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Uniform History - Nobakama” (野袴)

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Pre-U.S. - 1945-1977

We have historical photos of numerous style of uniforms that Taika wore throughout his years of training and much depended upon what group he was training with.

Most of his Okinawa uniforms were white gi and at one point in the 1960's he word the cross-stitched gi shown above center and with the trophy. This particular gi top is currently in Lee Richards' possession.

The author's favorite is the far right gi with Oyata written on the left chest in English and the left sleeve in full kanji. This is what the OyataTe International uniform is modeled from. Belts ranged from straight black, red/white shihan belts to the black/gold version that was prevalent in Nakamura's group. The photograph at right is what Taika was wearing for one of Jim Logue's early black belts exams on Okinawa.

U.S. - 1977

When Taika first came to the United States, he was building up his own organization and was separating from other groups he had been with. In that, he needed his own style name, his own patch, his own identity.  Initially from photos and videos, he had a pretty standard gi and a belt system that was the same as a previous group he was with. The black belts were distinct in that they had either silver or gold stripes of various thickness denoting their ranks. Kyu was a pretty standard color system.

At some point, Taika started making uniforms to sell. This was another source of income for him. He obtained some heavy-duty sewing machines and began making a certain style of uniform. This is known as “nobakama” (野袴). The nobakama is literally a ‘Field Hakama’. The field hakama is the uniform pants that Aikido practitioners have made so readily famous however is typically less baggy and shorter. The feet are visible. It would be something more practical for a farmer for example. Initially when Taika began wearing these, he would sell to anyone, but the quality and number of hours he spent making them made the cost of them higher than the mass market made martial gi sold from the back pages of Black Belt magazine. Initially many kyu rank students bought the $10-15-dollar gi from mass produced companies and the people that had been in the association longer spent more money on these uniforms. Oyata’s had the two-belt system of all hakama and had a very heavy and wide support sewn into the low back. This made them comfortable as well as practical when training long hours. Early on, many kyu students would wear these with a third, standard color kyu rank belt over them as well as black belts with their third rank belt. Wearing the colored rank belt really did not sit well and made the midline area bulky. Taika did sell some of the hakama with a silver stripe on the outer belt as well and even made some black hakama gi with silver or gold crosshatch thread initially hinting at the first six black belt ranks. Taika's uniform had crosshatch on the lower portion while students of his had high crosshatch. Lee Richards' currently has Taika's uniform pictured at right that was given to him by Taika.

The uniform business began to specialize a little and in the Kansas City metropolitan area he had the largest concentration of dojo. At one point there were around 10 different dojo owners in the metro all wishing to have something of their own identity. Taika was making money selling uniforms and certain dojo wanted to stand out, particularly at tournaments. Each dojo had a kind of standard color scheme but still definitely one of Taika’s crosshatched tops and farmer’s hakama bottom. One dojo in Independence had a green bottom with a white top. The white top had a green edge on it. The dojo I was affiliated with in Gladstone, MO had an all blue hakama gi. There were numerous color combinations and at a tournament, this was like having individual team colors. You could tell which dojo a student was from the color scheme. In addition to the association Ryukyu Kempo patch on the chest, they were allowed to have a dojo patch on their sleeve. As the association continued to grow, Taika was making more money from teaching seminars, dojo fees, testing, et cetera. Making money from uniforms was no longer the main way he put food on his family’s table.

This whole thing was a work in progress as Taika defined his organization’s identity well into the mid 1980’s. As Taika’s organization grew, he began to see a problem with ego which I believe is usually the case with most organizations as they grow, particularly one so entrenched testosterone. I had several conversations with him regarding rank and one of his regrets in life was that, because this art was his sole source of income from the point he moved to the United States, rank and testing was a financial necessity. Taika began noticing what he called peacocks. He said that some people were spending more time strutting their belt colors than training. At some point he banned the use of black belt stripes. 

Around this time, Taika decided to stop making all the individual dojo colors and focus primarily on black bottoms and white tops with the crosshatch pattern. The kanji for Ryukyu Kempo written in Oyata’s handwriting was placed on the lapel via iron on transfer. This became the Ryukyu Kempo standard color scheme. Any rank could wear these and kyu were allowed to wear cheaper gi and wear their rank belts over the hakama. Black belts could only wear the black belt which was built into the farmer’s hakama.  This was to be the preferred seminar uniform. In dojo, many people continued wearing their various colored dojo gi. Taika wanted his organization to look standardized when guests and non-association members came to a seminar to meet and train with him. As the name of the organization changed from Ryukyu Kempo to RyuTe®Ren Mei and then added Oyata Shin Shu Ho the kanji would change on these uniforms as well. Initially, as he was still hashing out what Oyata Shin Shu Ho meant, kyu had RyuTe on their gi and any black belt could add the Shin Shu Ho kanji. This would change later.

Taika also travelled a lot, nearly every weekend, teaching seminars. He decided it was time for him to stop making the uniforms and made a deal to sell that portion of the business to a local kyu student who was starting a martial business. Taika would get a percentage and the official uniform would be made by this person. This lasted for several years until quality fell and Taika was spending a large amount of time dealing with complaints from association members about poor quality and support. 

At the end of the 1990’s Taika took control of the uniforms back and passed along to a black belt that had a history of running many businesses. The deal was essentially the same, Taika got a percentage of the sales. He found that there was still some ego strutting or peacocking and wanted to put some people in their place. He decided that one way to do this was to instill a philosophy of treating all people the same regardless of their rank by making everyone a black belt 6 months out of the year and then humbling them as a white belt for the other 6 months. The uniform change would occur on April first and October first. The initial idea was that it was more difficult to tell if a person was higher than you or lower than you and thus you would treat everyone equally. This was made the official seminar standard and many dojo kyu ranks continued buying the cheapest gi they could obtain off the internet or other mass catalog providers.

After Taika’s passing in 2012, the owner of RyuTe Supplies was left with mass stock of these white and black hakama. Regrettably for him, these things were very well built and would last for most people, for decades. As many people began to depart the association as well as leave martial arts completely, there simply wasn’t a high demand for the uniforms anymore. RyuTe Supplies eventually in 2021 began to clear out what final uniforms remained with a massive clearance sale.

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In 2022 Ivan Black began seeking out a source for farmer’s hakama. In 2023 Ivan became our source for these. The quality of these uniforms is every bit as high as they were when they were first launched. 

This document is a work in progress, started March 1, 2024
Patches and other information will be added later.

Author: Lee Richards

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