The Hakama ~ Marketing Savvy
When I was first considering taking up martial arts with my newfound spare time gained by deciding that 36 years was enough time running up and down a soccer field) and having been nearly robbed, I started with the Google search: “Soft martial art.” My soccer career had finally ended in a devastating groin & abdominal muscle tear that had me unable to perform a single sit up, or lift my head off the mattress. I had spent several months in physical therapy, and was just starting to feel “un-frail” again, when I was almost robbed. My kids were immediately enrolled in karate, but I sought something different ~ as I could barely move. So it was this that prompted my search for a soft martial art. Judo and Aikido popped up as results for my search, among a few other martial arts that I had never heard of. As I looked at the pictures and description of each art (one of whom I planned on studying), my eye kept being drawn to aikido. The guys in the hakama’s looked so cool, and what they were doing actually looked so unique ~ instead of the static punch/ block katas you see in so many places, aikido seemed alive and vibrant. Then I saw a website that pointed out that Steven Seagal’s martial art was aikido. A fan of his movies I next searched for “Steven Seagal Aikido.”
Obviously, all these great aikido pictures, videos, and websites came up as results and after watching a few videos like the one to the left, I typed in “Aikido Lexington, SC” ~ and my jaw dropped when I realized there was a Nihon Goshin Aikido dojo 15 minutes from my house.
My point is that for me personally, one of the many reasons I was drawn to the art was because of its unique look ~ namely the donning of the hakama. Because it worked for me, I believe that we should leverage the hakama in training ~ as it simply appeals to those who “may” join us.
The fact is, although I have never seen a picture of Master Morita wearing a hakama (though I have seen several pictures of Master Nara wearing one) most people outside our dojo walls associate the hakama with aikido ~ so we should consider that in our decision to wear it. We market our brand in all things we do martially and otherwise.
Consider this hakama story: A few weeks ago, I was early to the adult class at the Irmo SC Dojo, so I went to the dressing room and changed. As I was observing the last 20 minutes of the kids’ class, a parent came up to me, and said, “My kid was really not sure he wanted to do this when we took him to his first class last week, but then he saw you wearing your skirt!” (I was immediately on the defensive ~~~ lol), but the parent followed up immediately, “When we got to the car William (not his real name) told me that your skirt was the most awesome thing he had ever seen! He even made me look it up on the internet, so I typed ‘aikido skirt’ into the Google search engine and learned all about it!” (Type it in yourself.... She’s right, it’ll link directly to the hakama).
Well, I was taken aback by her comments to say the least, but what followed was a 15 minute question and answer series of motivated parent driven conversation.
As soon as I answered one question the next question quickly followed ~ but it was the last question that stuck with me long after the conversation ended. “Why are you the only black belt who wears the hakama?”
The hakama ~ it is associated with our art ~ it might be worthwhile to take advantage of its natural marketing tendencies.
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While I have never seen a picture of Master Morita wearing a hakama (though I have seen several pictures of Master Nara wearing one) most people outside our dojo walls associate the hakama with aikido ~ so we should consider that in our decision to wear it. We market our brand in all things we do martially and otherwise.
Aikido has a living, breathing style to it that is further emphasized by the flowing hakama sway. It is the most intriguing part of our martial arts uniform. Should we wear it?
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