A pleated skirt usually worn by black-belt ranked practitioners of Aikido. In some dojo, the hakama is also worn by women of all ranks, and in some dojo by all practitioners.
by Webmaster - 16.Sept, 2000
Hakama, which may look like a skirt, are actually a pair of pleated pants, worn over a kimono or gi. Hakama are worn today on formal occasions, and are also used in the practice of the traditional martial arts such as Aikido, Kendo (fencing) and archery.
Originally, the hakama was worn as an outer garment to protect a samurai horseman's legs from brush, weeds, etc. In Japan, since leather was so very hard to come by, heavy cloth was used in its place. After the samurai made the transition from mounted soldiers to foot soldiers, they continued to wear the hakama largely due to the fact that it set them apart and made them easily identifiable
In the martial arts, it is said that the seven pleats of a hakama represent the seven virtues of bushido which are:
- Gi -- the right decision
- Yu -- bravery
- Jin -- universal love, benevolence toward mankind; compassion
- Rei -- right action, courtesy
- Makoto (まこと) -- sincerity, truthfulness
- Meiyo -- honor
Chugi -- devotion, loyalty
(Also published in the bujindesign.com newsletter, February 2002 volume 1)
The hakama, so much a part of modern martial arts, originated as a type of ceremonial or formal garment worn by the warrior class in Japan in the 13th or 14th centuries. Samurai were required to appear in hakama while on duty or when paying an official visit to a lord's castle. Performers of Kabuki or Noh theatre later wore the hakama when dictated by certain roles. Over time, social convention changed and the hakama found its way into the populace, as merchants and businessmen began wearing the hakama, much as a suit and tie are worn today. Eventually, the common citizen and laborer adopted the hakama as formal wear for special occasions. The hakama became the suit or tuxedo of the times.
But the hakama was not only for pomp and circumstance. Samurai, of course, had their work cut out for them, and there were times when they needed their "Levi's." They often wore the ba jou bakama, or "horse riding hakama," an adaptation of the formal hakama, which had a long inseam, allowing for greater mobility. The ba jou bakama was a type of culottes, and is the garment we see used most often in martial arts today.
Another type of "working hakama" was the tsutsu bakama, literally "pipe hakama." Derived from the ba jou bakama, the "pipe hakama" were similar to the pants we wear today. As the name implies, they were less full and lacked the long pleats found in the traditional hakama. Sometimes called "no bakama," or "field hakama," they were used by warriors in times of battle, as well as by farmers working the fields.
Ba jou bakama and tsutsu bakama were garments for males. The hakama that women wore were similar to modern skirts, in that they lacked the koshiita in the back and did not have separate legs. This was because women's kimono were very long, and their hakama were worn for no other activity than attending formal and ceremonial events.
Following convention, the women warriors of the castle did not wear hakama. These special women, whose job it was to protect the estate's female royalty and courtesans, were trained in the martial arts, particularly in naginata and kodachi (short sword). To make their kimono more suitable for fighting, they would tuck the hem of their kimono into their obi and tie their long sleeves up about their arms with tasukigake, or silk bindings. It wasn't until modern times that women began wearing hakama for martial arts training.
Today, hakama are commonly worn by practitioners of Aikido, Kendo, Iaido, Jujutsu, naginata, kyudo, and many of the koryu, or ancient arts. These hakama are of the ba jou bakama type, and are colored either black or dark blue, and occasionally dark brown and white. Although these hakama are clearly "working hakama," they continue to represent a formality and respectability that is inherent in budo.
As an indication of the significance of the hakama, one story by an aikido shihan relates how O-Sensei, the founder of aikido, is said to have reacted upon seeing some of his students practicing without hakama. "Why are you not properly attired for keiko!" he is said to have demanded. From the next day on, all of his students wore hakama, although there was a great variety of styles and colors at the time, due to post World War II scarcities.
O-Sensei's indignation went beyond his concern for mere propriety in the dojo. The study of budo involves not only the acquisition of the techniques of a martial art, but also the forging of the spirit inherent within Japanese bushido or the warrior's way. How one carries one's body, mind and spirit at all times is an important part of the process of walking down the martial path.
It is said that when a swordsmith begins to forge a Japanese katana, he first cleanses his body, attires himself in white clothing, and then settles into a state of egoless "mu" before undertaking his job. Rather than being a purely physical process, the creation of a katana is viewed as a ceremonial task, with the katana embodying the spirit of Japan and the soul of the samurai. The aikido Founder's remarks refer to this kind of spirit.
The hakama in aikido today ∞
2019-07-20 - I have no note for the source of this; I don't think it's my own writing.
Currently, a black or dark blue ba jou bakama, with its parallelogram-shaped koshiita, is the style most commonly seen in aikido dojo around the world. Worn with a white dogi and an obi, the hakama completes the uniform of the aikido practitioner. The hakama, dogi and obi may sometimes be embellished with embroidery of the practitioner's name or affiliation emblem, but more often than not, the uniforms are plain.
The question is often raised, "When is a student allowed to wear a hakama?" and the answer varies. In some organizations, the hakama may be worn from the first day by all students -- yudansha and beginners, male and female alike. In some cases, it may be that the hakama is optional, up to a certain kyu rank. In others, the wearing of hakama is determined by a student's rank or gender, often with women wearing hakama in the kyu ranks, and men wearing it after attaining shodan rank or even higher. Like the white, black or colored belt system, the use of hakama to indicate rank is a relatively recent development in the martial arts. It is always best to follow the custom of your dojo.
The nature of aikido training (ukemi, in particular) calls for a sturdier hakama than that required for kendo, iaido, or kyudo, in which there is minimal if any falling and rolling. The aikido hakama must be comfortable to the wearer during the fast and wide-ranging movements of ukemi, and it must stay put, despite pulls and tugs during training. Practitioners should look for a well-made, well-fitting garment that addresses the issues of durability and comfort. Having confidence in your equipment means that you can concentrate on your training.