KINK: Shibari
By Ohh My... / Education / 0 comments
Image Jerome Gouvrion

The art of Shibari has always been a facet of Kink that I’ve admired. I remember the first time I came across a book showcasing various intricate rope weaves across the bodies of sensual, kimono-clad women. Part of me stirred, a part that needed to know more and eventually, take part.

Today we’ll be taking a stroll through the niche world of Shibari. A fetish steeped in history, artistry, sensation, skill, power and sexuality. I hope it tugs at your heart strings like it did mine (see what I did there?).

What is Shibari?

To the untrained eye, some might pass this beautiful art form off as just generic ‘bondage’. A lacklustre term that only scratches the surface of such a culturally rooted, psychologically impactful and aesthetically dynamic practice.

Originating in Japan, Shibari is the use of lengths of eight to ten metre ropes traditionally made from hemp or jute but sometimes, synthetic alternatives are used for comfort, texture or sensation. These ropes are then tied in specific forms, all of which individually named and practiced much like traditional knot tying. Other artefacts may also be used to restrain, bend, support, suspend the model or simply for visual effect.

The term ‘Shibari’ is the literal act of tying, binding or weaving objects and packages and does not actually convey the meaning of sexual bondage outside SM circles. Shibari got its common name in the West during the 1990s to describe the originally named art Kinbaku (‘tight binding’). For the sake of this feature, we’ll stick with Shibari.

What’s the deal?

In Shibari the Nawashi (‘rope artist’) weaves and ties geometric patterns and shapes that juxtapose visually with the female body’s natural curves and recesses. To those viewing the act, the visual senses are treated to tightly bound ropes and their texture providing a counterpoint to smooth skin and curves. To those being bound, the rough rope squeezes and restricts the flesh, creating pronounced shapes and tracing through intimate areas while the feeling of submission creeps in slowly. Serving not just as binding but body adornment, the pressure applied by the knots can also employ that of Acupuncture or Shiatsu techniques.

From a power perspective, to have a specific arsenal of Kinbaku (‘bondage’) techniques is like having a set of rules that gives purpose to actions and exerts control over the moment. By building up many ropes, each one doing its job, every knot and weave contributes to the overall effect until the captive is powerless but an art form in themselves.

Aside from creating intricate patterns using rope and body and limb placements, Shibari suspension induces psychological conditions known as ‘sub space’ and ‘top space’, similar to the phenomena of ‘runners high’ experienced by athletes. A shibari experience seeks to result in an increased level of endorphins and other hormones, creating a trance-like experience for the model and an adrenaline rush for the artists. When Shibari is performed correctly, these effects are seen in the face of the model and the term ‘rope drunk’ is often used to describe the euphoric condition they experience.

History

Image from Esinem

Rooted in ancient Japanese culture as far back as the 1400s the form of rope bondage has many styles and uses; many based on early practices in the East and newer styles incorporated in the West. This is largely due to the difference of physique and intended use; including deep relaxation, flexibility of body and mind, shared mediative practice, expression of power exchange and intimate erotic restraint. From antiquity to today, religious ceremonies in Japan involve ropes and ties to symbolise connections among people and the divine. This can be seen today in the form of Kimonos and elaborately tied gifts.

Every knot has its historic significance; all of them have roots in Shibari and Hojo-jutsu (the martial art of restraining captives). Surprisingly, there was even a form of bondage for noble captives where knots were not even used and the prisoner was on his honor not to escape!

Gear

To practice Shibari, you can be anywhere but a quiet, relaxed environment will allow those involved to submerse themselves fully into the craft and the sensuality of the movements. Also, if you’re going to strip down to bare skin (recommended for a full tactile response) then make sure you’re in a place that’s comfortable. If, however, you’re conducting some serious power play, to be out of your comfort zone may be your bag. Either way, respect each other enough to be safe.

As mentioned previously, you will need ropes in lengths of 8-10 meters, separated so that knots can be tied onto or off other lengths. You can add in any number of artefacts to add to the aesthetic of your work, create different sensory responses or to suspend or support the person tied. This can include O rings, chains or bamboo poles. The possibilities are endless.

Glossary of Terms

kinbaku – literally ‘tight binding’
kinbakushi – kinbaku master, can be shortened to bakushi
shibari – the act of tying, binding or weaving
shibaru – tie or bind with a rope
nawashi – literally, “a maker of rope” but in SM circles it means a professional “rope artist”

Aside from the literal Japanese terms, there are also a wide variety of specific Kinbaku (bondage) rope patterns each with accompanying meaning and appropriateness of use.

Final Thoughts

All in all, Shibari really helps you to focus on the here and now, using your senses to explore what is around the body in the moment. Both the Nawashi (‘rope artist’) and the model experience different sensory responses whilst both participating in the act. A real power play but without the connotations of PVC, whips and chains, this fetish truly is inspirational as much as it is beautiful.

If you’re intrigued and want to find out more about this magnificent fetish, then why not attend a workshop or an industry event where a Nawashi is likely to be in attendance, showcasing their skill. It’s definitely something to be experienced in the flesh.

Until next time, go get tied up and hang out with some close friends!

For other work in our series of Kink features from Emma, follow this link to the archive!

What did you think of her explanation of Shibari? Fancy giving it a try? Let us know what you think of it by filling in the comment boxes and sharing your views with the Ohh My… community!

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