A number of weeks ago I was contacted by Esinem (aka Bruce) to ask if I would be interested in reviewing his new shibari instructional video Japanese Rope Bondage Volumes 1 & 2. Naturally I agreed. Bruce and I belonged to a shibari forum on Yahoo for a number of years. He would post photos of his performance work which always impressed me for both their technical excellence and his obvious passion.
He has also studied with some of the great names in the world of modern day shibari and kinbaku, such as Osada Steve, Arisue Go, and others. I was very interested to see how he would adapt their techniques to the West, and try and impart the knowledge via video.
In short, he has done a very good job of it.
The package consists of two DVDs, appropriately labeled as Volume 1 and 2.
The first DVD covers the basics (which I will discuss later on in this review), while the second builds on the knowledge acquired to create some of the more foundational shibari bindings such as the box tie (takate-kote) and related variants (including an interesting reverse box), ebi (or shrimp) tie, plus an introduction to safety ropes, floor based suspensions, etc. Full suspensions are not covered. They are much too dangerous for the novice and more properly belong in the realm of performance. The bindings presented are intended for private sessions to enhance the erotic interaction between participants.
This last point deserves some additional comments. One of the things I enjoyed about the DVDs was listening to Bruce discuss shibari, and watching his tying style, was how the powerful erotic dynamic is demonstrated. Even when he is in the middle of a tutorial, one can sense the energy exchange between himself and his model. Rather than being simply mechanical, it is evident that the rope becomes a conduit of communication. I couldn’t help but notice how even when he was doing something as simple as reviewing the basic form of a two column tie, that his model would often close her eyes and sway at the intensity of the experience. Both discs also contain a number of complete demonstrations, showing the entire bondage session from start to finish with a variety of both male and female models. Not only does this provide useful examples of how the various wrappings and ties can be layered, to create an almost endless variety of forms, but also how the experience is profound and meaningful for both the rigger and model.
Now, to the DVDs themselves.
The DVD begins with a section explaining Bruce’s motivation in creating the DVDs and how they are to be used. There is a lovely relaxed informality to these sections, which sets the viewer at ease as the other sections are approached. It seemed clear to me that this is less about making money, and rather more about sharing of his own knowledge and experience so that as many people as possible might experience both the beauty and power of Japanese bondage, and perhaps come to share his own passion.
There is an excellent section on safety, one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen in any shibari-related book or video. Of particular interest were the sections on nerve damage, things to watch out for, being careful of joints, and techniques to communicate issues without having to use words. Even for those who have some experience in rope work, I strongly recommend watching this section in its entirety. I learned a great deal, even though I have been doing rope work for well over 15 years.
I also appreciated the section on rope preparation and maintenance. While it is of course possible to purchase prepared rope (which he sells), there is something very satisfying in preparing your own. I must admit that even though I have had a preference for hemp in the past, I believe he may have convinced me of why jute may be even more desirable. I will certainly have to check this out soon!
The next few sections cover the most basic ties and wraps in shibari: the one and two column ties, tying a limb to itself, and a variety of techniques for dealing with excess rope. Each section consists of a number of parts which cover a basic discussion on how and why the form should be used, basic construction, step by step analysis, plus additional sub-sections on things to look out for, variants, etc. These are shown from different angles, very well lit, so you can see exactly what is happening. What makes these instructions especially valuable are many of the subtle, non-obvious, details which are highlighted, such as knot placement, hand position, tying from both the front and back, etc. Even something as simple as moving from the front to the side of a model when binding the wrists has many benefits.
While I was tempted to skip these basic sections, I was glad I did not. Once again I learned a great deal. In fact, I had my favourite rope model with me as I watched these videos for the second time, and I must have spent close to 30 minutes simply tying and re-tying the two column tie according to the instructions, learning the benefits over the technique I had been using up until now. For those of you who decide to purchase the DVDs, I would suggest you pay particular attention to the use of the left and right hand, how the rope is held, and how it is passed at different points in the tying. Bruce has an amazingly smooth flow (not surprising given his many years of practice) which appears deceptively simple until you try it yourself.
I’ve been walking around with a short piece of rope these days performing one and two column ties on almost everything I see!
The first DVD concludes with a video of a binding session from start to end. There is no commentary nor is any required. It provides an example of what is possible using the simple techniques shown. However, to really appreciate the video one must then turn to the second volume
This volume starts in much the same way as the first. A brief description is given, including the motivation, and how it should be used. This is followed by a safety section which is an exact copy of the version in Volume I. If you watched it in Volume 1 you can probably skip it, but you may want to review it again, especially the section on nerves, joints, and things to watch out for.
As might be expected, the first form covered is the box tie (takate-kote). Bruce shows a fairly standard variant, and then includes a number of different alternatives depending on how much rope is available, or how decorative one wishes the binding to become. Of particular interest is the section on “things to watch out for” which shows a number of areas of the form where special attention is required, for example how best to avoid nerves, straightening the stem, etc.
After two or three variants are shown, the next position (or form) demonstrated is the captive, or shrimp (ebi). This is a very challenging position for many models, and Bruce speaks at length about how to be safe. Still, it is a very pretty form, and has many erotic possibilities. Lovely stuff really.
From here the DVD covers the use of safety ropes and some floor based, or partial, suspensions. This is where a single limb may be elevated, or the torso may be somewhat elevated off the ground while the feet remain on the floor. This form of shibari has many possibilities and it is unlikely that the novice, or even the intermediate rigger will grow bored or run out of ideas.
Speaking of intermediate I think it is important to point out that Volume II is not really designed for Intermediate level riggers, but rather continues on the foundations created in Volume I. However, it will certainly be of interest to people who consider themselves intermediate (such as myself). I learned a great deal, much of it subtle and nuanced about how certain of the basic forms should be constructed. I cannot overemphasize how valuable this was to my own techniques, and I have already started incorporating much of this into my sessions. For example, how to use the finger as a “crochet hook” to pull a rope through the binding with a minimum amount of difficulty. I know I will be watching this disc over and over again. There is a great deal to learn, not about advanced forms, but rather to make sure my basic techniques are the best they can be. My rope model has mentioned to me how much more comfortable she is now finding my bindings, as well as how the flow of my rope work has improved in a short time.
The DVD concludes with three videos of Esinem binding a variety of models, all of which are worth watching in detail.
So in the end, would I recommend this DVD set? Yes I would. It certainly is an excellent introduction to the subject and covers pretty much everything a beginner might want to know to get started. And, as I mentioned above, the intermediate rigger will also find a great deal of valuable tips and techniques. I think it represents a useful addition to the collection of English-based instruction on shibari, and I think Esinem (aka Bruce) should be thanked for taking the time and effort in putting it together.
Thank you, Bruce. I can’t wait for the next installment.
Copyright Mackenzie Cross 2012
All rights reserved
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Long lived triads
A common sexual fantasy for many men and women is “the threesome”. While the composition of participants may vary, the fantasy itself is generally the same – an evening of sexual delight and bliss exploring erotic positions and activities not achievable with only two participants. There is no need to detail the myriad of possible combinations. The porn industry and your own overactive imagination have done a much better job of developing the taxonomy of these threesomes than I ever will.
Yet for many who actually have the opportunity of being with two other partners at the same time, the reality of the experience is often far less erotic and sensual than their fantasy. IMO – much of this has to do with the fact that many of us find it a challenge to be perfectly at ease when there are three participants. Sex is intimate and personal, and when there is an emotional mismatch between the participants (i.e. if I am very close to one partner but not the other) it becomes a challenge to maintain a balance.
Many, if not most, threesomes are comprised of a couple and a “third wheel”. The couple may be involved in a long term relationship and might simply be looking for a third person to add a little “spice” to their sexual activities. This is not generally a problem if the threesome will only be together for a single night, but what if a longer-term relationship is being considered? Such a possibility represents a potential minefield of emotional and sexual dangers. Given the current rates of divorce, one can only assume that the addition of a third party, and the increased complexity of the social dynamics, will make the viability of the relationship very difficult indeed. For example, one party may feel jealousy, another might feel envy, another might feel insecure, another may feel alienated, etc. So while the sex may be great, the potential emotional damage is substantial, so much so that I believe most people avoid even the discussion of a triad in the context of a long-term commitment.
Even in polyamorous relationships these complexities are rampant. And while we don’t really have any statistics to help us understand how well these relationships work out, I can’t help but feel that most of them do not succeed, or do not reach their full potential.
Of course, some threesomes (and moresomes) do succeed. Certain religions allow for polygamy, which at least superficially gives the illusion of long-term viability. But even here I suspect there are many issues and problems. We just don’t get to see them. Or, put another way, when any of the participants in such a relationship feel trapped, it is nonetheless likely they will stay in the relationship, even if they are not being satisfied by it.
It sounds as if the deck is seriously stacked against any threesome (or triad) succeeding. Very few of them ever make it past the first one-night stand, and even when they do, it is mostly about sex.
My belief is that the D/s dynamic may hold the key to making this sort of relationship work. The nature of a D/s relationship seems to provide the ethical and behavioral foundations on which to base a viable and long-lasting triad.
Segue: I prefer to use the word triad, rather than threesome. As I explained in my previous blog entry, I define a triad as three people that work as a unit. I believe this best describes the sort of relationship I am speaking about.
Those who have read my writings know that I consider honesty, trust, and obedience to be the critical requirements I demand from a Submissive and that for a Dominant I consider honesty, trust, and responsibility to be critical.
Obedience on one side, responsibility on the other. Can these somehow provide guidance to making a triad successful? Beyond this, can the Submissive’s desire to serve and be found pleasing, and the Dominant’s desire to control and develop, somehow provide a solid framework on which a triad can flourish? Good questions. I will let you know as soon as I find out! However, what I can tell you, based on my experiences to date, is that the answer to both questions seems to be “Yes”.
The Submissive will obey, which means that she will stay in the triad even at the cost of her own emotional well-being. This must therefore be balanced by the responsibility of the Dominant to protect the Submissive, which can be a challenge (as in my case) if the triad consists of two Submissives and a single Dominant. Firstly, there is a natural desire to enjoy the service of two females. The sexual possibilities become broader, and of course there is the ego gratification of having two beauties at one’s disposal. Also, it is possible that the Dominant may become obsessive about the new female, and therefore become less sensitive to the emotional state of the other girl.
Vigilance is therefore mandatory. As the primary control in the relationship, the Dominant cannot allow his desire to overcome his responsibility. Difficult decisions may be required; decisions that may not please him, but still must be taken. At a minimum he needs to maintain a constantly open and honest communication with both Submissives. This will be a challenge for all parties. The payoff will not only be a more viable relationship, but the service of two girls who can focus all of their attention on being pleasing, rather than being distracted by negative energy and thinking.
Balance is also critical. Each participant will have different needs and desires. Often these will be in conflict and satisfying them may seem impossible. Yet, it can be done. The key seems to be in allowing empathy to develop between the participants. Each must recognize the needs of the other, and in so doing, be willing to make compromises. Compromise is inevitable, but the Dominant must be aware that the Submissives may appear to accept the compromise when in reality all they are doing is trying to please him at the expense of their own emotional well-being. Again, open communication is the key to avoiding this pitfall.
Bottom line: It is now my belief that long-lived triads are viable. They can be made to work, but it requires dedication, trust, empathy and understanding. Furthermore, I believe that the D/s lifestyle may provide an excellent foundation for the creation of viable triads, but the responsibility for their maintenance is mostly in the hands of the Dominant(s). For those seeking to achieve this balance they must be prepared for a fair amount of emotional challenges before balance is achieved, but there is a tremendous payoff when it does.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Over the years many submissive women have given me some idea of what they find sexually attractive in a man. Interestingly, their notion of sexiness seems to change over time. In the beginning, they mostly look at physical appearance. In particular, they are attracted to men who are both tall and powerfully built. This makes sense to me since size can often convey a sense of dominance. I call this sort of attraction the “Biker Appeal” since more often than not these women seem to be attracted to the whole biker mystique – bad boys who do what they want, when they want, without giving a fuck about anyone else. In fact, the fantasy of being gang-raped by a biker gang is quite common (or so it seems…I have heard it more than a few times).
As the female submissive develops, she slowly comes to realize that this sort of appeal is only skin deep, and that physical size alone does not guarantee that a man will be dominant. In fact, there is probably no correlation at all. Hence, imo, there are many failed relationships, as the submissive discovers she needs more than an appearance of dominance, and ultimately she goes looking for it elsewhere.
At this point, there are many directions she can go in search of someone who can satisfy her need to submit. Some may look for experienced “players” whom they find at the various BDSM parties and conventions. Others may get recommendations from friends. Others look for it via an online experience on websites such as Second Life. There are many ways to go, each with their pros and cons, in the search for a dominant partner.
In my own case, many women have told me that they find intelligence to be sexy (which is a good thing since I don’t look anything at all like a biker!). I understand this as well. Since sexual arousal is so much of a mental thing, it makes sense that intelligence could be viewed as being sexy, particularly when that intelligence can be used to both provoke the submissive response as well as keep a girl in her place.
Of course, I have also been told that my voice is quite sexy as well. If you want to find out for yourself if this is true, try downloading a recording of me reading one of my stories. Then you can decide for yourself.
So there appears to be many things women find sexy in men. I would like to suggest another that I feel is particularly appropriate when it comes to a D/s relationship, namely self-control. By this I mean the ability of the male Dominant partner to avoid reacting impulsively, to control his emotions instead of the other way around, and to never allow any behavior on the part of the submissive to cause him to lose control of his responses.
In other words, someone a submissive can trust, not only to control her, but to control himself as well.
Why is this sexy? Well, firstly, what would be the major concern that any submissive might have during even the briefest of sessions with a Dominant? I would suggest it would be trust. After all, if you are going to consent to be bound, restrained, and placed in a fully vulnerable and open position, you would probably want some assurance that you were in the hands of someone you could trust to be responsible.
Beyond this, many of the masochistic Submissives I have met have a special fantasy about provoking their Dominant to lose control. I call this “playing with fire”. They know it is dangerous, and yet they do it. It has to do with a desire to see the inner beast in their Master. In most cases this would be a bad idea, but it doesn’t stop them from trying. Here we can see self-control is sexy because a) they can play their provocation games as much as they want in complete safety and b) they find it very stimulating to keep trying to do so.
Self-control is also sexy because it conveys a sense of discipline, which is generally always attractive to a submissive.
Also, in the same way that there is something sexy about a naked bound girl at the feet of a well-dressed man (suit and tie, of course), so too there is something very sexy about a girl screaming out of control as she is being worked, while her partner stays cool, calm and aloof. Or so I have been told.
And here is the crux of the matter: while things like appearance, voice, and intelligence may be sexy, these qualities are not unique to D/s. Self-control, otoh, while important in vanilla relationships, is absolutely critical in the Dominant partner of a D/s relationship.
Which is why I believe that self-control is very sexy indeed.