In general, the Kendo uniform is called the Kendogi and this is made up of an uwagi or the keikogi (the jacket), and a pleated skirt-like fabric called the Hakama. The uwagi is usually quilted or closely stitched which provides additional protection to the unarmored spots of the body, especially during instances when sudden or accidental blows occur from the Shinai. The Kendo Hakama is also wrapped tightly with a belt along the hip area but still has enough room along the leg are for free and easy movements during training or practice.
The Hakama is one of the most well-known traditional pieces of a Samurais outfit and is also known as the popular martial arts pants that is part of the training uniform worn in various Japanese martial arts such as Iaido, Aikido, Kendo, and Kyudo.
There are a variety of types when it comes to the Hakama and these include the long and short Hakama, as well as one that is specifically for hunting; however, there are only two types of Hakama that are continuously worn in this day and age which are the mens Hakama for horse riding, and the womens Hakama which is an undivided piece without any form of back plate. When one wears this with a stiff back plate, it readily straightens an individuals spine while simultaneously keeping the jackets collar right at the back of ones neck; this also helps pull a persons chin in and provides the user with the proper posture.
Symbols of the Kendo Hakama
Men and womens Kendo uniforms both feature the hakama, and when speaking of the Kendo Hakama, it features seven finely-made pleats where five are located in front while the two other pleats can be found at the back. It states that each of these seven pleats exhibits the seven virtues of the Bushido or what most people know, the Way of the Samurai. The seven virtues include the following:
- Gi for justice, rectitude, integrity and righteousness
- Yuki for valor, courage, and bravery
- Jin for charity, benevolence, and humanity
- Rei – for etiquette, respect, civility, and courtesy
- Makoto for sincerity and honesty
- Meiyo dignity and honor
- Chugi is simply for loyalty
The Hakamas left pleat symbolizes the Take-Mikazuchi-no-kami while the right pleat exhibits the Futsunushi-no-kami; the stiffened portion of the pleat symbolizes Amaterasu-Omikami, known as the creator and the sun goddess of Japan; the goddess is said to bind the two while simultaneously keeping them balanced. As for the pleats at the back, these represent the legend as well as the story of Wa, which is the harmony and balance of all.
How to Properly Wear the Kendo Hakama
Wearing the Hakama may be a simple task yet since Kendo is a martial art that follows steps and fluid motions which is why there are steps to follow when properly wearing the Kendo Hakama:
- First, step in the Hakama then hold it up to your waist; wrap the front himo (sash) behind the individual then cross the himo in front before tying these in a neat bow behind the wearer.
- After knotting the himo, insert the peg that is attached to the koshi-ita (back plate) into the himo before tying these back in front of the wearer.
- There will be additional lengths of himo present so tuck these around the already tied ones; when worn, the Hakamas hem should be lower in front compared to the one behind and there should also be no dangling or loose straps seen when wearing this.
Proper Care for the Kendo Hakama
Taking proper care of the Kendo Hakama is extremely important to maintain its quality and longevity; if there are any signs of tears or rips on the material, all of these should be fixed and patched immediately. Just like all types of Japanese traditional clothing, it is also very essential to fold these properly and store the Hakama in a safe and well-ventilated space to avoid any form of damages especially for those made from silk.