Aikido hakama are baggy pants worn over a kimono, with split and undivided styles. Originally worn by samurai for horse riding, they are now mostly worn by martial arts practitioners. The seven folds on aikido hakama may represent Bushido virtues. Schools vary in allowing hakama, and they come in different styles and prices.
Aikido hakama are baggy, pleated pants worn over a kimono. They usually come in two styles: undivided and split. The split style is more used for those who need flexibility with their legs for activities such as horse riding. The undivided hakama has a looser haircut and narrower legs; this style is mostly worn by field workers and farmers.
The most popular type of hakama worn today is the split hakama. As the name suggests, split hakama have two separate chambers of cloth for the legs, similar to pants, while undivided hakama are designed as one piece and tend to resemble a dress. While hakama today are mostly worn by practitioners of aikido and other martial arts, they are also worn in ceremonies and even in everyday life.
Originally, hakama were worn by samurai, allowing them to mount horses easily and protecting their legs while riding. It is commonly misconstrued that the aikido hakama was worn by samurai to hide the stances and movements of the feet from the enemy. When faced with battle, however, the samurai would actually take the long ends of the garment and tuck them into a belt to allow for quicker and more precise maneuvering during combat.
Aikido hakama generally has seven distinct folds: five in the front and two in the back. There is debate as to whether the specific number and arrangement of the folds have any specific meaning. Some believe the folds represent the seven virtues of Bushido, or the samurai code. This cannot be verified and many believe these attributes were placed on the folds much later.
Martial arts schools vary widely in wearing aikido hakama. Some schools only allow black belts to wear them, while in other schools everyone is allowed and encouraged to wear them. Some believe that the original reason for wearing the hakama was reserved for black belts came from necessity, as the cloth was in short supply in postwar Japan.
Today, hakama are available in many shops and websites and come in a variety of different styles, colors, thicknesses, and materials. Prices for hakama also vary greatly and depend on many factors. A high-quality “traditional” aikido hakama, for example, will typically be the most expensive; many other hakama made from low to medium quality materials are relatively cheap.