My thoughts on learning and tuition

Some days ago, while I was reviewing and updating the Shibari Kinbaku (part IV): The Learning Path writing, I felt gladly surprised on how Shibari/Kinbaku evolved and got more popular since those days when I’ve originally wrote that post.

Haru Tsubaki. Photographer: Nestor Baltodano
Haru Tsubaki. Photographer: Nestor Baltodano

I recall those days when my friend Kurt Walter Fisher put his passion on trying to share this art, the one which he loved so much, even when only very few people knew about it.  He worried and worked hard to get that first workshop’s student places fully booked.  That was the first workshop Osada Steve Sensei “his Sensei” was doing in the Club Social Rosas 5 of Barcelona, and the first one I did book in.

I look around today and everything is so different. Workshops had multiplied both in Europe and in the US. Many great Sensei’s students had matured, and there is always a rope meeting somewhere. There is an aesthetic and respect concept that has developed in this art, that seems to somehow follow that admiration that Kurt drove me on those early days.

Unfortunately every rose has it’s thorns. It’s also remarkable how this art popularization, and the simple fact that it got mainstream, got so many people to abuse this situation to gain either business benefits or popularity damaging Shibari/Kinbaku and it’s reputation.

There are those that from some futile excuses (sometimes more related to own ego than reality) argue their impossibility to properly learn. They name themselves as “self-taught” and go teaching nonsense on Shibari’s behalf.  As I’ve said many times, you may have a chance to learn things by yourself, but it’ll be harsh to learn what you had never saw without the guidance of someone who can show it in front of your eyes.

Hajime Kinoko Bakushi tying with his father.
Hajime Kinoko Bakushi tying with his father.

In that way, I can understand that you can learn from a familiar and cultural tradition, if you are a person that lives in Japan and thus is continuously immersed in that culture. In that case you may have lived all your life surrounded by concepts like honor, the tying of the sacred with nawa, and that different level of consciousness. Even though, among Japanese people,  there are those who devote their whole life to learn this art and are named bakushis. If they are willing to teach it they would do it from a serious and sane point of view. Concepts like energy flow with the model (ki hairimasu) and safety (so important in my opinion) may seem too obvious for those who live them daily. In many cases some westerners who care better for how many people follow them than their teaching quality, skip those concepts on demand of the immediate way and the need to show that some social networks propose. It seems that you need to tie and suspend someone (no matter how you do it, or if it is safe or not) as the only way to truly demonstrate that you know Shibari.

Making some parallelism is like if we suddenly need to be some martial art black belt after watching some Bruce Lee movie. It’s like if suddenly started to appear out of the blue people saying that they are capable of teaching us some martial art. What is sad is not only this, but the fact that there are lots of people are irresponsibly supporting, either by no tacking care of who they are learning with, who do they follow in the social networks, who do they let them get tie them or even which is the real Shibari/Kinbaku essence.

Social networks and Internet in general had became an amplifier of the darkest and materialistic version of some people nowadays.  I’m pretty much sure that if you ask some of the great names that you may found in social networks nowadays, they’d know nothing about 80% of the people they have tagged as “friends”. If we go deeper in that question, they would certainly not know a thing about their rigger’s quality, or they would simply say they had never saw them tie. Only a few of us have a frequent contact to the Japanese scene (either because we had traveled, or because we have had contact with Japanese bakushis in other city), and can support our learning path by periodically training face to face with some of them.

Unfortunately it seems that those who navigate Internet and specially some social networks as rope lovers, or wannabe models, are unaware of these realities,  letting all these became a decadent black market version where everything goes on behalf of getting more followers or thrust the ego.

KinbakuManía always presented itself as a genuine and authentic place devoted to sharing quality and trusted material for all Kinbaku lovers. We know that this vision and mission related attitudes, like defending the proper way to learn this art, not adding any stranger in our social network activity, may not make us popular. However our position will remain to stand for the ethic values of Shibari/Kinbaku, and to continue pointing what in my opinion are the worst failures to Shibari/Kinbaku learning and practicing ethics.  Many of those things may sound obvious, and would not be needed to be written, unless they continue being part of our surrounding reality.

Best we may do in that case to reinforce that message is to remind again and again, day in and day out what we mentioned in the post Shibari Kinbaku (part IV): The Learning Path:

Basic protocol for Shibari/Kinbaku students

Basic protocol for Kinbaku students may vary according to each Sensei or study group criteria. However many of these words have deep relation in the Bushido code, in decency and cultural rules, in common sense (joshiki), and the respect that any teaching method should have for the teachers.. I’ll write some basic generic rules that use to be common both for soto-deshi students (those who come to practice in a Dojo) as for uchi-deshi students (ward student living inside the Dojo).

* Any student who assists to a Dojo should respect it’s rules. Rules may subtly vary from Dojo to Dojo but are almost the same everywhere. You can read about KinbakuMania Dojo’s rules here.

* It’s not honorable to unilaterally consider yourself as some Sensei’s disciple, communicate it, or show it off without being previously recognized in that way by him.

* If you are considered as any Sensei’s student remember that you’re his student not only during his classes, but at all times. Do your best to keep an honorable conduct and honor him by being his student.

* Any time you share photos of your rigging, try to watermark them with your rigger’s name. In that way you’ll bring honor to your Sensei, your model and yourself.

Be humble and conscious of your own limitations. You should never try to perform any tying or pattern that your Sensei hadn’t prepared you for it yet.  It will be your Sensei who should advice you about that moment when you would be able to let your imagination create or when you’re ready to let your ropes flow.

* Just by assisting to a few days workshop with any great Master does not automatically turn you in his student.  Paying some private lessons doesn’t do the magic either.

* It’s considered dishonorable to use other rigger’s pictures to illustrate any writing, promote events, or any kind of public sharing without having previously asked permission. If you do so, you must provide the rigger’s credit (also the model and the photographer if known) as a way of thanking him.

* If you have already been accepted as a student by a Sensei, it’s considered dishonorable to ask another Sensei for tuition without previously having asked permission to your Sensei. It would be also dishonorable for the second Sensei to accept you

Any bakushi /nawashi name implies a great honor when being given to you by your Sensei. It’s considered a high dishonor to use any Great Master bakushi / nawashi name without being given it by him.  Using any bakushi /nawashi  name without permission is like trying to steal his identity. Even when you consider any famous bakushi /nawashi as your idol, you should NEVER name after him without permission.

* Always remember that your most valuable possession as a rigger, even more precious than your knowledge is your honor and image. Take care of them with humbleness and good manners. It takes a whole life to build an image of honor and wisdom, and just a few minutes to destroy it.

* As a student you own what you have treasured with dedication and perseverance. Do not defile it by trying to teach it when your Sensei didn’t tell you’re ready to do so.  If you give away that knowledge that took you so much effort to learn, you’ll dishonor it. On the other hand whoever would receive that  would not appreciate it.


There may be certainly many people that care little for these values. They would surely continue doing what they have been doing so far, masking their mistakes in some excuse so to seem they were forced to. What I’m certain is that there are no excuses to do what you mustn’t. If you’re not properly prepared to do it, and your conscience knows that, you’d rather refrain to do it.



Haru Tsubaki

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