Cross-dressing in kenjutsu

Alternative title: the problem with wearing martial arts clothes designed for men when you are a woman.

A consequence of my persistent back injury has been a pause in my jiu-jitsu training, a slow down in my aikido training, and the start of training in Japanese swordwork (kenjutsu and iaido).  While I have been carefully managing to dodge my hakama wearing in aikido (hakama being those big baggy trousers some martial arts wear) it has become rapidly apparent that I can’t really get away with this for the kenjutsu.  Why?  The art of drawing the sword partly depends on all those bits of string that go around the waist region – obi and hakama ties.


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So I gritted my teeth, donned the dammed hakama and within an hour was reminded why I don’t like wearing them.  They are designed to be worn by men and women have a different shaped body.

Now I fully understand that historically martial arts were the provenance of men.  I also understand that the martial arts I am studying originate from Japan and an oriential body shape can differ considerably from a western body.  For those that haven’t had the ‘pleasure’ of wearing hakama let me just run down how to wear them.

  1. Tie your obi (belt) around you.
  2. Put the hakama on.
  3. Bring the front set of strings around you twice and tie at the back.
  4. Bring the back set of strings around you and tie at the front.
  5. At each stage the ties need to be tight to prevent them becoming loose.


If I wear the hakama in the correct position, just above the hips, I can draw the sword correctly.  BUT because my body shape thins above that to my waist then the obi and hakama rise up, become loose and then come undone.  Cue the entire class pausing while I tie up all the bits of string again.  This is not a problem most men have!

If I wear the hakama on my natural waist line then nothing comes undone.  But now the sword sits so high I can’t draw it properly.  And,to put it bluntly, the sword knocks my lady bumps when I draw it out from my belt.

Am I the only woman who has this hakama wearing problem?  Are there any female kendo, iaido, kenjutsu or other weapons based Japanese martial arts systems that have come up with a good way to tie them?  Please let me know.


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