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  • What is rope bondage?
    Rope bondage is, quite simply, the use of ropes in order to tie a person up and restrict their movement. Modern consensual rope bondage can be roughly divided into two categories: Japanese rope bondage (sometimes called Shibari or Kinbaku) and Western rope bondage. Most western practitioners of Japanese-informed rope bondage tie a hybrid of both styles.
  • What's Western rope bondage?
    Western rope bondage is often more focused on the decorative than the functional (think wearable harnesses like in that Nicki Minaj video). It also often uses single strands of rope, and the ropes themselves are often synthetic, and brightly coloured. A classic example of Western rope bondage can be found in images of Bettie Page in bondage photoshoots of the 1950s. Western rope bondage developed around the same time as consensual Japanese rope bondage, and it is thought that both styles were influenced, to a degree, by each other. This is due to the occupation of Japan by U.S. forces following World War II. Now, Western rope bondage and Japanese rope bondage heavily influence each other, and there is a near-constant evolution of styles and forms.
  • What is Japanese rope bondage?
    People often describe rope bondage as an 'ancient Japanese art form', however this is incorrect. Japanese rope bondage does however have it's roots in many aspects of Japanese culture and history, for example traditional Japanese clothing is tied onto the body, rather than fastened using zips/buttons etc. Consensual Japanese rope bondage developed from Hojōjutsu, a martial art which used rope to capture, restrain and transport prisoners. Hojōjutsu emerged during the Edo period in Japan (1603-1867), and it is still practiced as a martial art today. Because being tied was considered a shameful thing, techniques were developed that avoided knots being shown on the front of the body, which was seen as less shameful. Following Hojōjutsu, Kabuki theatre started to depict torture techniques used by Japanese police. TsukiokaYoshitoshi (1839-1892) •Master 'ukiyo-e' (woodblock printer and painter) •In the 1860s in Japan, the breakdown in the feudal system created a violent atmosphere which influenced Yoshitoshi's work •The Lonely House on Adachi Moor (1885) is a Yoshitoshi piece depicting an 11th century legend, which has become iconic because of its influence on modern rope artists Seiu Ito (1882-1961) •Often described as the 'father of kinbaku' •Painter and photographer, using his wife and mistress as his models •Recreated Yoshitoshi's iconic piece for real, suspending his heavily pregnant wife upside down (very unsafely!) •Post WWII Ito published more work, became known as a 'seme-e' (torture artist) Following Seiu Ito, throughout the later half of the 20th century a variety of riggers, known now as 'Nawashi' (rope masters), began to make pornographic films and perform in clubs of consensual rope bondage, called 'Kinbaku' (tight binding). The word 'Shibari', a verb meaning 'to tie' was not initially used to describe consensual rope bondage. However, Shibari became the primary term used in the West to describe Kinbaku. Both terms are used today. Modern Western practitioners of shibari constantly develop new ways to tie and be tied, changing forms to work for different body types and aesthetics. Rope 'models' are active participants with their own skill sets, and injuries are less common.
  • What style of rope bondage do you practice?
    My style of rope is influenced by both Western and Japanese bondage, as well as by biomechanics, grounding techniques and theatre. I call what I do 'Japanese-informed rope bondage'. This is because it's important I acknowledge that most of my training has been handed down from Japanese 'bakushi' (restraint experts), mostly Yukimura. However, I do not belong to any specific 'ryu' (school) of rope, and have not learnt directly from any bakushi. My motivation for doing rope bondage, unlike bakushi, is not to produce photographs or films (although I have photographed my work). I am interested in a shared experience, in which the boundaries and needs of both rigger and rope bottom are honoured. My priority is to create a feeling of safety and trust, of play and ritual, in which the tied person can choose to explore their desires and their vulnerability, knowing that they will be held and cared for.
  • Who can tie/be tied?
    Anyone! Many of the images of rope you'll see online are of non-disabled, white or Japanese older men, tying non-disabled, white or Japanese, thin, bendy young women. However, people of all bodies, ethnicities, abilities, genders and sexualities can both tie and be tied. Self-tying is also becoming a popular way of exploring rope bondage. All rope bondage tuition should consider the needs of people of different body types and abilities, and should teach adapted ways of tying and being tied to accommodate everyone.
  • What are the risks?
    Rope bondage has several risks, and there is no way of practicing it risk-free. However, applying the principles of R.A.C.K. (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) helps to minimise and offset risks. Common issues and injuries in rope bondage include: Rope Marks: When we tie (especially directly onto skin, and when doing suspension), the skin can become marked. Usually, marks are mild and fade quickly, however everyone's skin heals differently, so be aware of the possibility of rope marks being visible after you've been tied. In addition, when ropes are pulled across the skin too fast or hard, or are under a great deal of pressure, it can cause 'rope burn'. These marks tend to stay longer as they are a sign of broken blood vessels near the surface of the skin. The majority of the time, they fade (although in unusual cases they can produce a scar). Blood/Circulation Loss: We've all slept on our arm and woken up with a dead arm in the morning. That numb feeling goes away when we change position and shake or stretch, often experiencing 'pins and needles'. Although unpleasant, circulation loss is not dangerous, unless it continues for an extended period of time (depending on the person/body part). The skin often changes colour when a part of the body is restricted, and this can look dramatic for some people but this isn't necessarily a problem. Some conditions make restricting blood flow more dangerous, but most of the time it is safe to do this for short periods of time. Nerve damage: When the position of the body, or the placement of ropes, put pressure on our nerves, we risk causing nerve damage. The signs are very quick onset numbness, tingling, sensations of heat/cold, or weakness/mobility in the effected area, which tends to be very specific (eg part of a hand rather than the hole hand). When you feel the potential signs of nerve damage, it's important to let your rigger know immediately, so that they can move the ropes or change your position as quickly as possible. Nerve damage ranges in severity from discomfort which resolves as soon as the pressure is removed, to permanent or long term weak/numbness or loss of mobility. Both riggers and rope bottoms should know how to check for nerve damage, and riggers should be confident in re-dressing and adjusting ropes quickly when needed. Joint injuries: Rope bondage often involves putting someone in a stressful posture for an extended period of time, as well as putting strain on the joints. This can cause stiffness and muscle pain, as do many types of exercise. However, people with hypermobile joints can be at risk of their joints becoming subluxated or dislocated, if care isn't taken when moving and choosing positions for their bodies. Falls and drops: When doing suspension, or reducing another person's ability to move or balance, you can risk injuries from falling. It's important that riggers take responsibility for ensuring the person they are tying is adequately supported. There are also rare cases of people being dropped when in suspension; either from equipment failing or from a riggers' error when lifting/lowering the tied person. Ensure that you always practice within your level of skill and knowledge to help avoid these accidents, which can cause serious injury or even death. Rigger injuries: Tied people can also sustain injuries from rope. The most common of these are caused by poor posture or bad technique when moving your tying partner. Also common are finger and hand injuries or repetitive strain issues. Both of these problems can be minimised through good technique. Emotional harm: It is very important to be aware of the potential emotional harm that can be caused during a rope session, or 'scene'. Both people explore vulnerability and their desires, and this can only be done safely with excellent communication, negotiation and consent practices. There is also an inherent power difference when one person is tying another person. Acknowledging this power difference, and ensuring that there is an equal relationship between the two tying people outside of the rope 'scene' is vital to avoid harm to one or both parties. Any rope tuition should include tuition in how to identify, communicate and respect your own and each others' boundaries, how to communicate issues during a scene, how to manage and respect each others' emotional responses to tying in a trauma-informed way, and how to cope and work through it together when things go wrong.
  • Why do people enjoy rope bondage?
    There are as many different ways of enjoying rope bondage as there are ways of tying. Some people enjoy rope as a kink activity, either as part of sex or as a way of exploring a power dynamic, feelings of being vulnerable, submissive/dominant, or as part of pain or roleplay. Other people enjoy the physical challenge of rope, the skill it takes to tie and be tied, and the aesthetics of rope bondage. They may enjoy rope as a way of training the body, or as a form of art. Increasingly, rope bondage is being used in various forms of media, including theatre, music videos and photography. Bondage can be an excellent metaphor to use when telling stories. Rope bondage can also be a wonderful way to feel connected to oneself and to a tying partner. The interplay between the tying and tied person can be intense, creative, collaborative and exciting, in ways which can feel similar to partnered dancing. Tying/being tied engages many of the senses and can feel deeply grounding, even meditative. The proprioceptive and vestibular sensory information that rope provides can help us to feel present and alert. Holding, and being held in this way can be a great vehicle for exploring difficult or hard-to-access emotional states, and some people just enjoy the feeling of being contained. Whatever it is that interests you about rope bondage, that's ok! As long as you tie only with people, and in situations, where everybody is safe to set and hold their boundaries, and do not tie outside of your level of competence, it's ok to enjoy rope however feels good to you.
  • Do you have to be naked?
    No! This is a common misconception (thanks, porn). You can be tied in any state of dressed or undressed, and the same is true for when you tie (although I find that tying in jeans can be very restrictive for the rigger). If anyone ever insists that you be partially or fully naked "for technical reasons", this is a big red flag, and I wouldn't recommend tying with someone like this. Sometimes, people prefer the feeling of ropes on their bare skin, or may prefer to have a layer of clothing between the rope and their skin. This can be a sensory preference, to avoid marking the skin or for any other reason. But the decision of how much skin is bared should always be made by the person being tied, in accordance with their preferences and comfort levels.
  • I have [insert health condition here] does this mean I can't tie/be tied?
    No! I believe firmly that every body can be tied, and can tie. Many of us live with health conditions that may mean our mobility, strength, stamina etc is limited, however a good teacher/rigger will be able to teach/tie in an adapted way to ensure you can do rope in a way that works for you. Examples of adjustments may include: - Using mobility equipment, braces or comfort items when you tie - Propping the body using furniture, pillows, hammocks and other equipment - Sitting rather than standing - Using a hoist or hammock to suspend - Ensuring medication is nearby - Adjusting body positions and patterns to avoid causing injury - Tying for shorter periods of time or taking more breaks - Extended aftercare considerations Etcetcetc
  • I never see people who look like me in rope? Am I too [insert body type here] to be tied?
    No! Unfortunately, many of the rope pictures you see online will be of thin, white, able-bodied men tying thin, white, able-bodied women. This is a reflection of the fatphobic, racist, sexist, transphobic and ableist society we live in, and does not accurately represent the majority of people who do rope bondage. Whatever your body looks like, you can both tie and be tied. And yes, fat people can be suspended safely, it just takes competent tying!
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