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Wiki

Shibari

By Bellesa Team

Shibari is the contemporary name for Kinbaku, the art of Japanese rope bondage. In Japanese, “shibari” means “to tie.” Shibari involves one person tying up another in rope knotted in intricate and aesthetically beautiful patterns to bind or suspend them. The aim of this bondage art can be esthetic beauty, erotic pleasure, or both.

While shibari is a commonly used name for this practice, kinbaku (“kin” meaning “tight” and “baku” meaning “restraint”) is the more precise and preferred name in Japan, as kinbaku refers not only to intricate rope tying for binding and suspension, but doing it with the express purpose of artistry and eroticism. It also implies an emotionality and beauty to the art form.

Shibari is often associated with BDSM, where sexual activities can and often do involve phsyical or psychological restraint. While it can be erotic and sensorially invovled, it is not always a sexual experience or exchange. Many people practice shibari as a form of artistic expression.

Origin and History

Shibari likely originated from Hojōjutsu (“restraining rope technique”), a traditional Japanese martial art practice for restraining one’s captives. Prior to the later invention of handcuffs, cord or rope was used by police and samurai to bind and torture prisoners. 

Because the samurai way of life emphasized dignity and honor, they treated their prisoners with this in mind. When binding the captives, a degree of artistry through the knots tied was employed in order to honor them and display any status they may have held.

Despite this history tracing back hundreds of years, the modern practice of kinbaku was not developed until the early 20th century and only grew in popularity in the latter half of the century. The word shibari later joined Western vernacular in the 1990s to describe bondage rope art of this style.

Modern Shibari

Contrary to its origins in punishment, torture, and imprisonment, the aim of modern shibari is esthetic and erotic pleasure. 

The art focuses on creating intricate patterns with knots in the rope, arranged in such a way that juxtaposes the curves and bare skin of the body. The rope work can be done completely on the floor, known as a Floor Tie, or can include suspending the model above the floor, referred to simply as a Suspension.

It typically involves two people. The person doing the tying, known as the “rigger” or “rope top” after their more dominant role in the dynamic, and the person being tied, known as the relatively more submissive “rope bottom”, “model”, or “rope bunny”. For some, these roles are fixed. For others, they may switch roles within their relationship or when they are practicing with different people. It can also be performed without a partner. A Self-Tie is when an individual performs the tying on themself.

Safety and Risks

Like any form of partner play, trust and communication between partners is crucial to the enjoyment and safety of everyone involved. A good rigger will pay attention to the cues, both verbal and non-verbal, from their model, take care to avoid main vessels and cut off circulation in a potentially dangerous way. Establishing a safeword prior to roping up, checking in regularly, and having an aftercare plan in place can help keep everyone safe through the entirety of the act. 

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