Merihari, is the expression of timing, cadence, speed, and the very flavor of the tie itself. One may tie their partner hard and fast to express a dominance over them, or slow and sensual to manifest an intimate and sensual atmosphere. Alternatively, this can be changed up in which one ties slow and hard to employ sadism into the scene, or soft and fast to express urgency.
The word itself
There are a few common words that describe this particular principle, each with slightly different connotation, but all of which touch on the core idea. There is Kankyū, which explicitly denotes tempo. Merihari which means to “shorten and lengthen”. Finally, there is Hyōshi (拍子), meaning something of cadence, though it’s not an easy translation.
This term is made up of two Chinese characters (緩急). The first can be read as “kan”, “yuru”, “yuruyaka”, and so on, and means to “slacken”, “Loosen”, “relax”, or “ease up on”; the act of going from tense to relaxed. The second character can be read as “Kyū”, isogu”, and so on, and means to “hurry”, something “urgent”, the etymology of which (feelings 心 being pressed upon 及) describes a sense of pressure to do an action.
So, in this context, Kankyū describes the action of changing tempo; from slow to fast, or fast to slow. So, this word describes the tempo and speed of the tie in question, it doesn’t quite catch the whole experience of what we are looking for here.
Again, made up of two characters (減張): the first, read as “Gen”, “heru”, or “herasu”, describes something that reduces [in speed, volume, etc], like reducing the pressure of water form a tap. While the second character, read as “chou”, ” haru”, “hari”, etc., refers to the opposite; to lengthen, draw out, stretch, or enforce, encourage tension.
So here again it is a term that describes the involvement of two opposites: to reduce and expand. In this case, meaning to reduce and then intensify the action, and versa-vice. Another facet for the aspect of this principle, but not all encompassing. So, we need another element to define the experience…
Hyōshi is most commonly found in the classical martial arts, referring to cadence. In the famous “book of five rings”, Miyamoto Musashi describes it as three timings: before, during, and after an activity in relation to the enemy’s attack.
For the sake of having some idea of where the word is coming from, it can be broken down to “haku” or “hyō” (拍), referring to a clap or beat in a musical rhythm, and “shi” or “ko” (子) which literally refers to a child, but infers the interval [between generations].
As described by independent researcher Kenji Tokitsu (and I have cherry picked his details for the sake of relevancy here), hyōshi can refer to the rhythm, cadence, or momentum in things or in musical expression. (Tokitsu 342); the momentum or cadence with which things evolve or advance; the texture or sensation felt in doing something.
“The relation between two combatants brings into play the whole set of cadences manifested by each of them: movements, facial expressions, breathing, the ebb and flow of muscular tension, mental state […]
[…]The Japanese notion of hyoshi refers to the sequence of spaciotemporal, rhythmic intervals produced by the reciprocal relations of two combatants, and at the same time, to the cadence proper to each of them, which is closely related to breathing and mental state.” (Tokitsu 343)
So, what is all this rambling about words and rhythm? Why not just refer to the speed of the process of tying and call it a day? Well, the main reason for such painstaking dissection is that this is one of the major aspects of kinbaku technique that can change everything about a scene is indeed the rhythm, tempo, and cadence.
It would not suffice to simply describe some examples of how merihari influences things and the reader to simply understand, a considerable amount of practice is needed to grasp both the implications of how this influences things, and one’s own technique needs to be at a satisfactory level where they are able to perform all their ties firmly, softly, quickly, and slowly, all interchangeably on a whim. The process to get there is to understand not only the theory of merihari, but to also have ample technique, skill, and improvisational capacity for the changing circumstances.
Within this concept, one may tie their partner hard and fast to express a dominance over them, or slow and sensual to manifest an intimate and sensual atmosphere. Alternatively, this can be changed up in which one ties slow and hard to employ sadism into the scene, or soft and fast to express urgency.
These combinations make for four primary categories, though it is extremely important to not simplify it as such and leave it as it:
- Tie slowly and lightly to manifest a sensual scene.
- Tie slowly and firmly to manifest a sadomasochistic scene.
- Tie fast and firmly to manifest a D/s scene.
- Tie fast and lightly to manifest a sense of urgency.
It is also through these changes and approaches, with which one can reach the “flow state” (ryūshin; 流心), as described in psychology. A flow state can be entered while performing any activity, although it is most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a task or activity for intrinsic purposes. While the activities that induce flow may vary and be multifaceted, Csikszentmihályi asserts that the experience of flow is similar despite the activity. (Csikszentmihályi, Happiness, flow, and economic equality 1163-4)
Flow theory postulates three conditions that must be met to achieve a flow state:
- One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task. (Csikszentmihályi, Flow 598-698)
- The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
- One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one’s ability to complete the task at hand.
Fortunately, the practice of kinbaku at an at least moderate level of performance, allows for this psychological state. In fact, for myself, this provided an approach of self-therapy during some very hard times of my life.
It is through the use of marihari that the state of ryūshin can be achieved. That being said, it is through any of the above four approaches of cadence that ryūshin can be achieved and maintained. Indeed, it is common for the individual bakushi to maintain only one cadence through their entire approach or style. The following video shares a great range of different cadences from many different bakushi.
Csikszentmihályi, Mihaly. “Flow.” Handbook of Competence and Motivation (2005): 598-698. Academic Journal.
—. “Happiness, flow, and economic equality.” American Psychologist 55 (2000): 1163-1164. Academic Journal.
Mosafir, Boris. Shibari Festival RopeFest 2012 Russia St Petersburg Daria Mihailova. 11th September 2012. Online Video. <https://vimeo.com/49232351>.
Tokitsu, Kenji. Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings. Trans. Sherab Chodzin Kohn. Tokyo, 2000. Book. <http://www.shambhala.com/miyamoto-musashi-999.html>.