Hakama Meaning - What is the Meaning of a Hakama

What is the meaning of a Hakama?
What is the meaning of a Hakama?
The hakama has a different meaning to different people and in different circumstances. In this post, I will investigate the meaning according to a Japanese - English dictionary. Then I will look at some deeper hidden meaning of the hakama. And finally, I will look at what the hakama means in the context of the practice of Aikido.

Hakama Meaning According to The Dictionary

I looked around at some online Japanese - English dictionaries and finally, at Jisho.org I found the following description that covers the meaning nicely:

Hakama in Kanji

Hakama in Kanji
1. hakama; man's formal divided skirt​
Wikipedia definition
2. Hakama​ are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. They were originally worn only by men, but today they are worn by both sexes. Hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles. Hakama are worn over a kimono (hakamashita). There are two types of hakama, divided umanori and undivided andon bakama . The umanori type have divided legs, similar to trousers. Both these types appear similar. A "mountain" or "field" type of umanori hakama was traditionally worn by field or forest workers.
The exact entry on Jisho.org can be found here.

What is a hakama and who wears it?

I have already given an introduction to what a hakama is in this post. I explained that is is still used in everyday life in Japan and in Martial Arts worldwide. To recap, we can say the following people wear a hakama:
  • Grooms at their wedding
  • Students at their graduation
  • Men turning 20 celebrating their Coming of Age Day
  • Shinto priests
  • Miko or Shinto shrine maidens
  • Sensei
  • Kyudo practitioners
  • Kendo practitioners
  • Iaido practitioners
  • And Aikido practitioners

What is the meaning of the hakama in Aikido?

One of the things the hakama does is that it distinguishes between beginners and more advanced practitioners. Each dojo can have it's own rules when it comes to when you can start wearing the hakama. In my dojo, you can start wearing the hakama once you have the 4th kyu grade.

Therefore, currently, the hakama meaning is certainly an indicator of skill and seniority.

The O-Sensei (the founder of Aikido), however, used to let everyone train with a hakama. So it did not matter if you would be a beginner or an advanced Aikido practitioner, you would need to wear it.

Also, in the beginning, the O-Sensei would allow any kind of hakama to be worn. So any color, any fabric, and any style were allowed. So it must have been a colorful sight. Nowadays you only see black and dark blue colored hakama on the mat.

The O-Sensei did emphasize the deeper meaning behind the 7 pleats of the hakama.

What do the 7 Pleats in a Hakama Mean?

The hakama has seven folds. Two are at the back and five are at the front. It is very much in the way of thinking of the Japanese to give deeper meaning to something mundane as pleats in a garment. Still, the values expressed by the seven pleats are great values to live or at least practice Aikido by.
  1. Courage, valor, and bravery - Yuki
  2. Humanity, charity, and benevolence - Jin
  3. Justice, righteousness, and integrity - Gi
  4. Etiquette, courtesy, and civility (also means bow/obeisance) - Rei
  5. Sincerity, honesty, and reality - Makoto
  6. Loyalty, fidelity, and devotion - Chugi
  7. Honor, credit, and glory; also reputation, dignity, prestige - Meiyo
So, think of these seven virtues the next time you wear your hakama. I know I will.