Orientation in the world of ropes
If you are interested in learning rope bondage there might be a few questions you have and a few you should ask yourself. Some of them are very technical (like equipment questions) but others are more about finding out where your want to state yourself in the world of bondage. After years of teaching, we can tell you that the most important and also most difficult to answer questions are not about technique or equipment, but about yourself, your expectations, intentions, needs and goals.
Because in the end, no matter why exactly you are doing rope bondage, everybody is seeking for implementation, satisfying experiences and intensity and hopefully nobody wants to harm or violate someone else willfully. To be able to reach this goal of satisfying, safe and fulfilling experiences, your self-awareness is ostensibly important. In the following article we try to give you a finger post through some questions of technique, equipment and try to help you find out who you are by asking you questions:
- Do i need a rope partner? And where can i find one? Yes, rope bondage is an activity that is connected for an encounter between two persons. In general it is possible to learn self-bondage if that is what arouses you, and there a few ties and pattern you can tie/ train on your own, but the general idea of rope bondage is that there is one person tying and one person getting tied. Inform yourself about local rope munches or write an insertion in the forum of e.g. Fetlife, Joyclub, Facebook to get in touch with somebody if you don’t already have a partner. In case of searching for a rope partner e.g. on the internet: Please be aware that it is always advisable to meet at a public space having some coffee together and see whether you feel sympathy and comfort with each other, before meeting in private and before starting tying.
- What ropes or other equipment do i need? At the beginning you will need not more than 3 or 4 ropes of 8m length. If you will come up to the point of training Suspension you will need between 8 and 10 pieces of 8m rope. Why 8m? This length has been proven to be quite easy to handle. It’s round about twice your arm spread so the rope can be pulled through and around the partners body in an efficient way. 8m are long enough to be able to tie someone already and short enough to be not too busy with pulling and pushing the rope. A rope should be between 5 and 6,5 mm thick, that thickness is proven to be a good compromise. The compromise is: The rope is thin enough to make flat and stable knots but thick enough to guarantee it can hold a person who is tied up. Whether you want to use cotton, hemp, jute or synthetic rope depends on your taste first. BUT, there are advantages and disadvantages for every material. E.g. synthetic ropes may cause rope burn easily, that means if you pull too fast it will get hot and burn the skin of your partner. Cotton rope has the huge advantage of being washable and very cuddly, but because it’s plaited instead of turned (Hemp / Jute) it will expand in suspensions what makes it difficult to untie knots and control tension. Hemp and Jute share mostly the same advantages and disadvantages, this material is traditionally used and most people who tie shibari/ Kinbaku will use hemp or Jute. It might be a good idea to go to a local rope munch e.g. and ask the people about trying their ropes to get the chance of feeling different materials with your own hands before buying your own ropes. Also you will get more detailed information about every advantage/ disadvantage of the different materials. Before you buy ropes, ask in your local community or in the internet for recommendations, there are many black sheeps out there who sell bad rope for a lot of money. Don’t buy your rope in a hardware store, that rope isn’t made to tie up people. Most of the rope from sex-shops also isn’t designed to tie more than Bondage for sex (not for tying someone up). In general the question of „what ropes“ is really complicated, and to be honest most peoples first ropes have been shitty ones. So sooner or later you will buy new rope anyway. You don’t need a suspension ring, a carabiner, swivel, or bamboo at the beginning, because nobody should tie someone up without proper knowledge. If you are ready for that, you will already know a mentor or teacher who can answer you where to get suspension material that is suitable for you. You might want to buy a nice bag for your ropes, traditional Japanese style is to wrap your ropes in Furoshiki (square cloth). Maybe you also want to have a blindfold as an option. Nothing more is needed in the beginning.
- Is rope bondage a sexual activity? Yes and No. Bondage is part of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism) and is a sexual variety out of many. Tying someone means making that person helpless and playing with power and powerlessness. Tying someone means you will have lots of body contact thats inevitable. Your intention why you want to experience rope bondage might be different than sex and of course bondage can be meditative, it can be acrobatic, artistic, it can be combined with yoga and it can have therapeutic effects, but back to it’s roots and primary meaning it’s a play that is sexual. So yes, it is a sexual activity, but no, not every rope session will necessarily end in having sex, and no – sex isn’t the absolute goal when you tie people. Most of the time you will see people at rope munches tying more or less clothed, and most workshops and classes will be clothed. You might even get the impression it’s a sporty thing. But at the end of the day, that play could be sexually stimulating, could be played in a different way when you are alone at home and might go along with having sex. We recommend, to ask yourself about YOUR personal intentions in rope bondage. Is it sexual for you? Why or when isn’t / is it sexual? What does sexual mean for you? Is a kiss, or a gentle touch of you neck sexual? Is cuddling sexual? Is a touch of your inner thigh sexual? Or is it only penetration thats sexual? Is it sexual, if you feel a power exchange and is that good for you? We also recommend to communicate open and honest about your personal intentions and your interpretation of where sexuality in rope starts. Opinions might differ a lot, so it’s better to exchange them. Once you are tied up and feeling unable to move you will recognize fast what kind of proximity to your tying partner and what kind of touches feel good for you but it might be too late to communicate them if you already feel bad about it. So try to ask yourself those questions before you start tying to make sure your boundaries will be respected by yourself and others.
- What kind of bondage do i want to learn? To make a long story as short as possible: There are two big Styles of Bondage, the so called „Traditional“ one, that is also named Shibari or Kinbaku and is inspired by Japanese. And the so called „Western Style“ that is inspired mainly by USA. Both styles of tying can be separated in many different sub-categories. In both styles there are people tying for porn industry, there are people tying for performances and art and people tying decorative or sensual. We know that it is absolutely confusing at the beginning. Our statement here need to be as short but informative as possible, so we will really break things down. Reality is much more complex! If you want to tie, because having someone tied is a useful thing in context of sex, your play starts when your bondage is finished and your partner is helpless, your intentions are kind of pragmatic, or you are interested in learning to tie clothes of rope or decorative Makramee you might be the one who wants to learn western style bondage that is mainly used for bed, sex, fixation, decoration, porn. If you want to tie, because the whole process of tying is a way of contact and communication with your partner, the act of tying itself is already sensual and blissful for you, you are interested in aesthetics and traditional Japanese (philosophical) concepts you might be the one who want to learn Shibari/ Kinbaku. Choosing shibari, your intention can of course also be about sex, making someone powerless and about erotic, but the main difference is in the aesthetics and that in shibari the process of tying is the joy, not the finished bondage. Choosing the Japanese inspired way of learning bondage, does in no way mean you must love sushi, dress like a Japanese or learn that language. But you should maybe deal with some historic and philosophical background information sooner or later to set things in the right contexts. It’s not true, that shibari is an ancient tradition, it is very mystified by some western people (for no reason) and it is not true that it is only understandable due to long study with grandmaster of the (not so) ancient tradition. People are making a fuss about it. If you ask google pictures for western style rope bondage and for Japanese rope bondage you will see differences in the aesthetic and use of rope and can get an idea of what fits better for your taste.
- Why do i have to choose what kind of bondage i want to learn?Actually nobody will force you to choose anything, but like always in life it makes things easier to learn, if you have a clear vision of what you want. Most students will change or specify their vision of what kind of bondage they want, when they once started to learn and practice it (because when it’s not only theory anymore you will get a more concrete idea of what you like/ dislike). The offer of teachers, classes and workshops is huge and it will be more fulfilling and financially more efficient to book classes that fit to your individual learning goals and intentions in bondage, therefor it is important to have a minimum rough idea about what you like about bondage, what kind of of bondage you want to study and what your impulses to study it are about. It is absolutely okay to try out things randomly, but sooner or later it is recommend to follow one path (and that path can change from time to time of course, a path does not mean to be forced into dogma).
- How do i find a teacher? Do i need a teacher? We do highly recommend you to study not only out of books or online tutorials. Although there do exist a few very good video tutorial resources (most of them are liable to pay costs) it is e.g. very difficult to get a feeling of how tight or loose your rope must be tied, of the perfect placement on the individual body of your partner (that will differ from the one in the video) and there is a huge gap between what you think is shown in the video and what is actually meant to be shown. You will interpret what you see in the video but not necessarily understand it or copy it in the right way. Nobody will step out of the screen and correct what you tie. Tutorials and books might be a good companion in your learning process with a real teacher in person, but should never be your only resource of learning. Also you will easily acquire mistakes in your technique or body or rope handling if you don’t use hands-on-guidance and it will be harder to correct those mistakes if you start learning hands-on later. Because the human being is a creature of habit and once acquired habits are hard to take off. It is not for reasons of enrichment that we recommend to study hands-on, it is because we know it better and foremost for safety reasons. You will find a teacher if you ask search engine or better ask in your community for recommendations. If you read the offers of a teacher make sure, the teacher mentions where he/she got his/her knowledge from, what style he/she teaches and whether that fits to your interests. If possible try to meet the teacher at a local munch or event to see whether there is sympathy or not.
- Is bondage risky? Yes definitely. You will hear about nerve damage, crashes, joint damage, hematoma, psychological damage, material failure and a lot more. To practice in a consensual and self-determined way it is important to inform yourself and your partner about all possible risks (*) and decide about your individual readiness to assume risks. You have to find agreements what risks you want to avoid and how you can avoid them and what risks are tolerable for you. Very important is to find an agreement that fits to both of you. Compromise does not work here, because you both have to take 100% responsibility of yourself and about what you are doing with/ in ropes. In doubt: the lower readiness of risk assumption will be your guideline. It might be dissuasive to study all worst case scenario and risks first, but how can you act responsible if you don’t know about them? When you know about all potential risks you can come to a self-determined decision what and how and how much you want in rope bondage. If you just try out like trial-and-error-method you will potentially harm yourself. So: Better safe than sorry! (*: good resources will be Rope Bottoming Guide from Clover which is available in many languages, or our own Ropebottoming info which is available in german only / there are a bunch of writings about material safety, safety standards and rope incidents e.g. on fetlife, visit your local rope community and ask for information)
- What is the most important thing to learn? In terms of pattern it is definitely the Single Column tie, because each and every pattern will start with that tie and it is crucial to be able to tie it safe, fast and proper. In terms of technique it is rope handling on the one hand: pushing and pulling your rope efficient, gentle, rough, in the right tension, without tying yourself. On the other hand body handling: How to use your body to move, stabilize, destabilize your partners body, how to move your partner into different positions and make sure he/she feels safe and guided. In terms of centerpiece of bondage it is communication you have to learn. To see, read, interpret reactions, to find the „right“ answer to those reactions, to make rope bondage a kind of dialogue without words but with rope as a tool to ask questions, to answer, to say what you feel. (if you are german speaking we recommend you to read the article of Discover Kinbaku Berlin about the biggest mistakes of beginner learners in rope bondage: http://discoverkinbaku.com/de/die-sechs-schlimmsten-fehlen-die-anfaenger-im-kinbaku-immer-wieder-machen/)
- What about all that names and fame around there? Well, it depends on your interests. It is a matter of respect that people name from whom they learned the ties they teach. And it makes things easier to overlook for you if you know what tying style/ system someone teaches. It might also be good to know a few „big“ names like those of the grandmasters and their official instructors to get a better overview about existing styles and systems, and reduce complexity of all the offers out there. But beyond that: if you have no interest for history, genealogy or hierarchies you are of course not forced to know all the names of famous people. And let me mention: fame does not necessarily come with expertise. Do not study with someone only because of names or fame. Always trust your heart and decide, whether the spirit of the teacher and yourself are concordant first. It might be a good thing (if you have the chance to) to study with a grandmaster, with someone famous (who is also an expert) or to watch performances of someone famous to broaden your mind, to get new inspiration, to study a style from it’s roots. But there is really no need to adorn yourself with borrowed names or fame. And there are teacher out there who are really not famous, who have not more than one picture at their fetlife profile, but they have studied with several grandmaster and are super amazing experts in tying and have awesome repertoire of techniques. A barking dog never bites. a famous teacher isn’t a guarantee for being a good teacher.
- Learning techniques is boring, can’t there be more fun? Maybe you are studying the wrong subject in general or the wrong techniques if you find it all that boring. Of course repetition isn’t always the most enthralling thing to do and yes learning is sometimes frustrating because you have to repeat the basics again and again, but you can always ask yourself: Is it worth the trouble? Is my passion for ropes big enough to go through all the frustration and repetition? What for do i go through that frustration? Do get a better (what does that mean for you?), safer, more self-confident Rigger? And if it never stops to be frustrating, ask yourself wether the teacher and/or style you study is the right one for you. Frustration is needed but should be in balance with effort and passion. In every system there have to be some techniques first and those are maybe a little dreary, but a good teacher will show you how to have fun, dynamic and interaction also with very simple basic tying technique.
- What is the essence? Always ask yourself: Who am i, what do i want from rope bondage, what do i want from my partner, what do i want to give (through rope, or through contact, or through other things that might go along with rope bondage), what do i wish to receive from my partner, what kind of risks am i ready to assume, what about the risk assumption of my partner, how much sexuality is okay and where does sexuality starts for you and for your partner, where are your physical and mental boundaries, what about your communication policy (before, during, after the rope session, what do you need to communicate to feel safe, do not overrate your skills (both), do not set yourself under pressure because of someone else standards or expectations.