Hakama. For those not familiar with Japanese martial arts hakama are the big baggy trousers (normally black or deep blue) worn over the white gi, (the pyjama like clothing for the uninitiated). There is all sorts of self-imposed dojo etiquette on wearing hakama. In my Jitsu organisation they are worn by those who teach. In my Aikido organisation they are worn by woman from the moment they pass their first grading and by men from 1st kyu upwards.
So for Aikido I wear my hakama all the time. Never mind the endless debate some people enter into as to why woman wear them earlier in Aikido, my only thought towards the men is, “lucky buggers.” You see I really struggle with my hakama.
Firstly there is putting the wretched things on. All those bits to tie up in the right order. Done correctly you feel like a trussed up turkey. Done incorrectly the hakama fall down and you face the embarrassment of re-tying all those bits of string half way through practising a technique, and it’s not a five second job like the belt on your gi.
During training the hakama are there to trip you up, to overheat you, to come undone if you didn’t take note of the first point. . . It’s like going jogging in flared jeans with a loose waist band, you just wouldn’t do it, would you?
Thirdly when practice is over there is the ritual of refolding hakama so the pleats don’t come out. If only it were as easy as this video!
And finally the washing, essential to avoid people holding their noses when they train with you. You cannot just shove a hakama in the washing machine, see previous point about losing the pleats. Once washed the heavy cotton takes two days to dry (don’t even think the words, “tumble drier). Then the ironing of those pleats, I think I might have mentioned the hakama has pleats. How did the ancient Japanese manage?
Rebellion! So having read all that you’ll understand my rebellious stance on wearing my hakama as little as possible. Then last week I was firmly and politely, then more firmly and less politely, told to put them on and keep them on. Thus the freedom of my legs was forever curtailed.
Now I could mutter forever more, but when faced with inevitable then I aim to find something beneficial in the experience. So in the coming weeks I’m really going to pay attention to my hakama and see what I can learn from them. My teachers are warned, I’ll be asking them questions as well! After all, there must be some logic behind wearing hakama, else people would have abandoned them long ago in favour of practicality.