Nawashi / Kinbakushi

by Tatu
May 2002 / Revised 2006                       
Read this article in Italian (translation by Laquartacorda)




The word "nawashi" has come more into common usage in the west since it was introduced to the our American scene.  

In 2002 I inquired of a German national who goes by the name of "Dr. D Vice" who has lived in Japan for some 20 years making his living as a photographer and recently began doing rope bondage himself about this word. He defined the word nawashi simply as "rope artist or practitioner".8

The word is actually a word made of two Japanese words, "nawa", which means "rope" and "shi" which means "practitioner".  So it refers to someone who works with rope with some level of competence. It is a word that is commonly understood among the Japanese as a "professional maker of rope".

Around 2005 a similar word has appeared in the west, "Kinbakushi", which more specifically speaks to the the erotic bondage art practitioner.

Japanese is an honorific language.  In Martial arts the word -shi refers to a teacher or one who has mastered himself

The use of "-shi" as a suffix would imply a place of respect in the use of this word, yet respect is not something the master or sensei demands or gives to self, that would be regarded as inappropriate, indeed haughty. The student uses terms like these when they feel the teacher or mentor has indeed taught them something and indeed is deserving of such respect, not the other way around. So a true rope master or sensei would not call himself a kinbakushi, nawashi, or sensei, others would refer to him that way in response to having learned from his ways.

So in it's basic form, "nawashi" is simply an adjective to describe someone who works with rope with competence, to the point of being respected enough to teach others.. It is a beautiful word, a simple word like many things we find in Japanese culture. It gives some heart and soul to the western mind about the artistic approach the Japanese have to life as a whole.

Although widely in use as a general description for those who practice Japanese Rope, In recent years the word "Nawashi" and "Kinbakushi" have been appropriated by those in the "professional" kinbaku / shibari performance art and porn industry in Japan.


See also "Nawashi" in Tatu's Glossary

nawashi - nawa = rope 2 +  -shi = teacher or master 2.  So one who works with rope with some level of competence, a rope practitioner.

Japanese is an honorific language... the use of "-shi" would imply a place of honor in the use of this word, yet honor is not something the master or sensei demands or gives to self, that would be regarded as arrogant. The student uses terms like these when they feel the teacher or mentor has indeed taught them something and indeed is deserving of such respect, not the other way around. So a true rope master or sensei would not call himself a kinbakushi, nawashi, or sensei, others would refer to him that way in response to having learned from his ways.1

This is a modern term that came into use in the mid to late 20th century.

According to Yukimura, the best guess for the origin of "nawashi" is that Minomura Kou coined it in Kitan Club in the 50's. 7

In more recent years the term has evolved into being applied specifically to a Master of Shibari who were trained in Japan and is practicing only by those in Japan.

kinbakushi - kinbaku = "bind tightly" and shi = "teacher; master; one's mentor".  Generally defined as "Japanese Bondage Master".1

Sources:

1  Tatu

2  Langenscheidt Japanese Dictionary (c) 1998

7  Master K

8  Dr. D. Vice


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