From the Bight and Back (or – The tale of where it all begins and ends for me – and at least one or two I’ve tied…)


Rope bondage and how it is applied seems a very contentious conversation. Why exactly do people push so hard either for or against its various applications? For and against individuals, and their approach? What exactly is up with all the posturing? You don’t see any number of long writings about how one flogging technique is superior to all the others…

I have a lot to say about this, and my own experiences. So I’ll skip to the end before working to it. Rope is inherently flexible. You can coil it, knot it, wrap it, even stretch it to a certain degree. Beautiful macramé or tying your boat to a stump. It doesn’t matter to me what you want to do with rope. As long as you do it safely, with appropriately negotiated agreement, and refrain from putting others down for how they to it, the absolute “worst” I will likely ever do is ignore you. And unless what I’m doing has some healthy interest to you, why does it matter to you how or why I do rope?

The one thing you can’t do with rope is push it. So why all this push?

Rope isn’t for everyone. But it is available to anyone. You can pick up a few pieces of rope for cheap. Wrap it around someone a couple times – instant bondage! Cool, right? But want to do more than that? Add the influence of complex concepts like Japanese bondage, be it Shibari or Kinbaku? Well, that’s where the opinions seem to kick in….


For some years I was a student of one of the most recognizable masters of modern Kinbaku. He is a showman. And that makes sense. His own teacher was the man who first brought Kinbaku to the stage in Japan and thereby opened-up and heavily influenced its mainstream popularity. Who made it a spectacle, with lights, curtains, and drama.

Right there lies a critical point in the influence of what most in the West have observed as “Kinbaku”. Performance-Kinbaku by the Japanese Masters is pretty much always a spectacle.

But this is not at all what those same people normally do in more intimate settings. Performances are designed to “wow”, and demonstrate the extremes. Excite the senses, and titillate your arousal.

Taking one’s lead from photos or videos of performance-Kinbaku appears to be epidemic in the West. People rush to learn “ties”, and anything they can about suspension. And it’s a dangerous game. Even those thoroughly trained to do suspension safely run a risk. And sometimes people get hurt. It’s happened to me – twice. Neither suffered more than temporary, minor damage. But it’s no relief or excuse to recognize that despite the best training, and always paying attention, shit can still happen.

I’ve had a number of lengthy conversations about this subject with others who have the experience to hold an informed opinion. Consensus is, an awful lot of people, especially in the West seem to have this idea that they can and even should become instant-experts. And certainly not shy in telling you all about it.

Some people will tell you that every great rope scene includes suspension. Or that it all begins and ends with the Gote. Or nothing else much matters beyond a single-column tie. Each cited as some kind of on-ramp to the magical rainbow bridge of great rope.

There is a danger in assuming expertise.

“I’ve tied xx people….” “I saw this cool picture….” “I watched a video….” “This harness is safe….” “People come to me asking to show them how……”

I had a raw-beginner-student last year pointedly confront me, saying I needed to be teaching “connective” bondage. I replied that I was. Their immediate response, “No, you’re not.” This from someone who was still fumbling around with their single-column tie.

  • Just because you don’t yet understand the language being spoken doesn’t mean there is no conversation happening.

Even someone with substantial experience who wanted to learn a particular tie railed against me when I corrected their attempt at it.

  • If you want to learn a technique, maybe you could allow some room for the idea that it isn’t as easy as it looks, and there is a right way to do it.

Others vocally and publicly slammed Kinbaku as “old-school”, extolling the virtues of Western rope. Until they suddenly “discovered” Kinbaku, shifted their position and quickly began presenting themselves as the authority.

Yet another with very little in both experience and ability worked extremely hard to undercut me. Even writing a direct message to one of my teachers in Tokyo, telling them how I wasn’t qualified to be doing, let alone teaching the sensual aspects of Rope. That I was doing it wrong. Interesting, since this ignorant and inexperienced individual was thereby directly implying to a 40-year Master of the Art that he had been teaching me wrong all these years.

  • The only thing left to say about that situation… Someone’s ability to convince people to accept their fiction (and their witnessed coercion of others to participate in it) as fact will never change the fact that the fiction is still a lie. And the very sad fact is, people ignorant of (or choosing to ignore, deny, or panic and run away from) the facts always seem eager to jump to believe the worst of someone.

And this is exactly the instant-expert phenomenon I’m talking about. I guess those all those “riggers” must have learned some really wicked-good “ties” somewhere along the line.

As this pertains to Kinbaku, even Shibari, 99.5% of those self-assuming experts haven’t even met, let alone taken in-person instruction from any of the recognized Masters of these Arts. Show of hands…. How many of you have actually been there? Witnessed or participated in the Art, where it was born – where it lives? Have even the slightest knowledge of the cultural perspective? 

Those of you who have know exactly what I’m saying.  But them experts apparently know better than us.

Does Technique Even Matter?

That depends entirely on what You want to do with rope.

Back to the opinions that every great rope scene includes suspension. Or that it all begins and ends with the Gote, or single-column tie. Add to it all, paraphrasing one of the Grand Masters of Kinbaku, the idea that “There is no bondage when hands are flapping free”. And yet another of the Grand Masters who regularly cultivated complete submission without even binding the hands or arms.

Truth is, in the end, it should be obvious by this point that none of those are necessary, or even matter in the slightest.

But as someone who has spent a lot of my life working as a professional musician, I know people will much more enjoy a song when it’s played well and in-tune. And given my showman-teacher influences in rope, it’s been a long and hard journey to overcome the idea that technique is utmost. To rediscover my joy of just-doing it. Though I still believe that knowing your instrument and the structures of its application are the basis of expressing. In other words, it is difficult to express or apply what is in your heart while needing to concentrate on how your instrument works.

Rope, just like a music, is a conversation with your instrument, and with your audience. Whether one-on-one, hanging out with few people jamming in the studio, or performing in front of hundreds or thousands of people, that conversation exists. Usually, rope is a one-on-one affair. And even in performance, though aware of one’s audience, the primary focus is still always your bottom. You, your bottom, and at least some of the audience watching are going to be able to tell if it’s effective – if it’s enjoyable. And isn’t that the real reason we want to do this?

Like the old saying that you don’t need to be particularly good at sex to enjoy doing it, the same applies to rope. Just whip it out and spray it all over someone’s tits. Or spend hours in a lingering, connected expression of Love. Maybe even apply the techniques of the Masters as you connect with the one you’re tying. The main thing matters is what you and the person being tied agree on what you want to do with it, and that you both enjoy what you’re doing with it.

Still, an effective, qualified teacher, and regular, consistent practice is the road to any real skill. And skill leads to more enjoyable expression. Even just binding someone’s wrists and ankles to bed posts would benefit from knowing how to safely tie those cuffs. And if for whatever reason you want to even partially suspend someone, technique matters – a lot.

Briefly – finding a decent teacher isn’t terribly hard. But here comes that old instant-expert bug again. To anyone without some knowledge, it is really, really hard to judge anyone’s abilities. Random “rigger” who has copied 100 “ties” from videos and websites will probably look pretty impressive to someone new.

One thing to look for – are they showing you “ties”, or how to tie? If there is no conversation about “why” along with the “what”, you should probably look somewhere else. If they show little regard for the comfort, safety, or especially consent of their bottom, run away. And anyone who will show you how to even partially suspend someone in a first or second meeting is a dangerous fucking idiot, and should be avoided entirely.

Practice, practice, practice

Want to get good with techniques? Two things are key there. One, learning to do it correctly from someone who actually knows how – and with all the elements. Not just copying someone else’s form, but the details – tension, flow, timing, communication, etc., as well. Two, practicing it correctly until it becomes second nature. As my guitar Guru always says, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice make perfect”.

Practice has caused me some issues over time. Summation of a long story – I was asked to audition for a performance that was being held in Tokyo. I came back from Japan feeling a strong push to get “good” at what I was being asked to perform. And I felt pressured to take a lot of the time available to tie with my collared partner, to be dedicated to this task. Did we still get to just play? Sure. Quite a lot. I did my best to make sure we did. But despite being my submissive, who would generally do what I asked, that focus on practice created some tension in our relationship. Our time together was limited. And they sometimes felt short-changed. Which left me feeling guilty. ‘Round and ’round that kind of thing goes. And unresolved resentments will always fester.

The point is to never forget – regardless of outside pressures – that your relationship with your bottom always comes first. Talk about it. Find a balance. Because, in the end, teachers can come and go – but a primary relationship should never take second-chair to anyone or anything else.

Bondage That Emphasizes The Bond

Regardless of the formal or informal approach, shouldn’t the relationship between top and bottom always be foremost? Energy and connection flowing between the two of you? I believe so.

In two of the absolutely most memorable and connected rope sessions I’ve ever tied, one was entirely unplanned, unscripted, and led to one of the most amazingly beautiful and long-running exchange of Ki I have ever experienced. The other was formal, and definitely scripted, but had nearly the same depth of connection, even in the short three hours we had together.

How can two scenes so different from one another share that quality? It is simply that they were approached from both sides with an openness, innate connection, and communication. Intention.

Even the simple act of tying someone’s limbs to a bed or dining table can have that same connection and flow of energy. As long as there is communication, and agreement on what you both wish to have happen.

Or let’s say your bottom has told you they want to be tied and fucked, or flogged, or whatever…. Which is absolutely appropriate to rope, and certainly to Kinbaku. You have some choices. A couple wraps, and get down to the dirty? A lingering, building connection via rope, leading to a passionate physical exchange? Or something in between? This is where connection and communication come in. Knowing, through experience with them, or through conversation leading to agreement. Sometimes that agreement might be to play it by ear – experiment and explore – or more strict and defined.

At the end of the day….

It’s the Bond, stupid. Always and forever more, it’s the bond that will let you start with a Gote, or a single-column tie, and progress through a couple wraps or a drawn-out, complex scene. Applied with Intention, whatever you do with rope will spark the Bond. Allow your bottom to safely drift off into their sub-space. Excite them into wiggling their butt in anticipation of the awesome sex you’re about to have. A healthy beating. An enjoyable exchange of dominating your partner. Or whatever the two of you decide it should be.

Learning to do rope bondage well, in any form, can be a lot of work. But you’ll get out of it what you put into it. And applying it, a lot of fun. Regardless of how, Tie with Ki – with Heart – with Compassion – and for Connection. And it will all be good.

Remember that pretty much none of us in the West are going to ever fully be able to grasp, let alone understand and apply Japanese bondage like someone who is a native of that culture. Accept that your interpretation has come through your own cultural filters. And stop with the judging how others do it. You may get good at it. But you will never be an expert. Not on their level.

Tops, never forget that your bottom is a human. Bottoms, never forget that your Top is a human too. We all fuck-up. But most of us have the ability to learn from our mistakes. And moving-forward with a better understanding, deepen, enhance, and strengthen your bonds, and the joy you receive from one another via rope.

Remember too that most of either side of the slash aren’t mind-readers. Communication is a must. Open, honest, heart-felt communication about needs, desires, and ongoing talks about what worked and what didn’t – every time you tie.

Make strong agreements, and apply them with everything you’ve got.

Whether you bind someone’s hands and put a few wraps around their torso – or create a spectacle of amazing technique – the point is, and will always be the Bond created when two people engage via rope.

This has always been my intention. Which I’ve applied with varying success. But it remains my intention to always tie Bond-first, no matter who, where, or how.

Now – go forth, and however you decide to tie…. Tie well. Tie from the Heart.

And just fucking stop with the nitpicking.