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The Sensual Art of Japanese Rope Bondage

The roots of Shibari go back as far as the Japanese Samurai where prisoners were intricately tied according to the crimes they had committed. This practice was known as Hojojutsu and it served a functional purpose as well as an aesthetic and symbolic purpose. Although this practice ultimately disappeared from society, the techniques were adopted by the underground Japanese BDSM scene and thus, Shibari was born.

What differentiates Shibari from standard Western rope bondage?

“Every tie in Shibari carries a symbolism as opposed to the more functional focus of the ties in Western rope bondage.”

There are a number of differences between the two styles, starting with the actual material of the rope itself. Shibari rope is made of natural fibres- most commonly jute and hemp- whereas Western bondage rope is usually made of cotton or synthetic fibres such as nylon.

The next notable difference is the focus on aesthetics. Due to the rich history from which Shibari was born, aesthetics are a major focus of this art form. Every tie in Shibari carries a symbolism as opposed to the more functional focus of the ties in Western rope bondage.

Thirdly, and in my opinion, most importantly, the intention and the motivation behind the two styles are very different. In Western rope bondage, the process of tying one’s partner is seen as foreplay- an appetizer of sorts- for the activities to follow. As mentioned before, ties have a functional purpose and are put in place with the final goal of the scene in mind. In Shibari, the tying is the main course, it is its own complete experience, and the practice itself it is not restricted to romantic or sexual partnerships. Due to the level of trust and mindfulness that goes into a Shibari experience, the intimacy is such that it is able to fulfil any relationship dynamic.

Why Shibari? What are the benefits?

“It teaches us that there are a number of different ways we can experience intimacy with another person when we shift our intentions away from sex and rather focus on the emotional and physical exchange.”

As with any type of mindfulness practice from meditation to art to yoga, the benefits are endless and entirely dependant on you and what you hope to get out of it. What I love most about it is the level of awareness and presence it brings no matter which side of the experience you are on. There is no point in a Shibari experience where you can drift off and become distracted with the mundane. You are fully present and aware of your body and mind and the sensations you feel the entire time.

Effective communication is another massive benefit of this practice. Learning to understand ourselves, our bodies, our likes and dislikes, our emotions and then learning to communicate that to another person. We learn that not all communication requires words. We learn to read each other, to care and to connect fully with another human being from a place of pure love.

Finally, we come to a deeper understanding of intimacy in all its forms. As mentioned before, Shibari is not exclusively for sexual or romantic purposes. It teaches us that there are a number of different ways we can experience intimacy with another person when we shift our intentions away from sex and rather focus on the emotional and physical exchange. Giving and receiving love in its purest form. Trusting and surrendering for bottoms. Providing safety and security for tops. We begin to focus on the energy of the experience rather than the experience itself.

How do I get started?

The first thing to do is get educated. Learn as much as you possibly can before you dive headfirst into the unknown.

Start slowly. The journey is part of the fulfilment, so take your time and enjoy the process as this beautiful artform reveals itself to you.

Find a teacher. No amount of self-study will ever compare to proper one-on-one instruction. Find a teacher you feel comfortable with and whose values align with yours. Learning at the hands of someone with real experience is invaluable if you want to benefit fully from a practice like Shibari.

At UrbanScript we offer group Shibari workshops as well as one-on-one courses in the comfort of your own home. Send an email to jessica@urbanscript.co.za to find out more.