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Shibari the Japanese Bondage

What is Japanese Bondage?

Ankles beautifully bound in red ropes.

Traditional Japanese Bondage is known by the name Shibari or Kinbaku.  It is the practice of tying tiny complicated patterns of knots and beautiful weave patterns.  Typically, Shibari is practiced using jute or hemp bondage rope because the tooth supports the friction needed to hold the knots used in the style of bondage.  However, for rope bunnies with sensitive skin twisted cotton bondage rope can be substituted for Shibari floor ties to provide a softer sensation on the skin -- though cotton rope can not be used for suspensions.  Suspensions are popular in Shibari -- this is when a rigger uses a strong natural fiber to hoist a bottom and suspend them in bondage from a hardpoint in stunning positions and poses. 

What is the Difference Between Shibari and Kinbaku?

Shibari goes by a few different names, and there is a reason for that.  Shibari means “to tie” or “to bind.”  This is a focus on the incredible knots and patterns created when practicing this traditional style of bondage.  Kinbaku actually means “the beauty of tight binding.”  Though they are terms both used for the same practice, one could say that the term Kinbaku focuses on the beauty and art and Shibari more on the elaborate ties themselves.   

Where Did it Originate?

The traditional Japanese bondage originated in -- you guessed it--Japan!  But how did the idea begin to steep in the minds of ancient kinksters? 

Seiu Ito, the “father of bondage,” began to study the art of binding prisoners during the Edo period.  In that time, prisoners were bound in rope to publicly humiliate or shame them, but there were some peculiar people that saw it as an opportunity to express their little quirks which brought to life the riveting artistry of Japanese rope bondage.  The practice took off in Japan and began to grow and evolve into the intricate designs of Shibari that we all love and appreciate now.  Shibari made its way to the U.S. by the 1950’s and while it was not as accepted then as it is now, kinksters' affinity for Shibari hasn’t stopped and people all over the world began picking up the rope art.         

What Makes Shibari so prevalent?

Legs beautifully bound.

People have been drawn to the idea of being tied up (or tied down--just can’t keep our minds out of the gutter) for centuries. While western bondage changed their focus to tools like chastity belts and handcuffs, there is something so mesmerizing in the attentive craftsmanship of Shibari.  It brings a personalized and creativity to bondage that cannot be matched by some fuzzy pink handcuffs.

The skills required and practiced to inspire such complex work is both stimulating and even emotional.  Shibari will remain prevalent in the kink community for centuries to come because of the thought, emotion, and wild, unique beauty present in this ancient practice. No matter what tools or contraptions may come, rope art will always inspire awe on a profound level because of the intricacy of knots, patterns and weaves.  

Tell Me More!

Woman in red rope dress with a yellow flower.

The time, attention, and focus on the Shibari experience will always remain unmatched by other forms of bondage restraints.  The experience is so intimate and creates a connection between rigger and rope bunny that can’t easily be achieved in other less kinky ways.  Though Shibari’s intent and purpose isn’t strictly sexual, this rope work does heighten sexual sensation and the explosive ending we are all looking for.  There is no replacement for the state of mind, out of body experience and almost cosmic sensation achievable through Kinbaku.  One fan of Shibari on Facebook describes that the beauty of Shibari is found in the fact that it gives our romantic subconscious an outlet.  She describes each rope as a neuron with each knot representing a synapse, weaving together expressions and thoughts that allows us to work through stress via creativity.  

Kinbaku is intricate knots and patterns

Harness with hands behind someone's back.

While Western bondage is straight to the point in tying hands, ankles or legs together, Kinbaku and its intense focus on art and beauty use the rope to create masterpieces that include the body and positions.  Kinbaku is far more than just a knot and some wrapped rope; it is weaving and perfectly tying (and placing) knots and patterns.  It creates decoration for the body to create a living artform.  From harnesses and rope dresses to the ever impressive suspensions, you can rest assured that the rope work that goes into a Shibari scene is always going to be breathtaking with time and attention paid to each fine detail. 

Planning Shibari -- Rope Bottom

The bottom is considered the submissive in any of these Shibari situations, but what most fail to realize is that the bottom has more control over the scene than what one would initially think.  According to their own desires and fantasies, a bottom may want to feel a variety of emotions through their bondage experience.  They may be more attracted to the feelings of shame or humiliation -- but their intention could be a meditative, romantic connection. Alternatively, their desire could be to feel sexy.  This is communicated to the rigger whose responsibility it is to provide those specific experiences for the rope bunny. 

Planning Shibari -- Rope Top 

After communicating with their rope bottom, the rigger has to use the desired feeling to create an experience and bring it to life through their Shibari art.  There is a building of understanding between the rigger and the bottom so that they can provide these specific experiences.  It is important for a rigger to understand what the bottom wants out of each experience because it builds the chemistry between the two.  Throughout each session it is crucial for the rigger to continue checking in with the bottom and ask how they feel to make sure that they are delivering the preferred experience.  It should bring pleasure and artistry to all participants when fantasies are being communicated and expectations are being met.   

Self Tie Shibari

Self-tied leg Shibari.

There are several reasons that this method of Shibari is practiced.  As mentioned previously, it is up to the rigger to provide the experience a bottom desires and when one takes the riggers position, it puts that person in the position of power. He or she can provide an exhilarating experience in which they have complete control. 

Some who practice self-tie bondage may be interested because they have the ability to accentuate the favorite parts of their body in a way that makes them feel empowered and sexy.  Others may participate in the aspect of meditation through Shibari.  Creating your own experience and your own art can be really fun and even relaxing if done properly.  Of course, safety should always be a priority. For example, the neck is safer left unbound, but exploring your desires with rope are a way to get to know yourself like you never did before.    

Kinbaku Increases Intimacy 

Man and woman intimately embracing.

The intimacy found in Shibari just can’t be matched by other forms of play.  The time, attention, and communication that goes into Shibari truly builds connection, trust and intimacy like nothing else.  Each tie learned is like learning a new form of communication.  Each new pattern formed is like a growing connection.  Not only is Shibari a visual art form, it is the art of increasing intimacy and connection that make this a true form of art.

Not All Bondage is Japanese Bondage Kinbaku -- Difference Between Western Bondage and Traditional Japanese Bondage

Man's hands bound and a woman holding the running end of the rope.

Western bondage really consists of basic ties that are less pleasing to the eye in design. There is less focus and attention to the position of the body as well.  While there are "traditional ties and positions," they are far less intense and advanced than the thought out and planned Shibari positions and ties.  This style of bondage is less about the visual art and more about creating a tie that will hold. 

While this specific style of bondage is used in many intimate ways, Shibari masters would probably consider their traditional cousin less intimate and romantic due to the lack of time and the more basic nature of the practice.  While a Shibari master would create a delicate weave pattern to bind a lover to the bedposts, someone practicing Western Bondage would likely just wrap the rope in basic single column tie with less attention to the visual appeal.  

Why Did Kinbaku Increase in Difficulty While Western Bondage Stunted in Growth?

Wrists bound with fingertips extended.

Rope has always been a part of the Japanese culture and because of this Shibari started, grew, and became much more elaborate than the crude Western bondage that quickly turned more towards metal restraints like handcuffs.  Western bondage still included rope in their practices, but the ties weren’t nearly as elaborate or aesthetically pleasing.  Shibari on the other hand, included metal hardware to further grow their spectacular techniques by expanding into suspensions.  Though Kinbaku is still heavily focused on the fine details of the ties and knots, suspension adds to the creativity and suspense of this finely tuned rope art.  

Enter Suspension

A woman posed in a Shibari suspension.

Suspension is for Kinbaku masters and is a very advanced form of Shibari practice. This practives involves harnesses and Kinbaku ties and then also uses the rope to suspend the rope bunny from an installed hardpoint.  While floor Shibari often focuses on the Ebi (shrimp ties) where the body’s position is typically bound in an intentionally uncomfortable and balled up position, suspension opens body positions up on a whole new level.  This particular practice gives the rigger the ability to focus on arches of the back or or allows for positions where the bunny is barely able to touch the floor, bringing a new appreciation to their delicate pointed toes.  By suspending the rope bottom in an erotic or meditative pose, the rigger can bring an entirely different awareness to the body and the beauty of the rope work.

Suspension Safety

When practicing suspension, you not just adding another level of difficulty, but also another level of safety needs.  When preparing for a suspension scene, make sure that you closely follow the instructions of other Shibari Masters for installation of the hardpoint.  If available, Having a Shibari Master with experience in suspension is a great support for first time Kinbaku suspensions.  Reach out to your local BDSM community to learn more and find mentors in specific styles of bondage you would like to participate in.  Always check the hardpoint using the "two big guys" test to check that the hardpoint is securely installed before beginning the suspension during a scene.  If the hardpoint can support the weight of "two big guys," it is ready for suspension!   

We Love Shibari!

Rope bound hands holding a heart that says Shibari.

Though Shibari only became popular in the 1950’s in the U.S. it definitely skyrocketed in popularity becoming one of the most well known and admired forms of bondage art.  When viewing a Shibari scene, it is clear that it goes far beyond the beautiful ties and elaborate designs.  You can see the emotions and connections of those involved and it can become intoxicating! This is why we love Shibari.

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