The Matter of Rope

Nawa no koto (縄之事)

In the different communities around the rope arts, be it shibari, hojojutsu, or camp-craft, there has always been a conflict of preference for the material of which ones rope is. Is hemp better than jute, nylon or cotton? Anyone with enough experience will tell you that you should choose the right rope material for the task, just as you would choose the right knot for the job. Well fro hojojutsu, there are four types of material that are sufficient, two of which I particularly recommend, but the other two will suffice for the job as long as you keep certain concerns in consideration.

They are:

In many cases, someone just beginning in hojojutsu, or any other rope based practice, will run to their local hardware or dollar store and grab cotton or something synthetic. Depending on the material in question, there are different reasons that I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead of tearing  each possibility apart, I’ll just skip to the preferred methods.

Nylon

This is financially inexpensive, handles well, and depending on the weave, can prove to be resistant to rope burn. It tends to have low teeth, that is to say, it doesn’t grip much so it is easy to drag over fabric such as clothing, and thus isn’t much of a hassle to work with. It is also soft and slightly stretchy, which meas that you can practice for a long time before your partner’s wrists, arms and neck hurt.

Hemp

This is the classical material used by the samurai and other warriors in feudal Japan. According to Fujita Seiko, “Arresting rope is to be made of extremely high quality and flexible hemp [. . .] Silk rope is strong and good for tension, but its disadvantage is that it’s easy to untie. Arresting rope in the Edō period was made in three states, of them the state of Hōzōji was most valued.” Accordingly, attention was placed not only on the material but also the grade, weave, and quality of the hemp to be used. If the hemp is weaved in one of the more modern kernmantle styles for climbing and such, it looses its flexibility, while if its in a two or three ply weave it has more opportunity to bend, which is desired for this purpose.

Jute

Probably the most popular and preferred material is tossa jute, a super light weight, medium to low tooth fiber rope. It has many of the qualities of hemp, except that it seasons at a slower rate then hemp. While on the other hand once it is well conditioned, it becomes smooth almost like a light leather, while being quite light. Thus it handles quite quickly, holds knots like hemp does, and the concern for rope burn is quite low. In a general all around purpose I would recommend jute above all else for hojojutsu.

550 Para-cord

This stuff is popular among military, campers, survivalists and doomsday preppers for it is small and compact, light and water resistant, and strong beyond reason. However for the purpose, I do not generally recommend this as it is usually quite thin, meaning that it will bight into the flesh painfully (though this may be desired for detaining a personal) which can impinge nerves easily and put your training partner out of use and permanently damage your detainee. and it has a texture similar to the above mentioned silk, in that it is very smooth and does not hold the required knots found in hojojutsu very well. On the other hand, it is quite inexpensive, very durable and very good for all around use (outside of hojojutsu).

Ultimately, the bottom line is what works for you, however, unlike shibari, it is less about what you like and more about what works. For that reason I would recommend nylon for practice, jute and hemp for arresting, and para-cord for camp-craft and the rest.

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