

I'll be wearing my gi and a white belt - although if they have a spare hakama handy I'll try it.

10-12-2003, 03:30 PM
In The Principles of Aikido , Saotome sensei relates a story from his uchi-deshi days in which he showed up for training without a hakama and was scolded by O Sensei:

"What makes you think you can receive your teacher's instruction wearing nothing but your underwear? You are obviously lacking the attitude and the etiquette necessary in one who pursues budo training. Go sit on the side and watch class!".

O Sensei then lectured the class on the meaning of the hakama; the seven pleats represent the seven virtues of budo...jin, gi, rei, chi, shin, chu, and koh (benevolence, honor, courtesy, wisdom, sincerity, loyalty, and piety).

Saotome sensei further asserts that

"Its meaning has denegrated from a symbol of traditional virtue to that of a status symbol for yudansha. In many of the places where only the yudansha wear hakama, the yudansha have lost their humility...I feel that wearing the hakama and knowing its meaning helps students to be aware of the spirit of O Sensei and keep alive his vision."

That may seem rather stern to some, but I can't imagine anyone arguing against the value of reflecting on the virtues the hakama represents.

I have had moments when I wished I wasn't wearing one (toe stuck in hakama during a roll, step on own hakama while trying to get up, show up to a seminar as a fifth kyu and being thrown like a nidan, etc.), but for the most part I enjoy wearing it. I don't hold anything against those who don't wear one, as long as they don't dismiss it as just one more funny-looking thing we have to wear.

Regards, Brad.

10-12-2003, 04:49 PM
I am ranked sankyu and moved from the city where I achieved that rank. I am about to start teaching a children's class and have found some adults who are interested in classes as well. So I asked my sensei if I could start wearing a hakama. He basically said that he wouldn't mind but that I should talk to his instructor about it. I was really expecting him to tell me to wait. This essentially turned into a lesson for me in which I learned two things:

1. Ask! Chances are your preconcieved notions will guide you in the wrong direction. In other words, reality isn't always what it appears. I was accustomed to only seeing shodans wear hakamas.

2. Respect vs. right. In other words, earning respect rather than earning the right to a piece of clothing such as a black belt or a hakama. For me wearing a hakama or a black belt is hardly synonomous with getting respect. I'm only making this statement because sometimes it becomes easy to associate respect with symbols, i.e. clothing. In regard to this, I'm really in favor of everyone wearing a hakama and there only being one belt. I know, kinda radical and untraditional, but I might have made that comment in reference to my 8 year old brother in law who just told me the thing he doesn't like about aikido is that there are only two belts!

10-12-2003, 08:55 PM
I just thought of another "wish I wasn't wearing one" moment...

Drinking coffee and then staying on the mat for multiple classes with only a five minute break between them. Hope it's self-explanatory.

10-12-2003, 09:06 PM
In our dojo the women can wear the hakama from 2kyu and the men from shodan. I like to wear it because it helps me center.

Question: Has anyone ever trained wearing normal street clothes??

10-12-2003, 09:30 PM
I have trained in "street" clothes here in my little club in Korea. Mostly because I have not asked for permission to start a dojo. I just wanted to introduce fellow soldiers to Aikido in a no-cost environment, and I didn't want to require them to buy gis. So they all train in whatever is comfortable and safe.

Kevin Wilbanks
10-12-2003, 11:40 PM
I like the visual aesthetics of the full dress with hakama, but have never been able to put together a combination of pieces that didn't inhibit hip movement a little, and overhead arm movement significantly. If practicality is the thing, I say get rid of the hakama AND the obi. The ultimate I have tried in terms of comfort, freedom of movement, and promoting a relaxed body-state is a soft twill karate gi top with no belt at all, and just the little side straps tied. If you have some informal free training time on the mat, try it out, and I predict you'll agree.

10-13-2003, 09:33 AM
Where I train, women may begin wearing the hakama after their 5th kyu test, but all have to wear it after passing their shodan test. I chose to wear the hakama after passing my 5th kyu test (I'm 3rd kyu now). I enjoy wearing it for many of the reasons others have mentioned it here. I find wearing it gets me into the aikido mindset more so than just wearing a plain gi.

After wearing it for almost 3 1/2 years, I have not found it very constricting in my movement or my ability to do aikido. It is a little tight once you put it on, but it loosens up as soon as you start practicing. The amount of time it's tight is for about 5 minutes, nothing more. That's not enough to stop wearing it. The same goes for the inconvenience of tripping on it about once or twice a month.

I also want to add, after watching some of our dan ranks doing jiyuwaza and randori as they get ready for their next dan test, I didn't see them restricted at all or the intensity decrease because they were wearing a hakama. The intensity they were training at seemed more dangerous to me than the fact that they were wearing a hakama.

10-13-2003, 09:40 AM
Personally, I like going without a hakama once in a while. Earlier this year, I went without one for about four months. My aikido still needed a lot of help and my instructor still kicked my butt...

-- Jun