Shibari FUNdamentals: Rope 101

THIS ENTRY WAS POSTED ON September 26, 2023 BY Jamie Joy.

Where did Shibari come from?

Before we jump in, Queen SanTana emphasizes the importance of knowing the history of Shibari before touching any rope. Shibari is a Japanese verb meaning “to tie” or “to bind” and is an ancient art. The way that Shibari was utilized in Japanese culture began as a form of torture used to restrain captives. Over time, the practice of Shibari evolved to become more erotic, which spread across the world!

What rope do I use?

Many people feel overwhelmed with starting their rope bondage journey because there are so many options to choose from. Do not stress! We are here to help break it all down for you. This next section will help you understand the different types of rope as well as the pros and cons of each.

Natural fiber rope consists of jute, hemp, cotton, silk, sisal, manila, linen, coconut, and bamboo/rayon. All of these types of rope will grip well onto the body as well as itself, which is great for beginner tying. Cotton, Silk, and Bamboo/Rayon are the softer materials of the natural fiber ropes while Hemp and Jute can be rougher to the touch. The downside of natural fiber rope is that they are not great in high-moisture environments, as they can easily rot and lose a lot of their strength when wet.

Try these natural fiber ropes to get started:

Funfetti Rainbow Bondage Rope
Funfetti Rainbow Bondage Rope


Bamboo Silk
Japanese Style Bondage Rope
Japanese Style Rope

Cotton
Kink Bind & Tie Initiation Kit 5 Piece Hemp Rope
Kink Bind & Tie Hemp Rope Set


Hemp

Nylon Rope

Synthetic rope consists of nylon, MFP/polypropylene, polyester, POSH, etc. Nylon is very strong, soft, stretchy, machine-washable, slippery with little grip, and not suited for beginners. MFP/polypropylene is slightly less strong, stiffer, floats in water, UV resistant, machine-washable, with little grip. 

Scandal BDSM Rope

Polyester has similar strength as MFP and is also stiffer, machine-washable, and with less grip / stretch. POSH and other forms of synthetic “natural fiber” are moderately strong, look natural, machine-washable, have better grip than the rest, and are generally lighter.

If you prefer tying with synthetic rope, try out these options:

Nylon RopePolyester Rope

Typical rope lengths in the Western world are 30 feet while rope in the Eastern world are likely to be sold in 7 meters. When you are deciding which length rope to work with, 10ft, 15ft, or 30ft are all great options.

Rope width is another factor to consider. Most common are 6mm or 8mm in thickness. Some ropes can come much smaller for more tortuous ties, decorative ties, or for smaller body parts like fingers and feet. But those thinner ropes are more advanced so stick to 6mm as a beginner.

Note: all machine-washable rope can be thrown in the wash on a delicate cycle with a light detergent. When you put your rope in the wash, make sure to put it in a pillowcase or mesh bag and not mix your natural fiber and synthetic rope. All rope must be hung and air dried - never put rope into the dryer!

Rope Safety

Public Safety Help GIF

Queen SanTana considers rope bondage to be one of the most risky forms of kinky play, which is why understanding the risks is key. The most common type of injury in rope bondage is nerve damage and nerve compression, which occurs when rope puts excessive pressure directly on a nerve. Because nerves control all our sensations and movement, this type of injury can be anywhere from mildly annoying to seriously debilitating. The most common symptoms of nerve compression are tingling and numbness, like when your foot falls asleep from sitting on it. Nerve compression can also feel like sharp pain, itching, burning, or coldness.

The best way to mitigate the risks of nerve compression is by making sure that you can place at least one or two fingers in between the rope and the skin so that the rope is not too tight. And of course, communicate, communicate, communicate! Check-ins during rope bondage are crucial to ensure that the person being tied up is feeling good.

Utility Scissors

Queen Santana also suggests avoiding ties near and around joints such as the wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. You can also avoid bulky knots that might dig into the skin. While tying parts of the body that involve the upper limbs, monitor motor functions like opening and closing hands. Her favorite tip to mitigating risks is caressing the person being tied (or yourself if self-tying) in order to keep blood flow circulating. Understanding anatomy will make you better at practicing rope safely, which will improve your skills whether you are tying or being tied.

Think you’re ready to jump in? Just wait! The last thing you need is a basic rope bag / kit. Being prepared is sexy so don’t forget the essentials: safety shears to cut the rope if necessary, Ibuprofen in case of a rope injury, and water/snacks for nourishment.

Rope Glossary

Let’s discuss some terms that we will use while describing each tie:

Band - one or more pieces of rope across the body

Bight - the center of the rope when it is folded against itself; any loop of rope created by folding it against itself

Cuff - two or more wraps, usually around a wrist, ankle, or leg

Friction - any point where the rope is held in place by crossing on itself

Harness - any pattern of rope tied in a way that is designed to hold the body and support its weight

Hitch - a method for attaching one rope to another

Working End or Running End - the part of the rope you are actively tying with

Tension - how tight the rope is pulled and/or applied to the body

Beginner Ties

So now you know the history, understand the risks, and you’ve got the vocabulary down. Time to pull out that rope and learn some ties!

Lark’s Head

How to tie a larks head knot

We will start this knot by finding our bight. The way that we find our bight is by connecting the two ends of our rope together and then running your hands across the rope. Most fundamental ties will start with the bight.

Wrap the rope around the part of the body that you want to tie with the bight on one side and the working end on the other. Pull the working end all the way through the loop of the bight and tighten it. If you pull it towards one side, you will feel it tighten. If you pull it towards the other side, you will feel it loosen. Queen SanTana says this is your first lesson on counter tension!

Single Column Tie