The blog title comes from a wonderful book reviewed here: Two great books about male PhDs, fitness, and obsession. The book is called Angry White Pyjamas and it’s written by Robert Twigger about his time in the Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo.
I started thinking about it again because someone found our blog searching for “Aikido camel toe” and while we’ve blogged about camel toe (see The day I discovered the dreaded camel toe and Further thoughts on camel toe, Barbie crotch) I couldn’t imagine camel toe being an Aikido issue. I never feel so covered up as I do in my Aikido uniform.
If you are a woman or a man looking for a sport or physical activity in which modest dress is the norm, Aikido is a great choice.
The uniforms come in two styles, lightweight and heavyweight, but the difference isn’t really connected to temperature or season. You can see some examples here.
The heavy robes serve some important purposes. The thick cloth protects your skin from hurting as it’s dragged across the mats. Also, when you’re grabbing someone it’s nice to be able to grab their gi, their uniform, rather than their skin.
In addition to keeping skin off the mats, the uniforms makes it easier, I think, for people, of all genders to touch, to rough
house, and to play together.
I was unsure about my Aikido gi at first but I’ve come to feel very comfortable dressed this way.
The most senior belt levels also wear a hakama.
A hakama is the skirt-like pants that some Aikidoka wear. It is a traditional piece of samurai clothing. The standard gi worn in Aikido as well as in other martial arts such as Judo or Karate was originally underclothes. Wearing it is part of the tradition of (most schools of) Aikido.
The hakama were originally meant to protect a horseman’s legs from brush, etc., — not unlike a cowboy’s leather ‘chaps’. Leather was hard to come by in Japan, so heavy cloth was used instead. After the samurai as a class dismounted and became more like foot-soldiers, they persisted in wearing horseman’s garb because it set them apart and made them easily identifiable.
From Aikido FAQ
2 thoughts on “Modesty and my “angry white pyjamas””
Non-feminist question here (I came from reddit): Do you resent the hakama as much as I do? I was told the point of it was to hide the legs while fighting, as it could give valuable information to your opponent. I like your story about horseoneship better. Regardless, it does obscure the legs, which does reduce the effectiveness of the teaching of aikido. I have seen instructors hike up their hakama like saggy pants, which impedes the flow of ki (imho).
As a dude who experienced a traumatic (but physically harmless) assault, I got over some of my PTS (no ‘D’!) by starting aikido lessons. As self defense, it’s not really the best choice, because it doesn’t deal with wrestling on the ground, and by the time an attack as happened, you might find yourself already there.
But aikido helped me lose my fear, even though it probably hasn’t improved my likely outcomes (it takes a lot of study to get good in a fight when you can’t just tap out!!)
I’m not yet of the rank to wear one but I see how it can be problematic. Not everyone likes to wear them, I know. And we have some senior instructors who choose not to. And yes, our instructors also hike them up so we can see their feet! 🙂
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