This month holds a special memory for me. In June of 2010, I met Yukimura sensei for the first time. As luck would have it, I had just found a copy of his book Transbody Bondage and happened to be carrying it as I entered his Ebisu apartment for the first time. I asked, hesitantly. if he would mind signing it for me.
Much to my surprise (not knowing he was also a master calligrapher), he pulled out his brush and ink and proceeded to sign the book in shodo, complete with his hanko (seal). He took the time to make that meeting special, which was a feeling that would characterize all of our meetings from that point forward.
Over the next six years, I was honored to study with him on a number of visits to Japan as well as for an extended period in 2012 when LA Rope was able to host him in Los Angeles. We did a series of workshops as well as private lessons, but even then, Yukimura was showing the first signs of the illness that would later lead to him passing in March of this year.
The classes and lessons were spectacular, but what I remember most was the conversations. What drew me to Yukimura’s style of play was much more than the rope. It was his philosophy about why we do rope and how it is an act of communication between partners. For Yukimura, the point of rope was always to build an emotional connection. I suppose I shouldn’t find it surprising that he did the same with his students.
While I can’t speak for others, I know the things I will miss the most will be his warmth, generosity of spirit, sense of humor and the joy with which he would shout out “hazukashii!” when you got the connection with your model just right.
More than that, Yukimura sensei was an inspiration. It was after his visit to LA that I became determined to create a space, a dojo, for the study of rope in LA. The first location, a small space in Santa Monica, served as the initial attempt. LA Rope quickly outgrew the space and scheduling conflicts with others in the building made it clear that we would need to find a place where we could do rope 24/7.
In 2013, I was given the name Haru Yutaka by sensei and officially licensed as an instructor in Yukimura Ryuu. It was a complete shock, but it was also what led me to dedicate myself almost exclusively to studying his style of rope. During my last visit we spoke extensively about the future of LA Rope and how to best teach what mattered most to him about rope, communication, and play.
The move to Koreatown in February of 2015 was the fulfillment of both a dream and a promise and during my last visit to Japan Yukimura sensei gave his blessing to make the LA Rope dojo space a Yukimura Ryuu dojo both for the teaching of Yukimura Ryuu as well as for what he called Nawa Asobi or Rope Play under my direction.
The six years I was able to know him, learn from him and spend time with him were undoubtedly the most important for my training as a bakushi and as a teacher.