Guest Post – Shibari: The Art of Connection – Anastasia Suazo

Anastasia Suazo of Voodoo Ropes

In this, the first of our new guest post series, Anastasia Suazo of Voudou Ropes teaches us about Shibari, the Japanese art of rope binding and how it can be experienced through the lenses of art, passion, sex and more.

Anastasia has been practicing Shibari for over seven years, and now offers online courses to teach those who want to practice the sensual art safely and skillfully. We’ve partnered with Anastasia to get you 10% off if you use the code “enjoytheropes” to purchase her class here.

 

 

 

Shibari: The Art of Connection

shibari women tied together

You might have seen people tied up. Maybe it was in a music video, movie, magazine, gallery …. or something more personal. Maybe you’re not “in the scene”; maybe you’re not into BDSM; but you somehow were attracted to the beautiful and mysterious art of rope tying. You don’t have to be into kinks to see, enjoy, or perform shibari. And if you are, we’ll also dive into the reasons to extend your use of shibari past the kink and stereotype.

As an experienced practitioner and teacher, I have explored shibari for over 7 years, weaving my own unique style while guiding others in their quest for self-discovery and connection using this art.

In this article I am going to tell you what shibari can be, what shibari is not, how it overlaps and at the same time stands aside from BDSM, and, of course, why you should try it yourself.  

The History of Shibari

shibari couple

Shibari art comes from Japan and takes its roots from a practice called hojojutsu. This original technique was used by samurai in capturing enemies, keeping them in ropes, and at times torturing them. Not very romantic, I know. Shibari now is pretty different, but you need to know what inspired it. 

Let’s look at the Japanese words first and give a translation.

Shibari 縛り:  the noun comes from the verb shibaru, which means to tie (anything): tie your shoes, for example. The word used more commonly in Japan to refer to the art form is kinbaku 緊縛 – tight binding. The 緊 kin, meaning tight or tough, plus 縛 baku, which means binding – these form the same kanji (character) that is shibari. So shibari, or kinbaku, is the art of tight binding. You can use both words; they are very similar.

The Connection of Shibari

shibari man tied up

So, you tie someone tight: is it shibari? Not necessarily. What defines shibari from bondage is the importance of the process of tying. The process is the journey itself. The goal of tying is not the pretty image or some resulting action. Rather, it is helping the model feel their body, calm the mind and relax, let go of all the unnecessary things. It is pushing their limits and exploring the possibilities.

The process of tying becomes a transformative journey for both the rigger (person doing the tying) and the model or “bunny” (person being tied). As shibari can be done alone, one player can fill both roles. The act of tying becomes an art, a meditation that allows participants to delve deep within themselves and shed unnecessary hindrances.

What makes this possible is the connection that you develop in the process of tying. Tying alone or with someone, you start feeling the connection with the rope and with the person. In the case of self-tying, you feel your own body better and meditate through every inch of it so you can better give love to every part of your body. The rope becomes an extension of your hands, so you can give beautiful sensations to the person you are tying, whether yourself or a partner.

It is important to recognize that the model is actually the leader of the shibari experience. It is the rigger’s job to read their model’s emotions and movements and take action depending on their partner’s state. Riggers don’t randomly tie (or at least they shouldn’t). It may seem that the rigger is dominant, but both partners are equal in rope. If they are not, there is a big risk of being hurt physically or emotionally. 

The most important thing that makes rope tying into shibari is connection. Without connection, you do not have shibari. You can have perfect technique, but if you don’t put care and emotion into tying, it does not elevate from the level of simple knots.

 

The Individuality of Shibari

shibari woman naked tied

As shibari has become more mainstream, you can see more practitioners with their own ideas about it, with different implementations and styles. It can take on various forms: from simply decorative; to the meditative and sensual; and to the sexual or even torture play (predicament bondage). The beauty of shibari lies in its subjectivity, offering practitioners the freedom to express themselves artistically. But one should never forget that initially shibari is an erotic art, and if you completely take away the sensuality, you are probably doing macrame. (Which is ok too if you are doing rope for fashion.) 

A great thing about learning shibari is that when you learn a few basic knots, you can decide in which direction you want to take it. A lot of knots and ties stay the same, but the way you use them may differ.  You can use the same pack of knots for sensual meditative tying or for a fun and playful night: you set the intention and the knots work for you.

To me, shibari is a meditative art that draws from the stillness of time. It provides the opportunity for participants to celebrate their true selves, immerse themselves in their senses, and connect with one another on a spiritual level. When you meditate with rope you concentrate on the body and on the physical sensations, forcing the mind to calm. 

 

How Shibari differs from BDSM

shibari bdsm hands behind back

Shibari does not have to be part of BDSM (which stands for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism, and masochism). And of course it doesn’t have to be painful. If done right, shibari brings no pain (or at least only the amount of desired pain that is pleasurable). 

While shibari shares some connections with BDSM, it is essential to recognize that it isn’t confined to it. Shibari is a more compassionate and artistic practice, emphasizing the emotional and psychological connections between the participants. However, it can bring a lot of physical pleasure, too. 

Shibari and BDSM may intersect for some practitioners who seek the incorporation of power dynamics, dominance, and submission. 

People do use rope in the BDSM play, of course. Just be aware that shibari is much more technically difficult than bondage, so whoever practices it in the BDSM way needs to understand all the risks and be pretty good at it. The feeling of being tied and waiting for something to happen is very sexy for a lot of people. Try this with a person you trust; only then you can fully let go of control when being tied, enjoy the bodily sensations and vulnerability, melt into someone’s arms and take all the pleasure you deserve. From the rigger’s point of view, they will enjoy taking care of their model, getting creative and delivering a new level of emotion and pleasure.

While in shibari practice the model is the leader of the experience, it may differ slightly in the BDSM scene with predicament bondage. In that setting, models go into the scene exactly because they want to feel the edge and the sense of danger; but at the same time, they can only do it with very experienced riggers. Play like this is not for beginners. It is very challenging practically and you need to know a lot about the human body. Ropes can be a great play tool, but you should always be aware of the dangers of it. 

 

Trying Shibari for Yourself

shibari two women

Apart from being a great connecting couple activity, shibari provides a powerful avenue for self-empowerment and creative expression. From the first experience, you may see the potential for shibari to significantly enhance your artistic side, your self-awareness, and the connection and intimacy with your trusted partner.

The process itself is the reward: a chance to connect with your own body, get more intimate with your partner’s, quiet your mind, and experience a profound sense of release.

Shibari is a tool that can open many doors if you let it. If you’re wondering where to start, I offer shibari lessons in both private and group settings, for one partner or both. Additionally, I have a number of both free and paid courses available on my website, starting with shibari safety or all the way to advanced classes with 80+ videos and over 200 pages of explanation. 

Whether you’re curious about the basics, interested in learning advanced tying for art and photography, looking for meditation through ropes, or want to explore the farthest possibilities of sensuality, I have over 7 years of experience teaching shibari for all of these goals. It’s easy to start with one of my free courses, or jump right in with private lessons. 

Let’s go beyond the stereotypes; get to know shibari for yourself.