Composition of a Koushudai 絞首台

composition-of-a-koshudai-cover

Occasionally people have asked about how I built the suspension frame that I use. Well really, just an idea, lots of unnecessary research and investigation, other peoples knowledge and experience, and sweat.

Research

My first step with these things is to look at classical documentation for ideas of how it was done. I’m personally adverse to loud noises and power tools, so I like to look at old manual ways to do things. So my first stop is Wasada Universities library, and that resulted in four sources regarding general wood splicing, the manufacture of the Torii, and ideas borrowed from shrines and temples. The sources included:

Some of the material involved in the investigations of wood fixtures. Sources included “daiko shoshin zukai” (1882), “shinpen miyahinagata” (unknown year), “shōka higata” (1875), and the “taishō hinagata taizen” (unknown year).

This methodology was chosen as these kinds of wood-joins allowed for an absence of nails, screws, or spikes, which made the structure flexible instead of sturdy. This meant that it was earthquake and tsunami resistant – more than suitable for hanging humans from.

Design

The next step was planning out what I was looking for, and considering the space I had to work with. So some early prints were drawn up.

Early plans for the frame (We have since simplified and diverged from this one). 

However, after discussion, review of resources, and consideration of height and practicality (removed the lower of the two beams, simplified the joins and fixtures, and experimented with the base:height ratio), and the below design was the result:

How the frame plans look in my notebook.

Labor

Because of my aversion to power tools, much of the work was done by hand, with saws, chisels, and a plane (though some of the bigger ends were cut with a skill saw, and the doweling holes were drilled wit ha power drill – I had little to do with that part).

The fittings for the frame, hand done as I don’t like power tools.

Eventually the results were packed up and brought to the studio for installation. It was designed with the ability to be broken down and moved in mind.

Frame Specs from the Side.

It has since been well loved…

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” ― Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park (Last nights session with CutieTie

Kihon Happo 基本八法

I often lecture that it is from the fundamentals that the infinite arises. The advanced ties are quite literally made up solely of the fundamentals.

Example of how just a few basics can make something a bit more extraordinary.

This tie (to the right) for example is made up of a simple Hishi Shibari (Diamond tie), two Futomomo Shibari (Thigh Ties), and a rope run around the models lower back to make the sitting position more comfortable to be maintained; all basic ties, that, in co-ordination, come together

“Kihon Happo” (基本八法) literally means the eight fundamental methods or principles. However, if you turn the number eight (8) on its side, it becomes the symbol for the infinite (∞). Thus, a way of reading this phrase is “from the fundamentals comes infinite methods.”

Or as it was written in the 17th century scroll of the jujutsu tradition, Takagi Yoshin-ryu Chugokui Mokuroku,

“修行專要千手萬手一手二結”

Takagi Yoshin-ryu Chugokui Mokuroku

Which means something like “Training is crucial; a thousand or ten thousand methods are linked to a single method.”

This idea of implementing several basics at a time also contributes to the “completeness” of the presentation, comparable to a similar principle that I often talk about in shibari, Shingyoso.

Takagi Yoshin-ryu Chugokui Mokuroku

The Eight Fundamentals

A sort of collection of fundamental ties that I like to make sure that my students are familiar with are as follows:

Kōte Shibari 後手縛Hands-Behind Tie
Kōtō Gōte Shibari後頭後手縛Hands Behind Head tie
Maete Hiji Shibari前手肘縛Hands Forward Elbow Tie
Futomomo Shibari太腿縛Thigh Tie
Teppō Shibari鉄砲縛Rifle tie
Mae Gote Shibari前小手縛Front Wrist Tie
Agura Shibari胡坐縛Cross-Legged Tie
Koshi Shibari腰縛Hip Tie

From these eight basic ties all other ties can be considered to be derived, so this makes for a groundwork with which to grow everything else. For ties on the ground, pretty much any iteration of these ties are suitable, and there are suspension-worthy versions of each of these. Even practicing extremely basic ties offer innumerable lessons.

2019 Theme – Ipponnawa 一本縄

In the effort of having a theme every year with which to direct my practice, expanding concepts, and going just a little deeper into the art, I really took a while (okay a few days of going around in circles), but I finally settled, though the deeper I reflect on what I chose, the more it demands…

ichinawa-ipponnawa-singlerope-shibari-kinbaku
Examples of what can be done with a single rope. (Model: CutieTie)

Often times, I will refer to my research in classical Japanese martial arts, and the literature around that for inspiration, and this time was no different. This time around, it was from the teachings of a very old samurai school called Kukishinden-ryu. Within their teachings of the use of the jutte (a sort of sword capturing truncheon) there is discussion of the use of the rope for arresting as well as the use of improvised and concealed weapons (essentially, all small weapons should be used as concealed weapons). Within these teachings, there is the following statement:


一筋縄多縄仏心十縄の構
(Hitosujinawa Tajō Busshin Jūjō no kamae
“The attitude that a single rope multiplies into the ten ropes of Buddha’s mind.”)

(Kukishinden-ryu Jupposessho no maki)

This correlates to the teachings of the “Ten Oxen” (jūgyū; 十牛), which is a series of short poems and accompanying drawings used in the Zen tradition to describe the stages of a practitioner’s progress toward enlightenment, and his or her return to society to enact wisdom and compassion. Though I’m very much tempted to write out my own commentary of this resource here, I will simply link to the translation and commentary that i am working off of HERE.

Ryōte kubi (両手首) Both wrists binding, double column. Demonstrated by Yukimura Haruki and Kawakami Yuu.

All that being said, it is from the exploration of this idea and the implementation of using just a single rope, that we will explore the possibilities of what can be done with just one rope. This will demand exceptional resource management, ingenuity, and some nice tight ropes!

Atemi’s Rope Resources

shibari-kinbaku-recommended-resources

Because it’s always a challenge to find resources on learning rope bondage, this is my collection and recommendations:

Publications

Douglas Kent‘s Complete Shibari

douglas-kent-shibari
An example from the book

What I consider a must for beginners. Has a great section on safety, and tons of step-by-step photos for the fundamental forms of ties and great advice throughout. Currently a two book set “Land” and “Sky”, with land being focused on tying from the ground, and Sky focused on suspensions.

Master_K‘s Beauty of Kinbaku 

master-k-beauty-of-kinbaku
The book cover.

The most comprehensive publication on the history and influences of shibari, kinbaku, and Sadomasochism in Japan. Includes biographies of the 30 most influential people in the practice, one of the most comprehensive glossaries on the subject, and a short step-by-step guide on two forms of classical chest ties. I recommend this for the enthusiast and the obsessed, not so much use for the casual and the curious.

Fujita Seiko‘s Zukai Hojojutsu 

fujita-seiko-zukai-hojojutsu-torinawa
The book cover

The book that started it for many people, the largest publication on the subject of the Science of rope arresting techniques found in the classical martial arts (and a few modern ones). 328 pages, 864 illustrations, and some rather hard to find explanations about the usage of rope on the battlefield and in other situations. I’m personally translating this publication, and it’s not yet complete, but will be rather through!

Video Platforms

Esinem‘s Online Shibari Classes

A wonderfully put-together online learning site providing excellent video and transcribed learning content for monthly fees (price varying with each module). His research on nerve damage is second to none, the safety course is free, and the courses specifically on box ties are quite thorough and provide a very acceptable learning curve.

Yukinaga Max‘s Kinbaku Videos

Yukinaga Max, a student of both Yukimura Haruki and Osada Steve of Yukimura-ryu and Osada-ryu. His content is focused on defining various difficult to understand Japanese concepts found in Kinbaku. the thing I emphasize in his videos is his great energy and how he handles rope.

CMARA‘s Online Hojojutsu courses

Though not launched yet, the Classical Martial Arts Research Academy (CMARA) is planning to host online course in Hojojutsu (rope arresting techniques) through their site. They also currently publish research and articles on the subject as well HERE.

Acquiring Products

Other sources

On Yugen in Kinbaku

yugen-kinbaku-shibari

“Kinbaku is, in a word, the extraordinary. More accurately, it is the dissimulation of the ordinary. While it neighbors the everyday, it is different from the everyday; an act that draws out a separate reality. That is why it must be done here, where we all enjoyed supper together not long ago, but also why it cannot be the same as it was then. An expression of Yūgen.”

(from a lecture of mine in a advanced kinbaku workshop)

Yūgen (幽玄) itself is very difficult to explain in Japanese let alone in English. Yū (幽) generally means something dim or subtle, or “hazily perceived”. Gen (玄) infers “something hidden deeply in principles” or “mysteries not easily understood”. In Taoism, it expresses things that are profound, unfathomable, and subtle. In my own experience in the art of kinbaku (tying deeply; 緊縛), the sense that best fits the aesthetic of Yūgen is like observing the gentle drifting of incense smoke in a dimply lit room. There is a sense of things moving slowly and subtly, yet with a certain profound weight about it, not physical, but insubstantial.

In the act of rope bondage, and it’s many facets, there are times when you are simply tying someone like a parcel, sometimes decorative, sometimes sadistic, and that’s all very good, they are facets that make up the art. For myself however, I am deeply drawn to the presence of a scene.

cutie-tie-kinbaku-shibari-yugen-black-kimono
CutieTie wearing a lovely black kimono and bound in the Yukimura-ryu Gote (雪村流後手)

When the lights are out, and the room is dimly lit by candles, her hair is disheveled, and clothing ruffled, the rope being the only thing to hold it in place.

When the only sounds in the room is the creaking of the jute and the rasp of her breathing.

When the very air is heavy, and you dread swallowing your tea in fear of making too much noise and shattering the moment.

This is an expression of Yūgen in Kinbaku.

When you strive for what can be called kinbaku, one must bind deeply (binding the mind; 心緊), and to do that, the senses must be coerced, simple force is not enough, subtlety and elegance are requisites. Seduce the senses, light incense, burn candles, lower the lights, touch and caress, smell the rope, have the model take in the whole experience; build the illusion, for once they are in the illusion you can shape it fully.
All the same, “There is nothing to attain. … The imagined world is seen through.” (The Heart Sutra)