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9 Gates

The 9 Gates are the theoretical and philosophical core of Osada-Ryû, because they describe the essential elements of teaching. All techniques are related to or express these concepts. The basic principles of the 9 Gates shape the teaching and approach in Osada-Ryû.

They permeate all kyû, every pattern and every technique.They also connect the individual schools in Tokyo, Vienna (run by Vinciens), Königswinter, Bremen and of course the Harukumo-Juku in Koblenz.

9 Pforten des Osada-Ryû
  1. Tachi-ichi, 立位置 – (Position(ing)) – Describes the position and attitude of Bakushi and Ukete.
  2. Ma-ai, 間合い – (Proximity) – Describes closeness and distance.
  3. Sabaku, 捌く – (Rope Handling) – Elegantly guide the rope with efficiency and little friction.
  4. Urawaza, 裏技 – (Hidden Techniques) – Interactions between Bakushi and Ukete, but not recognizable from the outside.
  5. Ki, 気 – (Energy) – Life force or energy flow describing the exchange between Bakushi and Ukete.
  6. Kankyû, 緩急 – (Tempo & Rhythm) – Dynamics and rhythm that fill the shibari encounter with tension.
  7. Kan, 勘 – (Intuition) – Intuitively anticipating the next steps, and emotional states during the shibari encounter.
  8. Muganawa, 無我縄 – (Empty Mind) – A special state of mind.
  9. Kuden, 口伝 – (Oral Tradition) – Oral transmission of knowledge by the sensei.

This content is difficult to teach theoretically because it depends on the interaction between the teacher and the learner. In each technique and pattern, these elements can interact differently and create new and interesting interactions.

Since each level of training focuses on different of the 9 gates, indiviudal emphases are set and adapted to the development of the learners.

Aisatsu

Aisatsu (挨拶) means “greeting”. These shibari patterns are warm-up and familiarization exercises that are technically simple and easy to learn. Defined patterns are used in Osada-Ryû, but with the right mix of minimalism and concentration, each pattern becomes an aisatsu, for example, the wedding proposal (求婚縛り) or one-rope techniques (一本縄).

The aisatsu techniques are an excellent warm-up exercise. This makes the transition from everyday life to the shibari-encounter easier and bakushi and ukete tune into each other. A short duration of ten to 15 minutes is already enough to mentally tune into the shibari encounter or lesson.

However, these techniques have more than one function. One can also use aisatsu techniques to test ukete’s agility or explore the mood. By varying tension and distance, bakushi can make different offers to which ukete responds.

Depending on how ukete reacts, the next steps become clear. This basic technique can be further used later, when more complex patterns are executed.

Bakushi and ukete start a conversation in which bakushi asks and ukete answers. This allows both partners to steer and create a shared shibari experience.

Gentle leading plays a big role, because if bakushi works with too much energy, ukete cannot freely explore and express a reaction.

Osada Steve zeigt das Aisatsu-Shibari, 2018 in der Harukumo-Juku
Osada Steve zeigt das Aisatsu-Shibari. Harukumo-Juku, 2018

That is why slowness and attention are at the core of aisatsu patterns. Finding the right timing is also a preparatory exercise for later to be used in more complex patterns.

Technically, these patterns use simple braking techniques instead of knots and the rope does not yet have to be completely used up. That means that, for example, no Kazari is necessary. The concentration is fully on the interaction and on developing a feeling for the rope and the opponent.

Aomuke-zuri

Aomuke-zuri (仰向け吊り) means “supine suspension”. It is one of the simplest and safest suspensions taught. It allows clear, straight lines and is a good base for transitions, for example into Sakasa-tsuri.

Aomuke-zuri, Osada Steve, Studio SIX, Tokio
Aomuke-zuri, shown byn Osada Steve in Studio SIX, Tokyo

The basic position is horizontal. It is important to distribute the weight appropriately between the main hanging rope, the corset hanging rope and the ropes at the ankles.

The pattern is an integral part of Osada-Ryû and is taught as one of the first suspensions. The basis is the Tasuki Takatekote with a corset around the waist, but alternatively a hip harness can be used. However, since the corset is built faster, it is very suitable especially for performances.

The Aomuke-zuri allows many variations. That is why this pattern is a popular basic variant, from which creative transitions are often executed.

The relative safety of the basic technique is a plus point here. This allows the next step to be planned with a little more calm and deliberation than with other suspensions.

Aomuke-zuri, Variation des Themas, Harukumo-Juku 2021
Aomuke-zuri, Variation, Harukumo-Juku, 2021

Aomuke-zuri seem of something stiff, because there are only a few oblique lines in it. But this is quickly changed by the transition to the Sakasa. Ukete also has many possibilities to pose. This makes aomuke forms very interesting and versatile.

Bakushi

A variant to this term is “Kinbakushi” (緊縛師), but it is less common. Japanese is a very economical language and terms consisting of a long series of kanji are usually shortened as much as possible. So, “Bakushi” ist the abberviated, more efficient form of this term.

Bakushi is on the one hand a self-designation, but also a role description. The Bakushi has, in a shooting, a performance, or a session, a clear task. It is the competence in handling the rope that distinguishes a Bakushi.

Osada Steve, bakushi from Germany. He has been shaping shibari in Tokyo and now worldwide for over 40 years. His style and teachings inspire not only the Juku, but also numerous other enthusiastic Shibaristas. Meanwhile, his style is also taught by his instructors in Germany and some particularly gifted learners, for example in Argentina, the USA, Australia and Northern Europe.

Yukimura Haruki, bakushi from Osaka. He spent most of his career in Tokyo. His style is characterized by subtlety and sensitivity. The great secrets surrounding the soft movements now continue to be taught in schools all over the world. Unfortunately, he passed away in the spring of 2016, so his legacy is now in the hands of his instructors.

Of course, there are numerous other bakushi, each with their own style, in which they express their individual styles and preferences. From performances on large stages to small, intimate chamber plays, everything is represented. Crossovers with other forms of art are also becoming more common, for example dance, tantra or yoga.

Collar exercise

The collar exercise is a Nawajiri exercise. Bakushi puts on Ukete a rope collar consisting of two double layers, which are loosely placed around the neck and closed in front with a normal knot.

The collar must be loose enough to be turned around the neck and must also have enough distance from the neck and face so that the short bight does not touch the body. This would be distracting and make the exercise more difficult.

The collar exercise begins in a sitting position after the collar is put on. Bakushi takes the nawajiri in hand and begins to communicate. There are three factors that are played with. The first is the angle of the rope, the second is the tension of the rope and the third is the distance between the hand and the collar.

Contact via the Nawajiri in the collar exercise

Bakushi and Ukete communicate with each other through the rope. Each change of a factor thereby produces a reaction, and this reaction points the direction in which it continues. Bakushi and Ukete thus establish their joint communication, while the nawajiri connects and extends the two bodies.

Slight changes lead to reactions. Communication arises.

The exercise becomes more intense when body or eye contact is deliberately avoided, so that the only connection between Bakushi and Ukete is the Nawajiri.

This exercise is a good introduction to a shibari encounter and allows for intensive aisatsu-shibari. The quiet interaction helps with concentration and trains listening skills. One’s mood and feelings come out and a connection between Bakushi and Ukete is created.

Bakushi changes the parameters with calmness and concentration. After each change, Bakushi waits and intensively observes the reaction of Ukete, which is now expressed. Only when this reaction is complete, Bakushi gives the next impulse.

This game is unlimited in time and is not only a good warm-up exercise, but also a possible start to an intense shibari encounter.

Engi

Engi (演技) means “performance” of Ukete, that is, the active participation of the model. The emotional expression is thus intensified. This is also a challenge for Ukete, because the guidance by Bakushi leaves more room.

The term goes back to ancient theatrical traditions, such as in Noh theater. The artist Zeami Motokiyo describes one of the highlights of the performance as “letting the flowers blossom”. By this he means the emergence of a special intensity in the actor’s performance. This is particularly difficult to achieve in Noh because the actors always wear masks. Thus, they cannot use their facial expressions, but can only express emotional states through their movements and their voice.

Similar to noh theater, shibari is about expressing emotions through engi. The minimalism of the yukimura-ryû resembles the mask in front of the face of the noh actor.

Only through years of practice it is possible to perfect this engi. On the one hand, the communication with the bakushi, on the other hand, the expression to the audience plays an important role. Only through the dynamic between Bakushi and Ukete also a suitable Engi is created.

Ukete must find the balance between his own Engi and the guidance of Bakushi. The space allocated to Ukete must be respected, but should be fully explored. To achieve this, slowness is important, as this gives Bakushi enough time to intervene should Ukete exceed the limits of space.

Hashira

Hashira means “pole” or “pillar”. It includes a whole group of shibari patterns, all of which are done on an upright pillar or beam. Combinations of an upper body pattern and a hip harness are usually used. Many different poses are possible once a solid structure is made for hanging. Hashira patterns are from the advanced range and are taught only in the second third of the training.

Inverted suspension with strappado. In addition to the pose, the weight distribution between the arms and the waist rope is crucial, so that a secure suspension is created. The Hashira should also not be too close to a wall, so that there is enough space to work on the other side. The ideal width of the Hashira is 10 to 21 cm, so that the support surface and the stability of the Hashira is maximized.

Upright Hashira techniques can be combined with any upper body pattern. The more free space there is, for example, on the legs, the more possibilities you have for visual design.

Due to the high technical demands, it is particularly difficult to maintain communication with the partner. In addition, the column restricts the range of motion. The back of the patterns are not so easily accessible. It is also important to bring the body as close as possible to the column so that the pose remains graceful and upright.

Traditionally, Japanese houses are built as wooden beam structures. These beam structures resemble European half-timbering. However, these beams are often freestanding within the rooms. Hence comes the possibility of creating corresponding patterns traditionally. The association with a traditional Japanese farmhouse, a minka (民家) are the stated goal here.

Kata-ashi kaikyaku

Kata-ashi kaikyaku (片足開脚) is a basic pattern in Yukimura ryû. It is a newaza technique from the 4th kyû. The kata-ashi kaikyaku is an advanced form that requires some technique and experience. It consists of the Yukimura handcuff and the Yukimura gote.

Bakushi thereby puts the body sideways. Then Bakushi fixes the leg above at the suspension point. In this way, the pelvis is opened, creating a subtle play with rope tension and exposure of ukete. While Bakushi varies the position of the leg, the nawajiri serves as a line of communication.

Basically, the kata-ashi kaikyaku is a partial suspension. However, this is often not perceived as such, because the body is almost completely on the floor. However, the form language actively uses the suspension point to draw triangles and diagonals. These are reflected in the position and posture of Ukete’s leg and body.

Kata-ashi kaikyakue, low position

Although the basic posture is relaxed, seme plays a role. Bakushi raises or lowers the ankles, creating tension. Kotobazeme is also an important factor. This pattern is often performed with ropes that are only 4mm thick. This creates more pressure on the places where the rope touches the body and the impulses through the rope become clearer.

Kata-ashi kaikyaku, high leg

Another important point is the pose. Especially the upper leg, which is fixed only at the ankle, plays an important role. The interaction between the partners must be right to create graceful and sensual impressions. A challenge here is the non-verbal communication, which is mainly done through the Nawajiri. To emphasize one’s own feeling correctly, so that the other person feels it as well, is the prerequisite for a harmonious rhythm.

Kata-ashi-zuri

Kata-ashi-zuri (片足吊り) means “one-legged suspension”. This refers to a partial suspension in which one foot or leg remains on the ground. The kata-ashi-zuri is often used as a precursor to the yokozuri.

Kata-ashi-zuri, Harukumojuku 2021

This pattern is an important part of the 5th Kyû in Osada-Ryû. The main load is on the upper body while one foot remains on the floor. Ukete can thus feel directly if the upper body positions are correct. Furthermore, Ukete can lift the second foot independently and test the suspension.

Bakushi can create many different images even before a full suspension begins. The kata-ashi-zuri thus offers a variety that few other patterns can brag with.

The pattern is modular, which means that all suspension ropes are independent of each other. This increases safety, as every critical point is directly accessible at all times and can be adjusted, corrected or undone.

The ropes and the body form opposite triangles. This symmetry between body and rope creates an aesthetic connection between the two worlds. The appeal of this pattern stems from this connections between symmetry, shapes and the combination of body, rope and clothing.

The kata-ashi-zuri can be done on a fixed suspension point (for example a ring) as well as on a bamboo.

In a suspension point, the ropes between the upper body, thigh and suspension point form the upper half of a hishi. The lower tip of the hishi is the foot on the floor and the attachment points of the ropes to the torso and thigh form the horizontal points.

Kata-ashi-zuri, K2-Salon, 2016

Kazari

Kazari (飾り) means “ornament” or “decoration”. This is anything in a shibari pattern that has no technical function. A typical example is the diamonds (hishi, 菱). Also, the creative “tucking away” of the nawajiri after the completion of a technical component is a kazari.

Osada-Ryû TK with 3 ropes and Kazari

Excellent bakushi spontaneously create a creative and aesthetically pleasing kazari. At the same time, they interact with their partner. You can see how experienced someone is by how well both are done at the same time.

In order to learn this, experience is needed. The basic patterns and basic techniques must be understood and mastered. When a bakushi understands the logic of rope flow, spontaneous creativity also develops.

A shibari pattern always follows the same structure. With these decorations, you can vary these patterns and change them visually. Thus, from the same basic techniques always creates something new.

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