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shodokan aikido Shodothug1

In Shodokan Aikido, we do not train with a hakama whether a yudansha (first degree black belt or above) or not. Mostly, this is for safety during randori-ho (free play) training: one less thing to get tangled into! Yoshinkan seem to only wear the hakama for demonstrations but not in general training.

However, many other styles of Aikido (Aikikai, Ki-Aikido, and Iwama for example) use the hakama in general training, sometimes even for all grades.

Is there any benefits to one's learning of Aikido using a hakama?


1: Note that this image was always meant as funny (both by the artist and the main character depicted, no it is not me).

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Honestly, it seems to be largely tradition (with said tradition basically stemming back to a fashion trend in the aristocracy), with many practitioners pointing out that it creates a tripping hazard. The two main benefits I have seen people cite:

  1. It hides your footwork - This is sometimes cited as the reason why the samurai wore them, so that opponents would not see how they were stepping. This is actually noted as being a drawback for instructors, because they have to lift their hakama to show students proper footwork.
  2. It forces shorter steps and centered footwork - If you take too long of a step, or don't remain in the center of the hakama during motion, you're more likely to trip. Thus, wearing the hakama forces you into good habits.

The third reason people cite is that it looks good. With the feet hidden, and the flowing fabric, it creates a flowing appearance to one's movement. Of course, this is an aesthetic concern, and does not actually improve one's training, but it is a consideration.

Another item I've seen cited on various message boards is "Hakama Groupies", essentially something along the lines of why some people wear kilts, because they know it leads to speculation as to what's under there, but I figure that's even more out of line with what you're looking for, and frankly, it's more a running joke than anything else.

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For me, the hakama simply belongs to the art.

At my dojo, people are encouraged to wear the hakama as soon as they decide that they are going to make Aikido a siginificant part of their life, i.e., as soon as they are positive that they will attend regularly for a long time. Or in other words, we spare people the issue of investing the money and then having it gather dust due to non-use. Aside from that, no skill level at all is connected with it.

From the seminars I visited so far, including international ones, including ones given by old japanese "original" teachers like Endo Seishiran, this kind of use is obviously well known to everyone and well accepted, also. If one wishes to make sure that they are not mistaken for a black belt wearer, they can make double sure that the white belt shows up prominently between the bits used to tie the hakama.

For me personally, I like it immensely. It gives me a sense of tightness around the waist. It improves my posture, as it gives me immediate tactile feedback when I round my back. It makes me conscious about standing up, so I don't tangle up in it (I did get a knee injury once when standing up hastily after kneeling in kokyo-ho, in the time before I wore one). It gives a sense of comradeship and "belonging". I like it when a bunch of 100-120 strangers sit on a big mat, being tied together by the common garment. I like the slightly meditative act of tying it before, and putting it away afterwards, It is one more item which makes it easy to completely separate between the every day life and Aikido time.

That said, I absolutely do not do Aikido for self-defense, and have zero interest in "practical" applications. So there's that.

I can say with 100% certainty that I know nobody in my dojo or elsewhere who feels "proud" or "more important" due to wearing a hakama. But everybody I knew before and after switching to it was more "earnest" afterwards for whatever reason.

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I'm a huge critic of the hakama, and of its related bane - sawari-waza.

I've been given many reasons over the years, from fashion, history, tradition, hiding footwork, managing strides... In the end, I look at it as practical as the human appendix: we all have one, no one knows why, but you better care for it or else.

I'm in Aikido for self-defense. I don't wear hakamas outside the dojo, so, any benefits of it hiding the feet or managing stride are not applicable to me.

In our school, we wear hakamas starting at 3rd kyu; but we attend seminars, and there, it's common to find schools who have all their students wear the hakama, even kids; while others insist only when 1st dan. So here, vanity seems gone: you can't readily tell who's who in a crowd of mixed formalities.

I'm no fan of sawari-waza, either (who is??), and wearing a hakama when performing it is insanely difficult - so much so that I find myself worrying about ripping the hakama or dislocating a toe than I am about my technique.

I've been in martial arts for almost 40 years, and only in the last 10 years have I begun to wear a hakama, and, when comparing what I've learned in Aikido to what I've learned in Taekwondo, Karate, and Hapkido, I see no practical use for the hakama. I don't even like traditional gi/dobok because such isn't a part of real life, although, they do provide something that makes it easy to train in, and translating it for outside-the-dojo is a lot easier to do than with a hakama.

So no, I don't think it adds to one's training.

But not everyone is in Aikido for self-defense. The more recreational schools teach for more historical reasons, much like Medieval Times knights wear plate mail when jousting. It's because, that's what they used back then. Or revolutionary war re-enactors, why use muskets in re-enactments when one could use an M16? It just wouldn't be historically accurate. So same for hakama, I think.

So in this case, perhaps a hakama would be more useful in this context.

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    Total tangent: the appendix is now thought to have a function in the immune and endocrine systems: scientificamerican.com/article/… – mattm Jul 27 '17 at 18:05
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    As to sawari-waza, it is very useful for getting power from the core and teaching a few basic principles. However, chances are you are never going to be attacked in that position! Unless you are in some weird stuff. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jul 28 '17 at 7:40
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    Your comment on swari-waza could lead to a "benefits of suwari-waza" question… I would certainly both answer and upvote such. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jul 28 '17 at 11:42
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    Lol Looks like I've been schooled in hakama, sawari-waza, and appendices! or is it appendixes? appendii? appendixum? :-/ Thanks, and i posed a new question on sawari-waza practice. – Andrew Jennings Jul 28 '17 at 13:09
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Hakama are traditional horse-riding pants and come in a number of styles. They were worn in Aikido because back when Morihei Ueshiba began teaching, it was part of traditional clothing, and not wearing one would be akin nowadays to going around in your underwear.

Presently, to the best of my knowledge, they are most often seen in Aikikai from either 3rd kyu onwards for women and 1st dan black belt for men. Many dojos have everyone start wearing them from black belt only.

Yoshinkan only has instructors from 4th dan wear them as I recall, though I believe that the senior students of Shioda who split and formed other groups may have changed that requirement.

Some traditional martial arts ("koryu") use neater, and more regular pants-like nobakama, which are more sensible for training. It was NEVER designed to hide footwork. That is one of those nonsense myths. Think about it: You're about to fight someone to the death. If your life is on the line, do you think you'll really care about hiding your footwork?

In my experience, wearing a hakama makes me pay more attention to how I am moving, as well as my center, since all the ties clamp around your middle. It also keeps my gi from messing up constantly. Other than that, it's a nuisance.

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    This only answers the question right at the end. Most of the answer focuses on something I have not asked. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jul 28 '17 at 7:43

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