Friday, August 19, 2011

Washing a hakama

This isn't a discussion of great techniques, or esoteric thoughts on budo wisdom, but in the day-to-day life of martial artist, it can be important.  What's the best way to wash your hakama?  This is the method I use.

The first question is, is the hakama cotton or tetron or polyester?
If it's cotton, only wash it in cold water. I only wash mine in cold water and mine is tetron, but it's really important if it's cotton.

To wash the hakama, fold it neatly like you are putting it away, roll up the himo and put rubber bands on them to hold them, and then put the whole package in a delicates bag. Wash it in the delicates bag in cold water. This will help maintain the pleates so they are easy to find when you take it out of the washer.

Hang it up to drip dry. Press in the pleats with your fingers while it is still wet, and clip the bottom of each pleat with a clothes pin to help keep the pleats neat.

After it dries, fold it neatly.

If you have a tetron hakama, you probably won't need to iron it more than once or twice a year to keep the pleats looking nice.  If you have a cotton hakama, this makes the post-washing ironing process MUCH easier, because the pleats don't vanish in the washing machine.

Happy laundry day!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Getting to Black

I ran across the old chestnut about various belt colors from white to black resulting from a white belt that gradually gets dirtier and dirtier over time on a discussion board recently.  There are a couple of problems with this story, the biggest one being that it has no basis in fact.

Let's start with the fact that the traditional, white dogi tied with a belt isn't really traditional clothing for budo training in Japan.  Traditionally hakama were worn for budo practice.  There is no belt visible on the outside of hakama.  The hakama is tied over the top of the obi.  The modern training dogi was invented by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, over a period of years at the end of the 19th century. It's based on classical Japanese underwear! In other words, it's not really traditional.

Kano Sensei also invented the modern rank system using "dan" ranks instead of the tradition teaching licenses that are issued by schools that predate the creation of Kodokan Judo.  As Kodokan Judo grew into a nationally practiced martial art, he wanted a visible means of telling the difference between beginners and students who had the basics, and so they used white belts for beginners and black belts for experienced students.  Originally there were also only 3 dan ranks, not the 10 that are now used.

As for the belt getting dirty over time, that ignores one great feature of Japanese culture.  The Japanese are fanatically clean as whole, and the idea of letting a piece of your training uniform get so dirty and nasty that it turned black is ridiculous.  No teacher would have let a student train with a belt like that, and no other student would have wanted to train with someone wearing anything close to that dirty.  Students take pride in their uniforms and are expected to make sure they are clean for every practice.  That includes the belt.

So, given the above, can we please put that dirty, smelly, obnoxious old story about dirty belts to rest?  Please.