I'm going to copy in something I wrote on another thread
. The context is that I had said I found the ASU habit of donning hakama at 6th kyu to be 'silly.' Jun asked me to explain what I meant, and what follows is what I wrote in response. Jun never commented on my little tirade, but I am curious what he thinks about it. In fact, I'm reposting because I'm generally curious what others have to say.
Well, I tend to think hakama are pretty silly to start with. They are expensive, cumbersome, never really taught me much about aikido, and take time to put on and fold up. They seem particularly silly for a 6th or 5th kyu because they are a distraction, because they require an unnecessary monetary commitment at a rank where many students still quit, and because it obviates the one potential use a hakama has as an obvious rank symbol. Rank symbols, I think, are most usefulfor beginners. Advanced students don't look at the rank, they look at the movements. Instead, in the ASU, students still mark their rank very clearly with white and brown and black but then hide it under a hakama so the only people who really should be paying attention to it -- beginners -- have a harder time seeing it.
The oft told story about O'Sensei reprimanding some beginner for training 'in their underwear' strikes me as being a holdover of Japanese hyper-traditionalism that doesn't particularly appeal to me. If we wanted to take it seriously, we shouldn't let pre-test beginners train 'in their underwear' either, but everyone can see that would be silly.
End of rant. It felt good to get that out of my system, I have to say.