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Home > Miscellaneous > Wearing of Hakama
by Kevin Jones <Send E-mail to Author>

I have strong opinions concerning the wearing of hakama since I think it makes a difference to the dojo and to individuals practice at a number of levels.

I *strongly* object to anything in the dojo that differentiates between men and women in unnecessary ways, since I think Aikido is one of the few arts where there really is equality amongst all practitioners. We do allow two distinctions between men and women:

  1. Women don't use the men's changing room and men don't use the women's changing room.

  2. Women are allowed to wear something other than bare skin under their dogi - although we ask that it be the same summer and winter :-).

The reason I object to women wearing bikini tops under their dogi in summer and sweat shirts in winter is that men don't have the option of adjusting to the climate (men wear a dogi with no undershirt), so I think things should be equal here too. I regard this as part of the discipline of practice. Some say "why" when we could make life more comfortable? I don't remember ever being told Budo practice should be comfortable :-).

I think that wearing a hakama is an important part of Aikido practice since it has a number of beneficial effects:

  • It helps develop and maintain a good feeling of center and posture;
  • It makes the arts look fluid and elegant which I think leads to the the correct pragmatics of performing these arts;
  • It preserves some of the dignities and traditions that define what Aikido is.

There are some drawbacks to hakama wearing:

  • It hides the feet and lower body masking some mistakes;
  • It adds one more thing to fall over and confuse yourself with;
  • It costs money to buy a decent hakama.

So, in my opinion, there are two approaches to hakama wearing that feel right:

  1. Everybody wears a hakama from the first time they buy a "uniform" and we live with the drawbacks from day one and get the advantages too.

  2. Hakama are worn by yudansha, always and exclusively. So beginners don't have to deal with the cost or the problems and are less hidden. Yudansha have reached the level where elegance and dignity should be important aspects of their practice so they are expected to show that.

I've been in many dojo with many different philosophies on this matter - and in my experience, these are the two that work best.

In my own dojo, we follow the yudansha wear hakama rule. It's an interesting right of passage and restoring of humility when someone achieves shodan and then falls flat on their face the first few times they try to get up from ukemi after that :-0.

Incidentally, on a similar vein of dignity, tradition, discipline and elegance, I also insist that a full dogi is worn under the hakama. Not shorts in the summer and fleece pants in the winter.

So, in some ways, for a confirmed non-conformist, I'm a real traditionalist at heart :-).

Kevin D. Jones
Ki Aikido Center
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