There may on this forum be folks who have just earned their hakama; and are now dealing with the peculiar characteristics of that particular garment. To help them along; I have prepared this brief giude.
1) What is a Hakama?
Physically; the Hakama is a divided skirt made with approximately 142 meters of dark blue or black cloth. It has four ties; each about 20 meters long, and a piece of cardboard in the back. The cardboard is a symbol of Japanese mysticism, meant to represent the unknown.
(This can be shown by asking anyone - "what's the cardboard for?" "Ummmmmmm....dunno.")
Now; if this was a simple skirt; it'd be easy - and therefore un-aiki. Just to keep wearers from getting complacent; the complete skirt doesn't actually start untill somewhere around the butt region; the front and back are separate; leaving two V-shaped openings in the sides.
2) Whare does the Hakama come from?
Japan, ya bonehead.
3) OK - so what is the history of the hakama then?
Historically; hakama were worn in battle by the Japanese.
Not - as is commonly supposed - by the Samurai; but by the captives. It was essentially a large bag of cloth tied around the waist which was used as a net to ensnare the feet; thus preventing the captive from escaping. This was considered a superior form of detainment over just tying them up with ropes; since a captive tied by ropes doesn't nearly have the same entertainment value as a struggling, floundering and tripping captive literally drowning in a sea of blue cotton does.
4) When do I put one on?
Once you've earned one; it's generally a good idea to put it on when at aikido practice. You can
wear it elsewhere as it makes a rather fetching accessory to almost any ensemble.
You will be sure, for instance, to turn heads while grocery shopping while wearing a nice blouse, slacks, pumps, and hakama.
Teens are not advised to wear hakama while dating; especially to movie theaters, since it greatly limits the groping possibilities. (For this reason, of course, parents
of teens would be wise to consider stuffing their kids into them whenever possible.)
5) (sigh)You're going to make this difficult, aren't you? OK - at what point does a student earn the damned thing?!?
Individual aikido organizations choose when their students may wear hakama. Generally; they decide at which point in their average progression the students begin to think of themselves as really hot sh*t. The hakama is awarded at that point to bring the student's ego - and the student himself - crashing back to Earth.
And yes; I like making things difficult.
6) Now I've got the Hakama. What do I do now?
I advise you to burn it - it'll save you a lot of grief in the very near future.
7) #&%@#&^!!!!!!!! Will you quit it with the smartass answers?!? OK, OK, how do I put it on?!?!!!!
Putting on a hakama is a several step process. I will list the process here:
a) Unfolding the Hakama.
- Remove hakama from bag.
- Unfold ties from their crossed position.
- untangle ties from the huge snarl you managed to get them in while unfolding them.
- untie knots from the tangled mass the ties have managed to get them in. If following normal procedure; this should take about half an hour.
- Get a knife; cut ties free from the mess. Separate until you have several individual tie sections.
- measure tie sections; determine which section goes with which stub - if done correctly; the back ties should be longer than the front ties.
- sew ties back together again.
b) Putting the hakama on.
- Step into hakama; pull it up to waist level.
- Drop hakama, turn around and put it on right way 'round.
- pull it up to waist level again.
- drop hakama again; step into it again; this time insuring both legs don't go into the same hole.
- pull it up to waist level again.
- take the front ties in hand and wrap them around and behind your body.
- pull up hakama to waist level again.
-grab ties again.
-pull hakama up again. Hold it in place with elbow.
- Grab ties again. hold them with teeth.
- pull up hakama again. Try to hold it in place by crossing legs in bizarre 'gotta pee' position while trying to grab both front ties with one hand and guide them to teeth.
- leave ties alone; staple front of hakama to belt. Gingerly take up ties trying not to disturb hakama.
- apply first aid to small holes in stomach.
- tuck top of hakama behind belt; grab ties and shove them bodily between belt and gi.
- wrap ties about a dozen times around body; tie in square knot.
- retie in square knot.
- think about joining Boy Scouts to learn how to tie knots.
- tie in big ol' fashioned granny knot.
- untie ties in a hurry; take deep breath before passing out. Wait until face goes from blue to pink - or whatever colour it normally is. Retie a little less tight than before.
- pull up back of hakama, grab ties, pass them between belt and gi.
- tie back ties in front. There should be about 10 meters of tie left over.
- Fold left tie in half, then half again, then half again, then half again, then half again, then half again, then half again until it forms a sort of pad 10 centimeters long and about twice that thick.
- place folded tie horizontally against stomach.
- take unfolded tie and wrap it around the mass of ties and knots and pads over its entire length until it forms a monstrous bow at your stomach.
- adjust cardboard bit so it fits snugly against your stomach.
- look again at carboard bit, then at the hakamas of instructors watching and laughing their heads off.
- undo hakama, get out and start over.
c) Walking with hakama.
- Stand carefully against wall.
- Use cellphone to call ambulance. Say 'Hakama'. Theey'll know.
- wait for paramedics to arrive.
- take one
- wait while paramedics treat broken ankle.
Last step: Use shears; cut hakama free from body. Quit aikido; swear off all things Japanese. Go join MMA - it's safer.