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Interview with Master "K", March 2009

Z: Hello Master „K“, how are you?
 
K: Very Good, Zamil!  Thanks for asking.  :)
 
Z: I know that you are a very asked for person so I’m very happy that you could make the time to give this interview and I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do already.
 
K: It’s my pleasure.  I have many friends in Germany and I’m delighted to do this interview.  I think your magazine is very well done and I’m sincerely flattered to be included in its pages.  
Book
 
Z: You recently published your 2nd book “The Beauty of Kinbaku (or everything you ever wanted to know about Japanese erotic bondage when you suddenly realized you didn’t speak Japanese”. What was the main reason for publishing this work?
 
 
 
K: I felt it was time.  As more and more people have become interested in expanding their erotic possibilities, the art of Japanese bondage has increased in popularity many times over from what it was when I began my researches years ago.  It’s a mysterious and exciting art and people in the West are now curious about it.  For years I’d been looking for a book in English that would tell the complete story of the art and history of kinbaku (Japanese erotic bondage) and I finally realized that, because of my lifelong interest and study, if I didn’t do that book it might not ever be written.
 
Z: Your new book is a gem for anyone seriously interested in Kinbaku. How was it perceived by the rope community?
 
K: Thank you for the compliment.  I’ve truly been delighted by the response and very flattered that so many knowledgeable people in the international rope community (Osada Steve, Matthias Grimme, Jimi Tatu, Bob of RopeMarks, etc., etc.) have praised the book so highly.  I was also humbled by the honor of having the book selected as one of the few English language books ever acquired by the world famous SM Library (Fuuzoku Shiryoukan) in Tokyo.
Of course, the book is fairly unusual in that it’s a serious book on an erotic topic and also includes many nude photographs so perhaps it isn’t that surprising it excited some comment!  :) 
 
Z: Was there any reaction that really got you?
 
K:
 
Z: What do you think is the main achievement of your new book?
 
K: If there is any unique quality to “The Beauty of Kinbaku” it’s in the scope of the information, drawn from many sources, that has gone into presenting, for the first time in English OR Japanese, a complete picture of the evolution of shibari/kinbaku through time.  The book begins by talking about the religious and cultural aspects of Japan that made it a uniquely fertile place for an art like kinbaku to evolve.  It then proceeds to discuss the martial art of hojojutsu (the capturing and tying martial art) that is a direct ancestor to kinbaku and also the evolution of the feudal era punishments that so influenced the style of modern Japanese SM (sadomasochism).  Then there are chapters on Japanese SM art and Itoh Seiyu , the “father” of modern erotic kinbaku, and also the rise of the famous early “rope books” in the 1950s (like Kitan Club and Uramado) and Nikkatsu studios and their remarkable SM oriented films.  I then include biographies of the 25 most notable figures in kinbaku history (artists, ropemasters (bakushi), actors, historians, film makers, etc.).  Finally, there is a complete glossary of kinbaku terms, a 109 image color photo gallery, the largest bibliography of kinbaku literature ever produced in English and a “how to” guide for beginners.  The book covers a lot of ground.    
 
Z: I’m sorry for the internal joke here, but why does you book contain no footnotes?
 
K: :) We should explain to your readers that this is a subject we’ve chatted about often!
The reason there are no standard footnotes is that my publisher insisted I write an entertaining book not an obvious scholarly text. This was a requirement of publication and footnotes are not usually done or desired for such a book.  
That said, as you know, I am a very serious scholar.  
You have to think of my book as you would such classic texts as the distinguished English historian John Warry's "Warfare in the Classical World," published numerous times by Anova Books in London or “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking, one of the best popular science books on modern physics.  Like these books on similarly specialist topics, my book tries to entertain and also include most of the references needed for serious students within the text of the book.  Warry's book contains no footnotes and neither does mine.  Warry does not even include a bibliography at the end of his work but prefers to give his sources, as do I, within the text. This is a standard format in English speaking academia for books that the publisher hopes will "cross over" to a general audience.  
“The Beauty of Kinbaku" was intended as an entertaining, uncluttered read BUT it’s also a serious work ... even if it does have nude photos.  In addition, you should know that had I included footnotes the book would have been 10 pages shorter in order to include them because the publisher set a page limit of 192 pages.  Naturally, not all references can be cited in this format but serious scholars should be able to note the important references in the text and use the bibliography to get the information they need.
 
Z: How shall read your book in order to get down to the sources of your knowledge?
 
K: There are references to the key sources of information on almost every page, including many quotes.  Also, there is the extensive bibliography, the largest ever compiled on the history and art of kinbaku in English.  As I said, the interested, serious scholar should have no trouble referencing the original Japanese sources.  
 
Z: So taking that, what was your approach in researching all the facts?
 
K: I joked with a friend recently that my book took “30 years of collecting and study and 4 years of fact-checking” to write and this is only a slight exaggeration. Accuracy was paramount.

No fact or conclusion was included in the book that didn’t pass the test of confirmation by multiple sources with primary sources (living individuals and academically vetted historical documentation) being given the heaviest weight.
 
Z: I have understood from previous communications that you had a whole team working with you for the book. What was their role in the project?
 
K: For the 4 years of writing the book I collaborated with 4 main, uniquely qualified translator/partners and several other “associate” translators to:

1.)  Back up all of my conclusions.
2.)  Provide their own expert translations of modern and historical documents.
3.)  Guarantee corroboration and authentication for ALL translations that I did of the historical documents used as the basis for the book.  

The cost for doing this ran into the many thousands of dollars.

Of course, when documenting so unusual a subject, translating old texts is only part of the requirement for getting your facts straight. Living sources of information, if available, are also key. In this I feel very fortunate that many notable individuals consented to be interviewed specifically for sections of the book or provided useful contacts, documents and/or commentary.  Some of these included:

Nureki Chimuo - legendary bakushi, author.
Miyabi Kyodo - artist, SM magazine editor, bakushi and the “last student” of Minomura Kou.
Saotome Hiromi - kinbaku model and noted author.
Takeshi Nagaike - bakushi, closely associated with legendary author Oniroku Dan. 
Sugiura Norio - photographer.
Gold View Co Ltd - film distributors of “I Am an SM Writer,” “Bakushi” and other Hiroki Ryuichi films.
K. Taira - founder of the SM Library (Fuuzoku Shiryoukan), Tokyo and an art historian.
The librarians and staff of the SM Library (Fuuzoku Shiryoukan), Tokyo.
The librarians and staffs of the Criminology and Nawa Yumio collections, Meiiji University, Tokyo.

In fairness I must add that much of my original research stands on the shoulders of numerous others. For instance, there is a vast literature on the history of Japanese punishments. Such respected authors as Nawa, Ono, Inoue, Hara, Osatake, Shigematsu and Botsman, among others, have all contributed well researched texts on this subject in the modern era and all were consulted for my book and included in the bibliography. 

And their researches as well as mine are all based on a number of well documented primary sources, such as the Meiji era judge Sakuma Osahiro’s famous text, “Goumon Jikki” (actual record of torture), written in 1893. Sakuma is a particularly impressive source since his lifetime spanned the Edo and Meiji eras, his family worked in law enforcement for generations and he ended his career as a judge meting out punishments!

Likewise, if you know where to look, the history of hojojutsu (the capturing and tying martial art that is a direct ancestor of modern erotic kinbaku) has been well known for years. In my collection I have numerous sources that all confirm each other and those consulted for the book range from 1930s instructional texts on judo that have chapters on hojojutsu to Fujita Seiko’s monumental work taken from the files of his police constable father to the Meiji University‘s collection of over 500 tie patterns from various well known historical hojojutsu ryu (schools) exhaustively studied by Dr. Itatsu Yasuhiko. Again, these are all included in my book’s text or bibliography.

As for the particulars of the evolution of erotic shibari/kinbaku in the 19th and 20th centuries, this more original research was also carried out with great care. Again, primary sources were most important and ran the gamut from interviews with key people (see above) to months of research in various Japanese libraries (see above) and in my extensive collection. As some may know, I am fortunate to own complete runs of most of the important historical publications on the subject of Japanese SM and bondage (including Kitan Club, Uramado, SM King, SM Collector, etc., etc.) as well as quite rare historical and photo books, memoirs and fine art and all these clearly chart the events and careers that created modern kinbaku.
 
Z: Researching facts is not an easy task and a lot of misinformation is spread throughout the Internet. For someone seriously interested, what would be your advice on where to start?
 
K: With all due modesty, I honestly believe my book is probably the most reliable source of information on the history of kinbaku yet to be printed outside of Japan.  Information on the Internet is often incomplete, fragmented or disconnected and this can be quite aggravating for the serious researcher.  Of course, if you read Japanese then this fascinating world can be researched from the original sources as I have done.
 
Z: You book is talking a lot about the art, but little about the personal connection between the two partners engaged in bondage. What is your take on that; on how important is it to you?
 
K: There is a fair amount of this in the book’s “how to” section for novices, especially as regards safety, but I think this very personal, idiosyncratic and important aspect of kinbaku and SM relationships is outside the scope of an artistic appreciation or historical study.  It’s more “self help.”  :)
As for its importance to me, obviously a sincere, mature and affectionate connection between kinbaku partners is very important.  
Person
 
Z: You keep yourself very much in the background of the community, why is that?
 
K: When I began to seriously explore kinbaku as an art form there was no “community” to speak of in the US and so my researches were pretty solitary.  This became my habit of scholarship and old habits are hard to break.  As a teacher I prefer, for safety’s sake, small classes and one on one instruction.  This I do comfortably in Los Angeles, California and so I seldom travel except for the occasional speaking engagement.  Finally, I’m not involved in “performance” style kinbaku – that simply isn’t part of my personality.  It takes too much courage and talent!  I guess my contribution to the community has to remain my writing and photos.  :)   
 
Z: What triggered your interest in Kinbaku?
 
K: I think the instinct towards SM is somewhat “hard wired” in individuals and this was probably the case with me.  For many this is a troubling thing.  Luckily, I discovered kinbaku as a teenager when I saw some images in a book in San Francisco and realized that the impulse towards SM could be a loving and mutually satisfying experience between people and also, in the right hands, a beautiful art form.
 
Z: Have you been to Japan and for how long?
 
K: Yes, I spent a college semester in Japan as part of an exchange program in the early 1970s, loved it and then returned 2 years later for 10 months.  This is when I began seriously studying the techniques of kinbaku and also began collecting kinbaku related documents and art.  
 
Z: Besides writing great books and create stunning images, what else are you doing related to Bondage?
 
K: I teach and spend many hours in research.  I also have various clients whom I tie for their relaxation and therapy.
 
Z: You have students that you train, what is your approach in training?
 
K: I have 3 modes of teaching.  First, I have my serious “advanced” students whom I teach one on one for at least 6, four hour lessons.  These intense tutorials involve hands on techniques, kinbaku history and art.  Second, I have my “social shibari group” of 4 couples that meet once a month, 10 times a year.  This revolving group is much more informal and casual but the topics range, depending on group interest, from all those explored by my advanced students to more general topics of Japanese culture, society, religion and art.  Finally, I have my “casual club go-er” students.  These are usually younger people with less time and interest that just want to learn a few ties to do in clubs.  In these 2 to 4 hour sessions I teach easy but attractive ties, impart some of the sophisticated safety aspects of kinbaku, discuss its potential value in meaningful SM relationships and generally try to make sure that they don’t kill themselves!  :) 
 
Z:  What do you think, how long does someone need to learn before he/she is sufficiently trained in Bondage?
 
K:  As is the case with many artistic activities, I subscribe to the 10,000 hour rule.  That is, to really master a craft and even begin to raise it to an art, you have to practice something 10,000 hours in order to become truly skilled.
 
Z: How much time do you actually spend in rope related activities?
 
K: I work on it every day either by tying, researching, writing or corresponding with interested people who want answers to questions.  It’s both my passion and a major form of relaxation.
 
Z: We have a very active and focused Shibari community in Germany. How is that in the US?
 
K: More active than ever but fragmented due to the huge size of our country.  The Internet is supposed to help RE: contacts and
education but, since I’m a pre-internet type, it doesn’t help me!     
 
Z: What was the most stupid question someone has asked you in relation to Kinbaku – any question within this interview doesn’t count! :)
 
K: As a teacher of kinbaku for many years I can honestly say there are no stupid questions.  After all, it’s a somewhat complex art to learn and everyone moves forward at their own pace.
On the other hand, the type of question that causes me the most concern is usually something like: “I’d like to suspend my girlfriend/wife Suzy.  Could you please send me written instructions?”
Obviously, this advanced type of kinbaku technique (suspensions or “tsuri”) should only be taught in person by a skilled practitioner and especially crafted to take in all of the unique emotional, physical and safety issues that each student exhibits.     
 
Z: Your first book talks about Shibari, the second one about Kinbaku. What is the difference for you?
 
K: Shibari and kinbaku are actually synonymous words.  They both refer to Japanese style erotic bondage.  Shibari is the older word going back centuries and also carries the connotation of tying any object.  Kinbaku is the newer word, exclusively refers to erotic bondage and was probably coined in the early 1950s according to my latest research.  I used one each for my book’s titles for poetic reasons.  :)  
 
Z: Taking that, what makes the difference to any western style?
 
K: Generally speaking, Western style bondage is a rather simple, point to point, method of restraint involving generally easy to learn knots or the use of handcuffs, tape, etc.  Kinbaku is an aesthetic of restraint using soft jute cord with hundreds of years of history, art and technique behind it.  In addition, in properly constructed kinbaku, the ties actually stimulate the various erogenous zones of the bound partner.  This ability to convey love and emotion, to say nothing of sexual stimulation, exclusively through the medium of rope makes it quite unique in the world of SM.     
 
Z: I understood that Nureki is the one who you prefer the most. Why is that?
 
K: Nureki Chimuo is nearing 80 and is the greatest living bakushi (rope master) in Japan.  His technique is extraordinary.  He’s also a fine writer with numerous books on the subject of kinbaku and SM to his credit.  I also greatly admire the late masters Minomura Kou and Akechi Denki, both extraordinary talents.
 
Z: To me it seems that the US rope community has a type of security and safety fetish. How do you see safety and security when tying?
 
K: Safety is vital and there must be no compromise.  There is no excuse for injuring your beloved partner.
 
Z: Did you have a teacher to learn your Kinbaku from?
 
K: I started learning from a man on the periphery of the commercial SM scene in Japan in the early 1970s.  He was not a recognized “name” but he knew his stuff.  We’ve remained friends ever since.
 
Z: I have understood from you book, that some of the ties shown therein have not been taught to you but are re-engineered from old images. How do you make sure that you stay within and copy the original technique?
 
K: Yes, this is true.  Almost all of the ties in the book’s 109 image photo gallery depict most of the classical kinbaku ties and their important variations from history.  Naturally, I also include some of my own shibari/kinbaku stylings.
Fortunately, most of the great kinbaku masters have published “how to” instructionals over the years.  It’s one aspect of my research and collecting that I still enjoy the most and get excited by.  I’ve spent years searching for rare texts in order to learn from the great bakushi of the past.  This is the material that went into my reconstructions.
 
Z: There are people who know and people who always know better, how do you deal with those in the rope community?
 
K: It does seem that the SM community can get quite contentious and opinionated at times, especially on the Internet.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s all those doms?  :) Seriously, my own view is that everyone is entitled to their opinion provided it’s well thought out and politely expressed.
 
Z: You stated some time ago, that speed in tying is not something you are after. So, what is it you focus on when you are tying.
 
K: An emotional and physical connection between my partner and myself.  Generally speaking, this type of intimacy s best achieved using a slower rhythm. On the other hand, sometimes speed is necessary to get this same result with some types of partners.  It all depends.  Every partner is unique.
 
Z: Can you describe what you feel when tying?
 
K: At its best I lose myself in the joy of creating beauty and pleasure.
 
Z: Some people see Kinbaku as an art, others see it as an enhancement of their sexuality and again other see it as their preferred activity when engaged in BDSM and I trust that there are various other ways of looking at it. Which ways do you see your Kinbaku?
 
K:  In all these ways and more.  That is the beauty of kinbaku. 
 
Z: Is there a Miss “K”?
 
K: 
 
Z: For a good rope session, what are your personal prerequisites to enjoy it really?
 
K:  More than anything else, an interested, inquisitive and affectionate partner.
 
Z: This is pretty much the end of the interview. Would you like to share something with us that has not been asked?
 
K:
 
Z: Thank you very much Master “K”. It was a pleasure to finally meet you and to spend time with you in LA. Hope to see you again soon!
 
K: Thank you, Zamil!  I look forward to meeting you in LA again soon.  You left many friends here!