This is a guestblog by a fellow rope-maniac who was fortunate enough to bank a couple of days training with Osada Steve in the Copenhagen Shibari Dojo.
Here is Sauvage’s report:
You know it’s going to be a heavy week when you start with one hour’s sleep. Early flight, up at 4am. Blue_entropy, bunny extrordinaire, is insane and worked until 3am but shows no hint of tiredness. She finds that last sentence amusing. And that one after.
We’re staying in a B&B apartment in a suburbian utopia in Copenhagen. People don’t close their gates, kids play in their front gardens, cycle lanes are divided from the main roads. It’s nice here.
After stocking up with food and having a couple of hours shut-eye, we decided to head down to the shibari dojo a little early so that we could make friends and soak up the atmosphere before starting.
Everyone is so extremely personable and modest. The atmosphere is one of a family. I mentioned Ve, who has visited the dojo twice from what I understand, and everyone clearly has fond memories of her charm and enthusiasm.
We bumped into Osada Steve walking into the venue. Personable, he and everyone else put me at ease. I’m not sure people knew exactly what to make of me and Blue_entropy, because everyone else was a member of the club there already, was Danish, they all knew each other, and Osada Steve commented on how young we were: “it’s good to have new young blood learning”.
The standard of the dojo members is extremely high, and their modesty equally impressive. Imagine a room full of nawa_konekos. Ehrm, and me flailing about.
Today the dojo members wanted to check I met minimum standards for Osada Steve to teach us. One member in particular, Attila, kindly spent most of the day with me. Given that they wanted to check I knew the two-rope Takate-Kote, and single limb and double limb ties, I wasn’t too worried.
But oh my god is there an infinite amount of detail involved in tying all the possible elements of the Takate-Kote correctly. I’ve tied it probably at least a hundred times in play and previous tuition combined so I thought I would be ok, but every fine detail of tension, distance between ropes, how to keep control of a struggling partner while tying it, etc. was covered.
To not touch ropes for a couple of months, get one hour sleep, feel a bit like the baby odd one out and to be the only one who wasn’t already a qualified known in the school, and tie with Osada Steve sensei’s exacting eye on every move was, well, a challenge. But what’s life for if you don’t rise to these occasions?
It was a challenge and a taste of how high-calibre the week to come will be. I amjust (just) passable enough in rope skills to not completely drown in these lessons. I hope. And the roughness and great tension in the tying would be a big deal for any bunny – I was surprised at how tight the ties were supposed to be done.
Shattered, going to sleep now.
In theory it would be technically accurate to say that I tied Osada Steve today. However, this would be missing out crucial detail: he was teaching us how to ‘capture’ struggling partners, how to stand in a way that protects our balls from getting kicked, how to shift them off-balance.
So after we practised the technique for a while, he singled me out and told me to try to capture him. Ah.
He’s 6-foot something and trained to an advanced level in aikido. Ah.
Well, I started trying to wrap around his wrist with the first move, doing what he taught me, as he danced around the room making sure I couldn’t approach him from the angle I wanted.
There was a moment where we were both just grinning at each other as we acknowledged that he wasn’t going to make this easy for me. I finally managed something passable when he eased up a little, after a few simulated elbows to my face to highlight my lapses. Remind me not to try to tie large world-renowned senseis trained in martial arts in the near future though.
Today was on the whole much easier than yesterday, sleep and practice probably helped. I’ve worn the skin off my right index finger, which will make the remaining three days interesting. My existing knowledge is benefiting from the extra details that make it all more fluid and efficient, and today’s material overlapped enough with what I was already familiar with to feel comfortable most of the time…
…Except when chasing Osada Steve around the dojo.
Tomorrow we’ll start some suspension, although today already covered some vertical technique. Looking forward.
Eye-opening. Mind-blowing. Life-changing?
So many thoughts, so much to spill onto a page…
Friday, Day 3, marked the arrival of the second rope bunny, who for the purposes of this blog I will refer to as Little Miss Awesome, and the bruised Blue_Entropy took a much-deserved chill-out day.
With one hour of sleep, Little Miss Awesome was indeed awesome as we did a fair amount of side suspension amongst other things. Far less nervous than at the beginning, I began to appreciate that I was of a comparable skill level to the other students and no one was judging me. Sometimes I fiddled with details of forms that were new to me, and this occasionally led to bunny boredom which led to wriggling free, which (temporarily) confirmed Osada Steve’s perception that all English girls struggle and wriggle. By the end of Day 3 I’d cemented many of the details I’d learnt earlier this year, I was pleased to learn Osada Steve’s 3rd rope to the Takate-Kote, and we were moving into unfamiliar territory.
Day 4 (Saturday) was a free practice day with much messing about, and I managed the yokozuri side suspension with more success. I’ll still need to practice with heights, tension and speed. Little Miss Awesome read me like a book and did her best to get me to focus on her and not the ropes. I still have the scratch-marks. A theme that persistently came out of this was that the tying is 90% about your partner and 10% about the rope. The more fluid and automatic the technical details become, the more you can express yourself and connect. Driving a car becomes more fun once you can change the gear without thinking about it. Although tied up, Little Miss Awesome was as important a teacher to me as Osada Steve in conveying feelings and energy. For all her vices, she reads people, and this is so important. I feel so impaired in this at the moment, jittery, hopefully just a temporary phase as the PhD thesis closes.
Day 5 was the most enjoyable… especially after the change in spirit from the night before (more below). One of the hojo-jutsu ties was elegant while laced with meaning in Japanese culture of a guilty prisoner in a judicial trial. Osada Steve gave me a lot of time and attention as he saw my eyes light up with the options presented by a series of rather simple ankle/foot ties. It can be used to just keep your partner’s leg up in the air as she lies on the ground, presenting a humiliating position, and presents options to play with the rope and her shape as a toy, but it can also be used for inverted suspension, and even presents a lot of opportunities for progressions in suspension. I can imagine using these related ties a lot, in play and even in performance if I ever move on to that. Little Miss Awesome is lean, strong and acrobatic, so we moved on to inverted suspensions. For one of the ties, she started relatively flat, and in one sweeping tug she was propelled with her feet close to the ceiling, just suspended by her feet. It’s fucking satisfying to tug the suspension ropes until you’re lying flat on the ground, and provide the kind of dynamic ‘top gear’ moment of rapid change that Hajime Kinoko was saying adds variation and interest to his sessions and performances. Then we swung her around to much “weeee!” It entered the world of fast dynamic fluid progression, and confident stimulation and experience to the partner, that I want to explore further.
Osada Steve insisted that I stay in touch with Little Miss Awesome as she is actually quite talented and would make a good performer. And the words of praise and attention that Steve had for me were encouraging; he said a number of times that he feels people like me are the future.
The Copenhagen Shibari Dojo
It’s the people that make a place.
And that’s why the Copenhagen Shibari Dojo is one of the best places in the world. The level of talent is extremely high, yet there is no competition between members, no egos, no showing off, just pure love, passion, respect, enjoyment and support. People enjoy their own individual journeys. People talk themselves down, not up. The Dojo leadership stems from a pure sincere passion for shibari and kinbaku, not from wanting to be highly visible in order to pick up more girls. There is no hint of people undermining each other, and people share with each other if they want to, but again there is no hint of compulsive slutting.
And considering that the population of Copenhagen is less than a million and the total population of Denmark is less than 6 million, it’s incredible that there is such a concentration of talent and cooperation that we haven’t seen in London or the UK, as far as I’m aware. They are like a family, and we were welcomed within it.
The Dojo is linked to a club around the corner, which is similarly brilliant.
London and probably the UK has a lot to learn from Copenhagen. While I left the Dojo inspired, I also felt disappointed that I don’t think such a replicated effort could survive the politics of London. It’s the people that make a place.
The Club Night
For me, this was the biggest turning point of the journey. It’s a small private members club, with one main central room, and several smaller side-rooms, including one with an interesting array of historically authentic East German Stasi interrogation equipment.
After four simultaneous warm-up acts, Osada Steve gave his own performance. MaxTina gave a really original flowing performance that highlighted the deep connection they had together. Dspar – another great guy, who had been a superb host over the week – did something similar to what I’d seen Hajime Kinoko do with Ve, like a prayer on the floor which is then suspended into the air. I hope to learn this form one day. Ardour gave her performance with a model example of the Gyaku-ebi-zuri in action.
Osada Steve was suitably brilliant. He did some tough ties on his partner Mari, which included a form of minimalist face-down suspension used as torture (which he then taught us the next day in the last day of workshops?!)
Then came magic. The eye-opener. The most passionate and intimate thing I’ve seen in my life. Which left me speechless and even had Osada Steve saying he’d never seen anything like that before (oh, and that maybe English girls can enjoy rope without struggling after all). I don’t want to give any further details but everything started to make sense after that. The connection, passion and energy exchange between partners, not the focus on the ropes per se. Magic. And I want it. And I can make it if I persevere. I’ll have a lot of fun even if I don’t make it there. And the ties always have usage in the Western bondage sense of “she’s tied up now let’s do something cruel to her” so an important thing will still be to read partners regardless of what mode of play you conjure.
As much as Little Miss Awesome and I acknowledge that we will one day kill each other, I’m aware that I’ve seen sides to her that people who knew her for years never saw, and I value that. I’m grateful to her, Blue_Entropy, Osada Steve and the Dojo members for the huge experience this week has been.