Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: Complete Shibari by Douglas Kent

Greetings all,

I have been interested in bondage for as many years as I can remember, and in particular, Japanese-style bondage (shibari) for at least the last 10-12 years.

Shibari differs from Western style bondage in many ways, and trying to find books, workshops, or tutorials to learn how to do it has always been a challenge for those here in North America. While there are some very good workshops done by people like Midori, most of the printed material has been in Japanese. The same applies to much of the video material, so trying to learn it on your own can be a challenge. I know, because I have been trying for the last ten years to find some good material.

So you can imagine how excited I was to learn about Douglas Kent's new two- volume set called "Complete Shibari". Not only was it written in English (and by a fellow Canadian to boot!) but also it is specifically intended for both beginner and intermediate riggers. I ordered it a couple of weeks ago, and after a few days it was delivered.

Overall, I have been very impressed.

Both books are soft cover, well bound, and have about 100 pages each. The paper is high quality gloss. Both of my copies were signed by the author and included a very nice business card with a wonderful shibari photo. There is a lavish use of photographs and illustrations throughout both books, not simply to show the beauty of the bindings, but more importantly to provide an excellent visual illustration of how to perform the binding.

Each book also begins with a visual index, a feature that I found very useful. Even if you don't know the Japanese name for a particular binding you can quickly find it via the index.

Volume 1 (Land)

Following the index is an Introduction section that talks about Kent's motivation and philosophy in writing the book. I was happy that he chose to concentrate on the actual mechanics of this bondage technique, rather than spending too much time on the spiritual side of shibari, which would have been a challenge to convey with written words. He also explains the best way to use the book, as well as some of his instructional techniques. For example, he has developed a set of icons for knots, wraps, loops, etc, which are used throughout the book to help the reader understand exactly how the binding has been done. These icons, or building blocks as he calls them, are a very Western systematic approach to the subject, and it works very well indeed.

The Introduction also contains a section on rope safety, which is critical for anyone starting out, and not a bad refresher even for those with experience, particularly the section on risks and their likelihood. There is also a section "Rope bottom's duties" which I feel should be essential reading for anyone who is going to be bound for the first time. In just a few short pages Kent is able to provide a solid foundation of rules and mind-set for the bottom.

There is also a brief section on preparing ropes. It doesn't contain any information on conditioning hemp rope, but that is probably because it is a rather time-consuming task that most people would not be interested in doing (which, of course, I am).

The Introduction section ends with the most important shibari tie, which Kent calls the Box Tie (also known as a chest harness, or a Takate Kote). The name is not really that important. What is important is how well it is shown, and here it is shown very well. Since almost all shibari depends on this binding, it makes sense for it to be placed so early in the book.

A Building Blocks section follows the Introduction Section. Here the author shows how to form knots, frictions, stoppers, loops, vines, etc, and all the other basic techniques required. Illustrations are done both with graphics and photos and are very easy to follow. Icons are introduced to represent the different knots, which come in very handy in the next section. Variants are also shown, which can be used for decorative effects or in situations where the standard approach might not work.

Finally, with the basics out of the way, the book leads into its Forms section. Here we find about seventeen different bondage positions, and how to tie them, pretty much complete. Some of them are for the beginner, while others will require more experience. Some would be quite comfortable for the bottom, while others will be a challenge. Certainly there is enough material to keep most people busy for some time as well as providing some ideas for other variants. I was very happy to see how well the bindings were laid out.

Volume 2 (Sky)

This volume concentrates on suspension bondage. The layout of the book is the same as Volume 1, but contains important information about this more advanced technique. For example, the safety section now discusses the risks of suspension, anchor points for hanging ropes, suspension hardware, etc. And rather than going through a repetition of all the basic building blocks covered in Volume 1(Land), the book adds new knots which will be needed.

In other words, in my opinion Volume 2 is a true sequel to Volume 1 and should not be purchased separately. If you want to purchase Volume 2, make sure you also purchase Volume 1. You will be glad you did, and so will I (and so will Douglas, I expect!).

The suspensions shown are also intended for the beginner and intermediate rigger. And once again there is a great deal of material to try, and variants that can be created.

I am rather looking forward to trying them.

I should also mention that during my review of the books I ran into a couple of questions concerning certain illustrations, and how certain knots were tied. I wrote to Douglas directly and he replied in less than 24 hours. He seemed genuinely interested in answering my questions, and we exchanged a couple of emails over the next few days. He certainly knows his material, and did his best to resolve the problem I was having. In the end, all of my questions were answered.

I really don't have anything bad at all to say about these books. They are well organized, well written, well illustrated, and well designed. I have been reading them over and over, and also practicing some of the bindings. Everything works quite well.

If you are interested in shibari, either as a top or a bottom, I would seriously recommend buying both volumes of Kent's books. While there are many shibari books on the market, they generally only show the final binding with no instructions on how to perform it. The few books that do attempt to give instruction are generally quite poor, relying on the written word to try and explain how the bindings are done, which is a technique that generally fails. Kent's books focus on instruction, and do it well.

So while some more critical reviewers may say that his technique is not "real" shibari, or that it is not "complete", I personally welcome these two books to my collection. I think Douglas Kent has put together an excellent technical primer for those interested in shibari, which still provides enough sophistication to satisfy those of us who considered ourselves serious amateurs. His approach is novel and effective.

As far as the spiritual side of shibari…well, all I can suggest is that you try some of these bindings on your submissive and see what happens. You won't be disappointed.

Be seeing you,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More on honesty

Greetings all,

An email from a reader brought an interesting question, as a follow-up to my previous post. With her permission I am sharing it, as well as my reply.

I mean, if for example, she was seriously ticked off with you about something you did, would you really want her to explain it to you? Would you consider it "lying by omission" if she didn't, if she said everything was fine? Or would you think it would be better to just drop the whole thing and try to move on?

With girls whom I have trained, or who know me well, I have a great deal of trust. One aspect of the way this manifests itself is by trusting them to know when they should bring something to my attention, and when they should not. However, this only applies to well-trained girls. When I am working with a new girl I pretty much require her to tell me everything related to my interaction with her. And in particular, if she were to tell me everything was "fine" when it clearly was not, I would consider it a lie requiring punishment. Perhaps not the first time, but certainly I would not tolerate this sort of behavior more than once, if that.

Of course, I do not scene a great deal, and I know that frequently there is no formal relationship. As such, I cannot make any demands on my scene partners to be honest, trusting, etc. They will do as they like. Frankly, if the scene is casual, and I will only be seeing my partner a single time, I really don't care all that much. I am not her Master, Owner or Therapist. OTOH - if I were scening with the same partner on a regular basis (a type of relationship which I call "playing with a toy"), then I would require some basic ground rules.

Finally, if a scene ended badly (whatever that means), I might be interested in learning what went wrong, again depending on the nature of the relationship. For example, in the early days with one of my girls some scenes did go quite badly, and I ended up hurting her both emotionally as well as physically. I spent quite a bit of time learning what I had done wrong, because of my motivation to keep my girl. OTOH - with those whom I was only going to scene a single time… well, if they don’t have a good time, it’s not really my problem. I generally make that pretty clear up front.

As a general rule I do not advise a new girl to "just drop it and forget about it". This does not promote good interaction. Later on perhaps it would be acceptable if she stayed silent, assuming the girl really understands the consequences of not speaking up, but in the beginning it is a recipe for problems

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Truth, Honesty, and Privacy

Greetings all,

I received an email from a reader who asked the following question:

"In one of your older ones (posts) you talk about training girls and checking up on them to make sure they're honest to you. My question is what constitutes a lie to you? Is it out right lying or the sin of omission as well. And if the later is one you consider a lie? How then does a sub know what is important to you if new? I'm not sure I understand privacy vs honesty however if I was being trained. Opening myself up like a open book isn't realistic at first."

I consider it a lie when someone is knowingly and deliberately dishonest with me. In particular, when the motivation for telling the lie is negative, such as shame, fear, anger, etc.

Therefore regardless if I am told the lie, or if someone chose not to speak when they should have, it is still a lie in my book.

In general, I do not tolerate lying from any girl, and consider it grounds for an immediate termination of the relationship, although I have been known to forgive a girl under special circumstances.

I appreciate that this requirement can place extra stress on a girl, especially near the beginning of the relationship. Unsure of what should, or should not, be discussed, some girls tend to want to reveal everything; other girls tend to clam up, unwilling to open their mouths for fear of saying the wrong thing. Beginnings are dangerous. Fortunately, I tend to tolerate honest mistakes in girls rather well, so long as they learn from their mistakes. This way, over time they can discover when they should be volunteering information and when they shouldn't be making assumptions.

Normally though, I tend to give a new girl a fairly rigid set of disciplines so she is not forced to make too many assumptions, although many girls still do, I'm afraid.
Privacy vs. Honesty: Privacy is the right of an individual to maintain certain information in a confidential state. Honesty, in this context, means that one's words and actions must be truthful.

The conflict between these two is what happens when a girl is asked a question that she would prefer to keep private. Obviously she can't lie, because that would be dishonest, so she can't give a "made up" answer, and she can't say "she doesn't know".

She could ask for permission not to answer, but her Dominant might command her to do so, and then she doesn't have any choice at all. In fact, unless it has been previously negotiated that in certain areas she may retain her privacy, in general she is not allowed any privacy.

Now, some submissives may be concerned that the revelation of information might damage the relationship. Certainly this is a valid concern, but it does not give the submissive permission to lie. Instead I would suggest that the revelation of "difficult" information is a test not only for the submissive, but also for the Dominant. How will he react? Does he handle it in a responsible manner, or does he lose self-control? To a certain extent, a Dominant should never ask a question unless he is prepared to hear the answer.
But the choice does not belong to the submissive. It belongs to the Dominant.

I understand the challenge of revealing one's privacies to another. This is why a submissive must get a good sense of the Dominant before entering into a formal relationship. This is why I believe a Dominant must extend honesty and trust first, if there is to be any expectation of it being returned. But given a formal relationship, and the requirement for honesty, the submissive has no choice. She must respond to all questions honestly and to the best of her ability.

Anything less is an insult to the relationship.

Be seeing you.

Cross Purposes via RSS. Subscribe now!

Lijit Search