Earlier this year, Osada Steve (長田スティーブ) had the honor of being interviewed by Demon SIX (no relation to Studio SIX) who is not only a prominent figure at Fetlife but also a privileged member of the inner circle of Master K (no relation to Circle K). The interview first appeared in the Kinbaku Group on Fetlife.
What got you started in Kinbaku (緊縛) ?
I have had three rope bondage phases in my life.
So-called Western: From kindergarten to 1997, when I tied every woman I could lay my hands on.
Shibari (縛り): From 1998 to 2006, when the late Osada Eikichi Sensei first took me under his wings, and I then continued to train under the late Akechi Denki Sensei for about four years, followed by studies with Nawashi Kanna Sensei.
Kinbaku (緊縛): Since 2007, when I embarked on learning Shuuchinawa (羞恥縄) and Newaza (寝技) techniques under Yukimura Haruki Sensei. It is since phase III that finally all the pieces are coming together, starting to make sense to me.
In my line of work I make a clear distinction between Shibari and Kinbaku. You could say it took me eight years to get a grasp of Shibari, and I’m in my third year of trying to crack the mysteries of Kinbaku.
In any case, were it not for the unique window of opportunity, the fortuitous event that Osada Eikichi Sensei chose to make me his prodigy, I would still be tying women without knowing what I was doing.
People as a general rule often have preconceptions about activities and lifestyles before they start them. For you, how has the world of Kinbaku in Japan been different from what you expected?
I slowly grew into this by engrossing myself in Shibari imagery after arriving in Japan about 30 years ago. Once my formal training started, I kind of eased into it without any major precon- or perception issues.
What have been your most enjoyable experiences so far as a Kinbakushi in Japan?
I rarely use the word Kinbakushi. And I never use that term to describe my own activities. There is something we call Jo-ryu Kinbakushi, which describes female rope workers. Female Bakushi in Japan tie a lot of men, and need to adjust their styles accordingly.
My most enjoyable experiences are when doing my Kinbaku Live gigs at my own place, Studio SIX Tokyo. Because here I can take my time and develop a connection with the model, achieving some kind of emotional exchange that goes far beyond the mere technical aspects of tying.
All other activities, like stage shows and most video work, I’d describe as Shibari. To me, Shibari is merely doing bondage in the Japanese style, producing ties according to Japanese aesthetics. For a rope session to qualify as Kinbaku you need to go inside the woman, touch her soul.
Again, to the naked eye or to people not working professionally in this genre, it is hard to pinpoint the differences. But that’s how I see it.
To avoid misunderstanding: I am not referring to the obvious effect that rope will have on any person that enjoys being tied — call it rope sub space if you will.
How has your branching out of Studio SIX internationally been working out for you? Any new plans for the future?
In 2007, the first Osada-ryu Dojo was opened by three of my German students with the goal of introducing Japanese rope techniques to the European rope community.
Osada Ryu is a Shibari system (and, at higher levels, a Kinbaku system) that was developed by me over the years, based on my training in various styles and based on my stage and field experience. The system covers everything from basic ties to complicated suspension progressions.
Traditionally the knowledge about Japanese tying techniques has been passed on from Master to Deshi — the latter learning by observing. The advantage of the traditional system is, that the student will also acquire a solid foundation of the psychological and philosophical aspects that go along with the particular Shibari/Kinbaku style of a particular Master.
The disadvantage is, that there is only a limited number of Japanese Masters. As a foreigner, if you wished to take the traditional route, you’d also have to live in Japan and speak the language.
Osada Ryu doesn’t teach fun ties to the general public, but focuses on state-of-the art techniques used by professionals at the top of their game. The real power of these techniques only reveals itself after serious study, and so isn’t suited for short lectures on the seminar circuit.
Throughout the year I am offering Shibari/Kinbaku Clinics in Tokyo to dedicated overseas students. These intensives are one-on-one affairs and typically involve total immersion over the course of several weeks; generally consisting of two hours of training/tuition followed by three hours of practice each day. If I have judged the seriousness and efforts of a student, the training also includes visits to some of the great Masters of the art, such as Yukimura Haruki.
Since I am lucky enough to take home six figures a year from my tying, I have given the matter a fair amount of thought. I have analyzed the building blocks of the ties that are the foundation of the art, and have broken them down into micro units that facilitate efficient study. For example, the Osada Ryu 3-rope Takatekote for Yokozuri consists of 61 individual steps for the functionality part alone. This tie contains a multitude of important elements, that, once you have mastered this Takatekote, you will be seeing other ties in a completely different light and you will start tying on an entirely different level.
People sometimes wonder about the speed at which I tie. I am not moving faster than others. I have just learned to optimize my ties, resulting in more ergonomic and economic ways of how the rope travels. Speed (not haste) equals safety. Speed comes from unlocking the secrets of each traditional Japanese tie.
Again: It’s not about how fast you move, but about the level of optimization you achieve. Simply put, if a tie includes knots, it will take more time to build. And if you attempt a fairly complicated tie like a Teppo Shibari suspension that places the model into a very restrictive position, you may find that your sub(ject) already needs to be untied before you have even reached lift-off. A Bakushi who can tie fast, can also untie fast. As Akechi Denki once said: In Shibari Untie Speed is King.
But back to your original question(s). There are no plans of opening Studio SIX franchises around the world. So for the foreseeable future, if someone wishes to study Osada Ryu, you’d still have to visit me in Tokyo or contact Studio SIX Berlin.
How has life been socially for you in Japan? Do you have a circle of friends you like to do Kinbaku with outside of your professional activities? Are there any other Japanese Kinbakushi that you like to spend time with?
Life in Tokyo is fairly stressful. Rents are high, and homes are small. So small indeed, that most people only use them to sleep in. Under these circumstances inviting friends over is next to impossible. As a result, most social activities happen outside — in restaurants, clubs, bars.
I am not a very social person. Not that I don’t like people, but I feel quite comfortable being on my own. It could be said that my social life is non-existent.
Lately though, I have become friends with one expat student of mine, and, if time allows, we sometimes hit upon some SM bars to apply some of our Shibari in the field.
What was your time learning and training under Osada Eikichi like?
Here you need to distinguish between a Deshi (disciple) and a student. As a Deshi you don’t receive lessons. A Deshi needs to mind every move of his Shisho (master), even trying to anticipate future moves in order to provide a smooth working environment. A Deshi needs to observe and *steal* techniques. This kind of relationship is still common in the traditional Japanese arts, yet, due to the nature of Kinbaku, fairly rare in the Shibari world. To give you an example, when Osada Eikichi Sensei became more and more frail, I stayed very close to him, even accompanied him to the bathroom. Being a Deshi is like being married. It is a very close, loving relationship.
What I learned in those times was respect, tradition, integrity — and how to run the business.
Osada Eikichi Sensei, at his prime, was earning a million dollars a year from his shows alone. What my life with him taught me was to have a professional attitude towards the work of providing rope entertainment.
You have spent a lot of resources and time giving information to the West via the TokyoBound.com blog. Is there anyone in Japan you want to hear talked about that you don’t think gets covered enough here in the West?
The TokyoBound blog was actually started by KabukiJoe who wished to share with the international rope community the going-ons in Tokyo. My contributions there are modest, mainly consisting of a few interviews with some of the more high-profile Shibari/Kinbaku people in Japan.
There are a lot of excellent rope people in Japan that operate under the radar — either because they wish to remain anonymous or because they haven’t yet had the commercial break they deserve. These people’s skills easily outrank some of the best high-profile Japanese Bakushi. They usually run small salons or circles where they get together with a few inner-sanctum students and friends. Often it is here where you will find the best Shibari and Kinbaku in the whole wide universe. These are extremely gifted and experienced individuals that follow the tradition without getting hampered by commercial constraints.
Yes, hidden from the Westerners’ eyes there are some excellent Shibari/Kinbaku practitioners, but I am not sure whether they want to be talked about.
There is a whole universe beyond of what the average rope enthusiast can find on DVD or by browsing the Internet.
However, there is one person I feel everybody should know about: Nawashi Kanna Sensei (縄師神凪先生), an absolutely gifted Bakushi (縛師) who has contributed much to keeping the Akechi Denki lineage alive. In terms of Semenawa and Akechi style where accuracy in rope placement is measured in millimeters, just watching this genius tie will blow you away. In addition to that, Nawashi Kanna has an excellent read on the female’s heart.
Unfortunately, Nawashi Kanna has withdrawn from public life, which is a great loss. I am not alone in my hope that he will eventually reappear and inspire us again.
How much of a difference has having a partner like Asagi Ageha had on your ability to perform in clubs?
The situation in Japan is such that Shibari shows are considered part of SM shows. What people expect from a Bakushi is to provide naked women — mainly with rope, but also by using candle wax, whips, and whatever other devices. So generally speaking, the model’s role is to provide her body to be exposed and worked over. As such, models remain anonymous and are rarely announced by name. At subsequent performances the same Bakushi is expected to have a different model. As a result a lot of young women are being used up because they do not get the opportunity to provide much else than their skin.
It is thus a unique situation to survive with the same model for six long years, as I have done with Asagi Ageha (浅葱アゲハ). Credit for the success of this partnership belongs to Ageha, because she delivers incredible emotional reactions on stage, and when bound you can see and feel a deep bond between us. These days our act delivers pure grace without violence or pain, and most fans appreciate the fact that we present Shibari as an act of love.
Working together for such a long time also enables us to do suspension progressions that would be next to impossible with any other model. This in turn has brought Ageha a lot of female admirers who understand how hard she has trained to overcome gravity without breaking into pieces.
To my mind, a successful Shibari performance is 90% model and 10% Bakushi, because a) people pay to see the woman, and b) doing the ties isn’t really such a big deal.
I am basically a rope guy, not a showman. So this situation of Asagi Ageha being the star suits me just fine.
I can only speculate how stage life would be different if that partnership didn’t exist. I guess I would either be running through a lot of models, beating and humiliating them in front of spectators like everybody else — or I would be trying to build up one promising model, letting her fulfill her potential, and making her into a star. The latter is easier said than done, because women that bring charisma to the stage don’t grow on trees.
Why is Japanese Kinbaku different from Western bondage?
I think this is mainly due to cultural differences. As Master K in his latest book The Beauty Of Kinbaku so beautifully explains, the Japanese have been using rope for thousands of years. This has led, in some sections of society, to almost an obsession. If you grow up in Japan, you grow up with images of people being bound by rope. These images are part of the nation’s collective (sub)consciousness.
If you study Hojojutsu/Hobakujutsu (捕縛術, 捕縄術) drawings, you will distinguish recurring visual patterns that define the Japanese esthetics for tying with rope. Now, if you look at a contemporary photo of a woman bound in that style, a Westerner will see a woman and rope — and, in a person with BDSM proclivity this may set in motion erotic and/or sado-masochistic thoughts.
On the other hand, a Japanese person looking at the same picture will automatically (mainly sub-consciously, I suppose) put the situation into some cultural context — with the subsequent fantasies drawing on a long history of using rope to punish and to shame.
Rope bondage in Japan has played such a significant role, that it even entered the language. In the Edo period, if someone got taken into custody, people would say the person received rope (o-nawa o chodai suru). You can still hear this expression in period dramas or find it in novels set in the older times.
In other words, a bondage in the Japanese style, will, for a Japanese watching and for the one in rope, invoke very special emotions that are different from those in Western people.
A good example are the facial expressions you get from a bound Japanese woman. Some of it comes natural, some of it is evoked through cunning manipulation or intelligent guidance by the Bakushi.
It is no surprise then, that a reverse-engineered Japanese tie applied by a Westerner to a Western woman will cause entirely different reactions — mentally, facially, as well as bodily. The gut feeling, when looking at such a pictures is, that something’s not right. To the Western eye the front part of the tie may look quite Japanese, but the subtle esthetics that come natural to the Japanese are missing.
Now, if your question was about the difference between Shibari/Kinbaku (which is Japanese) and Western-style bondage (as opposed to reverse-engineered make-to-look-like Japanese bondage), then I’d say Western bondage strikes me as more utilitarian. Something where the end result seems more important than the way (or process) of tying.
But again, tying, most of all, should be fun. So as long as both protagonists are having a good time, you are welcome to tie any which way you like.
It just makes me sad when I see Western people who have never been to Japan and/or who have never had a chance to seriously study within one of the Japanese rope dynasties, are labeling themselves and their work with Japanese terminology, which to my mind is a sacrilege — not to mention that such a person would be making a fool of himself.
What artistry or artists inspire you when you tie?
Well, I’m just a simple guy. To me this Shibari/Kinbaku genre is more a craft than an art. I don’t look at pictures or watch videos. But even if I would and came across something cool, I wouldn’t use the word inspire.
The majority of my ties is based on what I have been taught and trained in — and I just keep adjusting, modifying, and optimizing those ties on the job. For example, if you compare my Yokozuri (sideway suspension) that I do today with the one I did a few years ago, the difference is like day and night — even though the fundamentals remain the same.
In my work I need ties that are fast enough to fit into a reasonable time frame. That limits the number and types of ties that are useful for me. So I’m not really shopping around for inspiration.
Whenever I do Shibari, people will be watching, so I need to be very careful when and where to introduce a new tie, because it takes me at least a hundred times to gain proper speed and fluidity.
What do you enjoy most about Kinbaku?
Let’s include Shibari in the question too, because in an average month I am doing perhaps 90% Shibari but only 10% Kinbaku.
What I like with these activities is the opportunity to give and receive immense pleasure. Though I am fairly focused when tying, I nevertheless reach some sort of mind space that helps me to retain my balance in daily life. I feel it is good for me to work with my hands and at the same time empty my mind.
What I also like are the endless possibilities offered by using rope. You can use it to produce highly technical and very complicated ties that lend themselves to Semenawa (torture rope), or you can follow the caressing style for Shuuchinawa.
These two main styles may on occasion borrow from each other, as everything is fluid.
I may be recognized as a suspension expert, but frankly speaking, suspensions don’t do it for me. What I enjoy most is working on the floor where I can build an emotional connection with the woman I tie.
Can you tell us more about your work with the Kikkou.com and JapanBondage.tv websites?
Kikkou.com is an early-bird-picks-the-worm kind of website. It was launched in 1996, and is largely responsible for starting the Shibari craze in the West. It has been the source of inspiration for an entire generation of people who love to tie in the Japanese style.
I think it was in 2000 or 2001, when the Japanese laws that regulate sexual content changed. As a result the site went off-line for a while, until I approached Chiba Eizoh Sensei, the owner, with an offer of $100,000. In the end it was decided that Chiba Eizoh would retain ownership, and that I would take the site back online. Kikkou.com is a legendary site, and I’d encourage anybody serious about the Japanese way of doing rope to check it out.
Soon after that I started the streaming site JapanBondage.tv. This site features weekly updates of video streams by Randa Mai, Yukimura Haruki, and other high-profile Bakushi including yours truly. Warning: This is not a rope-porn site! It is rather a site where you get unadulterated Shibari/Kinbaku delivered to your home by some of the most successful Bakushi at the pinnacle of their craft.
Perhaps I should mention that I also own domain names like nawashi.com, bakushi.com, kinbaku.com and dozens more. However, since I am too busy tying for a living, I haven’t yet managed to fill them with content.
What are the differences for you when tying for photographs, videos, and stage shows as opposed to just for your own enjoyment?
Let’s start with the own-enjoyment part. In 99.99% of the cases I am tying with people watching. In other words I never do private play. I also never practice or rehearse. As a result the scope of my ties — when considering that I am tying professionally for about eight years now — is rather limited.
The ties I do, in their essence, are those that I have been fortunate enough to obtain from my teachers, my Masters, my Sensei. I take these ties, and I keep refining them on the job. I learn on the job. I might be living the dream that other people have, but at the end of the day I am doing a job. Of course I enjoy my work, but it simply doesn’t allow me time to f*ck around and do private play or even practice or rehearse.
For example, it is not uncommon that I am having three different gigs at three different venues a day. It is also not advisable in my position to get romantically involved with any of my models.
Now, tying for photographs or videos this tends to be fairly non-emotional and professional — with short bursts of energy, always keeping in mind the task at hand.
In case of stage shows the client is not a producer but the audience. So, depending on the audience at any given venue, I would have to adjust what I do accordingly. Since stage shows are usually coming with a strict time frame, I’d also need to mind time. If the deal is 24 minutes, it’ll cause havoc to the entire event if my timing were off by even one minute. Due to this time frame and the added pressure of entertaining a ton of people live, the energy is completely different from photo and video shoots where, if you do screw up, you always get a second chance.
What is the most important thing people should focus on when they do Kinbaku?
The short answer is: Follow your heart.
The long answer is, if it’s Kinbaku you wish to do, you should a) seek training at the source (read: in Japan under someone who is recognized as having high skills) and b) develop the ability to read the person you are tying like an open book.
Technical matters aside, I think the most important thing that distinguishes the Japanese pros is their ability to correctly read the submissive, understand her requirements (which may shift within seconds), and adjust their attention and tying action accordingly.
I have found that it helps to enter a session with an empty mind, completely void of my own desires. This allows me to listen to the signals and be receptive to the energies of the woman.
Distance (ma-ai) is also very important and when consciously applied can make a huge difference to a session.
The kanji for Kin in Kinbaku is the same as the Kin in Kincho. People use the word Kincho when they get butterflies in the stomach like in stage fright for example. Kin gives you goose pimples. Kinbaku is meant to create electricity and emotions so deep that you can hear a needle drop.
You need to touch your partner, you need to be all over your partner. There are techniques that can be learned to achieve this.
A good Kinbaku session conducted by an expert Bakushi will get the woman into subspace already after the first few inches of rope are laid on her body.
The Bakushi in a Kinbaku session becomes the facilitator who allows the woman to deep-space to a point where she is unaware of her surroundings and might even fall asleep. There is no use talking to her, as all she can hear is sound but no words.
Catch the rhythm of the woman and go with the flow. Kinbaku is a slow-paced exercise that allows long, peaceful, drawn-out sessions.
Due to all of this I’d say most Kinbaku happens on the floor (newaza).
You haven’t asked me this, but kindly allow me to delve into the following bonus question:
What are your thoughts on Master K’s new book, The Beauty Of Kinbaku?
Yeah! This is a question I really like!
The thing is, I’m a hands-on guy when it comes to practicing Shibari/Kinbaku. While I am fairly aware of the historical and traditional values involved, the individual pieces are more or less scattered around my brain in a disorganized fashion.
Wham bam, comes along Master K’s book, and it’s as if someone had switched on the light for me.
It’s one thing to know all the facts, but it’s quite another to put them into context. Master K has managed to assemble all the pieces of this wonderfully complex genre and make me understand the hitherto enigmatic beauty of what Shibari/Kinbaku means to a lot of us. To know everything is one thing, but putting two and two together and providing us mortals with a coherent framework takes a genius. Master K is that genius.
I guess it’ll take a few years for the rope community to fully grasp what Master K has given to us.
A couple of links:
Osada-ryu Dojos in Europe, North America, Australia: http://www.osada-ryu.com/
Osada Steve official website: http://www.osadasteve.com
Kinbaku Shop: http://kinbaku-shop.com