Ropecraft as an Art Form

I have been asked to teach some bondage ropecraft. Before again touch­ing a rope, I decided to stop and think — and think. This essay is the result, and stands as my prepa­ra­tion for touch­ing rope once again.

The Phi­los­o­phy Behind the Technique

This essay is not a how-​​to. This is more a phi­los­o­phy of rope bondage. It’s these con­cepts that I hope will stim­u­late your think­ing, and encour­age you to take your own craft to a higher level.

I’m writ­ing this from the artist’s point of view. If you’re the model, will you be bored? On the con­trary, I hope this will be at least as use­ful! At a cer­tain level, bondage ropecraft is a coöper­a­tive effort. If you the model have no under­stand­ing of your role, you are pos­si­bly keep­ing the artist from his high­est and best work. Even more impor­tant, though, is your safety fac­tor. With­out under­stand­ing the craft, how can you know he is as good as he claims he is? How can you trust, and know you will be safe?

To be sure, an expert artist can lead you through what you need to know. But how does an expert become an expert? Every­one needs to start some­where! Assum­ing you enjoy the ropecraft as applied to your­self, bring­ing out the best in your artist means you both win.

Sup­pose your thing is to be tied down spread­ea­gled, blind­folded, and have stuff done to you. Am I say­ing you’re sup­posed to be under­stand­ing and coöper­a­tive, when you’re being treated as a cap­tive? Of course not! I’m say­ing the more you under­stand your role as cap­tive, the bet­ter the scene can become. In this case, it really is all about you, so your role is to make sure he knows it :)

I’m writ­ing this with a “male ties female” ori­en­ta­tion, but this phi­los­o­phy cer­tainly applies to any gen­der combination!

Cat­e­go­riz­ing

Specif­i­cally, I see bondage ropecraft as falling into four cat­e­gories. To be sure, more than one cat­e­gory can be present in any given scene:

Damsel in Distress

Our model’s role is basi­cally that of cap­tive. She’s ren­dered help­less and left there to Mmmmpff. Strug­gle is expected. This is “Love Bondage,” “Hogtied,” and so on. The rope­work may be elab­o­rate and artis­tic — and indeed it should be. Because strug­gle is a fac­tor, the rope will be as smooth and nonabra­sive as pos­si­ble. The bondage itself is the point; whips and pad­dles gen­er­ally have no part of these types of scenes. Many (if not most) such mod­els want noth­ing to do with pain.

Although she may be bal­anc­ing pre­car­i­ously on one foot (or on spike heels with ankles hob­bled), sus­pen­sion won’t gen­er­ally be part of the scene. Rope sus­pen­sion, and strug­gle, don’t mix. She may be bound into a com­pletely motion­less state, but again that’s no bar to Mmmph’ing and struggling.

The tech­niques used here may actu­ally come from Japan­ese style bondage. I orig­i­nally learned Japan­ese Rope Bondage from Tam­mad Rimilia’s Bondage How-​​To Page. How­ever, as Tam­mad notes about him­self, “Me, I like ‘em squirm­ing. :-)” This dif­fer­ence is the crit­i­cal point of what I’m try­ing to explain here. The tech­nique is Japan­ese, but the pur­pose is Damsel in Dis­tress. (Update: Tam­mad has since passed away, and his Web page has dis­ap­peared. I have removed the link.)

Restraint for Some Other Purpose

The ropecraft is sim­ply a sec­ondary ele­ment of some larger scene. The model might be tied down so she can be tick­led, more greatly exposed, and so on. Or, restrained so she can thrash about with com­plete aban­don. This form of ropecraft will gen­er­ally be a sim­ple work­man­like man­ner of tying her down. The artistry (if any) will be seen in the con­duct of the scene as a whole.

Sus­pen­sion, again, is unlikely to be part of the scene when the ropecraft is sec­ondary. The sus­pen­sion is more likely to be via cuffs, chains, pul­leys, sus­pen­sion bars, and other spe­cial equip­ment. Spe­cial­ized equip­ment, mean­while, requires less skill (with rope) on the part of the artist. When ropecraft is viewed as sec­ondary, the spe­cial­ized equip­ment makes more sense — and indeed is the safer way to go!

Audi­ence Appreciation

Some­times, appre­ci­a­tion of the ropecraft itself is the point. I per­son­ally enjoy ropecraft for its own sake. To me, the exper­tise is its own reward. How­ever, there’s more to it: Expert rope­work tends to be far safer for the model. If you’ve lashed together a watch­tower from sticks (think Boy Scouts here), and seen it stand, and lashed together a watch­tower only to see it fall like a house of cards, you have an idea of what is safe and what is not. Cor­rect prac­tice means a suc­cess­ful scene with a much higher mar­gin of safety. And, thus, I would hope the audi­ence appre­ci­a­tion fac­tor is present in every prac­tice of bondage ropecraft. If noth­ing else, you the artist are your own audience!

Japan­ese Rope Bondage

I missed the point here for years. In fact, that’s what prompted this essay! The aim is to encour­age (strongly encour­age) still­ness and tran­quil­ity, rather than strug­gle. This is a route to sub­space. I had orig­i­nally assumed the point was audi­ence appre­ci­a­tion and artis­tic excel­lence… and that assump­tion is why I missed the point entirely.

Sus­pen­sion seems to be the high­est form (heh heh) of Japan­ese rope bondage. I don’t yet prac­tice sus­pen­sion myself, so it would be rather silly for me to say any­thing more!

I orig­i­nally passed over Tammad’s com­ments on using tra­di­tional Hemp rope, because it sounded nasty, scratchy, and I didn’t par­tic­u­larly care what Japan­ese Doms like. (I’m not one, and I was merely try­ing to learn the tech­nique.) Once again, I missed the point! Please note what Tam­mad has to say about cre­at­ing that route to subspace:

From: Tam­mad Rim­ilia
Sub­ject: Hemp Rope

The brown/​tan ropes used in Japan­ese bondage pho­tos are hemp. The white, red, and black ropes are usu­ally nylon or other mod­ern mate­r­ial. I have seen twisted cel­lo­phane used (in pho­tos), but only rarely. It is very pretty; I have no idea how it feels, or where you get it.

While the brown color of hemp is not visu­ally dra­matic, the feel of being bound in hemp is sub­stan­tially more potent than being bound in nylon — the tremen­dous rough­ness of the hemp gives it a much sharper “bite” than with smoother rope, even when the cap­tive is being still, and it pro­vides for a pow­er­ful induce­ment to NOT strug­gle or move. Hemp thrusts a much deeper level of sub­mis­sion onto it’s cap­tive than smoother ropes; if they strug­gle against the hemp, it will abrade their skin; the more strug­gling, the more painful it becomes. After a few hours even the wildest of fight­ers will have been reduced to stillness.

From what I’ve seen, Japan­ese Doms don’t gen­er­ally like “squirm­ing” Subs, they want pas­sive sub­mis­sive obe­di­ent unmov­ing Subs. Hence they use a lot of hemp. Me, I like ‘em squirming. :-)

Sub­mis­sion is a state of mind, but there is no faster or more effort­less way to train some­one to remain pas­sive and unmov­ing than to rou­tinely keep them in a rope har­ness of hemp.

Best, –Tam­mad

I had focused on the “pas­sive sub­mis­sive obe­di­ent unmov­ing Subs,” think­ing that’s not why I do ropecraft, and com­pletely missed the obser­va­tions about Subspace.

Sim­plic­ity

In bondage ropecraft, sim­plic­ity is best. Sure, I can accu­rately and cor­rectly tie quite a num­ber of knots, fit­ting the right knot to the right pur­pose. I can do orna­men­tal rope­work like a sailor might do, or as macramé art. I have mas­tered all aspects of ropecraft taught by the Boy Scouts, includ­ing mak­ing the rope itself.

So, how many dif­fer­ent knots do I use in bondage rope­work? Three. Sim­plic­ity is bet­ter! The whole secret is to learn a very few tech­niques, but to learn them very well. If you can quickly and accu­rately tie those three knots behind your back with­out look­ing, in any type of rope or string, you’ll do fine.

Devel­op­ing the Art

I see the pur­pose in “Damsel in Dis­tress” or “Cap­tive” ropecraft as self evi­dent. The exact details will vary from per­son to per­son, to be sure. And, mas­tery means devel­op­ment as an art form.

While the Japan­ese Rope Art web­site focuses pri­mar­ily on (duh!) Japan­ese Rope Art, junii has an essay on the var­i­ous rea­sons dif­fer­ent peo­ple enjoy being tied up. It’s an excel­lent read!

Mean­while, I’m dis­cov­er­ing sub­tleties of Japan­ese Bondage with­out even touch­ing a piece of rope! (I did pick up another 500 feet of 3/​8 inch solid nylon braid today, so this isn’t all theory.)

Nawahsi Tatu (Japan­ese Rope Art) explains it this way:

I do rope like the Japan­ese Tea Cer­e­mony, “Chado” (pro­nounced Cha-​​no-​​yu). The Tea Cer­e­mony is not about drink­ing tea, it is the com­bi­na­tion of all the ele­ments — the prepa­ra­tion, the set­ting, the cups, the flow­ers, the can­dles, the aro­mas, the fla­vors, the guests, the host, the savor­ing of the moment. In the same way some see Chado as a cer­e­mony or per­for­mance, some make the same mis­take with Japan­ese Rope Bondage. It is a jour­ney and an expe­ri­ence.…. a way. So it is for me with Japan­ese Rope Bondage, it is “The Way of Rope”.

Jimi Tatu goes on to explain his four prin­ci­ples of Har­mony, Respect, Purity, and Tran­quil­ity. My own phi­los­o­phy is more West­ern than East­ern, so I’ll be com­ing at the same result from a dif­fer­ent direc­tion. Still, as I share my phi­los­o­phy of ropecraft, do bear these four ele­ments in mind :)

Coöper­a­tion

Choose a ten-​​foot length of rope. Dou­ble it, pass it around her waist to form a girth hitch in front, with the ends trail­ing down. Tie an over­hand knot to press against her cli­toris while pass­ing the rope down between her legs and up the back to tie off at her waist. This tech­ni­cal instruc­tion does not a scene make! As with Chado, the scene con­sists of the prepa­ra­tion, the par­tic­i­pants, the audi­ence, the rela­tion­ship, the expec­ta­tions, the tim­ing and pac­ing of events. All per­sons present must in some sense coöper­ate to cre­ate the scene.

Specif­i­cally, I view any scene as a coöper­a­tive effort between the artist and the model. The artist is tak­ing her, with her coöper­a­tion, to where she can­not go by her­self. The rope­work, in this case, is the means of send­ing her into her subspace.

To give her coöper­a­tion, she must first trust. She must know that she can safely let go. Many peo­ple, unfor­tu­nately, will claim more exper­tise than they actu­ally have. Thus the model must know enough to observe and eval­u­ate, and know she will be safe. (Alter­na­tively, she can have a com­pan­ion or chap­er­one with suf­fi­cient exper­tise to eval­u­ate the sit­u­a­tion and act as safety net. Her trust, then, is placed in that companion.)

Non­ver­bal Communication

In my expe­ri­ence, any sort of “heavy” scene requires non­ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Also in my expe­ri­ence, most peo­ple do not under­stand this! If you and your scene part­ner already under­stand this, you’re among the blessed minor­ity for sure. In this sense, any scene involv­ing sub­space is a “heavy” scene.

What exactly is sub­space? I’m not really sure. I just know that many who go there, like it. To me as an out­side observer, it’s a mat­ter of the woman sub­mit­ting to the scene, and div­ing deeply within her­self. Endor­phins flow, and she quite lit­er­ally is trip­ping out. When she’s deep enough, she will be unable to for­mu­late a com­plete sen­tence, let alone think coher­ent thoughts lead­ing to that sentence.

When deep in sub­space, safe­words have no mean­ing. Too few under­stand this! Many idiots will con­tinue, excus­ing them­selves later by announc­ing, “You never said your safe­word.” Mean­while, deep in sub­space, she feels she has failed him if she uses her safe­word. When deep in sub­space, he dare not pre­sume she is capa­ble of call­ing the safeword.

Some peo­ple, inci­den­tally, use a go word. If she fails to respond with the go word when asked, the scene is auto­mat­i­cally over. I haven’t per­son­ally used this, but it does sound like an excel­lent idea. To make this work, I’d have to fig­ure out how to extract the go word with­out dis­turb­ing the subspace.

If your objec­tive is to send her deeply into sub­space, you must develop the abil­ity to shut up, yet con­tinue to com­mu­ni­cate. Actu­ally, it’s not a mat­ter of shut­ting up, but of no longer expect­ing her to ver­bally respond to what you’re say­ing. She needs the assur­ance of know­ing she is doing well, that the scene itself is going well, that you are pleased. You need to develop the means to deter­mine that she actu­ally is doing well, and that the scene is pro­ceed­ing as intended. At this level of play, no mis­take is ever acceptable!

One of my tech­niques is to con­duct a scene in which there are no sur­prises. A sur­prise or shock or inter­fer­ence can knock her out of her sub­space and break the scene. (The result is pre­cisely like crash­ing from a bad trip. It will hap­pen from time to time; expect and allow for it; under­stand that bring­ing her back is your respon­si­bil­ity.) Every step of the way, I ensure she knows what to expect. I can tap her, touch her, show her; what­ever makes sense to com­mu­ni­cate with­out requir­ing much response from her. When you’re in the zone, an Okay or slight nod of the head can be sufficient.

The lack of sur­prise allows her to sink more deeply into her own head trip. She knows things are pro­ceed­ing as expected, and she can let go more and more. She can trust; she is safe. Every step of the scene rein­forces this per­cep­tion, and thus allows her to go deep. Any mis­take inter­rupts this process, obvi­ously. This is where your hard-​​earned exper­tise pays off: It’s your exper­tise which enables her to go deep, achiev­ing what she can­not achieve with any lesser person.

If you think of your error-​​free exper­tise as purity, you’ll see that you can describe your sub­space scene as Har­mony, Respect, Purity, and Tran­quil­ity. The scene ele­ments, and the par­tic­i­pants, are in har­mony. His respect and under­stand­ing enables him to take her where they wish her to go. Float­ing in sub­space is, in essence, tranquility.

Spe­cific Elements

Ya gotta have rope. You need to be able to tie spe­cific knots, be aware of cer­tain safety issues, and so on. Your exper­tise and respon­si­ble actions must be suf­fi­cient that she can let go, know­ing she is safe. You must gain cer­tain spe­cific skills.

To me, each of those things are merely ele­ments, tools, build­ing blocks. They are the means you use to achieve the desired ends. If she is to be cap­tured and sub­dued, you put the scene together accord­ingly. If she is to be placed on dis­play for audi­ence appre­ci­a­tion, you choose how to go about tying and dis­play­ing her.

It never hurts to make double-​​sure her expec­ta­tions match your own — at least, as best they can be expressed. If she’s expect­ing to be sub­dued and have “ter­ri­ble” things done to her, whereas you’re plan­ning a quiet trip into sub­space, both of you are going to be rather dis­ap­pointed (or pleas­antly sur­prised, but I wouldn’t count on that!).

The Con­cept of Layers

Japan­ese Bondage is designed in lay­ers. By lay­ers I don’t mean wind­ing rope on top of rope, mak­ing it thicker and thicker like a spool of thread. I mean con­struct­ing one ele­ment, com­plete in itself; then a sec­ond ele­ment com­plete in itself; then a third, and so on.

For exam­ple, you might begin with the Panty Har­ness described above. It’s com­plete in itself, inde­pen­dent of any other rope­work or scene ele­ments. You might then con­struct a Bikini Har­ness, which basi­cally cov­ers the same area as a bra. That’s the sec­ond layer. A chest har­ness bind­ing the upper arms becomes the third layer. The cinches, nom­i­nally to tighten, but crit­i­cal for keep­ing the har­ness from slip­ping dur­ing sus­pen­sion, become the fourth layer. The fifth layer immo­bi­lizes the hands or wrists or fore­arms. From here we might work towards sus­pen­sion, a hogtie, or plac­ing her on display.

Each step is a nat­ural pro­gres­sion. One step leads to the next. The model coop­er­ates, hold­ing steady or what­ever is needed, for the next step. Patience is part of her coöperation.

Ropecraft is not to be hur­ried. Every motion, every knot, must be eval­u­ated, checked, tested. The rope mov­ing across her body has a strong sen­sual element.

As each layer is com­plete, she can see it is com­plete. There were no errors; she is safe; she can trust. With each layer she is more tightly con­trolled. With each layer her own motions become less and less relevant.

With each layer, she can allow her­self to travel more deeply into sub­space. Endor­phins flow. Even as it con­tin­ues, the scene is complete.


Ref­er­ence Links

  1. http://​www​.ds​-arts​.com/​R​o​p​e​A​r​t​/​m​a​i​n​r​o​p​e​.​h​tml. Japan­ese Rope Art. An excel­lent teach­ing and resource site. The teach­ing comes from both the artist and the model. It’s this site which caused things to “click” in my own mind.
  2. Tam­mad Rimilia’s Bondage How-​​To Page. I used this site to learn the Japan­ese Rope Bondage tech­niques on my own. Tam­mad has passed away, but friends have ensured his legacy remains. The site has finally dis­ap­peared, but you can still view it via The Way­back Machine.
  3. Bondage Uni­ver­sity. Large resource and teach­ing site, includes film clips of Lorelei demon­strat­ing basic tying tech­niques. Those film clips are excellent!
  4. The Power of Silence, by Seri (to be pub­lished Sep­tem­ber 9, 2013). Non­ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion is essen­tial for any scene involv­ing deep trip­ping through sub­space. Seri has a par­tic­u­lar advan­tage in gain­ing this skill.
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