Some years ago, I have had the pleasure to meet Harukumo-san when he was one of the translators for Yukimura Haruki Sensei’s workshop held in his visit to the Copenhaguen Shibari Dojo. I’ve had the chance to see his good knowledge on the harsh Japanese language in that occasion, and as frequently happens on rope community, we started a friendship that lasts to this days.
I use to frequently communicate with Harukumo-san, even when we’re so away geographically. On one of these last times I’ve confessed him a doubt I had regarding a very close and loved concept.
On one of my last visits to Japan, when I’ve visited Yukimura Haruki Sensei and humbly asked him for guidance and training, I was surprised by receiving a work of shodo from his own hands. He dedicated it to me and delivered it to me personally. This work had the kanjis of 縄 (nawa) and 心 (kokoro) written in it. Although when I’ve immediately understood its meaning related to my love for rope (which indeed filled me with gratefulness to my teachers), I’ve also had some doubts about how should it be read (how it sounds) and also though it would be interesting to have a wider vision of its meaning from someone who knows Japanese language better than me.
That’s how Harukumo-san writes this beautiful essay on what “Nawagokoro” means to him (also correcting my error of reading it as nawakokoro) which I would like to share with you all:
By Harukumo, 06-Jul-2015, Zurich
A friend of mine from Buenos Aires, Harutsubaki-san, asked me to write a little something about this concept. First of all, I might have to concede that “nawagokoro” is not a fixed concept, but rather a poetic, metaphorical expression. It describes a certain attitude or intuitive understanding of tying which is not easily learned or explained. I have no idea where or when it originated, but I think I might have had some influence on it since I think I mentioned it to some people in the mid 2000s in Japan.
The term is a combination of two nouns: “nawa” (rope) and “kokoro”. “Kokoro” is an ambiguous and interesting word. It can literally mean “heart”, “soul”, “spirit” and “mind”. Depending on the circumstances, it emphasizes physical or emotional/metaphysical aspects of “heart”. I think the most appropriate translation might, in this context, be “heart”, referring to the romantic image of the (physical) heart being the seat of the human soul or emotions.
A gifted bakushi does not only need to understand the rope technique, the patterns and all these technical elements, but equally important is the ability to understand the feelings of his partner. Nawagokoro expresses a special talent to quickly understand technical aspects and at the same time grasp how these techniques influence his/her partner. But nawagokoro is more than that. Nawagokoro is also the passion for rope, a deep inner motivation to tie and more than that to connect through rope with another human being. Well, at least this is how I understand it.
Tying is a delicate process. The important thing about it is not merely to tie the body, but to tie the mind, the “kokoro”. I think that the most important part in tying is indeed interpersonal communication and the prerequisite for successful communication is, in my opinion, empathy.
Someone with the “nawagokoro” has empathy, technical understanding and can use his/her desire to create and enhance a very special feeling in his/her partner and any audience. To a degree, all these elements can (and need) to be practiced or trained (ideally with supervision from an experienced teacher). But some people bring more of it with them, even without ever having touched a rope, than others who might have tied for years already. Most of those gifted, rare creatures have “nawagokoro”, just like some people almost effortlessly learn languages or excel at sports.
This might sound like an unfair thing and, even worse, as a cheap trick to establish a category to draw a line between “good” and “bad” tiers. If someone steps on your toes, just discredit him by stating that no matter how skilled he might be, he lacks “nawagokoro” and therefore will never understand the “true” meaning of it all. There is a risk of this happening, yes, but that is neither what the idea is about nor what it should be used to. I prefer to think of Nawagokoro rather as an honorific term that is attributed to those we chose as our role models simply because we know that they have it when we see them tie.
Be open. Be frank. Be fair. Be quiet and admire the beauty of kinbaku wherever you encounter
I wish to thank Harukumo-san for enlightening me a bit more about this so special concept, and for sharing with me his vision on its profound and wonderful meaning. I’ve already felt a tremendous honor when receiving it from a Grand Master like Yukimura Haruki Sensei. He was personally delivering this piece of art to me written from his own hand considering me in this way! I feel extremely happy to be able to communicate what I communicate with ropes, but also a huge responsibility to do it wisely, carefully and fairly to honor my Masters.
Thanks Yukimura Haruki Sensei,
Thanks Osada Steve Sensei,
Thanks Yukinaga Max Sensei,
… and thank you also to all those who had enlightened and continue enlightening my rope journey.