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Tying the Belt | The Hakama | How to wear the Hakama | Folding the Hakama

Aikido Uniforms


Belt colours and what they mean

WHITE 6th Kyu Purity and Potential
YELLOW 5th Kyu Stability and Assertiveness
ORANGE 4th Kyu Fluidity and Adaptability
GREEN 3rd Kyu Emotion and Sensitivity
BLUE 2nd Kyu Practical and Creative
BROWN 1st Kyu Practical and Creative
BLACK Shodan Consolidates all above

Tying the Belt

Two ways on how to tye your belt in aikido

tying the obi
tying the obi

The Hakama

What is the Hakama?

hakama A hakama is the skirt-like pants that senior aikidoka wear. It is a traditional piece of samurai clothing. Throughout the world, the rules governing belts and hakama vary from dojo to dojo and from style to style. In most clubs, coloured belts are worn so that student levels of experience and understanding can immediately be recognised.

The hakama were originally meant to protect a horseman's legs from brush, etc., -- not unlike a cowboy's leather 'chaps'. Leather was hard to come by in Japan, so heavy cloth was used instead. After the samurai as a class dismounted and became more like foot-soldiers, they persisted in wearing horseman's garb because it set them apart and made them easily identifiable.

There were different styles of hakama though. The type worn by today's martial artists - with "legs" - is called a joba hakama, (roughly, horseriding thing into which one steps). A hakama that was kind of like a tube skirt - no legs - another and the third was a very long version of the second. It was worn on visits to the Shogun or Emperor.

The thing was about 12-15 feet long and was folded repeatedly and placed between the feet and posterior of the visitor. This necessitated their shikko ("knee walking") for their audience and made it extremely unlikely that they could hide a weapon (retainers suited them up) or rise quickly to make an attack.

The hakama is a seven-pleated garment worn by senior students. Each pleat symbolises one of the seven virtues of budo. Senior students should aim to refine these virtues.

Yuki courage - valor - bravery
Jin humanity - charity - benevolence
Gi justice - righteousness - integrity
Rei etiquette - courtesy - civility
Makoto sincerity - honesty - reality
Chugi loyalty - fidelity - devotion
Meiyo honor - glory - dignity - prestige

In many schools, only the black belts wear hakama, in others everyone does. In some places women can start wearing it earlier than men (generally modesty of women is the explanation - remember, a gi was originally underwear).

O'Sensei was rather emphatic that EVERYONE wear the hakama, but he came from a time/culture not too far from wearing hakama as standard formal wear.

"Most of the students were too poor to buy a hakama but it was required to wear one. If they couldn't get one from an

older relative, they would take the cover off an old futon, cut it, dye it, and give it to a seamstress to make into a hakama.

Since they had to use cheap dye, however, after awhile the colorful pattern of the futon would start to show through and the fluff from the futon would start to work its way out of the material."

The hakama is retained in Aikido because of the beauty it adds to movement. It gives the wearer a feeling of gliding across the mat while at the same time being more grounded. If you have the privilege of wearing a hakama you must learn how to fold, wear, and care for it properly. If your hakama shows sign of wear (the knees are the first to go) make plans for a new one. Full, clean gi pants are worn underneath - meaning no cut-offs or holes in the knees.

How to wear the Hakama

tying the obi

Folding the Hakama

Even before you get to wear your own hakama, it is always goof practice to learn how to fold a hakama. One of the best ways of learning to do this is to fold your sensei's hakama for them.

It is correct etiquette that your sensei should never have to fold their own hakama. So by taking this opprotunity you will begin to learn this skill. Senior student who are wearing their hakama should not only know how to fold and wear it, but also be aware of the virtues it represents and start learning to apply them into their daily lives.

Durning the final process of folding the hakama, when the two larger straps have been folded and crossed over the student student say to themselves the following as they tie the smaller straps around the larger ones.hakama. (see image below)

1. Pass through the centre of the universe. (figures 10 and 13).
2. Govern the self. (figures 11 and 14).
3. Follow the correct path. (figures 12 and 15).

first you... then you...