This post arose out of some on-line arguing about rope bondage ages ago. I thought there were some worthwhile points about the type of arguments used however so I'm rehashing it here. The main thrust was people trying to justify practices undertaken without full knowledge of the risks with arguments like...
Bondage is dangerous anyway. That's besides the point.
There's a difference between the danger of deliberately and knowingly engaging in a practice with knowledge of the risks and possible consequences and the danger caused by someone not knowing what they're doing. That whole argument is a red herring.
The same applies to models peculiarities. There's a real difference between making an adjustment to a bondage for a specific model because an adjustment is being deliberately made and rope placement varying because the person just doesn't know where they might risk causing harm.
Also the models likes and degree of masochism aren't arguments that apply to something that's done badly. A more masochistic model doesn't mean horrible rope work should pass without comment.
Distinctions between fractional differences in ideas on construction or microscopic differences in placement aren't the issue. I have to believe that it is possible to spot the difference between something that might be subjective or even questionable and a total and monumental horror.
The thing about bad bondage is that you have to be lucky every time in order not to harm someone.
The better the bondage the more you have to be actually unlucky to harm someone.
The notion of 'no harm no foul' isn't valid either.
To suggest that simply because no one was hurt it wasn't bad is not in any way logical. Being lucky not to hurt someone doesn't make the unintentional potential risk the model was exposed to OK in any way shape or form.
The key phrase there is not 'risk' but 'unintentional risk'.
Sometimes you get people arguing on-line and all you can think is.... OMG what do you have in your life that you do this?
What I mean is that they often want to project themselves as 'experts' on-line without being able to show any evidence of expertise. They produce nothing original, nothing beautiful, nothing inventive and yet they think an awful lot of themselves.
If you look at these people you will see that they are not usually well known for their skill even if they are well known as a 'presence' on-line. They would like to think of themselves as pillars of the community, and benevolent dispensers of knowledge even though it's plain that their motivation is completely self serving. Often they try to make themselves known by arguing with people who are well known, who have achieved things, people who are often in demand as performers or teachers. They like to argue with these people as they somehow think that it puts them on a level with these people. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. They actually make themselves in to jokes, annoying jokes but jokes nonetheless.
They are often prodigious on-line posters forever recycling others work in an attempt to seem like the can 'contribute' copying and pasting swathes of others research and knowledge when they could have much more effectively and frankly with much more respect for the originators of that knowledge just linked to the creators website, or as is very often the case Wikipedia.
Arguing with these people brings up the law of diminishing returns, the more effort you put into being reasonable with them the less you get back. The real problem is that they're not actually interested in being reasonable, they're certainly not interested in learning. What they're interested in is getting as much attention as possible, because if they can get you to argue with them that makes them feel like they're worth arguing with.
The best and possibly only way to deal with this is just to point out the errors and not get sucked into the argument. For they will just argue and argue, and not even rationally until any reasonable person gives up and goes away to do something more useful with their time. At this point they will gleefully think they have 'won' the argument in some way as they were the last person making noise.... Remember they don't actually have anything better to do than keep on with these pointless arguments. It is likely however that you do!
It's helpful to think of them as unruly children who crave attention. It doesn't matter that it's bad attention just so long as it's attention and they've found that this is a much easier route than actually getting attention by for instance achieving something worthwhile.
When you think about it rationally and step back away from the arguments you cannot help but, in a way, feel pity for these frankly somewhat pathetic individuals, after all what do they have in their lives that they spend their time behaving in this way? What self worth can they have? They have no real achievement of accomplishment or talent to call their own and can only call attention to themselves by arguing with those that do.
Having written this and now looking back on it I wonder how many people's over inflated egos and senses of self importance are going to make them believe that I'm writing this article is about them personally? I can think of at least 5 people that these words could apply exactly too around the world and another dozen that most of this applies to. I wonder how their egos cope with the thought that they are also sadly very commonplace too.
You see some terrible attempts at suspension. Many of these suspensions have, fortunately for those involved, not gone wrong. It is devoutly to be hoped for that they wont go wrong. However for as long as nothing goes wrong this bad rigging goes on. The people responsible will point out that nothing went wrong and that the person suspended had a good time.
The fact that nothing went wrong 'this time' didn't make it any less of a bad suspension. It doesn't make it any less likely to go wrong next time. Balancing on the knife edge of disaster and getting away with it isn't a validation of bad bondage.
So... do you want something to go wrong or not?
No of course you don't because the person harmed would be the poor person suspended and not the moronic piece of shit that did the awful suspension.
Now this is something I've really seen so bear with me and you'll understand why I'm making a further post broadly on this subject.
A guy who's been around for a while it seems did a suspension. The rope work was bad and I mean BAD. Sloppily done, poorly placed, badly applied. Notice I didn't use the word 'hurried' there because even though it was awful he took ages. The guy didn't look like he knew what he was doing at all! And yet he was going to do a suspension. So he has one end in a loop of rope that on later examination turned out to be held together with nothing more than a granny knot as his 'hard point'. The safety of this was pointed out to him by me as soon as it was spotted. The girl was in bad pain (not because of the dangerous 'hard point' but because of the awful bondage) but this guy was in no hurry to get her down despite being told how dangerous it was. He did get her down before further action was needed because she became much more 'verbal' about her level of discomfort. She was complaining of pain in her shoulder for the rest of the time she was at the venue.
Did this guy learn anything from this? No of course not, not his fault is it? Just a fluke. On another occasion he's at it again. This time the suspended 'screamed to be let down' the second they went up. His fault? No! He had the wrong rope, the wrong, biners, the wrong ring, the person suspended had, and I quote "The wrong centre of gravity".
Where was I? In the same place but doing a suspension of my own and so not observing him. At that event btw. I told this guy what I thought of his terrible rope work. Just in case you're thinking 'why didn't you confront him then?'.
Anything learned? Nope. I heard tell a couple of weeks later that he'd done a suspension in another club and that the person suspended had 'screamed to be let down' the instant they went up. Wonder if he's learned anything from that? Maybe it was just another unfortunate fluke? Maybe he had the wrong equipment again? Which would be strange as he does have a very nice big and impressive bag of rope, biners etc. with him.
Am I crazy in thinking that someone with his level of talent should maybe consider very carefully if he's got what it takes to be doing suspensions?
I'll tell you what he has got though. He talks a good game. I was doing a suspension with my partner and putting her through a series of transitions. He was giving a running commentary to two young girls about everything I was doing and how he does it better and how I manage the transitions and how he can do it better and how yadda, yadda.
I was giving a girl a suspension experience which she was very much enjoying, so comfortable that she was chatting to her friend about how much fun she was having, no screaming at all. Then this guy starts telling me how he does a suspension just like that (only better) and how I could improve it. This was when I have to say I'd had enough of him and told him exactly what I thought of his suspension etc. The expression "The stupidest thing I've ever seen" may have passed my lips along with expressions such as "utterly horrifying" and possibly "completely incompetent".
OK so the point in the end of this is... Despite evidence such as injured rope bottoms, people screaming, politely having some of their grosser errors and safety mistakes pointed out, people screaming, being told bluntly how bad they are, people screaming. There are some people who keep on talking as though they are bondage geniuses and for all I know believing it. All I can think is that some people are far too stupid to realise how stupid they are.
So which way should you start?
This has come up a few times in recent times and for me it's a bit of a puzzle as to why it does. Akechi Deneki started to the left, so does Osada Steve (長田スティーブ) and so do I. Akechi Deneki was left handed which will be a contributing factor, Osada Steve learned from Akechi Denki (明智伝鬼) and I learned from Osada Steve. (Just as a side note I used to start to the right until I had a lesson from Osada Steve). Kinoko Hajime (一鬼のこ) starts to the right and is right handed.
So the first question becomes, does is the preference the result of chance, the handedness of the person teaching? Did they consider this question and decide on some other criteria?
Personally I am not in any position to speak about any of these masters motivations and sadly the person who's opinion is probably most relevant to this question Akechi Denki has passed away.
So that being the case, what is this post about?
I've thought about this a few times but not really in huge depth. I started to the right when I began tying because that felt natural. I changed to the left because Steve taught it that way. At first it felt strange but soon it became very natural. I don't notice any more unless I'm thinking specifically about it. The reason this resurfaced for me particularly was that recently I had the opportunity to learn from Yukimura Haruki (雪村春樹). On that day I had to again start to the right.
For me it brought up interesting questions about physical physical habits and comfort. Questions that, if you will forgive the expression... make you think about what you do without thinking. Do you do what's best or what happens anyway. Sometimes it becomes necessary to break existing habits and form new ones. Which way is best and why. Are both equally good? Does one hand have an advantage over the other, if not does using one hand leave you in an advantageous position after this movement?
When applied to the start of the non-reversing style of TK my original instinct was to start to the right. I have learned to start to the left. Having tried both ways, thought about it, analyzed the outcomes and feelings I personally feel that starting to the left is better for me.
So why is it better for me? Because I feel that feeding from my left I feed into my dominant hand for the longest contact whilst handling the rope in contact with the models skin. OK so the effect of this is marginal, but when it comes down to making a difference between good and great bondage every tiny margin makes a difference.
It's certainly worth thinking about these things and not making assumptions.
NOTE: All of the above pertains to the 'non-reversing' style of TK. I was tempted to consider looking at those that use other styles of TK or Gote Shibari like Naka Akira (奈加あきら) who appears to be right handed but starts left or Nureki Chimuo (濡木痴夢男) himself who appears to be left handed and starts left. There are many others but as they use 'reversing' ties at all times I don't think this question exercises people so much given that half the tying is in either direction.
Please also note that where I have mentioned specific people's tying it is for illustrative purposes and because their work is so often cited as the source or learning or inspiration for others. I'm talking about the subject in general and it would be wrong to make any assumption about anyone else's reasoning. Where I have said that X person appears to be Y handed this is because this is the appearance of handedness from observation and not stated as a fact.
Often you will find that the best at anything have a certain humility, this is because in their pursuit of excellence they have realised how little they know and how much more there is to learn. They call themselves students and always see themselves as such, seeking always to learn.
Often those who are the least humble are the mediocre, they have learned a little but cannot see how little they really know. They believe what little they know is all that should be known and become arrogant in their little knowledge. They proclaim themselves masters and never seek to learn.
There has been a lot of discussion on this topic and it’s wondered far and wide around the subject and has largely been based on personal preferences, anecdotal ‘evidence’ and ‘people said to me’ kinds of things.
To an extent people have been putting the TK on trial rather than the knowledge, safety information and skills required for it's safe use. I wonder however if "Is the TK safe" the right question.
If you want to ask this kind of question it helps to know what the question really is.
Do you mean in an absolute sense? If that’s the question then the answer is easy; no, nothing is safe in an absolute sense and therefore a TK isn’t safe either.
Do you mean to suspend someone in one position for extended periods? If so what constitutes and extended period. What’s the weight distribution on the body? How else is the body to be supported? What position would the suspension be in?
If you want to compare it to other ties then are they comparable? Do they provide equivalent restriction, can you do similar suspensions and transitions?
Another thing I’d consider a key question is, what’s a TK anyway? You can simplistically say that it’s a box tie, that rope goes over the arms etc. But there are so many different variants and methods of construction that it’s very hard to agree exactly what a TK is. And if you don’t agree this before discussing it’s safety then you invalidate the discussion by talking at cross purposes at anything but the most general level.
A big problem with this kind of question is evidence. We know that there are injuries, we know that many variables effect what these injuries are and their severity. What we don’t know is how significant each of these factors are. Without a serious scientific study this is going to continue to be a problem for any discussion. Things like “I’ve never had a problem with”, “Nobody I’ve talked to has” and the like aren’t really helpful or significant. I’ve never been run over crossing the street, this doesn’t mean that people aren’t run down crossing the street or that there isn’t a level of danger associated with crossing the street. If someone says to me that they’ve never known someone who was run over crossing the street does that in any way effect the likelihood of it actually happening? Of course not. Anecdotal evidence is for reasons such as that almost totally meaningless. Individual experiences are unavoidably subjective. Given enough accurate information it’s possible to build up a more informative picture, this is what Esinem has been trying to do by encouraging people to report incidents with as much detail as possible anonymously. The more information that is recorded and the greater number of incidents the more a real picture will emerge. However it must be born in mind that this reporting is itself subjective and not scientific observation.
So, where does that leave us? Not anywhere in particular, don’t get the impression that the information gathered as described above is useless. It does at the very least inform us of the trend of the most common problem and their type. Or to be absolutely clear about this, the most commonly reported problems and their type. What it doesn’t accurately do is inform us of the exact cause though we can make some deductions, without testing however we can’t guarantee that our deductions aren’t skewed by factors that we’re not aware of.
From all the forgoing we know that injuries of concern are nerve injuries, we know that people have suffered wrist drop, palsies and the like. From this it seems fair to deduce that these injuries are caused by the pressure of the rope over the nerve.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that placement is the key to these injuries and avoiding them. If we make that assumption what if any other factors come into play? Is there any way we can justify that proposition?
Hypothetical case 1
Let’s consider the same tie with the same tension and the same placement and the same model, once on the floor with no suspension pressures and once in suspension. In our hypothetical case the suspension results in nerve damage and the floor bondage doesn’t.
This, given the relative incidence of nerve damage in suspension vs. floor bondage seems a case that is likely to occur and very probably has on a number of occasions or at least a very close approximation. In this case as the placement is the same in both instances it must be that some other factor has come into play. What could this be? The obvious one is that the amount of pressure applied to the body is much greater in suspension than in floor bondage. So pressure is a factor.
Before we go further let’s have another hypothetical case.
Hypothetical case 2
Let’s consider the same tie as in case 1 but with a slightly altered rope placement, with the same model the same suspension.
This time their is no injury. Given that the pressure applied to the body is the same as in case one we can only assume that the rope placement made the difference.
So we can now assume that rope placement is not the sole cause, pressure is not the sole cause, we need bad rope placement plus pressure. We can however further deduce that rope placement is the primary causative factor but does not necessarily result in injury without a certain amount of pressure.
If we accept that placement is the primary cause then the other factors that may come into play will be regarding the extent of possible damage, for instance muscle tone, weight, body fat, rope thickness, time under stress and so on and so forth. Depending on their quantities/proportions any of these factors may be positive or negative influences but in cases where any of these mitigate the effects of pressure it is the case that they only mitigate and not prevent.
(On a side note that I while I feel it’s worth mentioning but don’t wish to introduce as a complication to these examples is the fact that angle of pull/suspension can effect where a tie transmits force into the body of the tied and that this should be born in mind and accounted for with regard to dynamic suspensions and transitions)
So what conclusions can we draw?
That rope placement is causative of nerve damage injury, that it’s likely that no other factors will mitigate against this causing an injury if get it exactly wrong though they may effect the extent of the injury. If you get it slightly wrong i.e. you’re close to but not actually over the nerve then factors like body fat between the rope and the site, muscle mass between the rope and the site, force being applied via the bondage, duration of compression etc. will come more into play.
A conclusion that we can draw, is that in all cases rope placement is the deciding factor in injury. If the rope were not over or near the site of the vulnerability then there wouldn’t be a nerve injury.
What then can we do to prevent these nerve injuries? They do happen and will probably continue to happen. Sometimes because people don’t even know there is a problem to be avoided, sometimes because people don’t know how to avoid the problem, and sometimes, hard though it may be to accept, accidents happen. It’s clear however that accidents happen far less often to the more skilled.
Good information, good teaching, good attitude and good practice all help to cut down the incidence of these injuries. That being said, it is generally true that rope play, especially rope suspension play is edge play and is a danger entered into deliberately. It's therefore incumbent on those participating to arm themselves with the best knowledge possible. This is the difference between entering into a known risk in a calculated rather than a reckless fashion.
I've seen people condemn this. After all they say, there's been a big expansion in people doing suspension and there hasn't been a proportional increase in (reported) injuries resulting from suspensions.
Of course I can't help wondering if there's a little bit of a corrolation between people not sharing advanced techniques willy nilly and the apparently low accident rate. In my view every educator that is concerned about making sure students learn in a measured and considered manner is absolutely right in this. And anyway I have well known reservations about the teaching of anything bondage related on-line.
I don't see how a low accident rate is an argument in favour of publishing more information on more advanced and dangerous techniques. I firmly believe the tendency of responsible experts to be cautious in releasing advanced level education to people on the grounds that they're ready for it rather than just because people would like to is certainly in part a reason for the apparent rate of injuries being kept low.
Why won't I publish videos of everything I know? Why would I. Why would anyone who cared about safety.
To the people who complain about this I'd say you seem really to be complaining that people won't give you everything on your wish list for free and right now. Well weather you pay for lessons or not, you don't get to have some information for free. Especially information that if misapplied could lead to serious harm for the person bound. You have to pay for it, not least with hard work, and by showing that you can act responsibly and work diligently to keep your partner as safe as is practically possible within an inherently dangerous activity. You need to pay with consistent thoughtful and responsible application, with hard work.
For those who complain about paying someone to spend their time and effort and experience on educating them. You might want to consider that a good teachers time, experience and knowledge are actually worth something. After all if they weren't why are you wanting to learn from them anyway?
Tea is a strange thing, for surely no other drink has such a history and cultural commonality of evolution as Tea.
I believe Tea is such a part of our conciousness of social interaction that we are for the most part unaware of it's part in our lives.
Of course I speak as an English man and since generations before my birth Tea has held a place in English culture from the highest to the lowest in the land.
If you stop and observe people's behaviour around Tea it can be quite fascinating. Nowhere is it not accompanied by a moments pause and appreciation. From ceremonial tea serving to a momentary personal moment for a worker in a hurry.
A moment of stillness around which they day may pivot.
In many ways it's even more interesting to hear the conversation surrounding Tea.
I have for instance heard apprentices castigated for their ability to make a cup of tea.
It's very interesting to hear tea referred to in reference to someone's worth as a worker, host, general polite person.
Tea is so ingrained in English culture that it's the one thing we seem to have in common, the thing we want for a moment of calm, to invigorate us, to find a moment of balance in the centre of the modern busy and stressful day.
The thing that has always struck me the most is that even without common cultural links tea has nevertheless found a special place in many cultures. It holds sometimes unconsciously a special place in our lives, it's drinking is surrounded by ritual that is so usual so natural to us that it happens without thought.
In essence it boils down to this...
Boil water. Steep tea, pour tea. And yet... Something so simple is in so many places and in so many ways given so much more attention and occasion.
I cannot think of anything else that pervades humanity so.
There have been times when I've not really been keeping up with my lovely girl Clover's blog but reading a few moments ago has reminded me why I should.
Her post on One reason to love Kimono very elequently relayed to me some of her feelings wearing and being tied in Kimono, the finer details of which would have passed me by if I hadn't read this post.
More than a costume, much more than dressing up. The beginning of a headspace, a mental preperation for a scene. Liberating and restrictive.
Also something that I hadn't anticipated at all was her words on how authentically feminine she felt in Kimono. It simply hadn't occurred to me that someone as hyper feminine as Clover appears all the time would not feel feminine at any time or that a garment that is by its nature restrictive, straight and frankly designed to play down the shapeliness of women would be one that would enhance her feelings of femininity quite separate from kink.
I have my own reasons for loving Kimono.
Not least of these is the fact that I just find them beautiful, for a variety of reasons and if nothing else that's enough. This includes the incredible materials, wonderful obis, the contrast and styles of them and so on but also some things that are harder to define.
I like the layers, the way they conceal. To the extent that slowly revealing a shoulder from a Kimono can take on much more of an erotic frission than having the body naked from the start Exposure is gradual and via many layers and ties rather than the simple stripping of clothes. Like with say 50's style of which I'm also a fan; part of the excitement is the contemplation of what's beneath as much as with the actual stripping. Disrobing someone from a Kimono is task, a process, and a foreplay in its own right.
More and more there are people who want to advise you about your bondage on-line.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, some of the people doing the advising are really good people. I can say this with confidence as I'm lucky enough to know some of those people. Some however are less good but just as vociferous, just as confident sounding and often quite a bit louder.
This post isn't going to be a great big long diatribe about this subject; in fact it's going to be quite short. All I want to do is offer a short little bit of advice.
Before you accept anyone's advice on-line, check them out, check that they do the kind of high quality bondage that demonstrates an actual high level of competence rather than just a high self opinion. Take a look at pictures of their work (and yes I know that can be hard for beginners to draw conclusions from because they don't 100% know what they're looking for) Check them out generally and see if they generally give sound advice. And take any advice on-line, mine included with a pinch of salt, check it out for yourself, cross check facts, look stuff up in reliable independent sources. Don't take opinion as fact and don't take anything on faith.
I'm not at all saying there isn't good advice and good information to be had from some of the people on-line. What I am saying is that you should exercises some good old fashioned due diligence when it comes to accepting information that you might be relying on to keep a loved one safe(ish) in bondage.