I received an email from Osada Steve informing me that he is back in Tokyo. Steve has been in Germany for a month performing and giving workshops and generally checking up on things, while also giving special instructions in Osada-ryu. If you’ve been patiently waiting for Steve’s return and need your shibari fix in a bad way, don’t go to Kinbaku Live Night at Studio SIX this coming Saturday evening — no one will be there. Instead, you’ll need to get your ass over to Yokohama. That’s where Steve will be performing Saturday night as well as Sunday and Monday. Kinbaku Live Night at Studio SIX will resume its regular schedule on June 14.
As far as the Yokohama shows are concerned, here are some reports from a future post on the occasion of the earthquake that crippled Japan in March 2011.
Sometime ago, Steve sent out a missive to a select few individuals concerning his thoughts on shibari and kinbaku and the terms bakushi and nawashi, among other things. Since I recently posted on the Bakushi film, I thought the timing was right to share these musings (which originated from some interview questions) with a somewhat larger audience.
On the terms shibarishi, nawashi and kinbakushi
There is no such thing or word as shibarishi.
Whether a person is called a nawashi or kinbakushi very much depends on the level of skill/level of involvement in shibari. For example, after the death of Akechi Denki, the use of the term nawashi has taken on a new meaning by certain people (mainly people around Akechi sensei). Some believe the term nawashi should be exclusively reserved for Akechi Denki. Others believe the term could be applied to rope artists who tie at a very high level. As the circle gets wider, so do the criteria for nawashi. At the lowest common denominator everybody doing shibari is called nawashi — though people who follow this definition are mainly know-nothings and amateurs.
At a certain level, people do make a distinction between shibari and kinbaku. In general, both terms are used interchangeably. As for the term kinbakushi, some people use it to classify rope workers who do shibari as part of their profession, such as female dommes who offer a variety of SM services, and include rope as part of the business. People who subscribe to this definition would say that a nawashi is driven mainly by his desire to tie. To such a person it is not something he picks up on the side to enhance his business.
There is a third term, bakushi.
In any case, the suffix –shi would indicate a certain proficiency with rope, i.e., professionalism. To agree on who is what and even what is what very much depends on the person you ask.
What is shibari?
In common language, shibari simply means to tie. In the SM genre, it means to tie a person, i.e., bondage. However, since the Japanese way of bondage is based on and draws upon several hundred years of tying tradition (originating from hojojutsu/hobakujutsu) there are some established dynasties with very complex systems. As the pyramid gets slimmer towards the top, the term shibari then is applied to people who have studied the art for years and are able to come up with solid results. There are thousands of serious amateurs in Japan doing good shibari.
However, again on an expert level, shibari merely describes the technical and aesthetic aspects of a traditional Japanese tie. These are the “hollow” techniques that could theoretically be applied to a life-sized doll. Since the idea of Japanese-style bondage is to achieve an emotional exchange between two people through tying, there are techniques to support such an exchange, and it then is called kinbaku.
On learning true shibari
If you apply the more strict definition of shibari as per the above, then the learning/practicing of shibari would start at a point when a person seriously began studying under an instructor. To be clear: just having tied all your life (one way or another) doesn’t count as tying in the shibari style. It takes years to master a decent level in shibari.
Impure women may not touch the sacred rope, right?
I have never heard this. Sounds like misinformation to me. There might be a chance that among temple staff there were rules on who was allowed to handle rope for spiritual reasons, but I don’t know exactly what they do or did in temples. In any case, this has nothing to do with shibari. However, since using rope to capture enemies or transport/torture prisoners was traditionally handled by men, it is only recently that women have been using rope for bedroom purposes.
On the battle of the sexes
Women have the opportunity to work in SM clubs and bars so they are able to develop their rope skills while on the job. Men, on the other hand, are having a much harder time finding work. Therefore, there are many more accomplished female shibari practitioners than male in Japan.
Having said that, opportunities to make a living with shibari have tremendously increased over the past 10 years and so has the overall level. Ten years ago it was rare to see a public performance that included suspension. These days there are hundreds of suspensions done everyday in Tokyo alone.
However, as part of the sexual services industry as well as SM entertainment (performances), women are clearly at an advantage. Tons of submissive men are spending tons of money every night to get tied up by women. And the general audience prefers watching female-on-female shows over male-on-female shows.
Women can do shibari on men (though nobody would pay to watch). And women can do shibari on women without the risk of emotional attachment and jealousy.
Can hemp pass the smell test?
Whether hemp has a good smell is a matter of taste. Personally, I find that hemp smells like an outhouse. In Japan people are using jute.
So there you have it. One can always expect some nuggets (not to mention ruffled feathers) when Steve gets going on his favorite subject.
This has been a long post so let me repeat: No Studio SIX this Saturday. Be there when Steve returns to the dojo on June 14 accompanied by a certain sexy lady with tantalizing tattoos.