It depends upon the rules or conventions of your organization or dojo, or of one you may be visiting, so you should find out what those are. Many types of arrangements exist today. Some associations reward attainment of a certain rank with the privilege of wearing a hakama, while others view the hakama as an integral part of the training uniform from day one. In some dojo, hakama-wearing is a function of gender and/or rank, and in yet others, it is left to personal choice and may symbolize an individual’s personal commitment to a path of study.
Why do I see some people wearing black hakama and others wearing dark blue?
You can never go wrong with basic black, so if you are planning to travel and visit unfamiliar dojo, you will do well to outfit yourself with a black hakama. Otherwise, the custom and convention in your dojo is what you should pay attention to. Often, the color choice has no significance whatsoever and is simply a matter of personal preference. However, in some cases, color may be used to subtly distinguish newer students from "seasoned" ones, with the newer students wearing black and the more experienced ones wearing blue or black, their choice. White hakama are sometimes used in various arts or for certain occasions.
What should I look for in a hakama?
Your hakama is in for a lot of wear and tear, especially if you train hard and often. Overall, you should look at several key areas.
The fabric. Flimsy fabric has a short, sad. Go for sturdy, tightly woven fabric you can depend on to last, and check shrinkage and care instructions.
The construction. The way the hakama is put together is just as important as the fabric. Look for strong thread, tight stitches, and straight reinforced seams that will hold the hakama together against the rigors of training (like when someone steps on your hem just as you are launching into a high fall!).
The koshiita. If your hakama has a traditional style koshiita, you won’t want a backing of cardboard or brittle plastic; look instead for rubber or vinyl, which are more durable and flexible.
The himo. Be sure both the front and back himo are sufficiently long to wrap securely around your waist and hips. And if you are an aikido student, be sure you don’t need to tie a knot in the back, where you might roll on it.
The fit. Look for comfort and fit, too, because these are safety factors. Your hakama should not bind in any way and should hang loose and straight over your hips. Bu Jin offers a wide range of sizes, including a women’s version, that will accommodate the "average" figure as well as the "not so average" figure.
How long should my hakama be?
You can wear your hakama at whatever length you find most safe and comfortable. Today in martial arts, the trend is for the hakama to fall somewhere around the ankle, but It really depends on the custom of your art or dojo. Kendo, jujutsu, and kenjutsu practitioners tend to prefer somewhat shorter hakama, whereas some aikido practitioners choose a longer length. We suggest that If at all possible, before you buy your first hakama, borrow a friend’s to try on and move around in. It is best if you borrow someone’s whose hip bones are about the same height from the floor as yours. Tie on your obi, and then put on the hakama and do some warm-ups and stretches, take a back-fall on the carpet and so on. You might repeat this process a time or two, with your obi tied at different places around your hips/waist. Determine the resting-place for your obi and hakama, and then from there, you can go on to the next step of determining the length.
How should I tie my hakama on?
Good question, and perhaps the most often asked. Trying to devise a satisfactory set of written instructions for hakama tying is like trying to explain relativity … well, almost. Seriously, for now, the best method of transmitting the secrets of hakama tying is still the traditional sempai-to-kohai method, "Ask a senior student." There is no definitive way to tie on a hakama, since different arts have different requirements. Kendo and iaido practitioners, for example, often tie the back on first and then the front, while Aikido practitioners commonly do the reverse, finding that the hakama stays on better for taking ukeml. So start with your friendly sempai.
How should I fold my hakama when I’ve finished training?
The folding of your hakama following training can serve as a cooling down period, a time to reflect while performing a repetitive, somewhat meditative task. It also serves to keep your hakama looking good by sharpening the pleats, flattening out the himo and so on, making it ready for your next session on the mat. While there are a number of folding methods, here is a traditional one that works well:
How should I care for my hakama? Should I wash it? How often?
The “how often” part should be a function of your training habits, the season, and the surface you train on. We have found that there’s a wide range in cleaning intervals … from once a month to once or twice a year. It’s really a matter of common sense and acceptable hygiene. Whereas the dogi should be laundered after each use, the hakama usually doesn’t require such frequent cleaning. You can wash, dry-clean or “freshen” (hang in the sun between washing or cleaning) your hakama. Whether you wash or dry-clean depends on the hakama fabric, shrinkage considerations, and your personal preference.