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Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish
Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish
by The Mirror
02-15-2012
Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Janet Rosen © 2012.
"Fetish" - noun - "an excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing... an inanimate object worshipped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit." - the Oxford English Dictionary
When I was fairly new to aikido, every now and then I'd see yudansha show up for training in gi tops and hakama that were just a mess. I'm not talking about a frayed neck or sleeve edge, or a couple of neatly applied knee patches - these looked to be odd hybrids in which twenty percent or less of the original fibers were being held together by an assortment of mismatched patches, appliques, and zigzagged or darning stitches.

At first I thought maybe the gear was really expensive and the people were poor and couldn't afford to replace them. But just by keeping eyes and ears open, it was pretty easy to figure out that while sure enough some folks were being thrifty, hence the frays or ocasional patch, that was rarely the case on these extreme garments.


Then I thought it was a weird reverse status thing, like doctor's kids in the early 1970s showing up to high school in tattered jeans to show how little they cared about material possessions. But the same people who let their hakama develop long frayed edges, ripped out vents and disintegrating himo or koshita seemed to spend an awful lot of time carefully folding them after class. So over time, especially as I began to do custom sewing that included repairs, I decided the truth was sometimes quite the opposite: there were people who were so attached to their garments, especially their hakama, it was like they'd invested them with mystical powers, even as they disregarded their physical attributes.

I think this is nuts. I also think it is anithetical to proper reigi.
"While sports do not deal directly with life-or-death situations, they nevertheless advocate certain values necessary for building of character, for example, the observance of rules, respect for others, sportsmanship, proper dress and manners. This should be even more true and essential in the art of Aikido because Aikido deals with the question of life or death and insists on the preservation of life. In such an art is it not unquestionably appropriate to emphasize the need of dignified Rei in human interactions? Therefore, it is said that Rei is the origin and final goal of budo." - Matsunari Kanai, "A Thought on Reigi Saho"
I began to wonder if this fixation on the intrinsic spiritual value of a tattered hakama is purely an American phenomenon (much like the American belief that you shouldn't wash your belt, even though it gets just as soiled as your dogi, a practice that would baffle if not horrify the Japanese). Or perhaps a casual attitude towards the appearance of the training garments is common to aikido? I started to ask around.
"In my experience having a tattered hakama is uncommon in koryu budo. My teacher and most koryu people I know are rather fastidious. When Takamura sensei's hakama became tattered, it transformed in dojo cleaning rags and a new hakama appeared. Maybe this is a modern budo phenomenon. Could wearing a tattered hakama be seen in aikido the same way a tattered black belt is in a karate dojo? I don't know, maybe. On the other hand, I don't remember seeing many kendoka wearing a tattered hakama. I knew a bunch of kendo old timers and they almost always wore an immaculately clean and pressed hakama." - Tobin Threadgill
"As far as I can tell, the wearing of hakama until they are rags is purely an American Aikido fetish. Hakama get replaced when the knees blow out. ..I'm horrified at the way many aikidoka fail to care for their hakama. In Japan I never see a hakama with pleats that have fallen out or need ironing. In American aikido dojo, I have seen lots of hakama that don't look like they ever had pleats." - Anonymous koryu practitioner
"(In Japan, at least in Aikikai dojo) I have seen both patches and rips. There are definitely different attitutes to hakamas. Some really care for them, others just let em rip, so to say...I have never seen anybody make an issue out of that. However, I am talking about training. I think it would be a different issue if you plan to appear on a demonstration at the Budokan, possibly with the Doushu." - A European training in aikido in Japan
So perhaps the willingness to train in repaired hakama is an aikido phenomenon and the fetishizing is more specifically a feature of American aikido. My husband suggests it's akin to the widespread fetishism of athletes with their lucky (insert talisman here) that have to be worn in order to insure success on the playing field. My conversations with a couple of people suggest that rather than "luck," the hakama fetish involves them believing that their own ki and that of the teachers they trained with have transferred into the garment.

My personal views are informed by a set of longtime values. Dating back to dressing for the art studio as a teenager, and then for the hospital ward as a registered nurse, one is that outward appearance is appropriate for and reflects an activity or role. Another is that while I find it silly to imbue inanimate objects with animate qualities (no, I don't name my cars or sewing machines), I take seriously the opposite position, that it matters how we treat our inanimate objects. An artisan respects her tools by keeping them clean, neat and in good repair. This ensures they will do their job properly. It also embodies respect for the craft.

I suggest that rei, demonstrating respect for our art and our dojo, ought to take precedence over unseemly emotional attachment to a specific piece of shaped and stitched cotton.
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:

We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.
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Old 02-16-2012, 02:57 AM   #2
JJF
 
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Nice article. It occurs to me upon reading it, that I have wondered about this as well - but never being able to put it into words in such a precise manner.

I have trained with many people during the years who have been forced to stick to old garments simply because they couldn't afford buying a new hakama or gi. This is not so common anymore though. However too many tend to stick to their old belts far too long.

I think we should look our best while practicing our aikido - at least this is a convenient thought for me to justify that I have just ordered a new hakama even though I should have waited a few months

On a somewhat related note: It seems many dojo's - especially in America - tend to cover their gi's with embroidery, letters or patches from this or that association. In my point of view it confuses the eye and detracts from the overall impression. A small embroidery with name or style can be beautiful, but quite honestly all the patches and dojo names make people look like billboards. Any thoughts?

Jørgen Jakob

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

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Old 02-16-2012, 03:23 AM   #3
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Nice column !
Sentimental attachment can be a funny thing.

Enjoy the journey
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Old 02-16-2012, 11:04 AM   #4
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Jørgen Jakob Friis wrote: View Post
Nice article. It occurs to me upon reading it, that I have wondered about this as well - but never being able to put it into words in such a precise manner.

I have trained with many people during the years who have been forced to stick to old garments simply because they couldn't afford buying a new hakama or gi. This is not so common anymore though. However too many tend to stick to their old belts far too long.

I think we should look our best while practicing our aikido - at least this is a convenient thought for me to justify that I have just ordered a new hakama even though I should have waited a few months

On a somewhat related note: It seems many dojo's - especially in America - tend to cover their gi's with embroidery, letters or patches from this or that association. In my point of view it confuses the eye and detracts from the overall impression. A small embroidery with name or style can be beautiful, but quite honestly all the patches and dojo names make people look like billboards. Any thoughts?

Jørgen Jakob
Hi Jorgen,
For me its a bit like putting on a comfy pair of shoes or an old sports coat.You get the fel of an gi.As far as advertising goes some guys look like billboards.Aikido so far is not following the trend of Judo , Tae Kwon Do fortunately. Thank God. These guys should rent out the soles of their feet.for beer adverts.There was talk years ago about addidas putting logos on gi , but I think this idea was scrapped.As As a Scotsman I would not mind if my Gi was a lightly heather coloured snazzy outfit and my Hakama was in the colours of the Black Watch. Must have a chat with Ralph Lauren next time I bump into him. Cheers, Joe.
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Old 02-16-2012, 05:03 PM   #5
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Thanks all for kind words.
Jorgen, fortunately we don't see the proliferation of patches and stuff in our aikido dojos.
Joe, I'm with you - I have long joked about a pearl gray wool gaberdine hak with red velvet piping for winter wear.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 02-16-2012, 05:17 PM   #6
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Joe, you don't go far enough. Kilts on the mat!

...oh wait. What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts? Let's just forget the whole thing, shall we? Bad idea all round.
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Old 02-17-2012, 06:26 AM   #7
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
Joe, you don't go far enough. Kilts on the mat!

...oh wait. What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts? Let's just forget the whole thing, shall we? Bad idea all round.
Yeah... free balling combined with kilts (or 'open hakama') sounds like baaaad publicity for Aikido When ever sensei throws somebody in a high fall everbody will either close their eyes or look at something else than the technique...

Have a great weekend everybody!

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 02-17-2012, 01:53 PM   #8
Janet L.
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Wink Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Joe, I'm with you - I have long joked about a pearl gray wool gaberdine hak with red velvet piping for winter wear.
Sometime back I saw a photo (on Aikiweb) of a woman wearing a floral print on black hakama. If I ever make it into the yudansha, I just might make or have one made.

The gray wool with red piping DOES sound cool. . .
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Old 02-17-2012, 05:16 PM   #9
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

I've got a pink one. Too bad I'm not allowed to wear it to class.

kvaak
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Old 02-18-2012, 01:02 PM   #10
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

If I'm not mistaken, Noro Sensei's Kinomichi students have found a nice woolen tweed for their hakama, which is pleasantly subtle extra flowing quality to their practice. http://youtu.be/xmp1jqcSy3g
(This is not the aikido I aspire to, but it does look nice.)
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Old 02-18-2012, 07:26 PM   #11
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Gordon Young wrote: View Post
If I'm not mistaken, Noro Sensei's Kinomichi students have found a nice woolen tweed for their hakama, which is pleasantly subtle extra flowing quality to their practice. http://youtu.be/xmp1jqcSy3g
(This is not the aikido I aspire to, but it does look nice.)
I agree... The Hakamas are very pretty. The aikido is also very pretty, but sort of reminds me of this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKb0LH13aTs
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Old 02-19-2012, 01:56 PM   #12
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Noro sensei does not teach aikido.
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Old 02-19-2012, 03:44 PM   #13
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Noro sensei does not teach aikido.
Is that his opinion or yours? From my point of view, it looks like he teaches a form of interpretive dance, loosely based on aikido, but if he says it is aikido, then who am I to argue? I am kind of intrigued by the blissful expressions plastered on his students' faces though. Whatever he is giving them, I want some!
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Old 02-19-2012, 04:02 PM   #14
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
Is that his opinion or yours? From my point of view, it looks like he teaches a form of interpretive dance, loosely based on aikido, but if he says it is aikido, then who am I to argue? I am kind of intrigued by the blissful expressions plastered on his students' faces though. Whatever he is giving them, I want some!
AFAIK Noro Sensei calls Kinomichi® the art he developed, not Aikido.

Last edited by Demetrio Cereijo : 02-19-2012 at 04:05 PM. Reason: link

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Old 02-19-2012, 04:37 PM   #15
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Ah. I see. Looking at that site, it looks like he used to do aikido, but now it's this "kinomichi" thing. Well, that explains why it looks like interpretive dance I guess.

Last edited by robin_jet_alt : 02-19-2012 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 04-23-2012, 03:10 PM   #16
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
AFAIK Noro Sensei calls Kinomichi® the art he developed, not Aikido.
Noro sensei was a student of Ueshiba O sensei. He also studied other martial arts but was as well interested in other disciplines like Eutonie and Alexander technique. This resulted in his own art which he called Kinomichi (the way of ki) and I remember that he once defined it as an anti martial art. Meaning that his art was an esthetic art that would bring joy and happiness and was not meant for fighting.
Asai sensei trained with him for a long time and in his Aikido, which is very beautiful to see, you can see the influence of Noro's Kinomichi.

And they both do pay attention to their dogi.
Tom
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Old 04-23-2012, 05:06 PM   #17
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Ripped out the other knee of my hak and sewed in another patch. Just being frugal (maybe cheap). For me it's just pants. A new tetron hak is going to be the next one but I just can't bring myself to give up on my old hak just because the knees are torn.

"In my opinion, the time of spreading aikido to the world is finished; now we have to focus on quality." Yamada Yoshimitsu

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Old 04-23-2012, 05:15 PM   #18
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Thanks Janet.

Wearing dirty, worn, or frayed anything is frowned upon... Though I don't mind giving folks like you the patch business Janet.

Personally I used to think it was some kind of "cool dude" thing when folks wore their old torn up stuff to class. I guess it gave them an "aura of experience" or something like that.

William Hazen
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Old 04-23-2012, 07:25 PM   #19
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
William Hazen wrote: View Post
Thanks Janet.

Wearing dirty, worn, or frayed anything is frowned upon... Though I don't mind giving folks like you the patch business Janet.

Personally I used to think it was some kind of "cool dude" thing when folks wore their old torn up stuff to class. I guess it gave them an "aura of experience" or something like that.

William Hazen
Probably the belt is the most acceptable form of 'old and frayed' in the dojo. FWIW I remember K. Maruyama Sensei saying that this can easily become a form of vanity.

Daniel James, Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
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Old 04-23-2012, 10:40 PM   #20
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Personally I think clean, neatly patched garments are fine.
Yeah, I side with Maruyama Sensei on it being a weird form of reverse vanity at a certain point - and the folks guilty of that fetishism generally are wearing stuff that doesn't qualify as "neatly" anything anymore!

Janet Rosen
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Old 06-25-2012, 04:23 PM   #21
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

In Karate the black belts that are made with a silk top layer become frayed and after long use the black silk is almost all gone revealing what looks like a white belt underneath. Karateka relate this to the concept of 守破離 or Shu Ha Ri. Training is a circle where at black belt you understand the basics. As you train you become more of a master as the use of the belt causes it to wear away. At becomes white again you should come to know how little you really know and are like a beginner again with much to learn.
As a piper, don't get me started on kilts. I wear the Irish saffron kilt. I do think of the saffron kilt as the most beautiful of all and Itreat it as such.
The hakama should always be neatly folded and cared for no matter what shape it's in for dojo training. Public demos I think require a clean neat unfrayed hakama. Just my opinion.

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Old 06-25-2012, 05:34 PM   #22
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
In Karate the black belts that are made with a silk top layer become frayed and after long use the black silk is almost all gone revealing what looks like a white belt underneath. Karateka relate this to the concept of 守破離 or Shu Ha Ri. Training is a circle where at black belt you understand the basics. As you train you become more of a master as the use of the belt causes it to wear away. At becomes white again you should come to know how little you really know and are like a beginner again with much to learn.
As a piper, don't get me started on kilts. I wear the Irish saffron kilt. I do think of the saffron kilt as the most beautiful of all and Itreat it as such.
The hakama should always be neatly folded and cared for no matter what shape it's in for dojo training. Public demos I think require a clean neat unfrayed hakama. Just my opinion.
The belt thing is a "myth added later". The belt system in Karate was adopted from Judo, before the war, by the Japanese, not the Okinawans (although it ended up leaking back). Judo added it from...swim classes, in schools, for children.

I wouldn't read too much meaning into it

Best,

Chris

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:17 PM   #23
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote from Christopher Li:
"The belt thing is a "myth added later". The belt system in Karate was adopted from Judo, before the war, by the Japanese, not the Okinawans (although it ended up leaking back). Judo added it from...swim classes, in schools, for children.
I wouldn't read too much meaning into it"

........ I don't think you understand my post. I said nothing about belt history or Kano introducing the belt color for Judo etc. I only gave the concept of the frayed belt as it has been used in Shotokan karate for years. That concept was taught to us by JKA instructors since I began training in the mid 1970's. Our dojo heard it first hand from Nishiyama Sensei himself. I don't know what you mean by it "being a myth added later". Later than what? It remains a symbol in Shotokan karate.It matters little when it was added.

It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
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Old 06-26-2012, 12:23 PM   #24
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
Quote from Christopher Li:
"The belt thing is a "myth added later". The belt system in Karate was adopted from Judo, before the war, by the Japanese, not the Okinawans (although it ended up leaking back). Judo added it from...swim classes, in schools, for children.
I wouldn't read too much meaning into it"

........ I don't think you understand my post. I said nothing about belt history or Kano introducing the belt color for Judo etc. I only gave the concept of the frayed belt as it has been used in Shotokan karate for years. That concept was taught to us by JKA instructors since I began training in the mid 1970's. Our dojo heard it first hand from Nishiyama Sensei himself. I don't know what you mean by it "being a myth added later". Later than what? It remains a symbol in Shotokan karate.It matters little when it was added.
My point is that it is a modern allegory that is usually taken as a Japanese "tradition".

Best,

Chris

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Old 06-26-2012, 12:55 PM   #25
Dave Gallagher
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Re: Reigi and the Aikido Hakama Fetish

Quote:
"My point is that it is a modern allegory that is usually taken as a Japanese "tradition".

....OK, I see.!!

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