Peter A Goldsbury
In our dojo there is a variety of ways of tying the hakama: there are at least three ways. So our new shodans are faced with the dilemma of deciding which they prefer. My two instructor colleagues tie it inaka style, with the back panel first, though one of them prefers to wrap the front of the hakama over the obi, as the university students do. The students, though, tie their hakama front first. As I do. I have always associated this way of tying the hakama with the Aikikai Hombu. I was taught by one Japanese shihan never to tie the hakama at the rear. He attributed his back accident to the knot from the hakama on his spine. I also have two obi: an ancient judo belt, which I use when I dispense with the hakama for teaching 杖 and 木剣, and a thick wrap-around obi which is called a Fujita obi in the Hombu. In the video you have appended, the instructor appears to leave the ends of his judo obi hanging down at the front. I was taught to thread mine between the top of the hakama, adjacent to the top of the obi, and the front himo of the hakama, positioned below the obi around the hips. The wrap-around obi does not present this problem. All my hakama, in fact, my entire aikido kit, comes from Iwata and if you go to the shop and talk to the kind obaa-chan, you can specify exactly the length of the front himo. So the shop is also a place of pilgrimage, along the route between Shin-Okubo JR Station and the Aikikai Hombu.
Aaah, the joys of discussing 'hakama-lore'. As Mr Ollivander might have said, "The hakama always chooses the wearer, Mr Potter..."
Perhaps we've drifted just far enough that Jun should move a portion of the discussion to the thread titled "Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish."
Most of the variations you note sound familiar, with the exception of the Fujita obi, which last reminds me of some diy projects I've seen that involve velcro. (And for better or for worse, I've also encountered hakama and kaku obi that used velcro as well, but these always seemed to me more appropriate for an entertainer at a bachelor or bachelorette party than a budoka in the dojo). I have heard (at second or third hand) a similar story regarding a Hombu shihan's back injury, but in the version I got, it was the belt that had been tied at the back, due to a too-short interval between iai-training and aikido keiko. In light of your training history, which involves the same shihan, my suspicion is that the version I heard was an inaccurate embellishment and not a different incident with a different shihan.
The belt variations too, are interesting. The "threading" of the belt ends to prevent hanging is something I tried once, but the whole bundle of cloth just felt a bit too much somehow for my taste (so, per your closing epigraph, it did not choose me). There's also the question of whether or not the belt is wrapped so as to allow a "crossover" in the back, or wound so as to prevent just that. And even with a standard judo-width obi, I can recall being firmly admonished by an individual who had studied at Shingu regarding my (of course, inappropriate) use of a square knot, and then shown how to tie something that is an odd hybrid, with a knot more appropriate for a kaku obi and the ends left hanging like a judo obi. (And I'll leave aside the question of what to do with ends that are too long).
Then there's the question of the kaku obi, which is what is most frequently in my bag these days. Not only does this change the mode of tying the hakama over the obi somewhat, but it has introduced three distinct methods of tying the belt itself (along with sufficient chiding that I now need to be mindful of which knot in which dojo for which kind of practice).
However, to return to the hakama, I recently found myself packing for an aikido class with a visiting instructor and I realized that the only hakama in the bag was a striped hakama
. I quickly grabbed something more appropriate -- in basic black -- and threw it in with the rest of my gear. Everything went quite well at practice until we got some way into a long run of suwari-waza. At some point I took a very long step with one knee holding the hakama to the mat and tore out a foot-long stretch of the seam at the crotch. This might have been less of an issue if I still wore a pair of judo pants under my hakama, but it's been years....The instructor saw the expression on my face and came over to see what was the matter. When I explained my conundrum, suspended as I was between violating propriety (via the torn seem), violating decorum (by leaving the mat), or violating customary fashion (Yipes! Stripes!), he generously told me that he would prefer that I finished the class, one way or another. So I changed hakama and spent the rest of the class bemused by the shocked faces that greeted my now-inappropriate garb.
The black hakama has since been repaired, but it may be time for me to contact the Iwata company.....