Shibari and Kinbaku

Rope has long served as a staple in the bondage aspect of BDSM in Western culture. Yet, much of what is practiced today in regards to rope bondage has evolved from Eastern culture, specifically Japan. In the 1400s rope became a tool used by Japanese warriors to secure their captured enemies on battlefields, and by the 1600s it became common in law enforcement. The forms that the warriors and law enforcement used became known as Hojojutsu, which was characterized by quick knots made from natural fiber rope. It was recognized as a martial art (think jujitsu or karate).

Hojojutsu

Over the years Hojojutsu faded from practice and is not widely practiced today. However, it serves as the main influence for modern rope bondage that is practiced both in the East and the West. The two main modern forms are called Shibari and Kinbaku.

The word shibari in Japanese means “decorative tying” and was not used in the context of bondage, but rather for things like wrapping ribbon on presents. Western culture took the word and applied it to bondage, giving it its meaning today. Kinbaku is a Japanese verb meaning “bind tightly” and the meaning has stayed relatively the same in Western usage. There is no exact date when the West started to adopt these practices from Japan, but for hundreds of years they have been slowly assimilating into the Western BDSM culture.

Kinbaku in practice. I waded through a lot of stuff to find these pictures so I hope you appreciate them…

There is some debate over the differences between the two forms because each person who practices does so in a slightly different way. Both forms are considered erotic, but they achieve this in slightly different ways. The most recognized difference is that Shibari gains its erotic nature through the actual beauty of the rope and the study behind it. It is much more about the aesthetic of the rope than the functionality of the bindings. The rope can be synthetic and colored though normal it is uncolored and natural. It is slightly thinner than the rope used in Kinbaku.

Kinbaku gains its erotica more through the functionality of the intricate knots than their appearance. It uses thicker rope, and it uses jute rope, which is a natural fibre. Kinbaku is much more about restraint than appearance and is considered to be more erotic and sexual than Shibari.

Shibari. Notice the lack of any actual restraints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fusion bondage is the modern Western product that incorporates the Japanese forms of Shibari and Kinbaku. It is one of the most varied forms but also the most common in the West. It borrows aspects of the original two forms, but adds aspects like colored and synthetic rope. Fusion bondage does not have the confines that the traditional forms have and is considered to be more a free form of bondage.

Both Kinbaku and Shibari can be practiced by men or women on men or women. The person who has studied the form and ties the knots is known as a rigger. There are several well-known riggers in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. One that particularly caught my eye name is Lee Harrington, who is trans sexuality and spiritual educator. He explains that Shibari for him is all about the study and knowledge that goes into the ropework. He derives his pleasure from the ropes aesthetic instead of the body of the person he is using the rope on.

Kinbaku

We have spent a lot of time in class trying to define what sex is and where fetishes fit into that definition, which is what lead me to researching this topic. I find it interesting that both forms are considered erotic and can give the participants sexual pleasure, without anything we would consider traditional sex being involved (no genitalia). From what I understand, a rigger and their participant do not have to have any sexual attraction to one another in order to derive pleasure from the act, although I would image that sexual attraction to one another would enhance these feeling. It is more the rope and the knots that give the pleasure and sexual satisfaction to those involved, which further muddies the waters of a clear sex definition.

For some, their ropework defines who they are and lets them break free from the constraints put on them by sexual identities. For instance, a straight male rigger who derives his pleasure from the actual ropework would have no problem tying up a man. We talked in class how some people’s sexual identity is not the main priority when fetishes are involved. A person might identify as a rigger instead of a lesbian for example.

If you are interested in the actual knots involved and how to tie them, here is a link.