“Can you teach me rope?”

Disclaimer: The information offered here is of my own personal observations, and should not be taken as the sole/primary source on anything! Rope is acutely dangerous, and it is best learned from experienced local educators in an in-person environment. Consider this information supplemental at best.

This is one question that I’ve been asked a few times at various points in my tenure in the kink scene. There are many responses that I’ve given to this question, but the general answer has usually been along the lines of:

“Sure, I’ll show you some of the things I do know, but I strongly encourage you to checkout these resources for better, more accurate instruction. Oh, and you should tots come out to the “suchAndSuch” event as it’s a great place to start!”

or some other kind of qualified affirmative statement like that.

Butterfly Chest Harness (variation)

The truth is, I likely know more about rope and rope based things than I’ll ever give myself credit for, but I will be the last person to say that I’m sage enough to designate myself a “Rope Teacher”. I’d say I’m more of a “rope education enthusiast”… At any rate, Knowledge sharing is something that I’m totally into in regards to learning about rope, bondage, shibari, kinbaku, and all of the other rope related things! I’ll never not want to blab on about rope things as the exchange of ideas is core to my own personal growth relative to the craft!

“Ok, cool, but can you teach me rope?”

Well, there’s quite a bit of front loading that needs to be done before one jumps into tying rope. I’m gonna assume that there’s a ground zero here, so we’ll start from the top!

1. Consent, Negotiations, And Communication

As with all things kink, everyone involved should be on the same page. Tying is no different. I’ll make a writing later about the topic of “Consent, Negotiations, and Communication”, but for now, here is the core concept: Make sure that everyone involved in the activity is explicitly aware of what will be done, how it will be done, and if there are any “no-gos”. In addition to this, be sure to understand that this process is a two/three/many way street, and it is absolutely CRITICAL that everyone feel comfortable advocating for themselves. You will always be your best advocate as no one can advocate for you better than anyone else!

2. Risk Assessment

This is theoretically a part of the “Negotiation” process, but I wanted to make sure and separate it out here. Here is a cold hard fact: Rope play is acutely dangerous, and thus the risk assessment associated with it NEEDS to be front and center. Rope can cause abrasion/burns, severe nerve damage, long term bruising, lead to stress fractures, dislocate limbs, and even cause asphyxiation leading to death. I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that rope play is acutely dangerous!

Because of the innate risk of rope play, it is of great urgency that all parties involved understand the risks associated. Yes, freak accidents can happen, but the more informed that ALL parties are of the risks involved in rope, the better chance there is for everyone enjoy the activity without fear of injury. This section on risk assessment is here to emphasize that despite rope being a generally slow and meticulous thing, it has many dangers associated with it.

Now, I’ll mention two risks that deserve to be highlighted as they are very easy to overlook when one first dives into the wonderful world of rope play. Those two risks are: Nerves, and Blood Circulation

A. Nerves — The Human body has a number of nerves that everyone needs to be aware of. The more aware you can be, the better! I won’t go into the exact details myself as I’m far from qualified to do so, but I will link an important screenshot, and an important site that will give vital details on Nerves.

Source: https://ropestudy.com/courses/101/lessons/reducing-risk/topic/nerves/

If you’re looking for the cliff notes version of things, then stop that because there is no cliff notes to risk mitigation!… but if you must have some ‘hard-fast’ rule, then it would be this: “Never lay rope directly on a joint.” Joints are by far the most vulnerable parts of our bodies, and that’s where our nerves are usually the most exposed.

B. Blood Circulation — Contrary to what one may initially think, cutting off blood circulation in certain areas of the body for short (10–25 mins) time periods is generally ok. These “certain areas” that I’m referring to are specifically the legs, and the arms. More specifically, I’m not referring to the “neck”. I just want to make sure I’m clear on emphasizing that.

Blood circulation is something to be mindful of while tying as it’s something that the rope top (person[s] tying) cannot directly feel, but the rope bottom (person[s] receiving the tying) can feel. As such, it’s critically important for active communication to be happening between the rope bottom(s) and the rope top(s).

For those with a lighter skin complexion, there may be some visible discoloration. Assuming that things are still within your collective risk profiles, this is generally ok. Note: even though things are generally “ok”, that doesn’t mean that risk profiles should ever be ignored. If someone involved in the scene is not comfortable having or seeing discoloration, then it should be 100% avoided by simply untying the ropes that caused sed discoloration.

My go to source on this is from rvaRope study, but there’s also this additional source from Remedial Ropes that I located that appears to be a bit more direct. Either one seems like a good source for more in-depth and specific information.

3. Fundaments Are Key

Rope can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. That is one part about it that I adore greatly. While it’s tempting to dive right in by looking up a step by step tying guide, it really needs to be stated that there are some consistent core fundamentals within rope that are significantly more important than just patterns. Theoretically, rope has a wide breadth of fundamentals that one can focus on. To simplify things, I’m just going to mention three with a brief explanation.

A. Rope Handling — Rope can be a bit of a pain to manage in general, so getting a grasp (pun intended) on how to handle the rope is a key fundamental. Being able to intentionally lay the working end of your rope without getting things uncontrollably tangled is an important skill to work on building up. Try to remain mindful of it as it can be more challenging than it may appear at times. Additionally, being able to pull rope through without (unintentionally/non-consensually) slapping anyone in the face or giving rope burn are all things that rely on mindful (and sometimes practiced) rope handling.

B. Tensions — During any tie, it is important to have an adequate amount of tension in your lines. ‘Tension’ in this case is defined as the amount of force that your rope has in it. The general fundamental here centers around the idea of having appropriate tensions in all parts of your rope tying as it allows the creation of more intentional ties that will likely be more comfortable (and safe). It should be noted that the words “adequate” and “appropriate” are utilized when speaking about tension. This is because the tensions will likely vary in different parts/sections of a given tie, and that is ok.

Back of Butterfly Chest Harness (variation)

C. Frictions — More commonly referred to as ‘knots’, these are the proverbial ‘glue’ that holds a tie together. Understanding the properties of a particular friction can go a long way towards making sense of a tie and its purpose. Frictions are also fundamental to safe tying as the mechanics of a friction can vary greatly by something as simple as reversing the orientation in-which a friction is tied. Note: I will generally refer to these as ‘frictions’ instead of ‘knots’, as a knot is a friction, but a friction is not necessarily a knot.

“Blah, blah, blah, can you just teach me ties already? “

Let me be perfectly clear: This type of response is the quickest way to get yourself in the doghouse with any competent rope educator (or enthusiast), periodt!

As mentioned before rope play is acutely dangerous! The very concept of laying rope on someone has a multitude of risks associated, risks that can be further exacerbated by the fact that rope has a tendency to be a very slow moving kink. Yes, sure, rope can be quick and dirty, but even then, there are a number of basic concepts that all involved need to actively be aware of at all times!

So, while it is understandable that things seem to be dragging on with line after line of “safety this” and “fundamental that”, it is absolutely necessary that those partaking in rope play have the patience necessary to fully absorb this information as a whole. Rope can be fun, sexy, painful, intentional, connecting, and a whole other slew of other things, but in order to safely reach that apex of enjoyability, everyone must first come to terms with the dangers involved. The tools for mitigating risk boils down to: 1) Understand the risks, 2) Seek knowledge on how to minimize risks, 3) Wield the fundamental concepts in a safe and responsible manner.

Now, I’ll step off my soapbox, and wrap up this writing with a few final points. <steps off soapbox>

“The tying part: Where do I start?”

Photo by Warm Orange on Unsplash

So to finally get to the burning question of “where do I start”, the answer is actually quite simple: You start with the risk assessment and fundamentals. Instead of belaboring the point here, I’ll link you to one of my favorite sites to recommend to folx as a starting point. That site is RVA’s Rope 101. This site is an excellent one to begin your rope journey as it goes into fantastic detail on rope safety and fundamentals. While it is true that this may not be the “sexiest” way to start of your rope tying journey, it should be emphasized that safety in rope is only achieved by all the parties involved having adequate, substantive information on what to look out for.

While it is very true that I’m not going to bother explaining exact tying patterns in this writing, I do want to leave some examples of other resources that can be found out on the web. Some examples that I would feel comfortable recommended based on content offered are the following: Twisted Monk (youtube), Shibari Study (paid site), RiggerCannon (youtube), The Dead Eye (Medium), and The Duchy (Site). I do want to explicitly note that even though I’m listing these sources as “likely good information”, I am by no means endorsing them directly. In fact, of the four that I mentioned, the only two that I would directly throw my full-faith support behind would be Twisted Monk, and Shibari Study.

Well that about wraps up this particular writing. While excitement is welcome to those looking to start tying for the first time, it is quite easy to overlook the key nuances that go into rope. Watching someone tie can make things appear more trivial than they actually are. So if anything, just remember that there are a number of safety considerations and key fundamentals to be mindful of. Master the fundamentals, and you’re off to a fantastic start!

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Warm Orange

Warm Orange

Self proclaimed rope enthusiast. My primary interest is Ground Ties, Predicament Bondage, and Partial Suspensions. Forever student of Shibari and its history.