Wednesday, 20 February 2008

How to fold a hakama 1 - my story

In our Aikido Foundation when you reach 2nd kyu level you are entitled to wear hakama. I already wrote about how hakama should be tied on and who can wear hakama in various aikido organisations in earliest posts. Until now, however, I haven't posted anything about how hakama should be folded although it would (almost) complete my hakama-related instructions. The reason I hesitated with this post is explained below.

A friend of mine who successfully graded for 2nd kyu a year before me said that it took him 45 minutes to fold his hakama for the very first time. Later this time was obviously reduced but I always remembered that certain 45 minutes and I couldn't wait to try to fold my own hakama and show that I can do it much quicklier. It looked obvious that I can do better because all the senior students with hakama always finished with folding within maximum five minutes. I thought I could probably do it within half an hour first and go down to 5 minutes within the matter of months. However, this is not how it happened.
Another friend lent me her hakama after a training (but months before my 2nd kyu grading) because she needed to go somewhere and couldn't take her hakama with her. I felt "this is the opportunity, I can show myself that I can do it well and quickly". So I folded hakama first at home where noone could see and watch me after training. Trying it at home was a lucky decision (my friend with the 45 minutes record tried it at home first, too). It took me more than 45 minutes... and then again it took me more than 45 minutes. I followed all the instructions I was given or could find online [1][2][3][4 - my favourite][5][6 - a pdf], why did this happen? I had several versions of how to fold a hakama printed from various websites and they still didn't help me much.

Here is why: All the instructions I found on the Web start with the same 'position': the hakama is on the floor, it's just lying there and looks neat and nice. The five front folds are all parallel and there isn't a single wrinkle nor is a not well aligned fold. If I start with this layout I can finish folding my hakama in less than two minutes. But to get to this properly aligned position is not as quick as it may seem. If you have a very good quality hakama with extremely well ironed folds, I kind of tend to believe that you can put your hakama down the floor so that all the folds are in the right position. But usually they aren't and it often happens that while trying to bring order to one side by arranging the folds you pull another part of the hakama destroying an already well aligned set of folds. This is the process that takes time, at least for me.

Some people even 'cheat' by sewing a bit here and there making 'permanent' folds.

So what happens when you see people packing their hakama in 5 minutes? They either have a very well ironed hakama made of a very good fabric or they are cheating by not folding the hakama nicely and properly. This kind of cheat, however, is much more acceptable than sewing because what they do is they take the hakama home to hang it and fold it properly before the next training.

This is what I do as well. I don't have time to fold my hakama properly after a training, so I do my best in five minutes. Maybe I could do an acceptably good job in five minutes but I'm a bit more perfectionist than that. Besides, hakama folding at home has become a kind of meditative process for me (as another friend pointed it out). It can still take 45 minutes but I don't mind that anymore. I arrange a bit here, a bit there and at the end I'm satisfied with the quality of my folding (I also use my clothes-brush as I don't wash my hakama as often as I wash my gi). A couple of hours later training begins, my nice folds are destroyed but it feels much better to put on a hakama that is in order and taken care of. As part of my folding procedure I enter I kind of shallow meditative state when I just focus on what I'm doing and not really on how I am doing it. When I'm finished it feels much better.

When I was told that what I'm doing is actually a kind of meditation, I immediately realized that I used to do (and feel) the same when I composed music 5-10 years ago. At that time I called it a 'flow' which comes from psychology but I think these two things are very much related. For example, my father almost completely forgets about himself when he works in his workshop assembling some small mechanical devices. It is flow but it is also meditation.

In case you are looking for instructions on how to fold a hakama please wait until my next post.


uchi deshi said...

Sensei taught me to fold my hakama into a "football" that holds the pleats nice and tight. I like it better than the traditional fold, which I use when I fold her hakama.

Zolley said...

And how do you fold it into a football? I can't even imagine how a hakama can look like one :)

leoboiko said...

thanks for this post. I just spent three hours trying to fold an used hakama for the first time; it wasn't stored properly so the pleats were all wrong… I’m still unsure about whether I was able to fix them (-_-)’ as you say, the most difficult part is getting to the “start position”. there’s so much stuff going on under those pleats!

leoboiko said...

btw, my favourite set of instructions is this one, and I also like the “alternative end knot” shown at the bottom of this page.

Zolley said...

Thanks, I will definitely try the alternative knot :)

Anonymous said...

pretty cool stuff here thank you!!!!!!!