Chakuso is the term used for the way we wear our hakama and keikogi and tie our bogu for kendo. It is an important part of kendo etiquette. This is one of the few pictures I could find on the internet to illustrate bad chakuso. It also does a great job in illustrating bad kendo, but that is another story. The tape bound shinai and the creative approach to fastening men himo are particularly worth a second look.
Thanks to online bogu shops, and the broad availability of kendo equipment, most kendoka have the ability to look neat and tidy for their kendo practice. Still I cannot stress how important it is to dress correctly for kendo. Many years ago I attended a kata seminar in Osaka taught by the late Ikeda sensei. He started the session by lecturing everyone that during the 2nd World War few Japanese new how to use buttons, but now (30 years ago), no one knows how to tie knots and bows. This is even more true today.
There are two ways to think about chakuso. The ritual of putting on the keikogi and hakama and bogu correctly and thinking about the meaning as we get ready for keiko and the actual image we present when we are dressed. Normally we should put the keikogi and hakama on left side first and take our time as we think about the meaning of the hakama’s pleats, the tare and dou should be put on in seiza and of course, when we put on kote and men the left kote is always the first on.
However my point in writing this post is to talk about the image we should project in our keiko and particularly in grading examinations, where the grading panel quickly gain their first impression from the way we are dressed. I actually know of instances when marginal grading candidates, failed because of poor chakuso.
This is not to say that the rich kids with the best bogu are going to do better thab their peers, but hakama and keikogi should be clean and pressed and if you are wearing blue, it should retain its original dark indigo colour. The way to do this is simple. Always wash it in cold water, without soap. Bogu does not need to be new, but it should be safe and in good repair. If your kote has no palm you are in danger of injury. If your kote himo are trailing you could possibly inflict injury on your opponent with them. So let us look at the key points.
• The keikogi should fit correctly, be smooth and unwrinkled at the back. The collar should make contact with the back of your neck and not be open at the throat.
• The top of the hakama should be level with your navel and the obi crossed under the tanden. The long cords at the front should be tied in a bow at the back and the koshiita tied over the top. The back cords then tie as a knot in front with the remaining lengths pushed down inside the front cords. The bottom of the hakama should slant downwards from back to front, just clearing the top of the instep.
• The tare shoud be tied so that the top is in line with the navel and the obi is below the koshiita at the back. The obi should be tied in a neat bow, which should be pushed up under the front flap.
• Dou himo should be tied so that the bows at the top both face inwards. The bow at the back should alway be horizontal and never stand vertically.
• Men himo once tied should not exceed 40cm and should be tied centrally.
• Kote himo should not dangle. If men or kote himo are too long, cut them.
So now we look the part. All we have to do is make sure our kendo matches our appearance.