Ichinawa or ippon nawa?

Ichinawa or ippon nawa?

I have been under the impression that I first heard the expression ichinawa to describe working with only one rope from Osada Steve some 4 or 5 years ago and thus regarded it as authoritative. However, in a recent post on my Fetlife kinbaku group, he says I am mistaken as he uses the term ippon nawa which employs the correct word for counting objects such as rope. If this is so, I have no idea where I came across what I believed to be the correct name for this practice. Hopefully, somebody can shed any light on its origin.

I had my original understanding of the term confirmed by what I believed to be an authoritative article by WykD_Dave:

"I’ve been asked a lot of times if Ichinawa is right for the one rope technique I teach or if it should be Ipponnawa. So rather then keep explaining it I’m going to write out my answer here and point people at it in future.

The term comes straight from the Japanese language. Confusion has arisen because some people have been getting confused between naming and counting. Some have told me that Ichinawa is wrong and it should be Ipponnawa.

It would be Ipponnawa if you were counting ropes. Or slightly more accurately Ippon me no nawa.

Japanese counting is a nightmare so I checked this with a Japanese born professional translator who also agrees that it’s a nightmare and a minefield.

Ippon = one as in one two three… for long cylindrical things, The ‘hon‘ category! Yes I know it’s written ‘pon‘ but it’s still in the hon category.

Ichi = one in a general sense can also mean best.

(Ichiban is worth a mention as it’s what you also might use for best or first as in first, second third.)

There are also Japanese counting variants for flat thin objects, small compact objects, liquid in cups, bound objects (i.e. you count things like books differently to everything else), machines, the floors of buildings, pairs of things (i.e. socks), time, large animals, small animals, birds, people (formal), people (informal) and age.

To be honest I’ve probably missed a few in that list. Nightmare right? Which is why I asked a professional translator who’s a Japanese national and also into rope to make sure.

Ichinawa definitely (in the opinion of a professional native Japanese translator) correct for the naming of this technique.

Now because we’re talking about Japanese where set in stone ways of saying things are not always as thick on the ground as many western minds may wish… I must say that this is ‘a correct usage‘ but not necessarily the only correct usage. Someone else may for instance have another name for the same thing that is equally correct.

Also people have mentioned that Kinoko Hajime’s rope club is called Ichinawa Kai.

The thing with Kinoko and Ichinawa kai is a joke because….

the kanji for Hajime and Ichi can be the same.

It’s a pun in Japanese, Ichi (see earlier note) meaning best and also being written with the same kanji as Kinoko’s name. So…”one rope club” == “best rope club” == “Hajime’s rope club” (In Japanese they can be written identically.) And It’s 100% certain that Kinoko did that on purpose.

It’s also worth remembering that though plenty advise practising with one rope they would use Ippon for that because they’re specifying the number of ropes to be used, as opposed to the Ichinawa technique which is a technique that does not exist just for practice but as a technique in its own right that specifically only ever uses one rope. And as it only ever uses one rope the name is only for description to distinguish this technique because counting the ropes used is errr…. somewhat redundant given that there will only ever be one.

The technique has only to the best of my knowledge been begun to be taught as a distinct thing in and of itself in the last two years. So it’s also completely unsurprising that many people don’t instantly associate the name with the technique. The usage is quite definitely correct even if not yet widespread.

In the west I can only think of one person aside from myself that really teach it as a distinct technique and even then we have somewhat different takes on this technique. Though I’m sure more people have started spreading this technique after having lessons."

Copyright WykD_Dave Rope-topia.com

As usual, there has been some debate in my kinbaku group and I reproduce NuitDeTokyo's words on the subject which seem to indicate that ichinawa is not the correct term. I have great respect for his knowledge as he has spent many years in Japan, knows many of the big names and is an avid collector of Japanese SM and shibari material and art.

"As mentioned supra, The Ichinawa no Kai headed by Hajime Kinoko is taking its name in part from Hajime ( written 一 also read Ichi I.e. one and by extension first)

But as the name of a Style/school it is a direct reference to the 一刀 (itttou) style of Japanese fencing, which has its roots during the Japanese "warring states period" and whose iemoto ( head of school) ended being the sword instructors to the Shogunate with the Ittou school becoming one of the largest and most prestigious schools of Kobudo ( old budo) up until now. This background is second nature to Japanese people who are all familiar with period dramas on TV.

You have the same naming particularities in the case kata as (刀) are normally counted 一振り刀 (Hirofuri katana) or 一本刀 (ippon katana), the normal usage being furi for one and pon/bon/hon for 2 or more (as for rope) ( there are other possibilities, namely using kuchi 口, or 腰), but what is of importance to us is that the name of the school is ittou ( I.e. Itsu "one" and tou " sino-Japanese reading of katana "Japanese sword") and not " ipponkatana"

So naturally a Japanese when ask to read 一縄 as a name of school will read it Ichinawa ( or itsujou) ( Nawa is the native reading, Jou the sino Japanese reading of the same character 縄 rope). But that name refers to a style (or a technique) ( as in the Ichinawa no Kai) and not to a rope as a physical object. ( clearly the Ittou school uses 2 katanas, a long one and a short one, in the same way the Ichinawa no Kai members, Hajime Kinoko, Otonawa, Akuaku etc use more than one rope ( rather obviously )) .

So someone using one rope is still using ippon Nawa. his style of tying will become Ichinawa only if he belongs to a school/style of rope called "Ichinawa". I would assume most Japanese familiar with rope will associate the Ichinawa name with Hajime Kinoko, so if you say you belong to the Ichinawa style, most people will assume you have been accepted in the style by Hajime Kinoko San himself.

I would be tempted to think that creating a rope style/technique with the name Ichinawa today with the name already in use by Kinoko San and his students is not something I would personally recommend, but that is a very personal opinion.

All this to say that when Yukimura Haruki is asking someone to do something with only one rope, he will say "ippon Nawa de, Kimochi wo Irete, Yukimura ryuu no Nawa" I.e. "only one rope, with some feeling, in the Yukimura rope style" .

So we may have not moved a lot away from Ippon Nawa, which is not so surprising because we will stay quietly on the tatami, that is unless a fierce samurai of the Ittou Ryu shows up....



Osada's final words on the matter clear up the current usage:

"Just for the record, as I have the impression I am being misquoted:

Ichinawakai is a group of people who do shibari and call their group Ichinawakai. It's a name. And the members of Ichinawakai are definitely using more than just "one" rope. If some bikers get together and call themselves the Single-Spoke Hoodlumers nobody would think that these guys are riding on just one spoke.

It's a misunderstanding that some people with less than entry-level Japanese language skills think Ichi = One and Nawa = Rope, and therefore "Ichinawa" means "One Rope".

Regardless, when people who know a thing or two about shibari AND Japanese talk about Ipponnawa they usually mean to tie someone by using just one single piece of rope. In case of "play bondage" (asobi nawa) you can spend hours of continuously tying and (partially or fully) untying with ONE single piece of rope."

So, in summary, it appears that ippon nawa is the correct usage for counting ropes. For ichinawa to be valid, it would have to refer to a technique. However, it seems no such name has yet been coined. One could do this in the way that chop suey has been dreamed up to describe a dish unknown in China. This might not be appreciated by Kinoko though as it might lead people to associate it with his group. So, there you have the situation as I know it.

That said, who cares what it's called? It's how you do it that matters, which is why that has always been so central to my teaching. Nina and I have made made many tutorials of rope handling and technique, including this one

Complete and Continue