Re: Hakama Question
At my dojo the hakama is reserved for Shodan and above, which I can see being a good and a bad thing:
Amongst the higher kyu grades the hakama is something to aim for, and so is very much respected and revered. But then I've also heard many a black belt complain about having to learn footwork all over again to avoid tripping.
To that end, one of the first things I done when hearing these stories was to purchase a cheap hakama to wear whilst practicing outside of the dojo, even though my experience is only to 4th Kyu level. When I finally earn the right to wear one in the dojo, hopefully I'll be used to it enough that my footwork won't suffer.