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:
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
- Women don't use the men's changing room and men don't use the
women's changing room.
- Women are allowed to wear something other than bare skin under
their dogi - although we ask that it be the same summer and winter
I think that wearing a hakama is an important part of Aikido practice
since it has a number of beneficial effects:
There are some drawbacks to hakama wearing:
- It helps develop and maintain a good feeling of center and
- It makes the arts look fluid and elegant which I
think leads to the the correct pragmatics of performing these
- It preserves some of the dignities and traditions that
define what Aikido is.
So, in my opinion, there are two approaches to hakama wearing that
- 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.
I've been in many dojo with many different philosophies on this matter
- and in my experience, these are the two that work best.
- 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
- 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
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