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.