Shingyoso in Hojojutsu

Interestingly, the practices of arresting the opponent with rope presents one of the most clear examples of Shingyōsō (levels of formality; 真行草) available in the martial arts. Although applicable to most edo period forms of rope arrests, there are a few ryūha in particular that made use of Shingyōsō quite explicitly, such as Ichiden-ryū (一傳流), Taishō-ryū (大正流), Kentoku-ryū (劍徳流), Sasai-ryū (笹井流), and Hōen-ryū (方圓流), where many of the ties have variations that increased in complexity as they were considered more formal.

Keisotsu kusa sō Sumi (軽卒草総角), Shikō agemaki (士行総角), and shōma agemaki (将真総角) of Hōen-ryū (方圓流).
”Shingyōsō no Honnawa Funyū-ban” (真行草之本縄不入番) of Ichiden-ryū (一傳流).
Koshō nawa (小姓縄) of Taishō-ryū (大正流) and Kentoku-ryū (劍徳流).
Ōyū baku Yō no Shingyōsō no koto (大用縛陽之其行草之事) of Sasai-ryū (笹井流).

As can be seen above, each of the examples from the above five ryūha each manage to express the progression from informal to formal via placement and complexity of the nawagata (rope forms; 繩型) on the captive.

Alternatively, for some ryūha, the ties were divided up in measure of longevity, where  was for temporary ties for use with the hayanawa, while Shin was the category for the more permanent ties performed using the honnawa, and of course the Gyō ties were for anything in between that.

The correlation between Kukishin-ryu, Shoshin-ryu, and Muso-ryu Hayanawajutsu

In the upper tiers of many classical Japanese composite martial arts (sogobujutsu; 綜合武術) there exists the practice of arresting a prisoner with a length of rope for the purpose of presenting to authorities or interrogation. The skill itself is called hayanawajutsu, and is considered quite a difficult technique to master and thus, few learn it and fewer still teach it. Though not clearly revealed or explicitly coupled, a hypothesis has been formulated that connects the elusive hayanawa techniques of Kukishin-ryū with the more readily available techniques of Shōshin-ryū and Musō-ryū.

For the rest of the paper, visit my ResearchGate page here.

You can also get pre-conditioned hemp arresting rope and the manual on the discussed arresting techniques.

Shoshin-ryu Mawashinawa マワシ縄

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.


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.


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.


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.

Hayanawa, catching the hands, and matters of hanging

In regard to hojōjutsu, there is hayanawa and honnawa.

Hayanawa (Fast rope; 早縄) is also called sokunawa (quick rope; 速縄), as well as karinawa (temporary rope; 仮縄) and karishibari (temporary tie; 仮縛). This can be implemented to quickly detain those who encourage riots and disorders, the arresting rope can be used to arrest criminals for the time being, and is also referred to the single person capturing rope.

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The honnawa (main rope; 本縄) is an abbreviation of the honshikinawa (formal rope; 本式縄), and was also used for formal tying. In the situation that the culprit was already detained they would be transferred to this rope, and a different method of being bound would be applied to the prisoner for escorting.

This hayanawa, honnawa, and their variations uses are dictated by the ryūha in question, of which the honnawa is the stronger. Also, there is the division of shingyōso (真行草), where the honnawa is shin, the hayanawa is , and some of the different ties that can be applied with both honnawa and hayanawa are called gyō. In addition, there is the rope method of kagenawa (陰縄), and there is also hinawa (陽縄). This is viewed from nawahyō (rope appearance; 縄表), whereas hinawa is worn openly or over the clothing and is visible, while kagenawa is out of view.

It should be noted, that the names of the rope forms are not standardized universally and are often unique between the various ryūha. Though the rope tying method may be similar the name may differ drastically.

Asanawa Featured Image

Hojojutsu 捕縄術 The Science of Rope Arresting

Hojōjutsu (捕縄術) is the science of arresting a prisoner and binding them with rope. The rope in question was usually hemp or jute, but sometimes (more commonly later in history) cotton or even silk.

Mawashi Shibari (マワシ縛り), designed to be difficult to escape from.

Classically, during the Sengoku-period (1467 – 1603), a number of soldiers on the battlefield would assail the prisoner and pin him down while one applied the rope in a preconfigured pattern. Much later, in the Edō-period (1603 – 1868) where single combat and small scale conflict replaced large scale, methods for fighting and grappling with shorter lengths of string, hayanawa  (quick rope; 早縄) were developed for apprehending the culprit and restraining them while the longer hon’nawa (main rope; 本縄) was applied afterwards for a more appropriate tie.

Many of the intricate ties and patterns that we’ve come to recognize in hojōjutsu were invented, and some might say discovered, for the purpose of identifying the type, context and severity of crime. Other such variables include the prisoners gender, region of Japan, social cast, disabilities, and so on. The reasons for these were numerous, and only a small ratio of these ties were standardized enough to be recognized outside of the local region.

There were even ties specific to certain martial ryūha (family traditions; 流派), where the pioneers of each tradition would imbue their grasp of the physical technique, concepts, complexities, and even spiritual ideologies in to the practice of ideologies. Some of these traditions were exclusively hojojutsu practices, while others were sōgō bujutsu (composite martial sciences; 綜合武術) and mingled into a full curriculum of other practices such as swordsmanship and grappling.

there is also the tying involved in practices of Japanese torture (seme; 責め), where the detainee would be bound in particular ways to restrain him as well as expose the maximum amount of bare skin for striking and inflicting pain. Also the practice of tsubaku (suspension tie; 吊縛), where the captive would be tied with his arms behind his back, and hung by the arms and torso for prolonged periods of time.

A hojo tie that is shaped to make the kimono sleeves ride up and expose the wrists.
A hojo tie that is shaped to make the kimono sleeves ride up and expose the wrists.

There is always pioneers such as Taiso Yoshitoshi and Seiu Itō, and modern contemporaries such as Osada Steve and Hajime Kinoko (as well as many others) who have developed the fields into erotic rope bondage, also known as shibari (tying; 縛り), kinbaku (tight binding; 緊縛), and several other names. These practices tend to be more popular than that of hojōjutsu, and because of being refined and escalated to the status of artistic expression, they are becoming less about eroticism and more about tantric exploration and aesthetic composition.







Haya Nawajutsu

Haya nawajutsu (早縄術) is a fast way to snare a person (shibori gata (絞型) in Japanese), in contrast to tie someone (shibari gata (縛型) in Japanese).

The ideal was to apply hayanawa (translates to “fast rope”, or “noose” as we call it) on the opponent within 10 seconds, skillfully, beautifully and without risk of damage to the opponent.

Hayanawa is used merely to arrest persons suspected of crimes. Because the person was not a convicted felon before trial, no knots were used to avoid inflicting shame. Being tied down was a great shame in ancient Japan, and often associated with torture.

Instead of knots only loops or rope that was wrapped around itself a couple of times and then hold the free end of the rope with one hand, as in the picture above.

How to use the hayanawa as a honnawa in Nanba Kazumoto-ryu and Azuma-ryu.

Rope length could vary depending on the school. Each school had its methods and it was not until Shibunoka’s (city police consisting of ex-ninja) active period in the Tokugawa regime that practices began to be standardized. The nawa (used in shibari gata) could be between 3.5 and 11 fathoms while Hayanawa ranged from 2.5 to 3.5 arms. Some schools used the much shorter rope hayanawa, others could for example have a hook at one end (kaginawa; 鈎縄) .

Within Takagi Yōshin-Ryū (高木陽心流) for example, used 10-15 cm long strings (Sansunjō; 三寸縄 and Gosunjō kakehō; 五寸縄掛方) and towels (tenugui; 手拭) to lock people. This is usually classified as kari nawajutsu (provisional rope techniques; 仮縄術).

A specialty of Gyokushin-ryū was haya nawajutsu in a form of entanglement of the enemy with the help of a double folded string (himo waza; 紐技) with one or more loops, or by hooking it (Kagi Nawa). To achieve this, it requires Hatsumi Sensei an extreme ability to jūtaijutsu

Defining the Science of Rope Arrests – Hojojutsu (Part 3)

Besides hojojutsu, there is also the methodology of rope hooking, how to initially restrain the enemy’s movement, or if one happens to encounter the occurrence of a fugitive escaping. Later on this developed into categories and structures: the Generals rope is for the Generals, the officers and soldier rope for the officers and soldiers, and of course the servant rope is applied to the servants. This is a way to recognize the social status and rank. Thus there was a standardized method of nawagake (Hooking with the Rope; 縄掛) for recognizing this. Finally, this was not only used for their status and class, how someone was tied was also defined by their trade position: a samurai was tied like a samurai, a commoner as a commoner, a monk as a monk, a priest as a priest, mountain priest, ascetic, woman, child, blind person, beggar and so on. The methodology of how the rope is applied in nawagake hō is consistent to each style, and in matters of criminals, the method of binding has become standardized in relation as to how severe the crime committed is, so this can be determined at a glance. Therefore it is good to follow a standard method of tying with the rope, and for the person who applies a method that differs from the standard method is at fault, and to do so is shameful for the person who applied the tie.

These are the general methods for binding with rope in the Tokugawa era :
Samurai – Nijū Hishinawa (Double Diamond Rope).
Commoners and crude people – Jūmonji (Cruciform), Waribishi (Split Diamond), Chigaibishi (the Different Diamond), and Jōnawa (Upper Rope).
Monks and Priests – Kaeshinawa (Reverse Rope) and Takahane (Hawk Feather).
Shrine servants and Shintō priests – Shimenawa (Sacred Shrine Rope) and Torii Agata (Shintō Shrine Archway suspension).
Mountain Priests – Kyūkyōnawa (Large Oak box for traveling merchants).
Women – Chichigakenawa (Breast Hooking Rope).
Children – Chigonawa (Pageboy Rope).
Blind person – Zatōnawa (Blind man’s Rope).
Confrontational Person – Taiketsu Hanetsuku Nawa (Wing Restricting Rope).
Strong Men – Sokutōnawa (Fighting the Legs Rope).
For those that are skillful at escaping rope – Tome Nawa (Stopping Rope).
For banished criminals – Kainawa (Shellfish Rope), Okunawa (Presenting Rope), and the Watashinawa (Delivery Rope).
For exposing objects – Sarashinawa (Bleaching Rope).
For house crimes (breaking in) – Kubikirinawa (Head Cutting Rope), Kirinawa (Cutting Rope), Kinawa (Beheading Rope), Gennawa (Presentation Rope), Rakka (Falling Petals), Sutenawa (Discarding Rope), Hatsunawa (Punishment Rope).
For Arsonists – Hitsukinawa (Arson Rope).
For Vagrants – Hininnawa (Vagrants Rope).
From these standard methods many methods arose and so on. Consequently because of the various ryūha, there were many different ways of binding with the rope.


Seiko, Fujita. Zukai Hojōjutsu. (1986).

Defining the Science of Rope Arrests – Hojojutsu (Part 2)

This technique originates on the battlefield, where one would arrest and bind an enemy prisoner of war, while the practice of arresting activists during armed riots,[?] Later on, it had exclusively come to be used to arrest and detain criminals and prevent escape.”

While the earliest known stages of arresting techniques involving rope were largely developed for battlefield and post-battlefield use, once the more peaceful times came along, its use became more and more focused on apprehending criminals and rioters. In the end it had been taken up by law enforcement and other such peacekeepers. Even today, some in the Japanese law enforcement practice and even implement these techniques.


Seiko, Fujita. Zukai Hojōjutsu. (1986).

Defining the Science of Rope Arrests – Hojojutsu (Part 1)

“In hojōjutsu, you seize the individual and bind them with rope, other names are torinawajutsu (取縄術), hojōjutsu (捕縛術), ruikei no jutsu (縲繋之術), togijutsu (伽術), and wajutsu at different times. In China this is commonly referred to as menjō tōsaku[1], or saku for short.”

Here we have a selection of different terms in regards to the science of binding individuals with rope (hojojutsu). Each term used was chosen by Tue pioneers of the art in order to express the feeling, intention, or purpose for its development. For example, we have torinawa or hojojutsu which refers to arresting an individual with rope. While on the other hand there’s ruikei no jutsu which only suggests binding tightly or thoroughly. In other traditions even the term shibari dori (grasping and tying) is used to refer to a method of tying rope to a weapon such as the hilt of ones short sword for throwing and retrieving purposes.

[1] Mián ying tào suǒ 綿縄套索 wrapping with cotton rope.


Seiko, Fujita. Zukai Hojōjutsu. (1986).

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