You can listen to this musing here, or read it below.
I am grabbing the hands, folding the arms, and locking the wrist in preparation to wrap the body in rope. Every wrapping is another layer of holding and another step on a journey into trust and bravery. For me, tying the upper body is the most fundamental technique in rope bondage. It is the introduction, the handshake, the getting-to-know-each-other movement that I love the most. Somehow it’s almost sacred if this should be some spiritual practice. So it was; the first thing I learnt on my bondage journey, the first thing I teach, and the last thing I’ll probably do.
When I first started studying old Japanese bondage pictures, I was fascinated by the wrapped bodies. In the old photographs, the wrapping was crud and the rope thick. With time, patterns evolved into something sophisticated—the materials got refined, to the hand-made Ogawa jute that I use today. In this musing, I want to write about some of the steps I discovered when learning to love the upper-body tie.
But maybe first, two reasons to evolve this fundamental technique; supporting more weight in more dynamic situations and creating a more sophisticated expression. There is beauty and craftmanship to rope bondage that challenges one to keep discovering. Suspending the body in three-dimensional space is maybe the hallmark of technical evolution. It also provides many unique opportunities for playing and experiencing oneself, like exploring the distance, contortions, and compression. Have a look at my previous musing on the human bondage project to learn more. Evolving the patterns is similar, as it is a way to honour the heritage and creating that iconic asymmetric balance in an ever-growing complexity. The bound person will feel the complexity of the body position and the carefully designed rope patterns, which will resonate in their emotional body. It is almost like a remembrance that one is essential to the polarized relationship. The heart of rope bondage, in my perspective. Without a person being influenced by the ropes, there is no point in the pattern. And that’s how a rope technicality is transformed and felt.
The simplest form of wrapping the body is straight to the point. And, I like to think that more ropes are better because I enjoy the gesture of gradually increasing the bondage. The physical motion created by reach around the other repeatedly creates a pulsating feeling togetherness, oscillating between belonging and vulnerability. So, I usually use three or four ropes for a more petite body and more for a bigger one. If it visually becomes too much, I will resort to thinner material. The positioning of the arms is essential to me. A lower position creates a more sensual feeling, and it allows my partner a certain degree of freedom to touch me back. While locking the arms so high that it seals the shoulders can initially be felt like a stronger polarity. However, I believe that leaving a small space for the bound one to move allows them to express their submission and surrender, hence actively contributing to the polarity. Finishing the simple wrapping, I tend to tie everything together neatly to create a single solid structure on the upper body. If this is done correctly, the simplicity can support a lot of weight if the body remains relatively static.
As complexity increases, the tie into is isolated segments—each with its tension and purpose. The most common separation is “the upper and lower”-wrap, with the upper wrap primarily supporting the shoulders, while the lower wrap is locking the elbows in place. It is all very individual, but I tend to say that the lower segment should have 30% of the tension. It is also an opportunity to not tie across breasts and shape rather than crush. Traditional Japanese pattern tends to sexualize the body, and the separation amplifies that. When the tie evolves, it becomes more essential to find the perfect arm position. The goal is to make the upper body more compact and robust. It should activate the shoulders without creating too much stress and let the wraps integrate the arms with the torso. Supporting this are the hooks from behind that redistributes lower wraps tension from the arms to the chest. Most people find this more robust in my experience. Finally, the tie off on the back reflects the separation into segments. And on it goes into more and more complexity. Some of the ideas come and go, while others reach a broader audience and becomes a default. With these refinements, ropes tend to be less, as each isolated design becomes more tried and tested, and therefore more efficient.
The last, but also endless, step is the extended rope, which tailors the upper body tie for both the individual needs of the bound one and acquired taste of the one tying. I believe that the art of the upper body tie lies in both simplicity and complexity, and it evolves in a circular motion. So once I have mastered some more simplicity, I can add some complexity and wise-versa. Unfortunately, one of the most common mistakes that I see is beginners only wanting to evolve their complexity and completely overlooking the simplicity and its functionality. So ending with the immortal wisdom of the rope gods, if you can’t make an impact with one rope, don’t add another – don’t even try another knot because you are heading down a dangerous path where many lose themselves for a long time.
Almost always. Simple does it.