NSFW: Shibari Workshop

Earlier this week, my housemate and I tuned into Anatomie Studio‘s online Shibari class. The session focused on floor self-tying with the aim to learn key knots and rope positioning. So, we fetched our rope, poured two glasses of Bailey’s and plugged the Mac into the TV… We were ready to up-skill in Lockdown 2.0.

Shibari, or Kinbaku, is Japanese rope bondage and is all about the process of tying and the connection between partners, the rope and the body. Unlike how porn would have us believe, Shibari isn’t about grabbing toys and playing with or torturing the sub to reach the end goal of orgasm, the focus is on the feeling of the rope on our bodies and how we navigate our partner.

With this in mind, our instructor, Anna, said it’s best to avoid the rope becoming a barrier between us and our partner. It’s important to try and maintain a level of sensuality; to enjoy the journey and the simplicity of the rope and the techniques.

Initially, my housemate and I giggled; looking at most harnesses, it seems there’s nothing simple about Shibari, but Anna assured us there’s one key knot to master and two wrap techniques.

A bit knotted

First, we doubled the rope over and found the midpoint (the ‘bight’):

The ‘bight’ – the midpoint of the rope

A Lark’s Head

Next, we practised attaching two pieces of rope using a lark’s head knot:

You now have a much longer piece of rope to play with.

A lark’s head knot is great for connecting two pieces of rope but shouldn’t be used to tie because you have less control over the knot – it can become too loose or too tight and it’s a blocked exit point (for quick untying). The knot you want to use is…

A single column tie (SCT).

This is so much easier than it looks. To do a SCT over a leg:

  1. Hold the rope near the bight and rest the back of your hand on your leg
  2. Wrap the rope (bight leading) under your leg and return to the starting point
  3. Again, with the bight leading, wrap the rope over everything
  4. Then, wrap the rope under everything
  5. Pull both ends
  6. The easy way to finish this is to tie a ‘normal knot’ – this is the only time you’d tie a normal knot. You can tie a Reef Knot or a Granny Knot. A reef knot is: right over left, left over right and a granny knot is: right over left, right over left. A reef knot looks prettier with the ends in line with the tie (and also allows for a quicker release) whereas a granny knot has the ends perpendicular to the tie.
  7. To put a professional flourish on the SCT, twist the rope as you tie the knot so you’re pulling both ends out to the side

Harnesses

For a self-tie chest harness (with shoulder straps – on a female):

  1. Wrap the doubled-up rope around your chest, secure with a SCT
  2. Wrap the rope over one boob, around your back and over the other boob
  3. Secure it with a counter-tension point by hooking the rope under the rope around the first boob
  4. Bring the rope over one shoulder
  5. Against your back, hook the rope under the bottom piece of rope and bring back over the other shoulder
  6. Put a counter-tension point by hooking the rope under the stem (the rope at your cleavage)
  7. If you have enough rope left, run it around your chest again and add a counter-tension at the stem
  8. Make the end of the rope look nice (‘dress it’) by wrapping it under the bottom piece of rope – it’s best to avoid a rope running free.

For a self-tie chest harness (without shoulder straps – on a female):

  1. Wrap the doubled-up rope around your chest, secure with a SCT
  2. Wrap the rope around your chest again
  3. Wrap the rope over one boob, around your back and over the other boob
  4. Secure it with a counter-tension point by hooking the rope under the rope around the first boob
  5. Wrap the rope around your chest again (above your boobs)
  6. Put a counter-tension point by hooking the rope under the stem (the rope at your cleavage)
  7. Make the end of the rope look nice (‘dress it’) by wrapping it around the stem – it’s best to avoid a rope running free.
Double-wrapped chest harness

For a self-tie hip/crotch harness (on a female):

  1. You’ll have to find this online – by this stage, my housemate and I had had more than three glasses of Bailey’s and were feeling pretty smug we mastered the chest harnesses so I didn’t take photos or write any of the hip-harness instructions down!

Connection

Because Shibari is all about connection, it’s important that the rigger never passes the rope over the rope bunny’s head; it should be wrapped around their torso in a hugging motion. To avoid unnecessary rope burn or damage, whenever rope is against the body it should be flat and not overlapping.

Directing the scene through tying

Anna said that it’s possible for the rigger to steer the scene in the direction you (as a couple) want it to go by tying and untying at different speeds. A soft, slow tie will put the rope bunny or sub in a completely different headspace to a fast tie. However, she also noted that whenever you’re tying someone, you keep control of the rope; feeding it through rather than letting it run free and maintaining the desired tension.

Communication

Before you ask your partner to engage in rope play with you, it’s essential to talk about it. I write about communication a lot in my kink and BDSM posts (such as here, here and here) because it’s of the utmost importance. You need to know your own limits as much as your partner’s and no one should feel pressurised into doing something they don’t want to do. Consent should only be given and accepted when everyone is fully informed, including of the risks. And nothing less than enthusiastic consent should be welcomed. (Remember: SSC – Safe, Sane and Consensual.) By the nature of BDSM, sometimes it’s not possible to give verbal consent. Perhaps the sub is gagged or the bottom is in subspace, or maybe the top is being overly zealous. This can be navigated by knowing your partner well; recognising their body language – you could even talk about the non-verbal cues that indicate when to continue and when to slow down or stop before your session. Aftercare is just as important as informed consent – think of it as a debrief after an experiment to return to your ‘normal’ level. I’ve previously written about aftercare here.

Note: If you’re too embarrassed to talk about this with your partner, you probably shouldn’t be tying rope around one another.

Safety

If you’re interested in introducing rope into your bedroom play, try Anatomie Studio’s online classes. It’s important to watch videos from reputable teachers as playing with rope can go very wrong (here’s a website recommended by Anatomie). As with many BDSM activities, you need to know the risks so you can prevent them and fix any issues if you do find yourself in a pickle. One risk with rope play is permanent nerve damage as a result of nerve compression from the rope being too tight or positioned in the wrong place. If the radial nerve in the arm is damaged it can cause wrist drop and the hand can’t be moved. For a really good resource on rope’s risks to nerves, see here and here. In the event something goes wrong when there’s more than one of you, it’s good practice to have a Plan B nearby – namely, scissors! (Although we learnt it’s usually faster to untie than cut someone out of rope and it’s less common for things to go wrong on the floor, unlike suspension – where there’s a danger of deadweight and epileptic seizures.) If you’re self-tying a suspension, Anna warns of exhaustion and recommends having your phone nearby to talk to Siri – ‘Hey Siri, call [housemate, partner, neighbour, 999…!]’

After such a fun lesson, I can’t wait to get practising…

Further Reading

Anatomie Studio’s Rope Videos

Anatomie Studio’s Info and Resources

Shibari Study

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