The Naked Interviews: Interview with a shibari rope master

The beautiful, mysterious arts of Japanese rope tying Shibari and Kinbaku, have seen a surge of popularity over recent years. Far more than a saucy component in kinky bedroom antics, this detailed, oriental art form takes training, expertise and investment of one’s time and soul. A spiritual and skilled discipline, as much as a BDSM practice, the close community of rope-loving aficionados embark on a journey from beginner to expert over many years of dedication. Let’s speak to one of the black-belts of this lifestyle, the wonderful Hiigara Rope.

How long have you been doing rope for?

About 5 ½ years.  I started here in London, but I did a lot of my tying education in New York as well.

What’s the best thing about rope?

Without question, the connection and the intimacy – like when you really get to know someone, when they are bound and unable to escape someone, you really show your true colours.  For me, that’s by far the best thing.

Image by AmeliaRoslyn featuring Mili-ficent

Would you say rope is more a sexual experience, a more sensual one, or more about trust?

It’s definitely dependent on the person you’re tying with, so for some people it’s definitely highly sexually charged- it’s all about the build up to and often involving sex – but then for other people definitely trust and submission, and it’s all very much about the dynamic they have together.    That individual submitting to someone’s will and then being strung up like a ham.

Have you both tied and been tied?

I have, yes.  I predominantly tie, but in order to feel what it’s like on the other side of the rope and on the other side of kink, I’ve switched as well, which has been a very interesting and rewarding experience to step outside of my comfort zone.

Is being tied painful?  How much of it is pain related?

Interesting question.  It depends on the person tying and the person being tied.  Sometimes when I’ve been tied it’s definitely been painful- quite challenging and intense.  As someone who identifies as a sadist, I’m definitely someone who hurts people quite regularly when they tie, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It can be a lot more comfortable and a lot softer, or it can be a level of pain that achieves the experience that both people in the scene are looking for.  There is this concept of ‘beautiful suffering’ – which is a very Japanese style rope concept, popularised here by Naka and brought here and explored in a lot of detail by people like Wkyd Dave and Riccardo, and that’s a really interesting concept because the rope isn’t necessarily tense but it is quite challenging, and often it brings out a lot of emotion, and sometimes a lot of shame and excitement and vulnerability associated with that, and it’s really intense as a result even if the actual pain is not as intense as say, being tied by your foot and dangled upside down.

Image by bdslr and ode2joyy featuring Mili-ficent

One of the iconic forms of rope you often see photographed is suspension.  What should people know about suspension?

Lots and lots and lots.  Suspension is often the goal of a lot of people who want to do rope, but you can have fantastic and wonderful rope without getting that technically into it.  It’s quite a dangerous art, even though you can mitigate a lot of risks involved, but because of that it’s definitely worth taking your time, going to a teacher, having them run you through the fundamentals of how to lift someone safely in the air:  things like wrap placement and nerve damage are very common for this kind of thing, and everyone wants to rush into it straight away whether they are tying or being tied, and so understanding those pieces are really important. 

People that want to get tied up, one of the things that’s great to know is that there’s more and more education for people getting tied now, so things like how to check if you have nerve damage, sensory awareness, body awareness, how to communicate properly with your rigger, how to recognise when something is going wrong, also when something is going right.  Those are the kind of things that are worth building up a knowledge base on so you are able to enjoy the scene that you turn up to do.

If someone is keen to experience being tied, if they have any conditions- if they are plus size, if they have any issues with pain, etc. is there anything special they need to do to prepare?  Are there any special ties that need to be done or avoided?  Or is rope open to everybody to try?

Honestly, it’s open to everyone.  I’ve tied people that are hypermobile, I’ve tied people that are missing limbs, I’ve tied people who are plus size, who are anorexic, a broad range of people.  The only thing that is really a challenge is how the rigger approaches the task.  It doesn’t matter if you are a tiny waif of a human or a six foot line backer, the biggest person I suspended weighed 26 stone- played American football – big, big guy.  There really is nothing that stops you.  The only thing you should be able to do is be aware of your body’s limitations, and don’t expect to do something you cannot do.  So if you are hypermobile, then you want to touch your foot to your head in a back bend, that might not be a thing to do straight away.  But certainly if you are plus size, there is no objection to different body types or anything like that.

A lot of the images that are seen of people who are tied are very much dancer types- they are very flexible, is there any specific style of exercise class or things people can do to prepare themselves to be tied better and have a better experience from it?

Definitely, if you do a lot of core conditioning that helps, if you are able to sustain your position in the rope you can be in the air for a long period of time, so those are very helpful.  A lot of people do yoga to build up the breathing as well, as you are often short of breath and having a good breathing rhythm will help you settle into that sub -space, and also help you survive the more intense pieces- help you sink into it.  Those are the main things that people will try to do – some people run marathons, swim miles, do weight training to get their bodies to that condition- but really you can get there with quite simple exercises, just exposure to it and learning what does work for your body and what does not.  Ultimately, your body is unique and will respond uniquely to the way you are being tied.

Image by AmeliaRoslyn, model Mili-ficent

If someone decides they want to tinker with tying rope, but for some reason they can’t attend a class- maybe there isn’t one nearby, or they just want to incorporate it as a small part of play without going through all the learning of everything, what limits should they stick to to make sure they are doing it safely?

Definitely keep it on the ground.  Definitely avoid suspension.  Keep away from potential areas that can end in death, like the neck and those kind of things.  Stick with quite low-risk level floor play, tie them to the bed, keep a pair of safety shears of little cutting knives handy as well.  If anything goes wrong then you can easily cut your ropes and ultimately, don’t be afraid to cut your ropes if something goes wrong.  Those are the things I’d recommend if you don’t want to go down the full technical route – focus more on the connection.  Focus more on the sensuality of it.  Focus on building that intimacy between you and the person you are tying or the person that’s tying you.  Try and get the most out of it possible.  Focus a bit less on the rope itself.

What kinds of rope should people get if they want to try tying?

I’m going to make a lot of people angry when I say this! If you are just looking to tie your partner to the bed, and you are just looking for a bit of playful fun, a cotton rope from Ann Summers is fine.  That was my first piece of rope– I got three from Ann Summers.  However, if you are going to go the route of suspending people and doing more complex ties, and follow a specific style of rope, then you probably do want to invest in something that’s a natural fibre, or nylon as well, which is growing in popularity in some spheres.  If you are doing the very traditional stuff, then you can’t go wrong with 6mm jute, single strand; it’s lovely, lovely stuff.  Really soft, well-conditioned things.  If you want to, for example, tie someone up, throw them into the mud and beat them up or whatever, then machine washable rope is really good for that. POSH, which is readily available in the UK or nylon rope which is more readily available in the US and Europe is really useful because when the rope is full of bodily fluids and blood and mud and everything you throw it in the washing machine when it’s done and you can use it the next day and it’s fine, whereas if you do it with your lovely dedicated, curated, expensive natural fibre jute, it will ruin it straight away, so yes.  That is the short answer to a very, very long question.

If someone wants to embark on this journey, what books should they read or what events should they try to get started, where there is good instruction and it will be accessible to a beginner?

Fetlife is really good as it will list all the rope events near you. If you are in London, obviously Anatomie Studio does the beginner class on Thursday, and there is Studio Kokoro up in the Midlands, but there are equally amazing events up in Edinburgh, Leeds, Brighton, there’s us in Northampton, Cambridge has a lovely crowd- and your local ‘Peer Rope’ as it’s called will be your entry point to get started with learning the basics of how to tie. People do lots of workshops if you want to focus on a more specific style, or something specific to your tastes, and that’s really how to begin. Fetlife is really the best place to find that, but if you do some Googling you will find some of your local rope groups as well, to start. If you are learning how to tie there is an absolute deluge of books – we recently got a copy of Gestalta’s book, and I really love that- it’s lovely and detailed, focusses on some really cool positions and ties. As a basic introduction Douglas Kent does some lovely ropes as well, I find Georg Barkas’s book, recently released, very interesting from a philosophical perspective as he ties with a very unique and engaging personal philosophy, and that’s really interesting because it’s all about connection and enjoyment- building that rapport with people so once you get to the more advanced level that’s quite interesting.

Two women suspended upside down with shibari rope ties from the branches of a winter tree over a pasture with sunrise in the background, wearing knee socks and skirts with blindfolds
Image by Sjamboku Models Nezumibekka and Mili_ficent Riggers AmeliaRoslyn and Hiigara_Ropes

Some people might say that certain niches of the kink community can be a little inaccessible to newbies, because there is a lot of lingo to learn and a lot of etiquette.  It’s easy to mess up while you are still learning.  Would you say rope is like that, or is rope more accessible than some of the other niches?

I was absolutely terrified at the first event I went to because of that- because I’m a big, six-foot-two white male, I thought ‘Oh God, I’m going to be that guy – the domly dom’- but I actually found it was very friendly, people were very interested in helping me be sound.  There are definitely spaces that are better at it than others, and nights that are better at it than others, but there isn’t really a barrier because if you are able to start and get moving, then you are really instantly able to understand what all the lingo means.  Like ‘This thing is this position’, or ‘that thing is that particular tie or knot’, and it all becomes quite sensible quite quickly.  Once you’ve done that it’s all very welcoming as a group of people.  I’ve certainly found that – I’ve travelled all over Europe and the USA and increasingly elsewhere, and I’m finding that rope people are the most friendly and wonderful people I’ve ever met.

Consent is absolutely vital.  It’s one of the main things.  It’s a very risk-aware kink.  Consent has to be a cornerstone of all of your practices, whether you engage in sexual play or non-sexual play.

Hiigara-Ropes

There are clear parallels between Shibari and oriental martial arts, in terms of the discipline and the learning, and the structuring as a student and teaching.  If someone decides to embark on this journey what kind of hours do they need to put in and how regularly, to reach various points- to do a tie safely, to say they are a beginner, to say they are intermediate – at what point, after attending a workshop once a week would they be able to try a suspension, how much time and effort do they need to put in?

For me to get to suspension safely, with a relatively simple method, took me four or five ties per week and it took me roughly six and a half months to get there.  Some people will be faster, other people will be slower.  A lot of it also depends on the style of tie you do as your first suspension.  If you are beginning with something called a TK (Tatake kote) then you might want to perfect it a bit longer, as it’s a really intensely complicated tie.  And you probably want to try it maybe 50-60 times before you even consider suspension, and may be tie it 100 times under someone who knows what they are doing and can give you supervision, before you even try to use that in suspension.  And that sounds pretty intense, but the reality is that if you go in with a half-baked tie, it will be uncomfortable, will be difficult to sustain and the model or rope bunny will have to come down a little bit quicker, so the more you invest in your harnesses, the better it will go.  Even someone at my level- and I always thought I was doing well, because I could have someone in the air 40- maybe 45- minutes, with a TK, which is pretty good!  But I went to some lessons recently and now I’m doing an hour and ten, and hour and 15 minutes on that tie because it’s that detailed, and that’s not a comment designed to make people shy away from it, it’s more saying be aware that if you want to get to that level it’s not an overnight thing – it’s something you have to build upon, it’s something you have to understand, and you have to repeat to get right.  Because yes, there’s a creative side, but the technical fundamentals are what help you do it safely without risk to your partner. 

There is Shibari and Kinbaku, which if you google have different meanings in different places.  Are there any other forms of rope, or styles, and how would you define the different basic types?

The Kinbaku/Shibari thing is something where you get ten different answers talking to ten different people, but I guess the sum of it is that it’s decorative tying, versus the act of decorative tying.  When it comes to stylistic schools of rope, that’s where it gets quite interesting because you have some very famous and very prevalent ones, like- a legend in the rope community, a man called Yukimura, – he had this very shame-based, very soft tying style- he passed away recently- it’s all about exposure and humiliation, which is lovely.  You’ve got Akira Naka who is all about beautiful suffering, and his students, who have taken it to a new level, like Riccardo Wildties, who I love watching and learning from, is a little bit safer and a bit more Italian, it’s quite slow.   Then if you travel around the world, you’ve got all kinds of different schools, ideas; you’ve got the Russians who do their mental, disposable ties- they take a tie apart in the air, then re-tie it and bring someone back up while they are hanging from a limb- you’ve got the Canadians, who do a whole group of things like Tifereth -she does a whole load of things that are around shame-based humiliation but very intense, you’ve got people who do wonderful decorative rope.  You’ve got people who do wonderful sadistic and slightly mad rope, which I like, and there’s a whole route of different variations.  Like with any artistic school you’ve got the main things that people follow, like Naka and Kinoko,  then you’ve got offshoots from that where people have their own spin on things or ideas, and they take little bits from different people and make it their own.

What do you feel the person being tied gets out of it, in terms of sensation, and what does the person doing the tie feel the reward is?

It depends what people want to get out of the scene.  So if someone wants to be tied, it’s very erotic- you are giving up power, you are giving up control, and that’s just this wonderful feeling of submission.  For other times, the act of being challenged- you are having your body pulled in different ways, and pushed and moved – and you feel that in your muscles and your breathing is restricted- that’s a very exciting experience – and I identify with the erotic tying, definitely- and if you’re tying, obviously receiving someone’s submission is a wonderful feeling and a great sensation, and there’s also the technical piece and the engineering piece which is quite exciting and challenging- figuring out problems as they are in the air – the expertise you are building – you are doing the movement and the connection is the other thing I’d say- the third thing definitely you get, as you are doing the rope as well.

What would you recommend people take a look at?

You can find me on Instagram, that’s were I spend most of my time, along with my lovely tying partner and co-conspirator Mili_ficent.  We teach up in Northampton but we do travel around the country giving workshops so we may be in your neighbourhood, which is very exciting. If you want me to run a workshop on your own get in touch, I’ve travelled around working with local rope groups and independently- next year we are off to Singapore and we are hosting our own intermediate workshop next weekend.  There’s a lot of ways to get me to you and in your neighbourhood.

Do people need to have any special equipment or space?

I guess if you would like a private lesson than it can just be in your living room, that’s fine – if you want to do suspension I have a portable rig, which is awesome.  That gets over that hurdle.  If you are looking to start your own local rope group, then stay away from using the village hall.  Generally parishioners get upset when they find you are doing bondage in their bake-sale hall.  But something like local yoga studios are often very receptive to opening a rope space.  Artist studios are very good.  One of our venues up in Northampton where we teach is a beautiful photography studio, natural light, absolutely gorgeous, with big rafters you are suspended from.  People go from hotels which are usually quite receptive as well.  There’s a few places you can look into if you want to get your local peer rope running.

London is a bit of a mixed scene- some people are very sexual, others are not. The sex-positivity is quite intertwined with the group- lots of polyamorous people, which is really good, but consent underpins all of that play.

Hiigara-Ropes

Do people need to bring a partner to tie or be tied by, or can you come as an individual?

You can come as an individual.  Lots of places are great at welcoming single men, single women, people who are transitioning, single non-binary people, if you are anything, anywhere, people are more than happy to have you come, partnered or otherwise.

I’ve known several men to say they find it difficult to find people who will tie them, either male or female – that men tend to be the riggers, and they tend to prefer to tie women they are attracted to.

That’s a general trend within the kink scene.  There’s a predominance of submissives, or bottom-leaning people, and a slight shortage of tops.  These tops or riggers generally do tend to be men.  That said, the wonderful thing about the current crop of rope people and rope studios is they are doing this wonderful job of helping female riggers and female tops basically strut their stuff and have the same environment to practice and start, and give them the right level of education to do so, which is really good.

If someone is single and looking to find a partner who is a little bit kinky, would going to a rope event be a place that’s likely to lead to a relationship?

It’s one of those things, where if you go in with your eyes open, you will find the kind of relationship you are looking for.  Most of my relationships are now with rope people and I identify as a polyamorous slut, so that’s kind of nice!  It’s definitely possible.  If you expect to go in, pick someone up and then go back and pick someone else up every week, it’s probably not going to work out for you, but you can definitely build good connections with people that mature over time, and you get to know a different side of someone when you are tying them up or they are being tied by you.

Is there a lot of friendship and community?

Absolutely huge.  I’ve made some amazing friends through rope as well as sexual partners, and those relationships have stayed with me since I started over the last five years.  My best friend is another rigger and he’s one of my favourite people in the world.

Absolutely try it.    It’s a wonderful pastime to be involved in

Hiigara-Ropes

Can you go from being a vanilla person who’s never tried anything to being completely into rope, without trying any other kind of kink?

Absolutely.  There are lots of people who identify as ropey people and they don’t do any of the other kinds of kink events in London, then there are people who are very kinky and do all the kink events and may do rope from time to time- there’s a huge cross-over.  It’s a case of ‘Go as deep as you want to go’.

Rope people are vanilla people in different clothing

Hiigara-Ropes

What’s the worst faux pas someone could make going to their first rope event?

That depends on the studio.  I would say definitely, assuming every woman you meet, or someone who is female presenting, is someone who gets tied.  That would be a pretty big one.  Also picking up someone’s rope without asking.

Where to find out more about Hiigara-Rope or book workshops:

Instagram

Email Hiigara Rope (Unicornhunting.blog won’t store your email):

*All images here are used with permission of the owner and are Copyright

*All images are of adults

*All depictions of attire and rope bondage in images are for the purpose of artistic creation of the image and are non-sexual in nature

*All images are created with informed, enthusiastic and continuous consent of all participants

*No persons were harmed in the making of the images

*It is not recommended that you try rope-tying or any other activities in this blog without first seeking instruction and supervision from a qualified professional

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