This article is one of those that you wish didn't need to be written about. However here I am writing it anyway.
So what is is that I'm going to write about here that I wish I wasn't? Rope inflicted injuries!
Rope isn't safe, especially not suspension. However having said that it doesn't mean that we should accept injuries as a matter of course, they should be few and far between. I am horrified when people shrug off injuries to models with an 'oh well, these things happen'. Well once in a while maybe. When there are repeated injuries occurring it's time to ask yourself some serious questions.
When it comes to injuries some people are more 'unlucky' than others. Generally the better a rigger is the 'luckier' they tend to get. Bad riggers just tend to have more 'accidents' the more they rig.
Now I would expect someone who has inflicted multiple injuries to stop rigging so much, to go and look at the common themes in these injuries, to work very hard to stop them occurring again. What I'm horrified to hear is 'well these things happen'. Yeh, they happen to you don't they? Can we guess why?
When it happens to multiple models in multiple sessions you have to look for the factor that's common to all the injuries. And that common factor is likely to be the person tying. In all the tying I've done, all the models, all the time, all the suspensions I've had 3 nerve injuries. Two of those I've identified the cause and can ensure that they won't happen again. One I simply have no concrete idea, I've spoken to medical professionals, never had the same problem with other models and just can't pin it down and believe me I've tried. Given all that I still feel that it's too many injuries. I'd like to not have another one. I know that the possibility is always there, it's a risk that has to be recognised and born for what we do. It's not one to be taken on lightly either.
So, what about someone that's causing injuries as a matter of course? Who shrugs it off, oh it was 'unlucky', a 'peculiarity' of the model, just 'one of those things'? It's not just one of those things if it keeps happening. If it keeps happening then something is wrong. And that thing... is you!
Please, please, if you keep having 'accidents' like this be grown up enough to realise that it's not in fact 'unlucky' it's bad rigging. And if you're not up to owning this and doing something about it then you are a bad rigger and should not be trusted to tie up anyone knowing not just that injury is possible but that it's likely and, knowing that you don't know what you're doing well enough to prevent it happening over and over.
I wish I was not writing this. I wish I did not see this. If it was just one person then maybe I still would not be writing this but as I see again and again that there are those so arrogant and wilfully self deluded that they will put repeated 'accidents' down to anything other than their own incompetence I feel it's better that I do for all the slim hope I have that it might do some good.
A friend today made a very good point about when he found things most likely to go wrong in rope bondage. And I absolutely agree with him on this. Often its when you're doing the routine things, the small things, the things you've done a thousand times before.
It's in those moments when you're running on automatic pilot rather than when you're working on something on the edge where you're focused and paying complete attention.
You should be able to do some parts of your bondage completely without thought, you should know what you're doing so well. The mistakes in things you have done a thousand times before happen not because you don't know how to do it but because you are not focused.
It is absence from the moment. It is something unregarded and considered unimportant. All things in rope bondage are important, from the first detail, especially from the first detail.
Those brings me to the main point of this article.
The need to be present in the moment.
Now there is an apparent dichotomy in the concepts that you should know what you're doing so well that you can do it without conscious thought and the idea that you must be present and focused in the moment. This dichotomy is however only apparent. There is a very big difference between having practised things so well that you can do them automatically i.e. that you have developed muscle memory for an action and by contrast, simply not paying attention to what you're doing.
When you are focused in the moment you are paying attention to all things including those things that you do automatically.
OK so my memory is far from perfect so right here I'm going to apologise to anyone that I've left out by accident in any of my blogs. The published schedule is by now nothing but a vague guide as is my own recollection. It's been DAYS since the actual event and some things loom larger in the memory than others. Combined with the fact that I know for certain I missed some early shows. I've only written about stuff I actually remember seeing. So if I didn't see your show... I will not have written about it and that not writing about it does not comment upon the quality of your performance*.
After a late start, followed by lunch and interviews we eventually turned up to the venue slightly late just in time to catch the end of Gradancer and Cherrydoll's performance. This was very different to a lot of the shows and even finished off with cigar play. I wish I could write more about it but sadly I didn't see it all.
Peter Slemrian and Adreena followed.
Next was Riccardo Wildties and Redsabbath. I had a personal reason for being happy to see this performance, for me it was one of the highlights of the festival.
Finally there was Kazami Ranki and Gestalta. This was a very intense show. It may have not started out showing what it would become but the ending on the floor where Gestalta was completely choked out was an intense moment for the festivals performances to end on.
This festival has been the very best that I've attended. The attitudes of everyone attending has been the best, the most community minded, the most happy, the greatest camaraderie and the most supportive. Clover expressed it so well here. Plus it finished with Jon Murakawa dancing. And that's not something you see every day.
I am already missing the event, the people, the friends that I and we love. I cannot wait to see you all again.
*OK so one show I didn't write about on purpose due to it, and the bondage it contained being so utterly awful that I don't want to bring down the positive comments by posting even a description of either it or the attitude of the person responsible, he did himself and his countrymen a disservice with both his words and actions.
After the excitement of performing on the Friday night we were ready to just enjoy watching the shows on Saturday. One of the great things about the festival is that you see so many different performers and styles and Saturday saw some of the greatest contrasts.
Special mentions must go to Jack the Whipper and Zahara who not only did a great show but showed great humour and maturity dealing with things not going perfectly smoothly. Rabbitbunny and Cherry Doll stepped in at very short notice to perform and deserve credit for getting on stage without a prepared show or knowing each other more than a day. Also Amy Morgan and Scarlot Rose who also had only met the day previously but nevertheless put on a very well put together show.
This year was the first that we saw riggers from Russia at the festival. One of the most individual was Vlada and Falco. They were very distinct and had a style very different to the other performers. Falco is a quite remarkable performer and male model, he certainly showed strength skill and grace that was quite unusual.
Finally on was Zamile and LX who provided yet another contrast by beginning their act with dance and burlesque striptease. Apparently LX hasn't danced in years. Well it didn't show and the audience really got into it. They really had fun together and their spirit of enjoyment infected the audience and rounded of the night very well finishing on a very positive mood.
OK so the cases are nearly packed, the show music is nearly ready, we even have a bit of an idea what might be in the show itself. We've got thankfully minimal teaching to do and a good chance of socialising this year. So if you want to buy us dinner....
I'm kind of wondering how this years festival will go, as it will be very different to last year. I hope just as good but different.
Looking forward to this one stirs up memories from the last one too. The video below features some of the artists from last years festival.
Anyway our list of 'one or two' things to do in the morning before we set out has grown considerably...
If you're going, we'll see you there soon, come and say hello.
Well apart from wishing that the event had a shorthand name that was less of a mouthful than "The London Festival of the Art of Japanese Bondage" or LFAOJB for short. I'm really looking forward to it again.
Last year it has to be said was amazing. 10 performers over from Japan plus a few good home grown talents. This year there's more of a European flavour and even a few Americans and Canadians. There is still Kazami Ranki from Japan headlining, this is his second London festival.
I'm specially looking forward to seeing Riccardo Wildties from Italy and Bob Ropemarks (not to mention Dutch Dame) from the Netherlands. Amy Morgan from America and.... Oh it's 02:30 here and I'm blogging. Knackered and forgetting lots of people. So I'll just put - others too numerous to mention right now. There are a couple of people we wish had come that we're going to miss too.
This year will we hope be a bit relaxed for us. Aside from performing on the Friday I'm not teaching except for a few private sessions and we're not concretely booked into any of the other goings on. We really hope to spend a good amount of time socialising and getting to talk to some of the people that have been in the same place as us all over the world but we never got the time to sit down with.
There looks to be a steller line up of shows though I have to say I'm a bit sad that John Murakawa will not be performing this year. He's a real artist and he puts a tremendous amount of energy into the festival and his artistic input is a key part of it. His shows are something really special, like living pictures, so theatrical and different to anything anyone else does on stage. You really have to see one to get it, they're real pieces of theatre.
I just read yesterday that Esinem will not be performing either. He's the founder and has been the driving force behind the festival and I do think it's a shame that the pressures of the event caused him to choose not to do a show this year.
The last festival feels like it was only 5 minutes ago and also a lifetime past, this has been such a busy year.
I am not Mr Nice.
When it comes to teaching I am not.
I do do my best to be Mr Patient, Mr Understanding & Mr Informative. But let's be honest, you, I hope, didn't hire me to be your friend, you hired me to improve your bondage.
Bondage is serious and can be seriously dangerous so I take teaching bondage seriously.
I also take very seriously the responsibility of teaching. If you have a good time in a lesson that's just great, I hope you do. But that is not my goal. My goal is that you go away doing better bondage than you were before the lesson.
If you're making mistakes I'll do my best to be Mr Tactful about it. However I will not be Mr Flattery, I will not deceive you into thinking that you're doing better than you are. Nor will I fill you with a false sense of confidence or accomplishment because I'm not Mr Disingenuous.
I will not teach you beyond your ability, because I am not Mr Irresponsible.
If you are not serious about wanting to learn, do not come to me. There are plenty of teachers who will make you feel good about yourself regardless of your ability. Go to them by all means if that is what you're after. Personally in lessons I'm not trying to be Mr Likeable.
I will not praise that which is not praiseworthy.
I will do my best to improve your rope as much as I am able. I am I hope Mr Conciencious.
I am and can be many people.
I am not Mr Nice.
(As one or two people have read the first couple of paragraphs of this post and gone bonkers without reading the whole thing in context I'd like to just add this note to recommend that you read the whole thing first.
I wrote this article because people keep insisting on telling myself, my partner, friends that rope bondage is boring and slow. If they find it so then that's up to them. It's their going out of their way to tell someone that does like it that it absolutely just is that I find rude and ignorant. Also their narrow-mindedness and lack of imagination in being unable to accept that it may be a different experience for others.)
Is it? Can't say I've ever noticed that myself.
I honestly find that rope is as slow or quick as I want it to be. I think that often the reason that some people characterize rope as slow and boring is that they are themselves slow and boring.
Let's face it, without skill or imagination you can make anything boring.
There might be a secondary reason some think that rope is slow and boring. That being that someone has only watched someone slow and boring doing rope, formed their impression and being a person of limited imagination are sticking to that as an absolute. I've no idea why some people are like that but it's clear that some are.
The thing that always beggars belief is the need some people who don't do bondage have to tell other people that they don't like bondage "because it's slow" as if that were some kind of absolute truth. I don't like some kinds of play and feel absolutely zero compunction to tell people what I don't like in casual conversation. Why on earth do they need to do that? To not only be ignorant but to demonstrate their ignorance? Do they really think that people will not notice that reality doesn't match up with what they say? Do they think that you'll say 'oh wow, you're right, this thing that I really like, really is slow and boring just like you're telling me'?
One of the side thoughts that comes to me from this is the apparently automatic assumption that slow = boring. Why?
Most of the time I want sessions to last want to draw out the feeling of tying. It's not just something to be gotten out of the way. Is all your kink something to be gotten out of the way? The faster something can be done the better the kink? Well if that's what you're like with your play and sensual life that's up to you. If not, if you think that some things are worth taking your time over... well what's your point?
I think that again this can be the result of failing to see the possibilities. Some seem to see bondage only as an means to an end something to be done before kink rather than being a kink and therefore cannot see beyond their preconception. There's nothing wrong with using bondage as a means to an end but that's not the same as being unable to see that it can be more than a means to an end.
Rope bondage can indeed be quick and utilitarian. It can take seconds... or it can take hours if you choose. One of its great strengths is that it is so flexible. Rope is infinitely flexible but you need to acquire skills to make use of that flexibility.
Once you have the skills you can make rope anything from sensual to extremely torturous. Extremely quick to indefinitely drawn out. The choice becomes yours.
Slow and boring?
If you know what you're doing you can make it slow and interesting............ and hot and sensual and nasty and loving and painful and...
This is the final blog on this experience. All that's left is a few words about the dojo anniversary party on Saturday night.
The Copenhagen shibari dojo is two years old. Our congratulations go to its founders and members.
The night was marked by two performances by members of the dojo and by a tying demonstration by Yukimura Haruki Sensei which used all the techniques taught during the teaching days in the week. A little while later the grand master tied again, and I'm sure that there was not meant to be any kind of show element, however there was an audience.
As the evening progressed a number of people moved onto other events nearby. We however were happy to stay at the dojo and enjoyed the company and some tying of our own.
A final treat of the evening was that grand master Yukimura tied again another two times utilising techniques and ties that were not in the lessons. Having the opportunity to observe these sessions was an education in itself. A great end to a wonderful experience.
We were to leave Copenhagen with nothing but good memories of our time there. Of wonderful people and wonderful lessons learned.
The last mention here must go to clover without whom this trip would not happen. As birthday presents go, this one was something special.
What a really good learning experience does is open your mind to new possibilites, possibilities you hadn't suspected before. Further it gives you a way into those new experiences.
One thing that I think is worth emphasising is the tremendous contribution that the interpreters made to this class. In a large part due to the fact that not only were they there because they spoke excellent Japanese but also they were students of Yukimura Sensei and therefore understood what they were translating and could also spot the mistakes that we made during the day. They were very much part of making the day what it was.
Through watching videos of the grand master tying I had some idea of what Yukimura Sensei was about but learning from him showed how easy it is to fail to understand what someone is really doing from just watching. I had thought that a large part of what he was doing was not so to speak 'in the visible range' and that proved to be the case. I shall certainly be re-viewing his videos with new eyes now.
This might be disappointing to some readers but one thing I'm not going to do in this blog or anywhere else is describe Yukinura Sensei's techniques or the content of the lessons. This is his information and method to teach as he chooses and to publish at his discretion. I think that just like the first time I met Osada Steve Sensei the repercussions of this day's learning will spread through all my tying and also that it will take a long time for the full consequence and implications of these lessons to be fully recognised.
Yukimura Sensei seems to have quite a definite on screen persona (I want to qualify that by pointing out that I have definitely not seen everything he's done by a very long way) This is not the case of the man in person. It's quite fascinating to see him turn it on when tying. There's certainly no denying the effectiveness of his techniques. One thing that really struck us was that great emphasis was placed on the both safety and the role of the bottom in a scene. Bottoms were not expected to simply be passive objects to be tied, far from it.
So finally I am very happy to have had this opportunity to learn. This is the first time the grand master has taught outside of Japan. I for one am very happy he did. If even only for one day it was wonderful to have this chance to learn.
Note on language: I don't speak very much Japanese and generally don't gratuitously use Japanese titles, terms etc. unless I know for certain what they mean and mostly if there isn't an appropriate English alternative.