First, an apology:
This post has been long due, and I’m sorry about being so slow. It was due to personal reasons and other worldly things getting in the way of my typing paws.
At times this account of the event is going to be personal. I will do everything I can to not make it too private and uniteresting for you as a reader, but the weekend in itself became something very personal, making it hard to write about it in any other way.
When last year’s London Festival of the Art of Japanese Bondage (LFAJB) took place I had not started to tie yet. I was still enjoying restraints, but my knowledge about restraining someone with rope was limited to the cat’s paw and that was it. I was not in the country when the first annual LFAJB took place, but heard so much about it, and since my situation had changed quite drastically now it was an event I was really looking forward to.
It was easy to click home a full weekend pass, but I was more hesitant about booking a ticket with Kinoko Hajime’s masterclass, which would be the start of the festival on the Friday. I was hesitant because of many reasons. One is that I am a beginner. As a beginner I still fiddle with the basics, getting it not entirely right from time to time. Another thing is that I don’t think I do shibari at all. I do have an interest and a certain affection towards the aesthetics of Japanese culture , but when I tie I can’t call it shibari per se, because that is not yet what I have learned. Because of these things I was afraid to be a liability instead of someone who would be an active learner. In the end I decided it was too good of a chance and did my best to silence those weird voices telling me I would not be able to do it.
As I met my lovely ropebunny for the course in the morning, we had a talk, drank some water and found our way to the Resistance Gallery, and we had some time to relax inside while the prep work for a whole weekend with rope went on around us. A huge suspension-frame which needed about 6 people in order to get in place was placed on the scene on the ground floor.
The venue consists of a main ground floor with a stage and a mezzanine,both parts used for classes. With one suspension frame on each floor, one large one on the stage and one slightly smaller on the mezzanine, there was plenty of possibilities for flying. With mats provided for the floors, it was also possible to do a lot of floorwork, or just sit comfortable
.There was a lot of beautiful art on the walls, a stand that would sell really nice japanese food, including sushi that unlike
most part of London was not overpriced. The bar is always in-expensive at the gallery, providing not only alcohol but also tea and coffee for those in need. The whole space was decorated with rope and bamboo-rods, making it homely in a different manner, but homely nonetheless.
As the class started I realized I did not need to worry. Kinoko Hajime demonstrated two upper-body ties, both of which names I have forgot (those who were there, could anyone add their wisdom and tell me?) and we students followed him as he tied. It was a hands on, step by step class, and it was very healthy to get this kind of break-down of the components of the ties. The ties themselves were beautiful and demonstrated by our tutor very thoroughly, communicating partially through a translator and partially through basic English. It became very clear early on how skilled he is, both in his craft and as a tutor, very humble and relaxed, taking a lot of time to make sure we got it right, walking around looking at all of the participants work, correcting here and there or just giving a compliment or constructive advice. All this made up a very relaxed atmosphere. The second tie was demonstrated a bit faster and I just could not keep up the pace, but thank heavens Kinoko handed out a step by step guide to this one, with 112 steps 🙂
I understood that the experience of the participants was split over the whole spectra, some people tied for the first time, while others followed him and then dared to developed the ties, but what caught my eye was how it was a moment to get an insight of the structure and thought behind a purely Japanese style tie, and how specific Kinoko was on this point.
Before I forget it I also want to say a massive thank you to the ropebunny, Electronic Doll, who was a big help if I lost track or was unsure of what I was doing. She was indeed quick to note small things, and I probably would not have been able to finish in a dignified manner without her help.
The two and a half hours ended all too soon, and we packed our bags, parted ways and left for a couple of hours rest before the opening night.
Returning to the opening party in the evening, there was people socializing and viewing the art, as well as tying every here and there. This was something that would continue throughout the weekend, people were not only tying during the classes, but used the space as much as they could, and in every manner possible, which is just one of the many proofs of how successful it was.
As the evening went on, the shows started, and due to illness I had to leave all too early, missing both Kinoko’s first performance, but also missing Maleficent Martini and some other amazing performances. To read an account of what Electronic Doll saw and did during the Friday evening, click here.
What I did see was Shadows performance, together with Felix. Shadow is a major inspiration of mine, both as a performer and as a teacher. Watching her play with Felix, tying and suspending him touched something very deep within me, a feeling that I later discovered that I shared with many. There is so many strong connections between them, and they shared their experience with each other as well as inviting the audience in to a very visual, emotional and as well physically demanding performance. Felix is very much taller than Shadow but that was of no importance when she started to tie him up. Their performance was about much more than the physical difference between them (although it is very impressive to see what can be done!) and it felt like I’ve could have watched them for hours, as she played with him, using rope, antique scissors and knifes, a red cloth, her body and her mind to move her partner.
The classes during Saturday and Sunday
As Saturday came I was happy about not staying up too late and left fairly early together with the guests I had in the house for the weekend, Clover and Wykd Dave, to go to the gallery.
I met Bunny there who is someone who I have been tying with for some time, we had bought the couples ticket in order to get as much as possible out from the weekend together. The first one was a talk with aforementioned Shadow, who spoke about how to take care of rope. Now some people, like me, are lazy bastards. I love my rope and I like to be able to take care of it well. So far I’ve only bought treated rope and I’ve never been disappointed. But she made me a bit curious, and as the summer approaches I think there will be enough time for me to treat rope for the first time, thanks to a very thorough talk done by Shadow. One of the top tips she gave was the microfiber towels that are excellent for cleaning the ropes, something I’ve started doing.
Another talk was Esinem’s talk on bondage and safety. I attended this, because my general view is that even if you heard it one time before, or 10 times before you can always hear it one more time. One of the most important bits that he mentioned was nerve-damages, how they can occur, what a damage can be and above all, how different we all are. As he said, no one looks the same on the outside so why would we look the same on the inside? Esinem is very keen on getting in contact with anyone who has ever experienced nerve-damages, as a bottom or top, by the way. Since there is not much information or even research being made on bondage-related nerve-injuries he want to rectify that. If you have something that you would consider sharing on the matter, I think he would not mind to get in contact with you.
Another thing in the rope and safety; I find it very handy to be aware as a bottom also, to know your body, and know how you might react to different things. Security is for everyone basically.
Me and Bunny did a chest tie class as well, together with Kinoko. This was a repetition of one of the ties from the masterclass, which was very handy to get another try with. Kinoko did several talks during the weekend, one of which was a demo about some of the differences from how shibari looked like 50-60 years ago. There was many details that were different, such as cinches on chest-harnesses, or wraps of rope around a limb, and although it might sounds like small differences, he emphasized the reason why shibari had changed since. To sum it up in one word; safety. The developed style is now much more safe, and it is only those who are very, very experienced who should try to emulate or play with that style. Another class with Kinoko, was one in which he went through how to actually make rope something more than wrapping a person up. He demonstrated different techniques, using everything he could from the rope, like sound and smell (tracing the rope close to the ear or face), to himself (different punctuation, varying speed,) and there was always, always much emphasis on balance and not only aesthetically but also the physical body. One of the first things Kinoko did was emphasizing this, showing it how with his hands making sure that the rope-bunny is grounded and as a way of starting the scene it was also interesting to see how he made that into an element in which the scene started, and through different types of touch, for example making sure that a chest tie is leveled, he placed his hands on the rope-bunny, using them both practically and as a way of maintaining and harnessing the contact. This can be seen in the video’s that Esinem so kindly has posted from the weekend.
Two workshops were running in the same time, one on the mezzanine and one on the ground floor, with the mezzanine one often on a more introductory level.
Many of the classes were hands on, some of them talks, and some of them demo’s, due to practicalities. It is literally impossible to cover all of the topics that was dealt with during the Saturday and Sunday, and my memory is not the most well-functioning, but some other topics; self-suspensions, lower body ties (including a suspension harness by Kinoko that made the translator having to say ‘cunt’ on stage). Seeing Arisa (Kinoko’s partner) squirm from the tight crotch-rope and to the be suspended just centimeters of the ground was something else. Other topics were; connection with your rope-partner, partial suspensions, introductions to Shibari,introductions to suspensions, bondage photography, yoga with rope, suspension and transitions, and that is only a part of the selection.
Due to the large selection and a tight schedule delays occurred early, and when there was a small mishap with a introductory workshop being cancelled, Dasniya stepped in and held beginners classes by the side of the stage, creating a third possibility to learn more. What was great about all of this was that the organizers did not have any problems with letting each and every class take the time it was supposed to, and everyone who was a part of this really thought on their feet, adapting to what was happening. Even then during the breaks people continued tying, talking about rope etc. All this made the learning days into something wonderful.
So, that was the part which dealt with the classes, what more happened? The Saturday evening had movies on the schedule, one of which was the London premiere of Kinbaku, the art of Bondage (2009), which you can see here, but also order from Esinem if you want a copy of your own.
The movie itself was wonderful to see on a larger screen, and once again I’m amazed how Finns manage to turn everything so dark but still keep the passion. Is it the vodka or the sauna’s that create it? Maybe the reindeer meat, I don’t know.
After many movies and a lot of tying everywhere, many were venturing out to Subversion which had a Japanese theme for the evening. I was not one of them, I was still feeling rough in a bad way and wanted to last the whole weekend.
As a slight side note, but still important, was my sudden pang of ehhh…bravery when I started talking with Kinoko during the evening. I said how much I appreciated what he taught so far and was looking forward to the coming show the day after. And all of a sudden I hear myself, through the interpreter, asking Kinoko Hajime if he, at some point, maybe, could possibly want to tie me. I think I out of nervousness added a couple of words that I for now don’t remember, but suddenly I had said it and thought that the worst thing that could happen was me getting a no. I didn’t. Stunned, I saw him smile and nod, and saying something in Japanese that was translated into a ‘yes, maybe tomorrow?’.
Being tied by Kinoko Hajime
I guess that was when I started to blush and stutter a bit. But I decided later to skip the party and got some sleep. Or well I was mostly nervous, twisting and turning in my bed, trying to not think ‘what ifs’; ‘what if my body goes into sick mode and I will miss this’; ’what if my muscles decide to fail me in ways they have not failed before?’; ‘what if I don’t know my abilities and just asked for something stupid?’; ‘what if I can’t communicate with him when it’s time and I need to tell him something’. And so on.
On the Sunday, the classes started a bit later to give everyone who was out partying a chance to get a few hours of sleep. When me and my friends arrived, the classes had already started and we sat down in the sofas to listen in a bit on the class that went on at the mezzanine.
Kinoko sat also in one of these couches, we said good morning and then all of a sudden asking me if it was possible for me to be tied up in the next break. I nodded and smiled (and probably blushed) and my nerves went off again.
He started with me sitting on the floor, tying my arms in front of my, like I was praying.From the beginning, he was paying attention to every little detail, correcting the ropes if they were not millimeter perfect. I found myself looking at the red ropes he was using, thinking that I had nothing to worry about. Being tied by Kinoko is something I will never, ever forget. First of all, all the worries I had about language, not being able to verbally communicate disappeared when he started to speak to me with rope and I had only to feel to give an answer. Second of all; I felt strong, despite being tied tighter and tighter my muscles responded and dealt with the different pressures. The way he tied me, made me feel strong, and I was allowed to feel his skills trough the rope. When he attached the first rope to the suspension ring (kindly provided by Wykd Dave in the last minute) everyone and everything around me disappeared, except for what he was doing and it became harder and harder for people to invade the bubble that was the rope, him and me. The cloth used as a blindfold soaked up a few tears I shed. Strangely, I really recall that feeling, of tears drying off, disappearing, rather than slowly dripping. I was suspended in a sitting position, and the minutes flying like seconds. It was like every cell of my body could feel the red rope and I truly hope that he felt that I felt just that.
The untying was as dynamic as the tying, as Kinoko utilized the rope, its sensations, sounds and movement. When the blindfold came off I suddenly saw everyone, became aware of people watching and I just wanted them to look away, while in the same time feeling proud and somewhere deep inside, the exhibitionist started to giggle. We moved aside a bit to do the last untying, but it was not until the final rope was gone that the bubble was almost gone. My legs were shaking, we thanked each other and my legs were still shaking. They continued to do so for a large part of the day which meant that I missed a lot of the classes, at least as my brain refused to function properly.
That day went by quite quickly, and then it was time for the main-party. Which will be in a separate post.