Re: hakama use
The meaning depends on the dojo. At some dojos it's considered an honor, at others it's just what everyone does. At some dojos, everyone starts wearing the hakama at a certain rank, at others they wear it after Sensei tells them to. At some dojos, Sensei says, "You may wear a hakama," at others Sensei says, "You should wear a hakama." I don't think any of us can tell you what wearing a hakama means at your dojo.