Do we even know what a takate kote is?

Posted on Tue, 9 July 2013

It seems most of us are unknowingly abusing the term 'takate kote' when we use it describe the version of the chest tie that has forearms parallel. I understand that, strictly speaking, it refers specifically to a position where wrists form an upward X-shape. We noticed Kazami and his Japanese interpreter, Nana, just using 'gote' or 'gote shibari' when referring to a box tie with parallel forearms. When we queried the usage of 'gote' versus 'takate gote/kote', it seemed to cause some amusement when it was mentioned that westerners call the parallel arm versions 'TKs' or takate-kotes. It was confirmed that the 'takate' component meant 'high hands', i.e. X shape with hands up. To ensure I hadn't lost anything in translation, I raised the matter in my Fetlife Kinbaku group and once again NuitdeTokyo came to the rescue. He's a man whose opinion I hold in high esteem, although he is always extremely modest about his knowledge, he is an avid collector of SM and Kinbaku literature and associated closely with a number of top bakushi whilst he was living in Japan until very recently. Here's what he said:

"Takate K(g)ote means that the hands are higher than the horizontal. This was traditionally (i.e. Nureki Chimuo) obtained by tying one hand in the back (ushiro) fairly high and then the second hand would be tied to the first hand (i.e. not by joining the wrists first and pulling them together up). (I was with Osada Steve San recently when Oda San, the owner from Jail and a veteran from the Osaka sm scene used that way of doing things, and I also saw Nureki doing this at Blackheart a year or so ago, Marai Masato also demonstrated this approach during a private lesson).

Alternatively when the hands are lower than the horizontal you have a Ushiro (K)gote shibari (typically Yukimura Haruki gote shibari).

One could say that Japanese (aesthetics?) are not that fond of the horizontal so gote shibari with the arms horizontal was - pre Kinbaku 101-3ropes- T K ;(or not K)3 - fairly rare, in part because it means that the elbows are protruding on the side which is something which seems to be definitely un-appealing from a Japanese (aesthetics?) point of view. So you had ushiro gote (arms in V ) and ushiro takate gote (arms in W).

And then came T(K or not K)3 which is a derivative of Akechi Denki's technique (via Nawashi Kanna) who actually was putting the wrists together and moving them up (to get the W) progressively with rope. But his models were rather flexible, so it was indeed a Takate (hands high) shibari. I guess the name stuck even with models who prefer the horizontal arms for flexibility reasons...."

"For the sake of clarity both 後手(gote)(hands in the back) and 小手 (kote)(forearm) are well recognized kanji compound documented in all serious dictionaries (typically 大辞泉 available as an app) . 小手 is well known to martial art practitioners as one of the possible target in kendo, so is (was) well known to all police related personnel and historical hojojutsu practitioner, so the act of tying the wrists together is known as kote shibari (小手縛り).

If the hands are high (高手 -high hands) then it is a takate-kote-shibari, which can be done in the front ( a favourite of Osada Steve) and in the back (very common), either mae (front) takate kote or ushiro(back) takate kote. As you know the Japanese have imported their writing system from China and are nearly always using 2 readings for each character. Mae and Ushiro are native Japanese readings. If you wish to use a Chinese reading (more "formal") then the reading of ushiro becomes "go" but, Chinese characters like to go in pair, so you can use gote (back hands) instead of ushiro, which gives you gote takatekote shibari. (as a result ushiro gote is indeed a pleonasm).

But if the hands are not high in the back, then you can (as Yukimura always do) say gote shibari (後手縛り)to indicate that you simply tie the hands in the back (in that case in the 'normal not high' V position). (not that I know much so we would need to check with a native)"

"I should maybe add that kote was the name of the part of the samurai armor protecting the forearm and still used in Kendo today. so tying a samurai in full regalia was actually tying the kote since the hands were in armour gloves and not easy to tie."

Jimi Tatu confirms that Arisue expressed a similar definition. I wouldn't argue with the above and it does seem to resound with what I have heard along the way. I have to say it was one of those things that niggled at the back of my mind but the expression became so universal and convenient that I ceased to question it. Most unlike me not to question things, although not totally unlike me to get it wrong when it comes to Japanese words. It just goes to show that regardless of what we think we know, we don't even use the right name for our de facto standard tie! The irony of arguing "what is and isn't shibari with ignorance about this basic term does not escape me. However, as you might have noticed, I have never been one to allow lack of knowledge hamper me from having a strong opinion and voicing it :-) So, it seems that to be absolutely correct we should be referring to a 3-rope gote, GS3 ;or maybe 3RGS, not a 3-rope TK, TK3 or 3RTK, if forearms are parallel. Maybe I should just say box-toe or box-tie with hands up in an X? This is beginning to get my gote...

After posting this thread, Osada Steve added an article on just this subject on his excellent TokyoBound blog. In it, he defends Osada Ryu's usage of the term to describe the parallel arm version but seems to gloss over the key word 'takate' (lit: 'high hand'), which to me appears pivitol in any definition. He starts by saying:

"Gote and takatekote are the two words most commonly used to describe the bread-and-butter 'box tie' , one of the most important building blocks in shibari.

Gote (後手) literally means 'back hand', though you may tweak this into 'hands (tied) in the back' - no mention of torso wraps to qualify as a box tie. Takatekote (高手小手) literally means 'high hand, little hand', though you may tweak this into 'hands angled upwards, forearms (tied)' - no mention of any torso wraps here either, not even a mention of front or back. In other words, both terms only make sense to people familiar with kinbaku/shibari (緊縛/縛り).

The term takatekote is mainly used by those who have come into contact with the Akechi Denki (明智伝鬼) lineage of Shibari. In Osada-ryu (長田流) we prefer using the term takatekote over gote, but we don't get all worked up about it."

Read the rest here and make up your own mind. I only intend to present the evidence that is available to me. I am not the judge and jury or even prosecution or defence...and probably as confused as you are now :-) I'll post more evidence for both sides as it becomes available. I don't know whose blogthis is but you can see the original article and more examples. Oddly, the original image to which I linked has disappeared in the past few hours. I believe the title of the article says 'how to tie a takate kote'. Google Translate, it's usual creative manner, gives us:

"Who knows is the name most to say tied Takatekote Anyone who woke up to SM. I think that it is common to say usually as 'Takatekote'; a state in which up to the top from the horizontal in the state crossed behind him. People who are involved in this Takatekote also home many, 'Takatekote' this everyone seems to be able to, but it can be other than a few feel will be women. Procedure that binds with Japan is a little different neighboring countries, China, but Takatekote I see many from bind and you're bound to be pulled up close to the neck in in to. Figure that is tied wrist is raised strictly on is tantalizing S of tied Takatekote. The image is one that is tied to Takatekote"

Umm, yes, exactly. I'd be grateful of a proper translation and knowing whose blog this is. So, the jury is still out on whether insisting on high-hands is too pedantic.

Nawapedia gives us multiple definitions for what it terms 'gote takatekote', again obfuscating the issue by adding, what seems from my perspective as one pretty ignorant of Japanese, the redundant word 'gote'. I would have thought takatekote would imply 'gote'? I'd welcome more informed opinion.

Gote indicates that the wrists are tied behind the back. Takate is an old word referring to the area of the upper arm. This word can also be understood to represent a high position of the arms. Kote means wrist.

USAGE 1: Bondage that positions the wrists behind the back and rope is wrapped above and below the breasts where upper arms are fixed (see figure). The wrists are not necessarily in a high position.

USAGE 2: When takate is interpreted as a high position, the wrists must be in a high position. In this case, gote shibari (or ushirote shibari) is used to represent the state in which the wrists are not in a high position.

USAGE 3: For most shibari in ancient hojojutsu, takate, kote and neck are key positions that must be tied. In this sense, they can belong to gote takatekote (see for instance, Tsujimura's early shibari). They don't necessarily contain chest harness ropes. However, it is not clear whether the term 'gote takatekote' existed in ancient times or not (probably not). It could be a new word invented in the 1950s to the 1970s. The word "takatekote" can be seen (at least) in writing in 1923, but it is not known whether it represents hojojutsu style or modern style. Modern style shibari with chest harness appeared in artwork in 1888 (Meiji era). It is highly possible that people at that time practiced a modern style gote takatekote in kabuki plays but it is not clear what it was called. Police in the Edo period (1603-1868) didn't use a chest harness (with limited exemptions).

I'm sure we are all confused now but better informed and maybe curious to dig deeper. I have been accused of muddying the water by stirring all this up. However, I prefer be aware there are different interpretations than go about falsely believing only one to be true. It is better to be well-informed and confused than dogmatic without full knowledge of the facts. Of course, it doesn't mean I have never been guilty of the latter :-)

I asked Kinoko about the term and he added that 'takate' can also be translated as the upper arm. Thus, it can be used to refer to any tie which encompasses this area. So, in his parlance, a takate-kote is a ties that includes the 'takate' (upper arm) and 'kote' (wrist/lower forearm).

Until I'm told it is entirely wrong to do so, I think I'd rather leave takate-kote for distinguishing the high hands version and gote for other styles. That way, I won't have to say "I mean a high hands version, not a low TK"...oh, hang on I'd still have to say "Yes, a real TK, not a low one" as everyone here uses takate-kote for all versions :-) High hands/low hands box-tie anyone?

The next to take the stand will be 'ushiro takate-kote'. The case to be answered here is whether 'ushiro' is redundant, the expression is a western invention like shinju or if it is a term in Japanese usage. There might be surprising revelations ;-)