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.

 

 

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Atemi self-suspending off the new suspension frame!

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

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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

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.