What is a hakama and who wears it?  

A hakama is the skirt-like pants that some Aikido and Ju-jitsu practitioners wear. Traditionally, it was worn by the samurai. The standard gi worn in Karate and Judo classes as well as in other martial arts was usually the underclothes worn under a hakama.

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.

The old  dojo was a very colourful place, with all the various colours of hakama. Traditional hakama were not just solid colours. The material used often had patterns woven or printed onto them.

In most Aikido and Ju-Jitsu schools of today, the hakama is reserved for the black belt students. Few schools allow all practitioners to wear one, while some schools allow women to start wearing it much earlier than men (general modesty of women is the explanation, since a gi was originally undergarments).

The modern hakama has 7 folds in it (5 in the front, 2 in the back) and has the following symbolic meaning:

  1. Yuki - courage, valor, bravery
  2. Jin - humanity, charity, benevolence
  3. Gi - justice, righteousness, integrity
  4. Rei - etiquette, courtesy, civility (obedience)
  5. Makoto - sincerity, honesty, reality
  6. Chugi - loyalty, fidelity, devotion
  7. Meiyo - honor, dignity, prestige
The old samurai did not always wear hakama with pleats, some were without pleats at all, while others had anywhere from two to 10 pleats, so, the 7-pleat representation of the samurai ideals is a modern one.

These illustrations were found on the internet, the first one is put out by Mr. Alvar Hugosson, we have tried to contact him to inform him we were including them on this page without success, and we decided to use it because it is excellent.

Folding the hakama  


HAKAM001.jpg (14848 bytes) First see to that the back fold is straight and in correct order.
HAKAM036.jpg (37114 bytes) Then grab the hakama at the hip ...
HAKAM037.jpg (33758 bytes) ... and at the end of the legs and flip it over so that the front comes up.
HAKAM038.jpg (30346 bytes) Make sure to keep the fold at the end of the legs
HAKAM039.jpg (42649 bytes) Don't loose the grip while flipping.
HAKAM003.jpg (29099 bytes) Fold the hakama alternately
HAKAM004.jpg (28680 bytes) all the way ...
HAKAM005.jpg (25117 bytes) ... so that you get only one  straight fold at the front and the back. Then stretch the legs.
HAKAM006.jpg (28795 bytes) Fold one of the legs into the middle.
HAKAM007.jpg (25787 bytes) Do the same with the other leg. (Half the width)
HAKAM008.jpg (26787 bytes) Fold the legs on the middle.
HAKAM009.jpg (27821 bytes) Then fold again, this time about one third of the length.
HAKAM010.jpg (36017 bytes) And finish up with another fold. (Totally one sixth of the length)
HAKAM011.jpg (31562 bytes) Straighten the ribbons.
HAKAM012.jpg (37676 bytes) Make them overlap.
HAKAM013.jpg (44566 bytes) Turn the hakama over the ribbons, so that the ribbons cover the folds of the back of the hakama...
HAKAM014.jpg (34802 bytes) ...
HAKAM015.jpg (42675 bytes) ...
HAKAM016.jpg (53007 bytes) ... until you only have about 30 cm left.
HAKAM017.jpg (50111 bytes) Wrapped ribbons in close up.
HAKAM018.jpg (45186 bytes) To fasten the ribbons in the hakama fold the ribbons like the picture shows.
HAKAM019.jpg (28693 bytes) Then put the folded ribbons underneath the wrapped ribbons.
HAKAM040.jpg (37788 bytes) An alternative way to wrap the ribbons around the hakama.
HAKAM041.jpg (35130 bytes) Backside
HAKAM042.jpg (39230 bytes) Front
HAKAM021.jpg (34612 bytes) Straighten out the Uwagi and put the lapel with your name on top. Then fold one sleeve.
HAKAM022.jpg (38165 bytes) And the other sleeve.
HAKAM023.jpg (40393 bytes) Fold the Uwagi ...
HAKAM024.jpg (25717 bytes) ... twice so that you get one third of the original width.
HAKAM025.jpg (26412 bytes) Fold up the bottom part of the uwagi so that the vent/slit comes inside the folded uwagi.
HAKAM026.jpg (23400 bytes) Put the folded hakama on the uwagi.
HAKAM027.jpg (17678 bytes) Fold the uwagi around the hakama.
HAKAM028.jpg (20570 bytes) Put your obi (folded to half of its length) under the little "package".
HAKAM029.jpg (36831 bytes) Tie the obi ...
HAKAM030.jpg (36167 bytes) ... so that your name is visible.
HAKAM031.jpg (33402 bytes) Side view.

Now you have a little nice and handy package of your dogi, that also will keep the form of your hakama.

Folding a hakama by the Nagenata society  

Step 1

Hold the koshi-ita under the chin, and the front of the hakama with your left hand. Move the gusset to the right with your right hand.

Back of hakama


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Step 2

Lie the hakama front down on the floor with the right hand side 2 cm over the left, and straighten out all the wrinkles.

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Step 3

Take the koshi-ita with the right hand and flip the hakama over by securing the bottom of the hakama to the floor with the left hand. The back should be on the floor with the front facing up.

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Step 4


Fold the left and right sides 10 cm into the middle.


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Step 5


Fold three or four times from the bottom.


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Step 6


Turn the hakama over so that the koshi-ita is facing up.


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Step 7


Fold the cords (himo) into four and cross them diagonally.


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Step 8


Feed the two back cords over and then under the crossed front cords.


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Step 9


Thread the back cords back down and under where they crossed over the front cords.
Arrow on right side points to back cord.


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Step 10

Pull the left cord up and move it down to the diagonal right and thread it through the loop where the right back cord is wrapped around the front cord.


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Step 11


Do the same for the right side.


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Step 12


Completed folding of the hakama.


Acknowledgements: All diagrams and text published by the All Japan Naginata Federation (Zen Nihon Naginata Renmei)

How to tie the Hakama