All along history the humankind knowledge was always based in learning from our own errors in the past and the value of experience. In any culture that evolved old people were always put in a special wisdom place where their experiences were listened by all others. It would be highly illogical for the human being to discard the experience from those who lived before us and stumbled upon the same problems we have today.
The Japanese word Sensei 先生 refers to that specific attribute. First kanji 先 would be translated as “before” while the second one 生 speaks about the act of being born to or the act of living. It does not speak about age, it does not involve hierarchies. We should understand this last oriental meaning as referred to the moment when we’re born to the practice. Its meaning in a whole may be translated as “the person who was born to the practice before” or just “that person who was before”. This meaning should not be taken lightly, as (in the same way all Japanese terms are) it is embedded by the honor concept. Only our own Sensei would be able to evaluate our path, not only in the timely aspect, but on effort, respect, perseverance and devotion we have put in it. Only when Sensei perceives we are on track in the acceptance and understanding of the fundamental principles we’ve been taught, and our soul is calm and balanced he might evaluate if we’re worthy to carry his legacy.
In this way, and totally in tune with oriental way of teaching, those who seriously and perseveringly practice an oriental art, those who are able to analyze themselves from within humbleness, become a valuable person for the art. A person from which we can learn many things. Somebody that have already stumbled with the most common errors before us.
It’s a natural part of our human nature to feel that there is no better lesson than letting ourselves have our own experiences, letting ourselves fail. That’s only partially true. It’s perfectly valid that failing on our own would make ourselves aware that we’re doing something in a wrong way and wonder how would we do it right (and that would be only in the case we’re smart enough to realize we’re failing). But it’s also true that this way of learning is way uncertain, longer and harder, and it would take us years to find the answers that those who learn from a Sensei would have at hand.
In the case of shibari, the learning path through try and error adds the sensible fact that our fails and errors would eventually affect the health and wellbeing of those who offer themselves as rope models. It’s crucial that in that case both model and rigger should be aware that the cost of that error would be higher for the model than for the rigger. It becomes sane then that someone with a given experience and knowledge would look after the safety and health during practices.
In the same way you can’t become a professor overnight, it also impossible to become a master in this art without effort, dedication, tons of practice and lots of attention to what the one who is guiding our path teaches you. In our rope learning process we all are in a constant learning journey. Those who have just started would probably have lots of things to learn and would feel their knowledge rapidly growing. On the other hand, those who have a certain way spent in the learning path would continue learning, but perhaps in a slower and paced way… Anyway there is always something more to learn.
We are constantly learning in our KinbakuMania Shibari Dojo classes. Both students learn and Sensei learns on new and more effective way to transmit shibari essence. We aim shibari teaching not to be a desperate frenzy to learn and collect as much new ties and structures as possible, neither to be doing suspensions after only two days after you have touched your first rope. We’re focused on the learning of the essence of this art from the very understanding and internalization of its basic concepts. Same tie can be achieved in different ways. Many of those would be probably right, but it is the very understanding of those basic principles and what doing shibari involves what makes it an art of tying rather than the art of just putting jute rope in a nice a pretty way over the model’s body.
One of the last methods we’ve been trying to improve teaching techniques is based on putting our student’s analysis and comprehension of errors and goals to work over their own and some third party shibari photos and videos. It’s a thoughtful moment where dojo students analyze some images and videos of previous classes, or others collected from the thousands that flow publicly in Internet and that are specially selected by Sensei. We should remark that this kind of exercise is only possible when the student has completely grasped the intrinsic logic and the basic fundamentals that a traditional shibari proposal should comply with.
Allowing controlled errors during dojo practices aims for leaving a permanent mark (as permanent as possible) through that experience (always closely looking after models health and overall wellbeing). In that way we aim for the continuous expansion of rigger’s personal experience. Needless to say that this practice is always and vitally nurtured by those who act as rope models as they are encouraged to sincerely express what they felt in their rope experience without censorship or deviations. The more experienced rope models are those who enrich these meeting moments most as they are able to compare sensations over different kinbaku experiences and turn them into valuable tips to the rigger through Sensei’s interpretation and experience. That’s an invaluable feedback about those particular points that may need some improvement and that students should always thank.
In some of our last classes we also received some feedback from Osada Steve Sensei himself. He sent some pictures and other material to work on. We devoted a whole class to that special subject. The wise eye of Sensei, even in the distance, may sometimes detect and correct some imperceptible errors that are part of the continuous improvement and make the difference between a Ryu with lineage and history from those who only teach copied knots and patterns.
I feel very proud of many of my students’ advance. I thank them very much for their patience, perseverance, practice and devotion to this art. Without all that, my teaching would be useless. They’re already feeling that shibari learning path is timeless, hard and sometimes frustrating. But when we both look back and see at how much we grew over time, how much they improved in knowledge and experience, and compare themselves with their beginnings or with other riggers, that effort and sacrifice makes complete sense and feels great.