About the interconnectivity of Kinbaku

A few years ago, I participated in a music video for a contemporary com-poser of classical music, Hèctor Parra, and the Berlin based Zafraan en-semble. The piece is called “Palimpsesto”.
A few weeks ago, when I tied with my wonderful partner Addie, I untied some parts and retied and when I put ropes on already existing rope marks, the idea of a palimpsest stroke my mind. Here are some elaborations of this idea.

So far, my thoughts around tying, expressed in the interview metaphor and more recently in the poetics and reciprocity of Kinbaku, were circling around a single scene. We went deep into possible meanings of what happens throughout that one scene, but the more I practice rope bondage the more it comes to light for me that there is a gap in these thoughts. Nothing (yet) to overthrow them, nothing to worry about but rather an extension, or a connection to the established, so to say, that is needed to further deepen the understanding.

I want to understand the historiality of rope scenes and with it that of the persons involved in a rope scene not only, as I stated in ‘archaeology of personalities’, by means of their past in general, but rather how one rope scene influences another rope scene. This question has more than just a purely academic motivation, it is also rooted in two actual topics.
First, a regular question I get asked is regarding the advantages/disadvantages of tying with someone unknown and with someone very familiar. Often it is stated (not very tactful) by just asking what is ‘better’, as if this was a polar question in terms of better and worse. There is a difference but surely not a judgement.
Second, I think this question can add positive inputs to the discourse about the fluidity of the perception of rope scenes, i.e. what happens, if a scene had been perceived in a certain way but this view changed by adding information or the; a development that is reported in large numbers.

As always, I need to state at this point that I only speak from my frame of experiences and I am not able to make a claim of truth here. Also, I learned from previous publications, that it seems unclear for some that I am originating my thoughts in an utopian world, where technical problems don’t occur.
In ‘archaeology of personalities’, I was asking when a scene ends and the only answer I was and still am able to give is that a scene doesn’t end but transforms and (possibly) fades. Some scenes fade quicker than others and some don’t fade at all.
Let us restate the question from above: How do rope scenes interact with each other? Suffice to say that they do. It is as if they had their own agency and want to be remembered, forgotten, repeated, emended, … . (For a deeper elaboration of this thought, I refer the reader to Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory and the possibility therein for non-human entities to have their own agency.) What the rope scene seems to want is to provide something memorable for all participants, and therefore inscribes itself into both, the tying person(s) as well as the tied person(s). Furthermore, this yet to be determined interaction of two rope scenes, which are distinct in time, goes in both directions regarding the chronicity of events, as it is clear that with every experience one makes, the look on previous experiences becomes somewhat fragile and subject to possible changes. In other words, not only do the rope scenes from the past influence those to come, but also those happening in the presence and even those to come, are influencing the ones which happened in the past. The idea that the past is also a function of the present time is known as the historiality of events.*
Consider a scene happens; it takes place. This scene is an experience in the very meaning of the word and it leaves its marks in the persons’ (all of the involved!) minds. As such it inscribes a representation of its events into the memories. But this memory is by no means a tabula rasa, a clean slate; no, many other scenes from before have managed to inscribe pictures of their events into the minds. Even the scenes to come have, vaguely, also inscribed themselves through the pen of expectations. But right now, the only one inscribing, is the scene that happens at the moment and as such it is doing something with the inscriptions that are already there. It overwrites them without deleting them. It can’t erase what has been written before. It rather writes between the lines, between the letters, within the letters, until only those inscriptions are still readable that have been carved into the memory deeper and larger than others. Some inscriptions get scraped to use that specific space again or more likely to never read that inscription again (“Verdrängung”/suppression). Not only bad memories get scraped – also those who just refer to bad ones and sometimes also good ones. But just like the inscriptions on a palimpsest, those inscriptions are not gone and can come to the surface again. They keep being influential. They keep being visible through various methods. There is a palimpsest known in archaeology – what a beautiful parallel this is? – that is called a cumulative palimpsest.
“A cumulative palimpsest is one in which the successive episodes of deposi-tion, or layers of activity, remain superimposed one upon the other without loss of evidence, but are so re-worked and mixed together that it is difficult or impossible to separate them out into their original constitu-ents.”**

If every rope scene, or parts of it, leaves its marks in the minds of all the participants, and I believe they do, all these marks are not just separate, distinct layers. Every new mark is placed within the artwork that is one’s personality. It adds to it not only by itself but by the new light it sheds on the marks that are already there and by the marks it replaces or those it is made of. I would like to bring an example but I feel that every example I could bring is insufficient for the reader because everything I can think of is embedded into my own personality and doesn’t mean anything without pre-senting all context. Try to find yours. What rope scene, or part of it, interact-ed with another one you have experienced or dreamed of and how did they influence each other?

I want to add a little postscriptum: This writing, as well as the others I pub-lished recently, is a work in progress. It is my inner urge to throw them out into the world once I have the idea and that this enables me to think about them in a more connected way. So, please take my apologies if they seem somewhat unfished or filled with gaps. Those gaps are also interesting for me.
*Rheinberger. Towards a history of epistemic things. 1997. 197ff (based on Derrida. Grammatology)
** Bailey, Geoff. “Time Perspectives, Palimpsests and the Archaeology of Time.”

About the reciprocity of Kinbaku

In ‘Archaeology of personalities’* we established a theory of how the communication between the tying and the tied person can be described. The person tying is interviewing the person tied and the reactions of the latter are constituting a picture of who they are. That picture, i.e. the personality of one’s vis-á-vis is in my worldview the main interest in interacting with people in general and tying in particular.

The problem of the interview 1.0, if one wants to call it, lays in its formulation which seems to favor a certain directionality from the tied to the tying person. It can be read classically in terms of physics, i.e. the outcome of an experiment is independent of how the observer looks at it.
It was absolutely justified to build up the theory of the interview based on this directivity but now it has found some rest to sit, I must break up this directionality of the interview and give one main agency back to the tied person.

Taking a closer look of any interview it becomes immediately clear that the questions are subjective and are born in the context of some ideology. In historical sciences, this circumstance is well known and it became “good scientific practice” to reflect one’s own background and under no circumstances neglect this. Since it has been shown beautifully that objectivity itself has its own historicity**, a great many of researchers deviated from the desire to be objective and instead reflect what to do with their ideological. I am well aware that in common language the term ideology has its negative connotations. I use it here as a substitute for one’s normative worldview – an association which has no judgmental value on that level whatsoever.
The same is true in the interview metaphor when we see the tying person as an archaeologist. The questions asked by the tying person are not objective. They are not coming from nowhere and, this is crucial, they are answers themselves. What does that mean? It simply means that the interviewer creates not only an interview of the tied person but in the same way also an interview of the tying person. The questions they give uncover answers coming directly from the ideology of the interviewer.

I want to call this bi-directivity the “reciprocity” of the interview metaphor. Not only the tied person reveals something of their cultural storage or archive. Of course not. The interviewer themselves, by asking the questions shows a great deal of their archive as well and makes it open and accessible for the tied person.

In that sense, it became interesting in recent tying as well as teaching situations to make myself or students aware of possible interpretations of answers given by stating this or that question.

I want to bring an example:
The distance between the tying people. In the interview 1.0 the choice of a closer distance provokes an answer that either shows there is a desire of more closeness or the other way around, it shows that a larger distance is what the tied person wants. But what does it mean to ask the question of the distance? Do I as a tying person have the desire to de- or increase the distance? How do I react to the answer (whatever that answer might be)?

A reflection of this reciprocity and of the why of any question not only consciously invites the tied person into the archive and hence excavates the personality of the tying person, it gives the tying person the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the function of ropes as a medium of communication.
This is in other words the modern, or quantum mechanical formulation*** of the interview metaphor. The reciprocity of the interview explains that it is not only a process of taking from the tied person. In my interpretation, Kinbaku from the perspective of the tying person is giving everything in order to get to know the tied person. If one is not willing to answer everything about oneself there is not only no right to dig in the archive of another person’s personality, it will also never go as deep.

*’Archaeology of personalities’. G. Barkas.
**e.g. ‘Objectivity’. L Daston & P. Galison.
***See quantum mechanical measurement problem and the role of the observer in the Copenhagen interpretation.

An attempt to develop a poetics of Kinbaku – and I am still not Aristotelian…


In recent months, I saw myself confronted with two interesting problems, or rather gaps in my approach and I believe I can fill them and by doing that not only shed (more) light on a deeper understanding of what we are doing when we tie with each other but also answer an unsolved question.  Here is one of those problems*.

Considering every human being a cultural product unintelligible anywhere outside the space of language, we are led to the assumption that any interaction with each other is also always and foremost an archaeology of the individual’s personality**. Instead of imagining an archaeological site with all its shovels and the mud, I want to point at another place that is the working station of an archaeologist – the archive. The most interesting hints and artefacts can be found there, forgotten of their existence and lost in the processes of change, development, and renewal of the archive. The work to be done by the archaeologist nevertheless remains the same – Digging, acknowledging, interpreting, and then digging again. Nothing changes except, maybe, the weather conditions.

When we were speaking of tying with someone can be seen as an archaeology of their personality, it does not matter, if we locate the archaeologist in some ruins on Crete or the basement of Austrian National library. But switching over to the latter one, it allows us to develop our metaphor even further and, by doing that, getting answers we might not even have thought about and this awareness shall be nothing but beneficial for an even deeper rope scene.

One could say the human being is an archive themselves filled with all the notes, the artefacts, the evidences and stories of their past. Of course, all those things are nonetheless constitutional for the personality and it is interesting to go through them, read and watch them piece by piece, sometimes in order but mostly not. This is, if we want, the interview metaphor 1.0 but is that it?

Is the rigger just there to read the archive of the person in ropes? Is the tying person condemned to be a Laplacian demon***? The French art historian and philosopher George Didi-Huberman writes about the archive:

The essence of any archive is its gaps, its perforated being. […] The archaeological undertaking must inevitably risk to juxtaposition shreds of faded objects which always remain heterogeneous and anachronistic because they come from different times and spaces and those are separated by gaps. This risk carries the name montage or faculty of imagination.  

(G. Didi-Huberman. The archive burns)

 What is in my eyes so interesting about this approach is that for Huberman it is not the content of any archive what makes it worth studying, but rather what is not in that archive, what made it vanish from the archive and how are those gaps constituted, i.e. how to read what is not there. These questions become, in the context of rope bondage, even more interesting by projecting them onto a human being.

Any person is an archive; the archaeological work is needed to get to know them, that is one of the major points in developing the interview metaphor. Many more experiences with ropes and reflections about the archaeology of personalities as well as about the nature of the archive led me to the interview metaphor 2.0, if you like. I rather like to call it a literary criticism of the personal narrative for the moment. At this point, there must be a disclaimer that can’t be overrated. Criticism in this case means interpretation. It does not mean criticizing! This must be clear.

If we try to project Didi-Huberman’s claim onto a person, the following can be said:

Any person is and archive and because of that there are, consciously or not, gaps in them. Those gaps are the ones of their personal history, of who they are****. Following Didi-Huberman, those gaps are the essence of the person and as such they are the most interesting entities of a person. That is why I am so interested in those gaps these days when I tie with someone. My desire, from which I draw my pleasure as well, is to get to know a person and to find out what moves them, what touches them. Whether I find that by the simplest rope technique or the most elaborate, it doesn’t matter. Who are you?

And here lies the difficulty that I believe to be able to overcome with the idea of a literary criticism. Who someone is, is not just the sum of their reactions to a set of questions. The who is in my experience with ropes rather hidden in between those reactions. What is it that the person does not answer to several questions. What has been thrown out of the archive of a personal (hi-)story, actively or passively? Since it is not present (in the double meaning of the word, which I understand to be a present as for now and a present as for here) one cannot just look closer and closer or even force something. But what one can do is undergo the risk which name is imagination.

As someone tying with the aim of getting to know someone and seeing the scene as an interview, one has to fill those gaps with their imagination – a beautiful parallel again to Kintsugi, isn’t it? – in other words, to interpret the story that is told by the tied person. This story is filled with gaps, a cultural construction of the self. Everyone does that and I claim this to be constitutional for every being within the realm of language. The interpretation of this story, the dialogue with the book written by the person in ropes, cannot be random or it risks breaking the connection between the people tying with each other. The fillings must make sense to both, they must be consistent in order to work. It is, and that is the reason why I called it a literary criticism, like interpreting a work of literary, a work of art, or, as we said the story of an archive when you ask yourself why certain things are not there and what is its meaning – “who are you?”. Why? Because, and I believe that to be true for everyone, every individual wants to be listened to by its environment. By being listened to, I mean a profound and deep engagement with that individuals personality and not a meaningless “how are you – fine”.

Taking a closer look at the rope scene itself, the above means that there is more, much more than just the reactions one sees but rather what are the reactions that don’t occur? What is the meaning for this or that reaction of the tied person and how does it fit into the greater picture? “The archaeological undertaking must risk of juxtaposition faded objects…” and this risk is called “imagination”.

The interpretation comes from nothing but the imagination and here lies the source of a poetics of the artful language that is called Kinbaku. A language that is to tell the story of the person in ropes and read by the person tying*****.



*Problem as understood more in the mathematical sense. A challenge, an interesting, somewhat mystical situation: an epistemic thing.

**Archaeology of personalities – A linguistic approach to erotic rope bondage. 2017.

***What is a Laplacian demon? It is the originally the intellectual creation, the Gedankenexperiment of P.S. Laplace and this creature is gifted or condemned to know the position and momentum of each and every single particle in the universe at a given time. Equipped with that knowledge, it can according to classical mechanics calculate a “complete” history of the universe.

**** Before this idea gets opposed, I can calm the critics by comparing those gaps with the Japanese concept of Kintsugi where cracks in pottery are considered beautiful and are “repaired” with noble materials, so not to hide them.

***** This implicit direction will be subject of my next partial study. Stay tuned.

About the proper moments in Kinbaku

  1. Within the Osada Ryu, there are some key terms that are of highest importance for a deeper understanding of Kinbaku. Two of them are Ma-ai and Kankyuu. Ma-ai is understood as the proper distance at the proper moment, and Kankyuu as the proper pace and the proper intensity at the proper moment. Thinking about those two terms shall help to understand that tying with somebody always at the same distance and at the same intensity and speed can (in many cases) lead to predictability and hence to boredom. (There are situations where methodical, paced movements are very effective – for example a tie that tightens slowly as it is applied.) Conversely, a constant variation of distance or a variation of the intensity can add an immense scope for people who are engaged in rope bondage – the surprise factor keeps the mind from wandering. These are dependent, though, on the term ‘proper’ – proper distance, intensity, and pace, at the proper moment. While the proper intensity is a little easier to unpack, the proper moment is more elusive, and is the focus of this writing.

What is the proper moment? When are the best situations to do something within a Kinbaku scene?

It turns out that the answer to this questions was already basically uncovered in the interview metaphor. A brief and overly simplified review of the interview metaphor (The original idea is published at https://fetlife.com/users/1762060/posts/2762869):

When people tie with each other, the combination of the power relationship and the communication can be seen as an interview within which the tying person is the interviewer and the tied person is the interviewee. The power is on the side of the interviewer, and the information comes from the interviewee. An interview is failed if the interviewer talks all the time, and an interview is also failed as soon as the interviewee takes over and decides the path. Kinbaku scenes are unforeseeable as they are shaped by the moods and questions/answers of the participants.

I see tying as a conversation where I ask questions and, depending on the answers that come, choose the following questions. So how does the concept of ‘proper moments’ fit into this way of understanding rope bondage? Well, the same way as it plays a role in a verbal conversation – people take turns speaking, and giving each other space to speak. It is a game of the right moment to ask personal or distanced questions and answers. It is also a game of short and pointed or of extended questions and answers. (This “game” is subject to another writing that is currently in preparation). But again, what are the proper moments, for example, to end a sentence or to start a question?

One important tool we can borrow from linguistics is the concept of “transition relevance places – points where a sequence is grammatically complete, and at which it might be reasonable for a turn to end.” (Swann & Graddol, Gender Voices, 1989)

The translation of this concept to rope bondage is kind of straightforward and it contains an interesting second layer. A transition relevance place, from the perspective of the tying person, is when the tied person is finished with their reactions. (And, according to my personal experience, this is way longer than one might think.) Now there are two possible ways how to deal with that. I would call it the caring way on the one, and the overwhelming way on the other side. Both have merits. Let’s have first a look at the caring way of leading the rope interview.

The person in ropes in most cases has an immediate reaction to an action of the tying person. After that, the one in ropes usually settles in and adapts to the new situation, or, in other words, finds their place within the new situation. They may tense or inhale slightly, then exhale, relax, shift, relax into or pull against the rope, and eventually they calm into a state/position and stay there pending new input. In the caring way of tying, this process needs to fade out before a new action can be done without interrupting the tied person’s answer/reaction. It is a question of respect to let the tied person finish their answer completely. It is a way of getting to know the tied person by letting them express themself in the ropes that are provided by the tying person. One thing that needs to be mentioned here, which can destroy the flow of a rope interview, is when the people involved miss the transition relevance place. What happens then is a rather awkward pause where nobody knows exactly whose turn it is and what to say next. This leads to a power void and it can upset the scene. I want to quote again the authors from above:

“An important feature of conversation is that speakers coordinate their talk so that (normally) one person is speaking at a time and speaking turns succeed one another relatively smoothly. […] The gap between two speaking turns is often as little as the fraction of a second and to achieve such rapid transitions listeners need to predict when the current speaker is likely to finish speaking and a new turn can legitimately begin.”   (Swann & Graddol, Gender voices. 1989)

The other way is overwhelming and disrespectful, but not necessarily in a bad way. In this way of leading the rope interview, the tying person doesn’t wait for the person in ropes to complete their answer. They use interruption as a tool to increase the power relationship between the two.

But one has to be careful with both tools. If the tying person only listens to the tied person, the power relationship can (!) be somewhat damaged as this leads to a power void. If the tying person constantly interrupts the tied person, it can (!) be hostile, can (!) appear that they are not interested in the reactions of the tied person and can lead to resentment. Hence, in both cases, overuse can damage the power relationship.

Coming back to the initial question of what are the proper moments for a proper distance or a proper intensity, we are now able to answer it. It is a conscious decision whether one lets the tied person complete their answer or not. When is an answer complete? When the body language, i.e. the reactions to a certain action are fading out, and the person is on the verge of settling.

It is indeed a skill to organize a conversation and it is even more tricky to organize a Kinbaku scene, where there is no explicit content of any speech, except obvious ones (for example, overt pain). This skill can be learned and needs to be practiced consciously.

This approach may sound very academic, and yet thinking along these lines has great practical application within Kinbaku – it encourages the tying person to pay attention to the person in ropes, to seek their individuality, and to adapt to the situation. This helps create deeper and more fulfilling scenes.

About the direction of touches

A Japanese Rope Bondage Scene doesn’t consist only of ropes and patterns. It mainly consists of people. Especially in recent years, the focus of many enthusiasts seems to have shifted from a pattern centered approach to one where the tied person stays in the center of attention. A direct consequence of this shift, in my understanding, is an increase of direct touches. More and more people try to build up and stay in a certain connection which is often accomplished by touching the tied person in one or another way during the scene.

But what is the meaning of a touch in Japanese Rope Bondage? Clearly, there are thousands of different answers to that question and once, this question is asked in a more or less knowledgeable public, spontaneous reactions will appear. Those reactions will most probably consist of various cues such as connection, communication, energy etc.. So far so good, but those terms require a deeper explanation, simply because they describe everything and hence nothing specifically.

I already described in previous writings how I imagine the term communication in Japanese rope bondage (and my understanding also implicitly the term energy. The term connection is subject of further studies). Roughly spoken, communication is a conversation within a certain nonverbal (or in rare cases verbal) language in the context of fluctuating power relationships. I also tried to establish an idea of a vocabulary, which consists of the easiest yes/no-questions and their answers as part of an interview.

In none of those previous attempts I was able to specify and give a better idea about the medium of that communication. Clearly, as Yukimura Sensei would say, to transport love and emotion through the medium of rope. To use the ropes is obvious (although not strictly adhered by everyone and every time) but he himself uses also the medium of his fingers, his hands, and other parts of his body to transport what he tries to say.

When I tie with my partner, I do not only use the medium of ropes.* I touch her or him* with my fingertip in the region of the lower back, when I want them to straighten up in a sitting position. I touch their inner knee when I want them to spread the legs, I touch their neck, when I want them to show their face etc.

I consciously say touch and not pull or push. I just “tell” my partner to do and insist of them doing so – not by using my physical force to make them move in a certain way but by hinting at movements and supporting its performance. This is the crucial point. Namely to communicate in a directed way. And that’s only possible if the touch has a certain direction. The touch’s direction needs to be towards the tied person and must not be reflected at the border between me and my partner. I have to touch her or him* for her or his* understanding of my language and not (only!) for my pleasure. And this has to be done consciously.  Within a sexual context, the borders of humans are semi-permeable. A part is reflexive, a part is permeable.

I give an example: A shoulder. I touch it. I want to feel it – its surface, its tension etc. That might lead to reactions of the touched person but at first, I want to touch it. The touch is reflected at the surface of the touched person and let me feel what I touch. I want to call this category a retro-reflexive touch.

Or I could touch it, because I want to see a reaction in a face, an answer with eyes or I want the shape of the body to be changed, i.e. I want a certain movement of the body of the tied person. For this purpose, I have to touch the shoulder in such a way, that the touch isn’t reflected on the surface but – one could say – goes through that surface; it is directed towards the person I touch. I want to call this a directed touch.

The latter case is the one, according to my experience, which creates a completely new state of mind in the tied person. It gives her or him* the feeling of being in focus, of being important. It is also the latter one, that makes it possible to move a whole body with a fingertip, simply because the touched person “understands” much easier what I want from that her or him*, whereas the retro-reflexive touch remains selfish.

One might object that many people want to be touched retro-reflexively exactly because of its selfish character. The objectifying character is demanded in some cases. Of course, I agree with that and I personally like to touch and to be touched in that way as well. The distinction, I made between a directed and a retro-reflexive touch is not a grading.

Rather than valuing, I want to express the possibility of the directed touch and what advantages it can contain. When I tie, I focus mostly on the directed touch for mainly three simple reasons.

First, it requires much less effort to move a body in that way. (Selfish reason!)

Second, it helps stabilizing the power relationship in a subtle way. People tend to be more impressed by other people who can move them without any effort. As someone told me a couple weeks ago, it appeared to be magical, when she was touched and hence moved just with a fingertip and she felt utterly at my mercy.

Third, as mentioned above, the directed touch lacks of selfishness. Hence, it is able to increase the tied person’s feeling of being the center of attention and not just an object for macramé.

*Although it seems, that I distinct between a skin-skin touch and a rope-skin touch, I strongly want to emphasise at this point that the touch with a rope is 100% included in this article. One must include the ropes as a medium of touch in the distinction between retro-reflexive and directed touch.

Translational processes

Textversuch1web“The symbolic nature and the point where the image fails.”

A picture becomes a text and this text becomes a picture. One could say, the text stays a picture but the language has changed. What does change mean in this context? Is it just a change of symbols? What happens during the change of symbols? The symbols are read in each stage of the translation. How? That’s a question of perception, of the context of perception. How is language perceived in its various appearances?

The translation from textual to pictural language is not discontinuous!

Ongoing project…

A suggestion for a vocabulary of tying

The following text is not about terminology of patterns, positions and other stuff around Kinbaku. It is a first try for a dictionary of tying itself.

Quite recently I wrote an article about a possible view on a grammar of tying. My claim was that there is no discontinuation of the conscious communication, called negotiation, between pre-scene, scene and post scene. There can only be a more or less smooth variation of vocabulary. The following lines are now dealing with this vocabulary. But instead of discussing the pre- and post-scene vocabulary, i.e. the spoken words, I want to focus entirely on the vocabulary used during a Kinbaku scene.
First let’s recall for a moment the interview metaphor used by me for describing a Kinbaku scene at all. It is said that in order to combine the two main discourses of tying, that are communication and power relationship, one can use the picture of an interview. The tying person becomes an interviewer and the tied person an interviewee. In an interview it can be regarded as a good interview, when the necessary and interesting information comes directly from the interviewee whereas the direction or path of the interview is chosen by the interviewer. This picture gained a wide acceptance in the rope community since I brought it up a couple months ago. But of course, it doesn’t tell anything about how to implement it to one’s own and personal tying process. It is more like telling somebody how beautiful and exact the German language can be. It doesn’t enable that person to speak German. For this purpose, one has to learn a certain vocabulary and some rules.
The vocabulary of any language is a set of symbols which are used to express some sort of information within a certain context. Although I would need to, I don’t want to go too much into what the terms symbol and information mean. In the following, I want to define a symbol as a minimal representation of an information within its context. Thinking of words, a syllable is not necessarily a symbol but a word can be. A sentence can be a symbol as well as an answer. The symbols are exchanged in various ways such as gestures, mimics, words or positions. Except the words, all of them can be expressed and/or caused through and by playing with ropes. (Of course, some people talk with each other while tying, but that’s another story.) In addition there is also something like tension and pattern that can be added as subsets of symbols and hence those enlarge the vocabulary. The symbols used besides the spoken language have some kind of an underestimated existence. Although everybody would admit that the roughly called body language is existent and even important, almost none of us learns its grammar and vocabulary as a subject on its own at school or so. It is something that grows somehow anyways depending on the cultural environment.
Doing ropes is a chance to get aware of this language and furthermore to use it consciously and explicitly. It’s a chance and a problem at the same time. Why is it a problem? I would claim, the fact that there is only a rough idea of the interpretation of the symbols in use can lead to a huge variety of misunderstandings. This is the reason why I want to come up with my little, far from complete dictionary of tying.
As I said before, I see a bondage scene as an interview. Hence I need basically two kinds of symbols to describe the content of such an interview – that is a set of questions and a set of answers. But I don’t want any troubles of too complicated answers, because I couldn’t be sure to understand them properly and so, I just reduce my set of questions to polar questions.
A yes and two different no’s are the answers I am asking for when I tie. A yes, i.e. something like a support from the tied person contradicts the power relationship. I give an example. When I softly push against the knee from the inside, i.e. asking if it’s ok to spread the legs and the answer is immediately spreading the legs on her/his own, it would lead to something like topping from the bottom.
A sharp and definite no must be interpreted as a no from outside the play and therefore must be respected. Such a no can be expressed by a sharp breath, a verbal and very explicit no, a search for eye contact and a sudden body tension but also by many other reactions and combinations of reactions depending on the context.
The last remaining answer is actually the only one that is interesting for me. It’s the kind of no that I would like to call a staged no. It is the kind of no within the play, that must have been negotiated before and that respects the power relationship.
We have the answers – what are the questions? Polar questions which lead to the above answers can be announcements like “I’m going to spread your legs” or “I will show your face, which you hide now”. They can also be grammatical questions like “Do you like it when everybody sees your breasts in a second?” There is basically no difference between the statements and the grammatical questions, although the way of asking them can differ. The above mentioned questions are those which deal with some sort of shame play. But there are of course much more directions.
The more tricky ones are about positions. In Osada Ryu, there is in principle no action that forces someone into a direction with pure power but it’s often just a hint at going into a certain position. Breaking the Seiza is a perfect example. Instead of pushing the partner into the broken Seiza, one just needs to touch intentionally the hips such that the partner feels this intention. It is then a question or not, whether the tied person is already in a right state of mind.
Another kind of question asks about the dynamics of the play. Those questions basically ask for some sort of resistance against actions. In the beginning of a scene, long before there is the first rope applied, I try to pull the person towards me. If the person falls into me, it might not be the best situation for going ahead in Ranboo-style. If she/he resists and fights against my subtle and very soft pull, why not getting stormy and overwhelming? Don’t get me wrong here! I don’t mean rope pulling like in Highland games…
A last remaining kind of question, I would say, asks about the pattern, that should be tied. But as the only two functions of a pattern are framing the beauty of the tied person and secures the person within a certain position, this kind of question can be reduced to asking for a position. “Where should be the hands, can there be something around the neck, shall one emphasises a certain part of the body, etc.?” All of those questions are basically questions for a certain position, the rest is creativity.
The above sets of questions are my personal questions and they should just give a hint of what is possible and how my view on the metaphor works in detail.
When we talk about communication and power, this could be a way to understand what can be meant with those terms. Because talking about communication and connection is easy, but the next step, namly talking about how to connect and communicate isn’t that easy. The above dictionary is a suggestion and my personal experience. Now find your dialect and create symbols consciously.


(As it deals with language and my mother tongue is German I ask for pardon for some reckless disregards of the English language, I haven’t seen in my text. I’m happy for any corrections, but please don’t discuss my grammar here.)

An update on Ranboo

When I wrote about the development of Ranboo, I promised an update about my personal development w.r.t. Ranboo.
In the meantime, I taught Ranboo or elements of this style on three different continents in over 20 cities and to approximately 300 people (just in my class at this year’s Shibaricon, there were about 130 people.) I always try to communicate the basic ideas of Ranboo and I always try to say as clear as possible, that I cannot and will not teach people to “tie Ranboo”.

Why not? Well, it is easy to explain. Ranboo is, as I said, my personal interpretation of some of the key terms of the Osada Ryu and I like to tie this way with certain people. It is, if you want, a personal thing. And in my ideal rope world, people learn and practice the basics of rope bondage, perfect ther skills and then, at a certein point, “fill the patterns with life”, i.e. once they understand (the German language has a much better word here: “begreifen”) the reasons for this or that technique, they can implement their personality. (Here is definitly a parallelity to the Japanese concept of Shuhari)

So, why sharing it and giving workshops about Ranboo, one may ask?
That’s easy to answer, too. I love sharing my thoughts, I love teaching and I love the eyes of people who, for the first time in their rope life, see how kinbaku can also be. It can be fun, it can be dynamical, it can be a dance, it can be brutal, it can be fast and much more.
After this general and personal thought about teaching Ranboo, I want to go deeper into a detail, that has developed in my tying. Some have read my writing about the interview metaphor and there are already people who attended a workshop about it.
According to this metaphor, tying can be seen as a special kind of communication, where the power relationship is included. It is not a metaphor that describes the way of applying ropes but rather, how the process of tying can be described.
Ranboo, in contrary is only a way of how to apply ropes.
My new deveolopment, or, the promised update consists in combining those two concepts with each other.
The crucial part of the interview metaphor was to listening to possible answers of the person in ropes.
The crucial part of Ranboo was the element of surprise, i.e. actions of the tying person that make it impossible to foresee the next steps. A foreseeable scene can become boring.
In basically all my recent Ranboo scenes, I tried to find a way to listen to my partner, in order to set better actions. In contrary to non-Ranboo scenes, it is very tricky to listen carefully because the dynamics and the intensity is much “higher” in Ranboo. Nevertheless, there are lots of “slots” in Ranboo, where it’s very easy not to just make a break, but to use the low speed/low dynamics for listening carefully. Such slots are for example, the beginning of the scene, where I wait behind my partner and look at his/her body language. The very next situation is the wristcuff, then, also, when you apply the first wrap and so on and so forth.
Ranboo means to vary the speed, the distance, the (physical) intensity. This leaves enough room to listen to your partner very carefully.
Maybe, my development can be described as follows: I found, that it’s necessary to step back from a scene to keep an overview. Only this overview enables one to listen carefully enough. Because nobody wants an interviewer who talks all the time. But it can be amazing, when the questions, that are asked, are stormy and overwhelming.

Next update as soon as I have one.

The development of Ranboo

My personal review on the development of the overwhelming style

There are many kinds of tying someone with the aim of having a special time together. One can just fix someone else or tying very technically, one can focus on symmetric bondages or construt special patterns. One can tie in a very calm way, very sportive or one can overwhelm the partner very brutally.

Ranboo, or the harder style as I called it in the beginning, is none of the above categories. It is a part of Osada-ryu and therefore a mixture of all calm and overwhelming, of dynamics and statics, of patterns and freestyle. Hence, it was Osada Steve himself who named this certain style and told me the term Ranboo.

The year before I became an Osada-ryu instructor, between 2010 and 2011, the roots of Ranboo, as I have practiced it since then, developed. At that time I neither had a name for my style, nor existed a structured theoretical framework. Of course, some Bakushis in Japan practiced Shibari/Kinbaku in very stormy way, but there existed no structure or definition, too. In my case, this style was overwhelming from the very beginning after I have learned the basic techniques and patterns because of demarcating to this calm and steady sessions I saw almost all over the community. I could not create the same reactions in my partner with this style as I wanted to. Hence I began to apply the techniques much more overwhelming and dynamically. Almost every single session in this style was better than the foregoing and after a very short period of time a certain style emerged. But a structure was lacking. A lot of members of the Shibari community in Vienna asked me to give a workshop on this new style and so I had to think about this new style theoretically how to bring it to the people.

The Osada-ryu does not desribe Ranboo directly but it offers a framework within which everything I needed was already written down. All of the key terms of Ranboo were desrcibed perfectly by this school and this is nececerry because without a theoretical framework , Ranboo just depraved to uncontrolled brutallity and that’s exactly the opposite of what it stands for and what I want to practice.

Ranboo is a game with the astonishment of your partner. It is not to apply certain patterns but to apply any patterns in an empathically and consciously way. The patterns of the Osada-ryu are also perfectly made for this purpose because they are safe and allows one to tie very fluently. From this point of view, the Osada-ryu also provides the perfect framework.. For a good Ranboo session it’s much more crucial how to shape the session dynamically. It was exactly this question that contains the key term of Ranboo: dynamics. Dynamic is often misunderstood as speed, but its the spatial and temporal game with distance (ma-ai), with constantly changing the speed (Kankyuu) and last but not least with hard and soft phases of the session. In such a session I can treat my partner like an enemy and in the next second this enemy can be the love of my life. The crucial point is that your partner is not able to foresee what’s coming next and this is probably the most difficult thing in Ranboo: to know what to do without showing it, to take care of your partner’s safety without breaking the flow and to step back as an individual. Without controlling yourself you cannot controll the session and even one single situation. Ranboo sometimes looks like wild rage but it’s empathy and devotion.

AND: ranboo will never be complete. It’s still developing as I am.

Grammatology of tying

Recently I wrote a note about a metaphor of tying. This metaphor consists of the picture of an interview which combines two of the main discourses of bondage. It combines the power relation with communication, whereas the latter should stay on an equal level even within a certain power relationship. Herein the power relationship as well as the term communication were understood in a much more abstract way than it was read by some of the critiques. Communication here is understood in the sense of the N. Luhmann and his theory of social systems. Power relationships are understood in the sense of M. Foucault.

I exhumed some of my ideas about language. Those were about a so-called grammatology of action, which is able to provide a set of rules how to act in certain situations. Grammar and therefore a set of rules for communication is the only “thing” which is specific for homo sapiens sapiens. It enables a person to create a right and understandable and at the same time “new” sentence, i.e. a sentence that is grammatically right and was not told before to the person or even to any other person. At this point I should probably admit that I’m much aware of my inability to write many grammatically right sentences in English ;). All this person needs is the knowledge of the set of rules and a more or less big vocabulary. (What I don’t have in English…)

Language, no matter which, always consists of the combination of a set of rules with a vocabulary. Different languages have different vocabularies and different rules to deal with its vocabulary.

Let’s consider a social environment that consists of two individuals and a common language, i.e. a sufficient knowledge of the set of rules and a vocabulary. This language is by no means just the spoken language. I talk about language as any kind of eligible communication, which means that also the so-called etiquette and the not less socially constructed body language or anything else is understood as language. So, the two individuals are able to understand each other and are, in principle able to understand most of the conversation at least unconsciously. A language is needed for any kind of communication. I feel confident that so far everybody agrees with this picture of communication, language, vocabulary and grammar.

Now let’s skip the vocabulary and take a look at the set of rules. An analysis or theory of this set of grammatical rules in spoken languages was provided by J. Derrida in his book “Grammatology”. He deals with the role of grammar in linguistics. It is also about the historiality of grammar. In my initial idea I deal with a grammatology of actions in general and now I want to limit myself for a moment to a grammatology of tying. As a legitimation of the following, this is possible because of my picture of bondage as a certain communication, i.e. there is always a certain language and therefore a certain grammar as an intrinsic element of each bondage scene.

In my text about meta-aspects of kinbaku I wrote about tying as an interview. Each interview consists of questions and answers. So, the first two rules are quite obvious. They describe how to ask and how to answer. But, as one can imagine, I’m not much interested in the obviousnesses. In my view, tying itself is staging a certain power relationship combined with aesthetics and enabled through communication. The communication is often limited to a nonverbal kind of communication. When I started thinking about this, I entered a one way when I imagined a tying scene as an enclosed or “out of everything” break from every day’s life. It is definitely connected to every day’s life and therefore must be seen as a continuation of it as it includes a huge amount of opinions, views and pictures from every day’s life and of course, it provides a huge amount of all that for every day’s life. Hence, if I want to elaborate a grammatology of tying, I have to implement the grammatology of actions that leads to a scene and the grammatology of actions that follows a scene.
The language, consisting of vocabulary and grammar is not the same for the time before, within or after a rope scene. A grammatology therefore must be able to discuss different sets of rules. Let’s go through them.

Phase 1: Two people meet. There is a set of rules or a grammar for the verbal interaction between them and there is at the same time a grammar for the etiquette and one for the body language. All three parts of the communication consist of actions (also and especially the spoken language can be seen as a set of actions!) and all of those actions together could be seen as a certain treatment of each other. Every single action, think for example of the way one is sitting in front of another person, creates something. It can create just vague and unconscious feelings or it can create a genuine and conscious and especially a causal re-action. It is obvious that spoken language is extremely efficacious.
I now want to add another term, negotiation, which turns out to be crucial for my thoughts. Within this first phase of communication it is negotiated if and how the two individuals are going to tie with each other. Let’s focus just for a moment on that negotiation. Considered, the two already decided to tie with each other the negotiation then deals with the content of the following scene. I’m not able to offer a neither complete nor right or true list what that negotiation should contain. The reason is quite simple. Each person and not only each person but also each situation is slightly different to other people and other situations. Hence the negotiation can never be the same and that’s already a point. It’s clear that there should always be a negotiation of some kind and it should be clear that it’s a dynamical process. I strongly emphasise on the term dynamical process, because, as we will see below, this negotiation cannot be completed in principle.

The next phase is the bondage scene itself. I want to limit my thoughts to scenes without spoken language, although I am aware of the possibility of that. So, the two individuals have a bondage scene with each other. One person leads the ropes and the other person is getting tied. As I already mentioned in my last writing, I see this as an interview, within which the tying person gets all the information by the tied person. One doesn’t necessarily need the picture of an interview to admit that each scene is a kind of a communication with a certain set of rules and a vocabulary. Actions lead to re-actions and so on and so forth. As erotic rope bondage doesn’t have thousands of years of evolution, no common grammar has been established yet. Nevertheless, one goal can be seen as the goal for everybody. I’m talking about a so-called “good time” for both. Although it happens accidentally, I can hardly imagine someone who wants to tie with the goal of feeling bad afterwards. What does it mean, to have a good time with ropes? Well, I would say, that it is an experience which creates positive feelings and which adds something positive to a personal development.
Most of the actions that lead to such kind of experiences are socially tabu for good reasons by society if committed outside of a staged scene. This change of expressing moral fundaments have to be communicated to make sure, that everybody has a good time. In other words, the ideas of how to change this expression of moral fundament have to be negotiated. Why? Every expression of a common moral fundament is nothing less than a set of actions that is appreciated commonly and every set of social actions (one individual doesn’t need any moral grounds until this person meets another person, therefore “social actions”) must consist of a certain grammar. Hence, a change of this set of actions for any reason has to be done consciously in order to minimize the risk of different ideas and therefore the risk of misunderstandings. As I said before, the negotiation of the first phase cannot be completed simply because the situation is dynamical and the ideas are changing. It must be continued in the second phase. It must be said that the mentioned negotiation is not about changing the results of the negotiation of phase 1. It is understood that this negotiation is about how to express those results. Of course, the way of communication is different within the scene but it stays a communication with a certain language and therefore with a certain grammar.

Let’s go to the phase after the scene. Again, there is no discontinuity of communication eligible. It stays a communication between the two although it is a change of the languages. Within the picture of communication it can be seen as a debriefing, where both change their set of rules again to a state close to the initial one. It again comes to a setup where certain power relationships are no longer staged consciously like within the scene. Nevertheless the experience of the scene reaches into the life after it and therefore it influences the content of the communication between the two individuals, no matter if the scene became a good time for both or not. There is no chance not to communicate. The question is, if this communication is a negotiation and hence consciously or it is just any kind of communication.

To make my point clear, I don’t talk about the negotiation itself, but rather about the fact that there is always a certain kind of communication and with the change of languages a change of the grammar of that communication. I use the term negotiation in this context because it ensures the consciousness of the communication as a set of certain actions. Pure communication is always there if more than one individual is involved, but the awareness of the continuous but changing characteristics of the grammar from one phase to another provides a conscious way of communication. This awareness is what I suggest to call negotiation.