Tips and tricks for building muscle memory (2019)

What is (one of) the most important skill to have a great rope session?

The boring answer is muscle memory, because that will transform the bondage from monologue with your memory, to a dialog with your partner. Here are my best tips-and-tricks when building muscle memory for rope bondage.

1. Decide how much technique you need to be stored in your muscle memory

To have a basic session on the floor, you most likely only need a safe-way to attach the rope, a good way to wrap the body, and finally fixate the rope so it doesn’t unravel. To consensually manipulate the emotionally body, you need tying techniques to shape the body and attach it to anchoring points. And suspend the body in the air, you need stable rope structures that can take a lot of weight. As the amount of technique needed growths exponentially, it is important to decide what exactly do you need, and then focusing on maintaining that.

2. Practice with your brain turned off, your minds attention elsewhere, or being very sleepy

When you tie with a partner for non-practice, you want your attention to NOT be on the technique. So practicing techniques with your minds attention elsewhere is amazing, because it forces the body to do, and therefore to learn. Be aware to still evaluate what you did, as the imperfections of the muscle memory will show themselves. The mind will often convince you that it knows a tie perfectly, but in the end when your minds attention is on your partner, then it won’t be the one tying. Therefore it is important to adapt your risk-awareness to this fact.

3. Decide between ‘jazz improvisation’ and ‘classical preservation’

I believe that these there are two fundamentally different ways to approach learning.

The goal of classical preservation is to being able to recreate something in it’s finest detail. To carry on a legacy. This is super valuable in a subculture (rope) that has it’s roots in a handful of geographically distant masters, and then is evolving rapidly. The risk of not studying one thing in depth is to loose either the tiny details, or the bigger picture of why. So when building muscle memory for classical preservation, then practicing one set of techniques from one master is very helpful.

On the other hand, the goal of jazz improvisation is pick out certain concepts from many different teachers, and learning how to combine them, and when not to. See what things makes sense together, and what doesn’t. So when building muscle memory for jazz improvisation, than practicing a certain detailed concept and being consistent in that is the key. Evaluate the results by looking the decisions intuitive muscle memory did – are they consistent? are they reasonable?

In one way these two ways of learning are similar, as they are both segmentation of knowledge, to make the mass less overwhelming. So the classical preservation approach does the segmentation by taking many details from one source, while the jazz improvisation takes one detail from many sources. But in the end it circles back to knowing what one actually builds the muscle memory around.

Finally tips 4 and 5, that actually contradict each other.

4. Allow the muscle memory to work, when not practicing

So when actually having a non-practice session, you must trust that the muscle memory will do its part, so the attention of your mind can focus on the dialogue you created with your bondage.

5. Try having a dialogue through your technique, when not practicing

And the opposite, you can also talk through your technique, by putting your minds attention on picking the correct rope pattern, and making the perfect shape for what you want to say with your bondage.