Kinbaku (緊縛) means "tight binding," while Kinbaku-bi (緊縛美) literally means "the beauty of tight binding." Kinbaku is a Japanese style of bondage or BDSM which involves tying a person up using simple yet visually intricate patterns, usually with several pieces of thin rope (often jute, hemp or linen and generally around 6 mm in diameter, but sometimes as small as 4 mm, and between 7 – 8 m long). In Japanese, this natural-fibre rope is known as asanawa (麻縄); the Japanese vocabulary does not make a distinction between hemp and jute. The allusion is to the use of hemp rope for restraining prisoners, as a symbol of power, in the same way that stocks or manacles are used in a Western BDSM context. The word shibari came into common use in the West at some point in the 1990s to describe the bondage art Kinbaku. Shibari (縛り) is a Japanese word that literally means "Decoratively Tie".
Kinbaku vs. shibari
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There is much discussion about the distinction between shibari and kinbaku, and whether one term is more appropriate than another.
One modern distinction which is gaining popularity among westerners wanting to distinguish the terms is that shibari refers to purely artistic, aesthetic rope, whilst kinbaku refers to the artistic, connective, sensual, sexual practice as a whole. While thousands of books and articles have been written in Japanese about shibari, no one has found evidence of there being any thought given to the distinction between these words among Japanese practitioners of the art.
A traditional view is that the term 'shibari' is a Western misuse of Japanese vocabulary. The word denotes tying in Japanese, but in a generic way, and traditionally not in the context of bondage. The names for many particular ties include 'shibari', but it is not traditional to call the entire activity that way (in the same way as there are 'Diamond knots' and 'Portuguese Bowline Knots', but 'knotting' does not mean bondage). Instead, Kinbaku is the term for artistic or erotic tying within traditional Japanese rope bondage circles. This view seems to be squarely at odds with the way the word is actually used in books, periodicals, and discussions of rope bondage among Japanese.
An even more traditional view is that shibari is a term used for erotic bondage in Japan that is practically interchangeable with the term kinbaku. Itoh Seiu (generally considered one of the fathers of contemporary Japanese rope bondage) used the term in the 1950s, with no sign of it being a "western Japonism" as did many other well known Japanese bakushi, from the 1950s until present day, including Nureki Chimuo, Yukimura Haruki, Akechi Denki, Tsujimura Takeshi, Arisue Go, Randa Mai, Osada Steve, Miura Takumi, Nagaike Takeshi, and Minomura Kou (among countless others). One of Nurkei Chimuo's how-to video series from the 1980s, is titled Introduction to Shibari.
While some claim this is a somewhat hidebound definition and the word shibari is now increasingly being re-imported from the West to Japan, as the tying communities are very much interconnected, there is no evidence to support such a conclusion as most practicing bakushi in Japan have very limited contact with the west and almost no interest in debating the meaning of words. Most Japanese kinbakushi do not object to the term shibari, as it's common vernacular in the global community.
Another explanation can be found in the linguistic roots of the two words, which are written using the same kanji symbol as the starting point for the word.
In Japan the most often used type of rope is a loose laid, three strand jute rope. This rope is referred to as "Asanawa" usually translated as "hemp rope" the word 'asa' as hemp and 'nawa' as rope, however this is using the more generic form of the word [hemp] referring to a range of natural fibre ropes rather than those pertaining to a particular plant. In recent history a range of rope types have been used for Kinbaku in Japan though Nawashi rarely use synthetic fibre rope and most often use jute.
Aesthetics of Japanese bondage
The aesthetics of the bound person's position is important: in particular, Japanese bondage is distinguished by its use of specific katas (forms) and aesthetic rules. Sometimes, asymmetric and often intentionally uncomfortable positions are employed. In particular, Japanese bondage is very much about the way the rope is applied and the pleasure is more in the journey than the destination. In this way the rope becomes an extension of the nawashi's hands and is used to communicate.
Traditional Japanese bondage techniques use natural vegetable fiber rope (hemp, jute, or linen) exclusively, though contemporary Japanese Masters have been working with a range of rope materials. The natural fibers easily lock to each other which means the bondage can be held together by the friction of twists and turns or very simple knots. Traditionally, multiple 6-8 meter lengths are used.
Shibari in contemporary art
In 2014, Romanian singer-songwriter NAVI released a Shibari-themed music video, "Picture Perfect". The highly controversial video, directed by Marian Nica, was banned by Romanian television for its explicit erotic content.
Bondage as a sexual activity first came to notice in Japan in the late Edo period (about 1600s to 1860s). Generally recognized as "father of Kinbaku" is Seiu Ito, who started studying and researching Hojōjutsu (the art of binding a prisoner of war) is credited with the inception of Kinbaku, though it is noted that he drew inspiration from other art forms of the time including Kabuki theatre and Ukiyoe woodblock prints. Kinbaku became widely popular in Japan in the 1950s through magazines such as Kitan Club and Yomikiri Romance, which published the first naked bondage photographs. In the 1960s, people such as Eikichi Osada began to appear performing live SM shows often including a large amount of rope bondage, today these performers are often referred to as Nawashi (rope master) or Bakushi (from kinbakushi, meaning bondage master).
In recent years, Kinbaku has become popular in the Western BDSM scene in its own right and has also profoundly influenced bondage, combining to produce many 'fusion' styles.
Kinbaku is based on fairly specific rope patterns, many of them derived from Hojojutsu ties though significantly modified to make them safer for bondage use. Many Hojojutsu ties were deliberately designed to cause harm to a prisoner and are therefore not suitable for erotic bondage. Of particular importance are the Ushiro Takatekote (a type of box tie which surrounds the chest and arms), which forms the basis of many Kinbaku ties, and the Ebi, or "Shrimp", which was originally designed as a torture tie and codified as part of the Edo period torture techniques. Today the tie is used as part of SM play and can be considered a form of Semenawa, torture rope.
Generally speaking, Kinbaku is practised with ropes of 6–8 meters (20–26 feet) in length. Due to the generally larger physique of Western subjects, 7–8 meters (23–26 feet) ropes are commonly used in the West. The rope material is usually jute (or hemp) though many other materials are in use including cotton and various synthetics. Various techniques are used to make the natural fiber ropes softer.
- kinbaku (緊縛): (noun) literally 'tight binding'. It does not convey the meaning of sexual bondage outside SM circles. However, some experts, e.g. Kinoko Hajime and Osada Steve, make a distinction from 'shibari' in that it is used to refer to sessions with a strong emotional exchange.
- kinbakushi (緊縛師): (noun) kinbaku master, can be shortened to bakushi.
- shibari (縛り): (noun) the act of tying, binding or weaving. It does not convey the meaning of sexual bondage outside SM circles.
- shibaru (縛る): (verb) tie or bind with a rope
- nawa shibari (縄縛り): (noun) rope-tying with a rope (an incorrect, "made-up" term, does not exist in Japanese)
- nawashi (縄師): (noun) literally, "a maker of rope", but in SM circles it means a professional "rope artist"
Most of the below have multiple variations:
- Single wrist binding 片手首縛り Katate kubi shibari
- Both wrists binding 両手首縛り Ryoute kubi shibari
- Handcuff binding 手錠縛り Tejou shibari
- Prisoner handcuff binding 連行手錠縛り Renkou tejou shibari
- Hands behind the back binding 後ろ手縛り Ushiro te shibari
- High hands behind the back binding 後ろ高手小手縛り(簡易型 Ushiro takate kote shibari)
- Hands behind the head tie 後頭後ろ手縛り Koutou ushiro te shibari
- Tasuki (kimono string) tied 襷(タスキ)縛り Tasuki (tasuki ) shibari
- Crotch rope tie また縄縛り Mata nawa shibari
- Turtle (diamond pattern) binding 亀甲縛り(菱縄縛り) Kikkou shibari (hishi nawa shibari)
- Upright standing binding 直立不動一本縛り Chokuritsu fudou ippon shibari
- Cross-legged binding 胡座 縛り Agura shibari
- Shrimp binding 海老縛り Ebi shibari
- Reverse shrimp binding 逆さ海老縛り Sakasa ebi shibari
- Standing partial suspension 立ち吊り縛り Tachi tsuri shibari
- One foot lifted partial suspension 片足上げ吊り縛り１ Kataashi age tsuri shibari
- Hanging letter M, open leg binding Ｍ字開脚吊り縛り M ji kaikyaku tsuri shibari
- Reverse hanging shrimp binding 逆海老吊り縛り Gyaku ebi tsuri shibari
- Reverse prayer hands 後手 合掌 縛り - Gote Gasshou Shibari
- Arms bound in front 前手 肘 縛り - Maete Hiji Shibari
- Legs bound together 両足 合体 一文字 縛り - Ryouashi Gattai Ichimonji Shibari
- Rifle tie 鉄砲 縛り - Teppou Shibari
- High Hands on Front Tie 前方 高手 縛り - Zenpou Takate Shibari
Topics in Japanese bondage include:
- Karada Japanese word used in the West for body (body harness, a "rope dress")
- Ushiro Takate Kote Foundational form for most shibari ties, capturing the upper body / breasts and arms behind back (when ushiro) in a "U" shape behind the back
- Kikkou - A body tie that ends with a tortoise shell design in the front upper torso.
- Hishi A tie using diamond shapes. When done as a full body tie, it is sometimes also called hishi-kikkou. The hishi has been popularized by manga, or cartoon, art.
- Ebi The "shrimp" tie
- Agoura a less severe tie similar to an ebi
- Tazuki "criss-cross harness"
- Tanuki "raccoon dog"
- Kataashi tsuri "one-legged suspension"
- Asymmetric bondage, a common feature of Japanese bondage
- Tsuri suspension
- Gyaku ebi
- Jina Bacarr, The Japanese art of sex: how to tease, seduce, & pleasure the samurai in your bedroom, Stone Bridge Press, LLC, 2004, ISBN 1-880656-84-1, p.185
- "Shibari Bondage".
- "風俗草紙 昭和２８年９月号".
- "緊縛教材 - SMpedia".
- "What's In a Name: Kinbaku and Shibari - Kinbaku Today". 1 December 2014.
- Christopher Noss, A Text-book of Colloquial Japanese. Based on the Lehrbuch Der Japanischen Umgangssprache by Rudolf Lange, Adamant Media Corporation, ISBN 1-4021-5747-9, p.240
- Vee David, The Kanji Handbook, Tuttle Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-8048-3779-1, p.158,331
- Mark Spahn, Wolfgang Hadamitzky, Kimiko Fujie-Winter, The Kanji dictionary, Tuttle Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-8048-2058-9, p.907,1376
- "NAVI - Picture Perfect (Short Film)".
- "Toate televiziunile din Romania au ramas socate! Imagini incredibile din videoclipul care era prea HOT pentru TV!".
- Master K, The Beauty of Kinbaku, King Cat Ink, ISBN 978-0-615-24876-9
- "Searching in Japanese - Like Ra's Naughty Blog".
- Master "K". The Beauty of Kinbaku (Or everything you always wanted to know about Japanese erotic bondage when you suddenly realized you didn't speak Japanese.). King Cat Ink, 2008. ISBN 978-0-615-24876-9.
- Harrington, Lee "Bridgett". Shibari You Can Use: Japanese Rope Bondage and Erotic Macramé. Mystic Productions, 2007. ISBN 0-615-14490-X.
- Master "K". Shibari: The Art of Japanese Bondage. Secret Publications, 2004. ISBN 90-807706-2-0.
- Masami Akita (秋田昌美 AKITA Masami), while known primarily as a musician, has produced an extensive number of scholarly writings on the history and practice of Japanese bondage.
- Midori and Craig Morey (photographer). The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage. Greenery Press, 2001. ISBN 1-890159-38-7.