Last week my kendo keikogi and hakama arrived, and I put them on for the first time Thursday. The traditional cotton hakama is dyed with indigo, and it turns out that indigo dye is not fast: it doesn't actually bond to the cloth. It's like a big blue cloth crayon. The indigo rubs off on everything, including (especially) me. My hands turned blue immediately, and I got blue streaks on my face from rubbing off the sweat. My legs were blue too at the end of class. I said it made me look like William Wallace in Braveheart but the general consensus was that I looked like a smurf.
Online there's all sort of advice about washing your hakama for the first time before you wear it. Soaking it for a day in a water/vinegar mixture is one of the most common. I tried this and hand-washing (it's not machine-safe due to the rigid back panel), which predictably didn't do much. If acid caused the dye to set they'd just do it during the dying process. "Hand"-washing actually involves puttign it in the bathtub with some Woolite and grape-stomping it. Then after it's been rinsed off, washing the tub to get the blue smudges off of the enamel.
At yesterday's class I was called on by sensei to demonstrate kiri-kaeshi, a hitting exercise. He even said "He's very new, but good." It would have felt great if I hadn't been afraid I would screw it up. I think I did all right, though in a later exercise I managed to bop myself in the face with my own shinai.
In other news, I started taking Japanese lessons last Wednesday. Evidently I remember more than I thought, because they bumped me up to Beginning 3. Apparently Beginning 1 and 2 devote a lot of their time to kana, which I still remember pretty well. Fortunately it's in the same time slot, but it does mean a review marathon through the book (which is not the one I used in college, so of course everything is in a different order. I'm gonna be a little behind when I start today, I think. So, mixed blessing.