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

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The new Suspension Frame

So, two days ago, we finally got the suspension frame set up at the studio, and it is a glorious beast!

But being the silly bugger that I am, I’m overly concerned as to what to call it…

hidatorii
Torii gate at Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village

The things that inspired it was a combination, of the Japanese-styled Torii, European-styled gallows, and classical illustrations of what was used in Japanese suspension torture.

Initially, I was going to simply call it a Torii (鳥居), but the design itself eventually shifted towards something more like gallows, and being endlessly inclined towards the Japanese language, I turned to the dictionary, for which I found the term Kōshudai (絞首台).

tombstone_courthouse_gallows
Gallows in Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, Tombstone, AZ.

The problem with Kōshudai, however, is that it literally refers to gallows and the activities therein:

  • ” (絞) means to strangle;  constrict;  wring.
  • Shu” (also read kubi; 首) refers to the anatomical neck.
  • Dai” (Tai or several other pronunciations; 台), is a pedestal; or a stand.

So this specifically refers to a pedestal for hanging or strangling the neck – not quite what we do or want to encourage.

There is also the late Yukimura Haruki‘s term kamoi (鴨居)[1], however, this is specifically the frame for sliding doors in classical Japanese houses, for which he made considerable use of in his work. Thus, this term is further away from what we are looking for than even the gallows.

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A photo of a kamoi over a sliding door.

At this point, Kōshudai seems the closest to what were dealing with in regards to shibari and kinbaku, where the body is suspended by rope in various formations.

Notes:

[1] Kamoi (鴨居) Means lintel. In traditional Japanese house it’s the beam where the top of sliding doors (fusuma; 襖) or paper windows (shoji; 障子) can be inserted and slide. It’s really easy to find pictures of people tied up to the kamoi.

 

 

atemi-self-suspension
Atemi self-suspending off the new suspension frame!

Schedule Updates and Memberships!

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Classes are on a brief hiatus at the moment but should be starting up again in June! And because Atemi’s day job is changing hours, we’re going to have better availability! That being said, we need to decide what nights and times works best for everyone, so please consider filling out this poll so that we can get classes lined up to best suit everyone’s needs!

As a sort of bonus, we are expecting to have two classes or more a week, and as such, the value of our monthly membership option has improved! That is to say more classes for the same price: so that’s an average of 8 classes for $100* – a pretty sweet deal I think!

If that sounds like your cup of java, then come sign up by clicking clicking HERE and we’ll see you next class!

shibari-class-memberships

* Yes, this membership applies to you and your partner: If the Top is the account holder, whomever hey bring to class is covered by their membership, and if the Bottom is the account holder, whatever Top they bring is covered!

     Oh, and being a member gets you product discounts on rope, accessories, and more! Just, saying…

A Story of Swords, Rope, and Romance

As a researcher of the classical Japanese martial arts, I tend to get lost into massive libraries that house antique documentation of everything from the martial arts and warrior-ship, to that of flower arrangement, tea ceremony, and many other things.

“Meiwa Masamune Katana no Chinsetsu” (銘者正宗刀珎説) was written by Ikku Jippensha (1765-1831)

I always find it interesting to take notice of depictions of rope restraint in classical Japanese literature. and this evening while looking for another document (on matters of yinyang and the five elements in the late 18th century, which I didn’t find…), I stumbled upon an interesting chronicle narrating storied of he famous Japanese sword smith, Gorō Nyūdō Masamune (1264–1343). He was basically an almost mythical figure, known for his unparalleled craftsmanship in the hand production of swords and daggers. Though my findings regarding this chronicle as a while is better suited for my other website, there were two lovely illustrations involving rope restraint.

This publication, “Meiwa Masamune Katana no Chinsetsu” (銘者正宗刀珎説) was written by Ikku Jippensha (1765-1831), and depicts some fabulous illustrations regarding sword smithing and metal work, sword combat, and even two cases of rope restraint. This is currently located at the Waseda Uniersity in Shinjuku, Japan.

A depiction of a samurai to be put to death over the theft ofone of the famous Masamune swords.

This first illustration is a common depiction in this form of literature, where one man is at sword point while being bound in rope. I won’t pretend to know the narrative here as this form of literature is rather above my head in several ways in regards to translation, but knowing that this book is about Masamune swords, and based on some of the illustrations leading up to this (the bound man is seen taking an unmounted blade from a carrying case; shiro-saya 白鞘), I deduce that he has been captured for trying to steal a Masamune sword, and was of course caught, and would be put to death.

However, later he is depicted in a servants position (sitting on his knees to the left of the individual) to a swordsmith, who based on his stature, could be presumed to be Masamune himself.

And closer to the end of the book, he is depicted as being in an intense sword fight where a bandit is making off with a woman. A page later, he is rescuing the woman who is tied to a tree with rope; the bandit is on the other side of the tree, looking away.

A woman tied to a tree and about to be rescued from her captor by a warrior with a Masamune sword. 

It is interesting to note that in these depictions of samurai being bound in rope, it is common to see the same tie; involving just the wrists and biceps bound, while women often have the rope going right around the upper torso (above the breasts). Though the use of rope serves both as a literary tool (inferring a sense of shame or disgrace), and an expression of lifestyle (in that Japan is a very rope-centric culture), it is interesting to note that the sexes are separated by the forms that rope is depicted as being used on them.

Considering the amount of ties presented in the encyclopedic Zukai Hojojutsu by Fujita Seiko (providing hundreds of illustrations of body ties), it is a little bit of a surprise to note that comparatively few would fit the image of what is shown in these chronicles, where from the front, only the rope around the biceps, and sometimes neck, can be seen. Yet in these chronicles, it is almost exclusively this tie that is seen on men. It is stylized, yet simple.

On the other hand, women are usually depicted as having just a length or two wrapped around their upper chest. This style, I think, would be more expected considering that one cannot expect the illustrator to be versed in either shibari or hojojutsu.