Nevertheless, for practical reasons, there are certain characteristics that you’ll want your obi to have once tied.
The main things you want to achieve when tying your obi are:
- A flat surface throughout the entire length of the obi (except for the knot, of course)
- A knot that that will stay tied
- An aesthetically pleasing, mostly symmetrical knot
A Flat Obi
You want your obi to lie flat all the way around your waist, especially in the back. If the obi is twisted at the back it could potentially cause a little discomfort when taking ukemi. Also, when wearing a hakama, a flat obi may help the hera to stay in place. Lastly, I suppose there’s the aesthetic element. Anyway, be sure the obi lies flat all the way around your waist.
There are several ways to achieve a flat obi.
One way is to find the center of the obi. You then place center of the obi at your center. You wrap the belt around your back. The left side of the belt will cross over the right side as the two sides meet. Next you bring the two sides around to the front. Use your left hand to tuck the left side of your obi under the overlying part of the belt. Don’t worry. I’ll give you a video at the end to show you exactly how this is done.
I’m not a fan of the “tucking.” I still locate the center of the belt and place it at my center. I then wrap the two ends of the obi around until they meet in the back. I then leave the “meeting point” where it is (in the back) and slide my right hand over both ends of the belt. This brings both ends of the belt to the front. But the end that crosses my navel right-to-left is “shorter.” Then, the other end, the end that crosses my navel left-to-right, I simply wrap around my back over the first “wrap” of the belt. Again, it sounds more complicated than it is. So, there’s a video demo below.
An Obi That Stays Tied
Some knots simply stand up better to training. When I first started training in Aikido, I didn’t know how to tie the obi, I never asked, and no one bothered to show me. So, I tied it like I tied every other knot: with an overhand knot. But for whatever reason, the overhand knot doesn’t seem to work well for martial arts training. My obi would occasionally come undone and I’d have to stop to retie it. So, you want a knot that’s going to stand up to your training.
A Symmetrical Knot
OK, so maybe this last characteristic isn’t exactly practical. It’s more aesthetic. But this is, after all, still a Japanese martial art. I’ve never been to Japan, and I don’t mean to stereotype, but the impression I have of Japanese culture is that a certain importance is given to things like balance and symmetry. So, a knot that possesses these characteristics is preferable to one that is imbalanced and asymmetrical.
The Koma-Musubi Knot
Once you’ve wrapped the obi around your back twice, you’re ready to tie it in a knot. The koma-musubi knot achieves both of these: it stays tied and is balanced and mostly symmetrical. To tie a koma musubi knot…
- Take the end that lies over top of all other layers of the obi and tuck it under, through and out of all the other layers. (See step 4 below.)
- Take the same end. Loop it diagonally across and thread it through/between the inner and outer layers of the belt. (Step 5)
- Loop the other end up and thread it through both the first loop you made and the inner and outer layers of the part of the belt that’s wrapped around your waist. (Step 7)
- Finally, cinch it. And you’re done.
Note: If you wear a hakama, you can tuck the ends of the belt under the obi. You’ll see this in the second video below.
Video Demonstrations of Tying an Obi for Aikido
This first video demonstrates wrapping the obi around from the center and tucking one side under the other.
This second video wrapping one end of the belt over the other. (The method I use.)