Hakama History and Symbolism

Posted by

Hakama are a traditional Japanese garment worn in a variety of martial arts including Aikido and Kendo some of you might even wear them in your own training. Like many elements of martial arts, the hakama's history goes way back to the Age of the Samurai.

In the years 1185-1333, Samurai started wearing the hakama to protect their legs when riding on horses. Afterwards, it started to represent a person's social rank and these skirt-like pants could only be worn by men who were in the higher classes of society. This rule applied to martial arts as well and those who wore the hakama were either instructors or black-belt students.

Hakama generally have five pleats in the front and each fold symbolizes a moral value that is applied to the person wearing the garment. There are a variety of interpretations for the meaning of each pleat, but these five are commonly accepted:

Jin-Love and Sympathy

Gi-Truth and Justice

Rei-Courtesy and Etiquette


Shin-Faith and Trust

Although there are some traditional Japanese schools that still only allow black belt students to wear hakama, many schools are allowing everyone to wear them including women (gasp). If you're looking to wear the hakama in your own martial arts training, check out Piranha Gear's hakama that is made in the "divided" style and uses 100 percent cotton to keep you cool and comfortable.