Hakama Pleats - Meaning - Aikido Articles

The meanings of the hakama pleats vary depending on the source. There are also differences of opinion as to how many pleats should be counted with five being more common than seven, although seven is considered a lucky and auspicious number. Please find the most popular interpretations below:

Interpretation #1:
According to Wikipedia hakama have seven deep pleats, two on the back and five on the front. The pleats are said to represent the seven virtues of bushido, considered essential to the samurai way. Although they appear balanced, the arrangement of the front pleats, (three to the right, two to the left) is asymmetrical, and as such is an example of asymmetry in Japanese aesthetics.

Interpretation #2:
According to Saito Sensei in "About hakama in O Sensei's dojo in the old days" there are 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 Yuki (courage, valor, bravery), Jin (humanity, charity, benevolence), Gi (justice, righteousness, integrity), Rei (etiquette, courtesy, civility also means bow/obeisance) and Makoto (sincerity, honesty, reality). The two pleats in back represent Chugi (loyalty, fidelity, devotion) and Meiyo (honor, credit, glory; also reputation, dignity, prestige).

Interpretation #3:
According to "The Hakama and It's Meaning" from "The Principles of Aikido" by Mitsugi Saotome there are seven pleats (5 in the front, 2 in the back) and that these represent the seven virtues of Bushido/Budo:

Jin - Benevolence
Gi - Honour, Justice
Rei - Courtesy and Respect
Chi - Wisdom, and Intelligence
Shin - Sincerity
Chu - Loyalty
Koh - Piety

Interpretation #4:
According to Mr. Wayne Muromoto, publisher and editor of "Furyu Magazine: The Budo Journal” there are five pleats representing five virtues. His opinion is based on "Ken No Koe" (The Voice of the Sword) by Kendo master Inoue Masataka. The five virtues; gotoku, of Japanese traditional society, with the one in the back representing all five virtues are actually one major one, that of being a complete human being.

The five are:

Chu: loyalty
Ko: justice
Jin: humanity; compassion
Gi: from giri; honor
Rei: respect

Five is usually used as gotoku and not only means "five virtues," but it also means a stand for the iron kettle used to heat water in old Japanese houses, meaning it is a foundation. In the tea ceremony there are four virtues:

wa: harmony
kei: respect
sei: purity
jaku: enlightenment; wisdom

Interpretation #5:
In The Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho), an old text on Kenjutsu and the martial arts, a famous sword man, Musashi Miyamoto, emphasizes these five virtues, which originally come from Confucian philosophy.

The five pleats in the front represent:
Jin or benevolence;
Gi or truth and justice;
Rei or courtesy;
Chi or wisdom;
Shin or faith

Interpretation #6:
"They symbolize the seven virtues of budo," O Sensei said. "These are jin (benevolence), gi (honor or justice), rei (courtesy and etiquette), chi (wisdom, intelligence), shin (sincerity), chu (loyalty), and koh (piety). We find these qualities in the distinguished samurai [warriors] of the past. The hakama prompts us to reflect on the nature of true bushido [the Warrior's Code]. Wearing it symbolizes traditions that have been passed down to us from generation to generation. Aikido is born of the bushido spirit of Japan, and in our practice we must strive to polish the seven traditional virtues."

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