Kendo Hakama

What are they? Pants or skirt? They're sort of skirt-like pants. Hakama originate from samurai days when they were worn to protect the legs of the horse-riding samurai from underbrush etc. When samurai were forced to start walking, samurai kept wearing their hakama to make them easily identifiable.

There are seven folds in a kendo hakama which represent the virtues of bushido, the samurai code. They are:

Jin: Benevolence, kindness to your fellows
Gi: Honour and righteousness
Rei: Courtesy and Etiquette
Chi: Wisdom or intelligence
Shin: Trust and sincerity

The pleats at the back have a legend associated with them: In Japanese mythology, two powerful warrior gods helped the goddess of the sun to create a unified Japan without the use of weapons. They used only their dignity.

The left pleat represents Take-Mikazuchi-no-kami, whose shrine is Kashima-jingu, and the right represents Futsunushi-no-kami, whose shrine is Katori-jingu. The stiff center part represents
Amaterasu-Omikami, the sun goddess, and creator of Japan, who binds the two and keeps them in balance. The back pleats represent this legend and it’s lesson of Wa – balance and harmony.

We strive to find balance in almost every aspect of kendo, starting with basic footwork and posture, then developing the harmony of ki-ken-tai no ichi. If one aspect is out of balance, the whole suffers.
In kendo kata, we tray to achieve kurai-zume, or “controlling with superior bearing”.

The wearing of the hakama symbolizes a kendoka's attention and adherence to kendo traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation since the time of the samurai. Kendo was born out of the bushido spirit. Wearing hakama reminds us we must strive to excel in the virtues they represent.

* Thank you to Dave Seto of the Burlington Kendo Club for the legends.

 

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