(Translated from Japanese by J. Akiyama)
I got to talk to Hiroshi Ikeda sensei for a while during the
Washington DC Summer Camp, right after Tim Gion asked him about the
reason why the Bu Jin Design
hakama had the pleats on in a "mirror image" fashion. This is
basically what he told me in Japanese.
The reason why Bu Jin Design hakama have the pleats in a "mirror image"
fashion is because it is our design. That is all. It's just the way
that we designed the hakama to be a Bu Jin Design "original" hakama.
I've heard there are some people out there who say that if the pleats
are reversed in this way, it's something out of tradition and you
shouldn't wear it. I don't believe in that. I do not think that the
hakama you wear influences your aikido or budo in any manner.
These days, if you were invited to the White House to meet the
President of the United States, you could conceivably go there in
jeans, T-shirt, and sandals. Most likely, you wouldn't do that, but
you could. Back in feudal times in Japan, if you were called up by a
daimyo or even the shogun and you showed up in "casual" clothing, your
head would most likely get chopped off due to disrespect. Perhaps, if
you wore a hakama in which your pleats were reversed, you could lose
your head. This kind of tradition extended into aikido as well, as
the roots of budo and, hence, aikido reach down into these traditions
developed in feudal Japan.
However, luckily for us, we're not living in feudal Japan any more.
Back when people started practicing aikido, everyone who wore a dogi
wore a judo gi top. This wasn't due to the fact that there was some
rule or regulation that forced people to wear a judo gi top -- it was
just that there was no other dogi top to wear!
These days, you can see people wearing canvas based dogi tops (like
the one Bu Jin Design sells), karate dogi tops, and even some people
who wear the V-necked taekwondo gi tops. Sometimes, beginners even
just wear a T-shirt and sweatpants during the beginning of their
training, as they have not yet purchased dogi. This is all accepted.
It's not like if you wear a non-traditional hakama, your aikido
There have been "advancements" in what we use to practice aikido.
There are now many aikidoka who wear Bu Jin Design's hakama with the
"Aiki Style" koshiita. Back in feudal times in Japan, people didn't
mind wearing the stiff, rigid koshiita, because the people who wore
them back then were not going to be doing rolls or anything of that
sort. When people started practicing jiujutsu, some people actually
injured their lower back due to the koshiita breaking. This is one
reason why I made the "Aiki Style" koshiita. I think that advancement
has been accepted by the aikido community very well.
In the same way, can we not take a look at the "lineage" of aikido?
If we were to say that we must be "traditional," should we not all be
training under Japanese shihan? Can we not extend such "tradition" to
say that we can not learn "true" aikido through people who were not
with O-sensei? Can we not say that unless you actually trained with
O-sensei himself, we are not learning "true" aikido? I don't think
How about the place that we call a "dojo"? There are many dojo in
America which are situated in converted warehouses, in malls, and
other such places. Even this week, we can call the DuFour Athletic
Center here at Catholic University with the mats that we borrowed from
people a dojo. If we wanted to be strictly traditional, these places
can not be a dojo.
Can we say that such places that were not built from the foundation on
up with the intent of that space being a place to practice "the way"
couldn't be called a "dojo"? How many dojo in the United States were
built this way? How many dojo have been blessed by Shinto priests?
If such things were not done, couldn't you say that these places are
not, in fact, "dojo" any more? I don't think so.
Take a look at churches. These places of worship were not created by
God. No, God did not create these churches; people did. The
reason why churches are spiritual is because the people in these
churches make it spiritual. It is the same way with a dojo. It does
not matter where the dojo is. As long as the people practicing within
that dojo have the spiritual mindset, that place becomes spiritual.
Whether we practice in a warehouse, a garage, a park, or a gymnasium,
what _we_ bring to the space makes it into a dojo. What we bring
makes things spiritual.
"Katachi dewa naku, kimochi." Not the shape, but the feeling behind
it. If we were to just be wrapped up in merely the shape of things,
we would not be able to get to the feelings within.