If you go to Japan and mention that you’re into shibari, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters, they could look at you strangely and wonder why you’re into tying knots. In Japanese, “shibari” doesn’t refer to the erotic art of rope tying. It is simply a word that means knot-tying, and doesn’t have any special artistic connotations.
Kinbaku, on the other hand, has several connotations of the sort, and is what most people actually mean when they refer to shibari. It’s unknown why the practice of kinbaku has been known by a different name overseas, but the process has become so firmly associated with the name that it doesn’t look like it’ll be easy to change. These days, even in Japan, people are starting to recognize the word “shibari” as the one that they would normally call kinbaku, in a strange case of a word regressing in meaning to the original language.
Kinbaku, like many other Japanese techniques that have made it across the Pacific, is an ancient art, practiced since around the beginning of the Edo period, according to “The Beauty of Kinbaku” by Master “K,” which is rapidly becoming one of the primary authorities on this ancient art. It is difficult to find this kind of artistry in the US, unless you are very careful about vetting the very top sites for bondage, and even then, you run the risk of finding people that are not nearly as serious about this ancient art.
Kinbaku and Art
The idea of going to the White House or the Museum of Modern Art in New York and presenting them a bound and gagged woman, then asking for money, seems pretty strange to most Westerners. In fact, it would likely seem strange to many people.
However, the Japanese consider kinbaku to be just as worthy of artistic recognition and just as full of merit as any other form of art. Kinbaku artists, known as nawashi and bakushi (an abbreviated form of “kinbakushi,” otherwise known as “the people who practice kinbaku”) are just as well-respected in Japan as other artists. Instead of paper and ink and brushes, their chosen materials are jute rope, bamboo rods, and the human body.
It is even possible for nawashi and bakushi to receive grants to practice their art, for the enrichment of all people in the cultural ways of Japanese society. There are very famous kinbaku models in Japan, and they are considered as respectable as other models, certainly not considered porn stars (or AV stars, as they are known in Japan).
Shibari and Western Practices
Shibari became known in the West very recently, and only exploded into the BDSM scene with the rise of the Internet. This is not because the practice was unappealing, but more because it was considered so difficult that only the Japanese masters, nawashi and bakushi, were considered able to safely and quickly practice it.
Since its arrival on the Western bondage scene, it has become incredibly popular very quickly. These days, almost every Western technique that is popular among circles that practice bondage is influenced in some way by the Japanese practice of kinbaku.
Still, kinbaku has not achieved the same recognition state side as it has in Japan, where it has been practiced since the late Edo period. While this may be fascinating in historical context, it doesn’t explain exactly how shibari came to be known so well in Western cultures – just that the Internet and certain top sites for bondage that feature shibari techniques have been instrumental in bringing it to the attention of thousands of new enthusiasts. There are many sites that actually offer comprehensive information on Kinbaku, you can read the site review here: ALT Review – Is This Site A Scam? See The Rating We Gave It! Find out what legit sites really look like.
In Japan, they hold shibari competitions between nawashi and bakushi. These are considered very high in form, and these competitions happen in the same way that competitions exist between martial artists who practice judo and kendo, specifically.
Like judo and kendo, also two traditional Japanese arts, the focus is not on speed or even the effectiveness of the harness, tie, or bind. Instead, the focus is all on the specific “kata,” or forms. A move that is made with perfect form is going to take more points than a move that is made with sloppy form, even if it is more effective.
In judo, this would be equivalent to a kick that was thrown at someone’s opponent. If the kick is made in perfect form, even if the strength isn’t enough to send the opponent down, the marks will be higher than a sloppy kick that results in the opponent being immobilized.
The same is true in a shibari contest. This is far more focused on making the most beautiful forms than on restraining someone the most effectively, or even making the best harness. Of course, a kinbaku rig that achieves high marks in artistry is far more likely to be effective in use than a rig that is simply for restraint.
One form of bondage that was derived from kinbaku and is now considered separate from it in both form and function is hojojutsu. While you may not read about hojojutsu in any of the top sites for bondage, like Alt.com, you may see this form more often in the news, especially because of the contests that are popping up not only all over Japan, but in the West as well.
Hojojutsu is different from traditional kinbaku in the fact that it is not necessarily meant to be beautiful – it is meant to serve the very fast, very accurate purpose of securing a person with rope.
Jute rope is what is currently always used for shibari. This is considered the only choice for anyone practicing kinbaku of any kind, and that extends to hojojutsu as well. Hojojutsu was not developed for aesthetic reasons, but in order for Japanese soldiers to secure prisoners of war in the fastest, most efficient method possible. This meant that every soldier who was trained in front lines combat had to be at least slightly proficient in hojojutsu, and that each form had to be down perfectly.
There are currently championships being held in hojojutsu, which are frequently based on how fast and how accurately an opponent can secure another. This means that competitions in hojojutsu are difficult to judge, since the strike is so fast and so accurate.
Hojojutsu is not necessarily for the beginner rigger. This functional type of bondage is very difficult, and very dangerous if you get it wrong. It is also intended to cause discomfort, as it was practiced to subdue enemies.
Shibari and Functional Bondage
One thing that many people love about kinbaku, which is known as “shibari” in the West, is that the rigs are often functional bondage, which means the rope serves a point other than restraint. For example, knots are formed to press on pleasurable pressure points in a full Karada, or full body rig. This can result in immense low-grade pleasure for the submissive, who may wear certain harnesses under her or his clothing all day just to feel the pressure.
Whether you call it shibari or kinbaku, or practice offshoots of it such as hojojutsu, Japanese rope bondage is a fascinating technique with a long history, and your time on top sites for bondage can be better spent if you’re willing to learn about it.