As a spectator of Kinbaku, what to consider?

In the Edo period, it was considered a deep honor to deliver a prisoner to the magistrate, particularly in a considerately functional and aesthetic way. It was a peculiar honor for the prisoner to have been tied and prostrated; though shamed and humiliated, they were also significant enough to have such treatment.

One in the space, whether private, general practice, or in performance, kinbaku is best respected as a ritual. And as any ritual, a good viewer does not try to interact with the scene without having been previously discussed with the bakushi. Just as one does not interfere with a sermon in church. Now, I personally enjoy interacting with the audience when doing the quiet and small demonstrations that I often perform, but I am the one that usually initiates such interactions. It is also not a good idea to be too close to the scene (preferably with a space of about 4 meters, 13 feet of free space without obstacles), particularly since my particular style of nawa sabaki (rope handling), called hinawa (flying rope; 飛縄), has the rope flying around quite a bit at high speeds. If you do not respect this concern, it is solely your fault, it is ideal to not further interfere by making a scene out of it.

Arisue Go, in the documentary “Bakushi”, described some such etticate found in kinbaku:

  • A good bakushi will provide a unique and unrepeatable experience for the model and spectators. It is considered a matter of honor that spectators respect this experience keeping silent and expectant.
  • It is not well seen to touch the bakushi’s rope, trying to catch or touch the rope during the performance. The rope, as it was for the Samurai, are very precious and personal objects to each bakushi. This goes beyond the physical concepts involved. Besides that they are made of living natural fibers (hemp or jute; asanawa; 麻縄), which react to differences in pressure, temperature and humidity, and are the instrument with the bakushi to transmit the flow of their energy (ki; 氣) in a flux of charging and recharging. The strings are so important because they are the means by which the bakushi communicates his sense of “self” with the model, with the audience, and with the cosmos.

It is absolutely normal that something draws your attention during practice. But in order not to break the atmosphere that fills the session, it is good practice to wait until the end of the scene (until the last cord has been removed from the model or until the bakushi thanks those present) for permission to conduct an inquiry to the bakushi.

If you want to approach the bakushi, once the session is concluded. It is considered good practice to thank them for the offered experience and then ask what you want.

A good model is a person who comes to the experience of kinbaku, and the inner journey that they are to experience, allowing the artist to give (Indou wo Watasu; 引導を渡す, as they call it in Yukimura-ryu) without feeling inhibited. This attitude of introspection is often reflected in details like having your legs together and slightly bent, having ones body relaxed, arms at their sides, eyes downcast. The perception of the rope artist should clearly perceive any of these signs of the body and tie wisely and react accordingly.

seiza
Frederick Starr sitting in the seiza style. (Source Wikipedia)

Another very common posture to wait in is called seiza (correct seat; 正座). It is also used in martial arts. You kneel with knees about a fist apart (if female) or two fists apart (if male).

Many consider themselves honored to be bound by the bakushi and feel blessed to have shared such an experience. It would be considered an offense if trying to break free of the bonds or taken as a joke .

It is not considered good practice to “help” the bakushi in any way to move, catch things, talking and breaking the atmosphere or putting ones arms behind their back without the bakushi even doing anything . You can recognize a good artist in Shibari and Kinbaku just because you do not need to bring your arms to any position. He achieved that you do exactly what he wants you to do with your arms.

It is important to practice this art barefoot, especially because the ropes are jute (thus unfit to be washed). As a viewer, stepping on the rope of a binder is considered a serious disrespect. Because as was said before, rope is the medium for energy in this practice of the rigger, the rope is like stepping foot on the most intimate part of the bakushi. Depressing the rope using any type of footwear is even a worse offense. The rigger and model are the only ones who could step on the ropes during practice.

The rigger is responsible for ensuring the safety and welfare of the model at all times. The process does not end until the last string has been removed from the model’s body. Except in very special cases, it is considered a bad behaviour to let the model try to escape or untie by themselves or delegate this task to another person (unless a Master delegating this task to a student in order to teach).

It is normal that the rigger drops the rope on the mat as as it is removed from the model. These ropes should not be touched by viewers, and may only be approached again by the rigger or whoever he designates. It is considered a high honor for an apprentice to coil the rope of the Sensei .

These are only some details and perspectives in etiquette around kinbaku. However, these points of consideration are effectively covered simply by being respectful, considerate, and thoughtful of others and their practice. It is not necessary to remember hundreds of rules, only just lead a life of consideration.

 

 

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