Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down: What is Shibari?

 
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In Japanese, “Shibari” simply means “to tie”. The contemporary meaning of Shibari describes an ancient Japanese artistic form of rope bondage. The origin of Shibari comes from Hojo-jutsu, the martial art of restraining captives. In Japan from 1400 to 1700, while the local police and Samurai used Hojo-jutsu as a form of imprisonment and torture, the honor of these ancient Samurai warriors required them to treat their prisoners well. So, they used different techniques to tie their prisoners, showing the honor and status of their captured prisoner.
In the late 1800′s and early 1900′s a new form of erotic Hojo-justu evolved, called Kinbaku, the art of erotic bondage. Today, particularly in the west, the art of erotic bondage is typically called Shibari, which is an art of erotic spirituality, not a martial art.

 
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Shibari style rigging creates geometric patterns and shapes with rope that contrast beautifully with the human body’s natural curves. The ropes and their texture provide contrast to smooth skin and curves. In Shibari, the model is the canvas, the rope is the paint and brush, and the rigger is the rope artist. The aesthetic arrangement of ropes and knots on the model’s body in Shibari rigging emphasizes characteristics like sensuality, vulnerability, and also strength. The positioning of knots in appropriate places stimulates pressure points on the body, very similarly to acupuncture techniques and Shiatsu, a form of Japanese massage. Some believe a Shibari experience also stimulates Ki energy flow and transfer.

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In addition to creating beautiful patterns, with rope, body and limb placements, Shibari rigging induces physiological conditions known as “sub space” and “top space”, which are similar to the “runners high” experienced by athletes. A Shibari experience results in an increased level of endorphins and other hormones, creating a trance-like experience for the bottom/model and an adrenaline rush for the Top/rigger. When a Shibari scene is performed with appropriate ambience, these effects are actually visible in the face of the model. The term “rope drunk” is sometimes affectionately used to describe the euphoric condition of the model after a Shibari experience.

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For most practitioners of Shibari, the use of rope bondage does not include an unwilling victim like the “Damsels in Distress” images popular in Detective type magazines. Instead, there is a collaboration between the Shibari artist (the rigger/Top) and the Shibari canvas (the model/bottom) to create a combination of effects including visual beauty, power exchange, helplessness, relaxation, and sub space and top space physiological experiences. Contemporary practitioners of Shibari enjoy creating beautiful still images, live and recorded performance art. Shibari can also be used as a component in BDSM play and an enhancement in sexual activities.
Today, Shibari is heavily influencing all strands of pop culture. Rope can be seen on TV in New Girl (when Jess’ sister ties up Schmidt) and in FKA twigs’ “Pendulum” music video featuring the singer in a spiraling suspension. twigs posted an Instagram Image acknowledging the shibari influence, writing that tying her braids “represent my own self-constraining my own self cause that's how i used to roll until i figured out how that shit is long as hell.” twigs was tied by UK-based shibari artist Dave Rickman, known on the shibari scene as WykD Dave. He’s also tied Lady Gaga. In 2014, a portrait of Gaga tied and suspended was displayed in the Louvre in Paris as part of Robert Wilson’s Living Rooms installation.

 
 

Rope art has definitely worked its way into popular fashion too with shibari-inspired accents appearing on runways and editorials all over the world. Galliano debuted heels with rope binding the ankles in Dior's Spring Couture show, while in 2009 Net-a-Porter were selling a ‘crepe Shibari shift dress’.

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If you are over the age of 18 and curious about this century old art form, we invite you to visit Art of Contemporary Shibari and explore the NSFW Exhibit of world class artists from around the world. SHIBARI Ropes HERE and Instruction Manual HERE.