Woody Allen about to pummel actress Bettina Brenna with a pillow in ‘Playboy,’ February 1969.
Shindai, the ancient art of Japanese pillow fighting, is also known as “bed fighting.” Which while it sounds sort of kinky, it also sounds like it could get a little dicey if you were actually angry at the person you were going to tangle with. And I’m pretty sure if the word “fighting” is involved somebody is fucking mad at someone else so there’s that to consider. Apparently going to battle with pillows is/was considered a way for couples to navigate through a domestic dispute quickly so they could get on to the “make-up sex” part after becoming aroused by pummeling your partner with pillows. Okay.
The sexy therapeutic process works like this—let’s say that your partner had been unfaithful to you. Instead of heading off to divorce court or worse, both parties engage in a pillow fight. After cutting a small slit in each pillow and a few brief ceremonial-type acknowledgments the battle can begin. If the cheater’s pillow loses all of its feathers first, they are obliged to “bow down” and touch their mate’s toes before assuming a fetal position so that the victor can beat the crap out of them with their full pillow. Which is pretty much exactly what photographer and author Jerry Yulsman—who often shot Jack Kerouac—and his pictorial of Woody Allen and actress Bettina Brenna is all about. The gorgeous actress (who is 6’1 to be precise) had just appeared in the 1968 film Funny Girl and her magazine spread with Allen was captured for Playboy in the February 1969 issue (Volume #16, No. 2).
Believe it or not, Shindai has evolved into an actual competitive sport is which is as nuts as it sounds. If you’d like to learn more about Japanese pillow fighting (because of course you do) there is a book that was published back in 1965 by author Ellen Shumaker called Shindai: The art of Japanese bed-fighting that according to one reviewer is “a light, pleasant read with lots of pictures.” Some of the images that follow are NSFW.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Woody Allen’s breezy 1965 resume is really worth a gander
Woody Allen on women
Watch Woody Allen in a series of commercials for a Japanese department store, 1982
If Woody Allen had made ‘Taxi Driver’