Make the Bondage Fit the Bottom:
The first week of December, i had the privilege of being asked to join a small, intimate group of rope lovers for a private session with the very talented and esteemed Nawashi, Master "K". He has studied and taught Shibari for more than 30 years. We all met in LA in the Little Tokyo district and entered the world of Japanese bliss.
We were all there for one thing, rope. We wanted an opportunity to learn, feel, listen, taste, breathe, and to become one with rope. All of us had different levels of experience, came from various countries and had numerous interests. But because of our yearning for knowledge of rope bondage, we all connected. Our first and most important lesson learned was "make the bondage fit the bottom, not the bottom fit the bondage."
We started in a round table formation discussing our experiences. Then Master "K" asked each of us what we were looking for in our journey. I could see the contemplation on most of the faces. Was it to improve our techniques of tying? Was it to refine our skills as bottoms? Maybe it was to feel more secure in oneself to be more masterful? Was it to examine and comprehend why we like to be bound in rope? How about to further understand the understanding of that which is already understood? Huh? I will let you contemplate on that one for a while.
We moved into an adjoining room with the floor covered in tatami reed mats and cushions. I gave a formal bow, called the za-rei to honor Master "K", which is appropriate when sitting on a tatami floor. We made ourselves comfortable as we listened very intently to Master "K" as he began explaining the history of Shibari. Most of the bottoms took positions kneeling, others were cross-legged. Slowly, we passed around absolutely beautiful priceless historical books on the art of Shibari. Master K holds the largest collection of historical books on the art and history of Shibari and we were fortunate to be able to peruse just a few. A small selection of books that were outstanding to look at were:
"Bind" (Master Nureki's work photographed by Akio Fuji),
"Tattooing", by Kaname Ozuma that had the most amazing photos to see.
One by one, those kneeling relaxed into more comfortable positions. Being over the age of 29 ... okay, over the age of 39, i quickly changed into a cross-legged position. Soon i stretched my legs fully out leaning back on my hands, and then finally scooted myself over to the wall and leaned up against that for support. Master "K" smiled and said that it took me long enough to seek out a comfortable position. Only one girl stayed kneeling on the hard reed mat. She was tall and thin but with a feisty spirit, oh did i mention that she was younger? She was queried if she was comfortable and she nodded a stern yes. The history lesson continued as i recognized in excitement a book of old Shibari illustrations called, "Hojojitsu Diagram", by Master Fujita Seiko. I had seen this book in Chicago at ShibariCon 2004 and was pleased to see it appear again. I announced that it made quite an impression with a few nawashi and they were trying to figure out a complex finger bondage tie. Then it happened ... she moved. She finally came out of that kneeling position and stretched her legs. I noticed her knees were marked with the impressions of the rows of reeds. I thought to myself, they kind of looked like rope marks but very thin and straight. We all looked her way and began to smile and a lighthearted laugh started on how long she lasted kneeling. Her Master was very pleased. I asked her what her age was but nay, she pleaded the fifth. Oh, to be 20-something again.
After a short break and some green tea, which i had the pleasure of serving to Master "K", we were ready to start working with the rope.
Only hemp rope would do in this setting and was definitely appropriate. Master "K" pulled out his own hemp, which was absolutely the finest i had ever seen, felt, and smelled. He purchased it on one of his many trips to Japan and i drooled waiting my turn to have it surround my body. Each bottom took a turn standing while Master "K" patiently, slowly, decisively wrapped and turned his rope around each body showing step by step each move he made to create a Takate-kote on the torso. "This is a basic box arm tie, the building block of most Shibari ties. The arms are tied behind the back and parallel to the ground with the elbows bent and held in place by ropes that circle above and below the breasts." The Tops studied his moves intensely, memorizing the steps of the tie. The bottoms focused on the one being tied and how each embraced the rope as it entangled their body. You could literally see the shivers that were sent throughout the limbs and the feet lightly dancing on the floor.
Each bottom had the same Takate-kote applied, but the bondage formed differently on each body. Body types were different, flexibility was different, and easement was different. Master "K" delicately pointed out that one girl could barely grasp her wrists, another could hold further onto her forearms, and the other (me) could comfortably grab my elbows. And because of these different positions, the Top had to adjust where the rope needed to go in order to tie the arms together. It was important that the ropes were wrapped above the wrists to avoid the tender nerves in that area. "Make the bondage fit the bottom."
This same tie was done 3 separate times on each bottom so that the Top could learn the steps. And with each tie, Master "K" began with a "quick release" knot around the arms. *Please see photos provided by Master "K". This quick release knot is just how it sounds. It is a safety tie step that should not be overlooked! It should be used first when tying arms together along with the rest of the body tie. If an emergency should happen, or if the hands get numb, you can release the arms and allow them to stretch and get blood flowing again without untying the whole body. This can also be used when tying the upper body harness down close to the cross-legged ankles during the Ebi-bari tie, aka the shrimp or lotus position, one of the oldest kinbaku ties (the art of Japanese bondage). It allows a quick release of the upper body if this "torturous technique" becomes too overbearing to withstand.
*See below for a full description of how to tie a quick release knot.
Everyone watched as each bottom was tied separately. The first nawajujun, having the least rope experience, stayed grounded only for a very short period before she started flying and could no longer stay in a standing position. Master "K" watched diligently as her energies slid downward. A small problem arose because her under wire bra started digging into her and pinching her skin. Hint: when working with rope, leave the vanity at the door and dress comfortably. Because there would soon be another opportunity for more rope bondage after the next break, the ropes did not stay long on her.
The next bottom called herself an "eel". She is one who, after you are finished tying her, loves to struggle in the ropes to get free from the bondage. She finds exhilaration in the challenge of getting out and only when she realizes that there is no escape, does she find her path of flight. Needless to say, it took a second trial tying a gyaku-ebi (a hog-tie) to assure a predicament, from which she could not escape. It was fun for all of us to watch her roll and twist around on the mat, using her nimble fingers to attack the knots and pull the ropes. With an eel, make sure there are no obstacles in the way for them to hit because they squirm ... a lot! Nawajujun number 2 finally ran out of energy and gave in to the way of the rope.
And last but not least was my turn under the guidance of Master "K". I had not been forgotten, for he had forewarned the "torture technique" for a reason. I stood as that delightful soft hemp i had been drooling over, started wrapping around my arms and continued over my torso. Once secured, he helped me down into a seated position. Master "K" sat in front of me and asked how far i could fold down to my feet. Once folded into this coiled ball, it compresses your diaphragm and breathing takes effort. I used his knee in front of me for a support for my head as i began relaxing my upper body muscles. He ran the support ropes around my ankles up over my shoulder, wound through the back of my chest harness and then followed it back across the other shoulder returning to my feet. At no time was the rope held against the back nape of my neck. I have had that done and seen that method many times and i am uncomfortable with that technique. It places strain on the neck and, in my view, is unsafe. Rope and neck not a good combination. Master "K" continued to gently coil the rope around the front support ropes, placing tighter tension and restriction of the torso and bringing my head fully down to my ankles. Once in that finished position, i too drifted off into rope space under the careful watch of my sensei and trusted company. Nawajujun number 3, gone.
Another break, more tea and definitely time for a restroom stop.
Next came time for each Top to test their skills on their partner using the same Takate-kote tie Master "K" just finished demonstrating.
Nawajujun number 1 started and just as quickly as before, stayed grounded only for a very short time before she started fluttering and could no longer stay in a standing position. She was with a rigger who had never played with her before, so he was at a disadvantage not knowing her tolerance to rope. Although she had not composed the all important trust factor with this individual, she felt completely comfortable under the eye(s) of our sensei and his ever-watchful scholarly student, M.Yu. She therefore allowed herself to fly away quickly into la-la land. I will jump on my soapbox for one moment here and give words of advise. Please try to stay in tune with your nawashi until such time as you are assured that you are safe within the confines of the rope bondage. Stepping off soapbox.
Nawajujun number 2 also was tied with the Takate-kote, and swiftly and delightfully wiggled her way out of it. As quickly as the rope went on, it came unfurling off. What else would you expect from an eel?
Lastly, nawajujun number 3 (me) was then tied. Shortly after my partner finished though, he had to undo the harness and start over because i realized that the bulk of the tie in the back was directly on top of my spine and caused discomfort. It is important to offset the ropes leading up from the wrists to be just to either side of the spine to avoid placing pressure on that area. See photo #2. Please also notice that the (loose) cinch, used to stop slippage from going over the shoulders, was only placed on the bottom breast rope not both.
At the end of the daylong session, we all relaxed as we were drained both physically and mentally. We glowingly talked with one another and made plans to have huge amounts of sushi for dinner at a terrific Japanese Restaurant down the street. We also had an opportunity to buy Master K's new book, Shibari: The Art of Japanese Bondage, and were lucky enough to have Master "K" personalize an inscription.
You can find his artistic rope photos and book at the following sites:
It was a fabulous weekend, filled with wonderful friends i reconnected with, a delightful chance to meet new rope lovers, and the opportunity to learn and refine rope techniques from a passionately skilled Nawashi.
I hope i have passed on some useful information.
Thank you Master "K" for adding to my journey and to my special friends in LA.
*Below are the comments and descriptions directly from Master "K" on the "quick release" method.
Master "K" writes:
The quick release knot used on the basic Takate-kote harness allows not only ease of release in an emergency but also helps w/subs who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand difficulties by providing a means of freeing the hands first instead of waiting for the complicated shibari pattern to be untied.
The Secret is to begin by wrapping the wrists approx. 2 to 3 inches above the hands and then to tie a simple over hand knot low on the hands BEFORE continuing to wrap the Takate-kote. Then every additional rope is added ABOVE the quick release knot.
I've included 2 pictures that show the first nawa (first rope) and then the completed Takate-kote.
Please play safely and enjoy!
Copyright Master K. Used by permission.
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