A BRIEF HISTORY OF ROPE BONDAGE IN THE EAST AND WEST



IN THE EAST

MARTIAL ART ORIGINS

The Japanese origins of rope used as a bondage tool stem not from an erotic place, but rather through law enforcement and punishment. Hojojustu came into popularity in Japan as a military practiced martial art in the 1400s, in which the samurai of the day would practice the art as a means of restraining and securing enemies at war. Ties used in hojojutsu were symbolic to the prisoner and their punishment and often had an emphasis on torture. The art is often cited as the origins of kinbaku and shibari, though it is still practiced as a professional martial art today and remains a part of Japanese police training.


DEVELOPMENT OF KINBAKU

It is in the Japanese Edo period (1600s to mid 1800s) that sexual rope bondage is first noted. Seito Ito is often credited as the ‘father of kinbaku’, being a painter who was researching hojojustu and thus created some of the earliest depictions of erotic bondage in Japanese art. The eroticisation of hojojutsu led to rope being depicted more and more frequently in shunga (traditional Japanese erotic art) and in the theatre art of kabuki. In the early 20th century, the use of rope in kabuki theatre led to the development of rope bondage being implemented in a highly stylised manner. With a focus on the concept of “zankoku no bi” - loosely defined as “the beauty of torture” - this can be seen as the origins of ‘kinbaku’ as we know it today. Throughout the 1950s kinbaku became widely popular in Japan, with the publication of the first naked bondage photographs appearing in magazines and it is from here on that we see the use of the term ‘nawashi’ (rope master). While kinbaku itself means to ‘bind tightly’ (with kinbaku-bi meaning ‘the beauty of tight binding’), the term shibari arose in the West at some point in the 1990s as a common way to describe the bondage art of kinbaku.


IN THE WEST

EARLY HOLLYWOOD & WORLD WAR 2 The early days of Hollywood is one of the first places we can see the use of bondage and eroticism entertwined in the West. Alongside this, both the scientific and underground interests in S&M were becoming more widely and explicitly documented. It is considered most likely that kinbaku was brought to the West through the cross-pollination of cultures that occurred during World War 2. Underground fetish magazines featured kinbaku as illustrations and photography and it is here that we begin to see the development of the Western style of rope.

FUSION

‘Fusion’ is a term typically applied to western style rope that has borrowed aspects from traditional Japanese kinbaku. The most distinguishing factor of western rope is that it does not have the limitations ascribed by a history of techniques developed over hundreds of years that kinbaku does. It is through this that we see rope artists, who have roots in initially learning traditional kinbaku, experiment in practice and performance to create ‘fusion’ rope. We also see that synthetic and coloured ropes are more commonly used in fusion style - as opposed to kinbaku, where there is a particular focus on the use of natural fibres.