Thursday, October 25, 2012

A review of Esinem's Japanese Rope Bondage DVD Volumes 1 & 2

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.

Volume 1

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

Volume II

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

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