Tuesday, 21 July 2015

What is the Symbolic Meaning of the Seven Pleats on a Hakama?

What is the Symbolic Meaning of the Seven Pleats on a Hakama?

Copyright: Dunken Francis 2014

Traditionally the hakama was a full flowing pants-like garment (a bit like full length culottes!) worn only by men in Japan. The quality of the material, the style and color of the hakama reflected the wearer's station in life and often his profession.

There existed both divided (like pants) and undivided (like a skirt) versions of the hakama, and professions requiring the use of horseback or manual labour typically choosing the divided version.

The contemporary utilisation of the hakama is often for martial arts training and performances or traditional/formal wear and can be worn by both men and women.

The hakama can have either five or seven pleats; while the former is most common, the latter is considered more auspicious since the number seven is believed to have special numeric/lucky properties and brings good luck. The five-pleat version generally reflects the five virtues "gotoku" of Japanese traditional society. The seven-pleat hakama represents the Warrior's Code, or bushido. Wearing the hakama symbolizes the traditions passed down from one generation of warriors to the next.

Meaning of the Seven Pleats
The seven pleats, representing the traditional virtues of the samurai, are divided into five on the front and two on the back of the hakama.

The five on the front are asymmetrically placed with three to the right and two to the left.

The five front pleats represent:
1.     Yuki (courage, valor)
2.    Jin (humanity, benevolence)
3.    Gi (justice, righteousness)
4.    Rei (courtesy, civility) 
5.    Makoto (sincerity, honesty)
The two pleats in back represent 
6.    Chugi (loyalty)
      7.  Meiyo (honor, dignity). 

There are several modern variations on the virtues represented by the seven pleats. These typically contain Jin, Gi and Rei from the traditional version. The fourth and fifth front pleats are Chi (wisdom, intellect) and Shin (sincerity) instead of Yuki and Makoto. The back two pleats in the modern version are Chu (loyalty) and Koh (piety) instead of the traditional Chugi and Meiyo.

There are many different ways to fold a hakama, but all basically allow the garment to be stored in such a way as to the preserve the creases.

Being awarded a hakama in martial arts such as Aikido is often considered great honour (for example when bestowed upon a student attaining black belt or shodan) whilst in other styles such as Kendo all students wear hakama from the outset.

Thank you, Dunken, for permission to reprint this article! I’ll let the cat out of the bag now so to speak and inform readers that Dunken has graciously offered us many more of his articles.

Here’s a little about his background in the arts –

Dunken Francis Sensei 5th dan (23rd April 1964)

In September 2007 Dunken founded The Institute of Aikido Auckland dojo in Okura.

For most of the last decade, Dunken was Sempai (senior student) and assistant instructor to Sensei H. W. Foster, 7th Dan at the headquarters of the Institute of Aikido (The Hut Dojo) in West London – the birthplace of Aikido in the UK.
He trained under H.W. Foster sensei since beginning his Aikido career as a young child, and for a several years was also a student of Ron Russell sensei a great Aikido teacher who contributed greatly to the spread of Aikido throughout New Zealand.

Training at The Hut dojo instilled in Dunken a commitment to the principles of Riai – “Blending of Truths”, and he is a strong advocate for the regular practice of Aiki-jo and Aiki-ken.

In 2005 he moved to Auckland with his wife and daughter, and in 2007 opened the first Institute of Aikido dojo in Okura.   In 2009 private dojo was built at the family property in Silverdale (training by invitation only).

In 2014 The Institute of Aikido International was created, with the Okura and Silverdale clubs as founder members. The organisation is growing and has affiliated clubs in other cities in New Zealand and Australia.  The organisation  welcomes enquiries from un-associated Aikido clubs looking for affiliation and support.

Mainly focusing upon teaching beginners and trying to bring new people into the art, and to help newcomers clarify the myriad of techniques and technical terms used in our art, “Aikido – A Beginner’s Guide” was published in July 2003, and the accompanying DVD “Aikido – The First Steps” in 2005.

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