Alberto NoShibari: “I try to do contemporary western shibari after having been cured of the japonism fever”

(Photo: Carlo Belenghi. Model: Kuss)

(This is the first interview of the Shibari Talks series. You can find here more about what that is).

Alberto NoShibari has been tying for a lot of years, while gathering experiences and reflecing on how to develop a style of his own. When you hear him speaking it becomes abundantly clear that he feels true passion for ropes. We chatted for more than two hours, going over the last decade of shibari in Spain and exchanging views about current times. You can find him in his website.

How would you define yourself as a rigger, in your own words?

I am a rigger trying to do contemporary western shibari after having been cured of the japonism fever. I try to understand through shibari my own relationship with rope, while creating aesthetics of my own, a personal expression. Up to now, we understood shibari as something purely Japanese, but I think that westerners are reaching a certain aesthetic and technical autonomy.

 

How and when did your interest in rope begin?

When I was ten years old I tied up my cousin out in the country, while playing cowboys and indians outdoors… I remember as if it were yesterday. While my cousin was tied up on the floor, my aunt appeared in the distance and suddenly I had the feeling I was doing something naughty. I untied her hurriedly, on the quiet… Of course, we were only playing, but there was an intermixed sensation that I can recognize now as kinky. Later on I met Kuss, my partner, some fifteen years ago… And when she asked if I would tie her up, the drive appeared again. I played hard to get for a while, but internally I was ecstatic. And we started to work with rope from our utmost ignorance, without knowing very well what were we doing. We bought ropes in Decathlon and did strange things that eroticized us immensely. I found some Internet resources: at the time I did not distinguish well between the women tied up in pornographic american websites and the japanese girls, that were also tied up but with a very different aesthetic and kink… In parallel, we looked for the kinky scene in Barcelona, with a certain degree of fear because at the time the scene was much more closed to the public than today. I started meeting people in alt.com… And a friend of mine invited me to Rosas 5 to meet Kurt, the owner of the club, who had been studying shibari in Japan. That day Kurt had a visit with whom he was going to have a rope session, and my friend asked Kurt if we could see it. She had a hard time convincing him, but he let us if we promised to stay quiet in the dungeon stands. It was a revelation for me, because Kurt was very eager that day… It was an impressive session.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: Kuss. Music: Ariel Vigo Trio for Jazz Shibari

There was only rope or other activities involved?

Mainly rope; when Kurt grabbed a whip my friend suggested that we went away to give them some privacy. I was frankly disturbed in a good way: I had never witnessed a session, and that one made me understand what shibari could become. We did some workshops with Alfil, we looked for information…

 

Did you attend to any other workshop?

Kurt hosted a workshop with Matthias Grimme in 2008, some years later, and there we faced knowledge: when Matthias saw the ropes we brought, he had to lend us some real ones. He taught us the takatekote and its meaning, we understood what made a suspension good and safe… Kurt was in contact with traditional shibari, but Matthias was in a disconnection trajectory, he had his own minimalist style. His partner, a stocky woman unlike how models used to be, did a fascinating performance that was very important for Kuss: a self-suspension solo, something that we didn’t even know it existed.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: Angie OM

Around that time you went a couple of years to Madrid…

Two years during which we met the Madrid BDSM community around Davide’s Dark Sabbath, hosting very beautiful parties with more than a hundred attendees… And we didn’t really know the reason, but when we started doing rope at those partied people gathered around to look at us. We loved it. In those parties I started to realize that rope enabled communication channels, friendships and relationships. One person organized meetings on Sundays in a garage of Lavapiés. He  used it to park bikes, but from time to time he hosted things with his friends from the BDSM scene. We connected, and he offered me the place for hosting some kind of meetings about rope. In parallel, a friend of mine was looking for people to do a multiple suspension in the country… We decided in a chat night to organize a monthly meeting of rope enthusiasts, to avoid loneliness and meet people that could take part in that and other projects. That’s how the “Rope Meetings” were born. There was no economic interest: people paid ten or twelve euros and we spent them in communitary banquets [Laughs]. A community was born, with people like Zor, Desper_TNT… The first Rope Meeting was a hit: Alfil and Kurt came thanks to a common friend, and we stayed together for the weekend… It was nice.

 

You opened a website called A passion play, including amongst other things detailed tutorials for different ties… What project did you have in mind with that web and its tutorials?

A Passion Play was created to serve as support to the Rope Meetings. The tutorials caused some problems, the people who were studying shibari at the time and spent a fortune in travelling to Japan felt encroached upon by my free tutorials… I tried to share the bit of knowledge that I had, but this is something that the rope community always criticized me for. Any way, it was an impersonal site, I almost didn’t appear. Nowadays there is not so much clandestinity, but then I worked in some projects with schools and I tried that everything was quite anonymous.

Photo: JJ Roman. Model: Helena

In the Rope Meetings everyone tied freely or did you offer workshops of some kind?

Nobody knew nothing, so we ended up giving some kind of basic instruction for the new people that arrived and didn’t even have ropes. We started with the basic knot or the karada, what we imagined at the time that shibari was. And when I came back to Barcelona I understood that this had created a conflict, because from here that was seen as unfair competition.

 

Regarding the transmission of knowledge?

Yes. In the Rope Meeting opening I realized the difference, when I tried to watch a detail of the takatekote that Alfil was performing. For us then the takatekote was esoteric science… And Alfil turn his model around to hide the details of the process. Some time later we understood that Japanese riggers don’t give away their knowledge freely, but for us then it was something unthinkable, because we were trying to escape ignorance. When we came back to live in Barcelona, Kurt thought about hosting a monthly dojo in Rosas 5, and it was held finally four or five sessions, I think. And during the first dojo that I attended to, very excited, I was brought to a summary trial by Kurt and Alfil for having been teaching things in Madrid. For me that was a split, a shock, I felt excluded from the little shibari circle of Barcelona. Nevertheless, and thanks to the fact that later the Scorpion’s Nest was born, we found a way of keeping active.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: Noa, for Shibari Experience.

Let’s talk about the Rope Nests, the initial and intermediate workshops that you gave in the Scorpion’s Nest… What did you want to accomplish with them?

After the divorce with the little circle of shibari in Barcelona, we found our place in a personal project of Josep Lapidario and Françoise. Because we never fully connected with the traditional circles of BDSM. We kept collaborating with Rosas 5 from time to time, but we frequently visited the other circle, the dominant Mistresses of Fetish Cafe. There was a time in which we felt very comfortable there: they had good installations for suspension and there was a very nice atmosphere. You were also around… And lots of girls, that was the interesting thing. We were in the circle of Desper_TNT, Lily… A group of people that were not much into the BDSM cultivated at the time at Rosas of dominant Masters dressed in black sitting in the sofa and smoking a cigar while a submissive held the drinks. When you started the project of the Scorpion’s Nest we all quickly migrated there because we felt there like at home. I identified fully with the project of the Nest. It was fascinating, that strange melange of BDSM-friendly parties, book clubs, toga parties… We all remember that time with lots of love. I looked for a way to become involved, and we came with the idea of the Rope Nests. I did not intend so much to teach than to expand the rope culture, and not in an elitist or secret way as it was done in other circles. I thought that without more people with which to work, collaborate or compare, we were going to feel very alone… That is hard to understand nowadays, because everyone can find lots of places to learn shibari, but at the time Kurt did not want to teach, no one hosted workshops regularly, an Osada Steve class had a cost of hundreds of euros…

In the Rope Nests there were lots of rope baptisms. Eight couples per session, once a month, three or four years…

We were there until the Nest closed. It was a very interesting experience for me, because hundreds of people went there. It was also frustrating, because from all those people only a few became truly active in the rope community. I thought that we would create more rope lovers. My way of teaching has changed, then we started with too technical stuff… We were not seasoned enough in that sense, and we maybe didn’t offer what people were looking for. From there emerged Rock&Wolf, Malporro and some more riggers, but just a 2-3% rate.  

 

In 2010 Kurt brought Osada Steve to Barcelona for the first time. What do you remember from that experience?

We were delighted… It was a five days monographic about show and performance shibari. In there he taught the things that we had been seeing in videos and pictures. And he mentioned also that he was starting to work with Yukimura: although Steve was a stage rigger, he said that with Yukimura he had started to understand traditional shibari. Steve knew very well western mentality: he opened some schools, a kind of franchise of his studio, and formalized shibari learning, for instance setting a fixed number of steps for tying the takatekote. Students of his school had two or three secret details that nobody else knew, and they swore not to teach them outside. It worked very well commercially, and the classes were expensive. All that helped in creating some shibari mystique, and Osada was a rock star. And through his teaching method we got the idea that shibari was in itself the thing that Osada did. An idea that’s still alive, because people keep doing mostly Osada’s takatekote, or Kinoko’s, that’s mostly the same with small variations, thinking that shibari is that. And all of us started to do exactly the same. [Laughs] We attended to all the Japanese rigger workshops. We met Kinoko, Otonawa, Yukimura, Naka… And every Japanese rigger said: “you all do the same takatekote!”. We started to see that there was not a single idea of shibari, but that it was something more holistic, more complicated and simpler at the same time. Yukimura was the key.

Photo: JJ Roman. Model: Lau

You went to his Copenhagen workshop…

During the second Steve workshop in 2011, he insisted in Yukimura and the differences with what he did, and we were all fascinated although there was very little available material about Yukimura. To the Yukimura workshop in Copenhagen attended Nuitdetokyo, Esinem,  Wykd_dave, Pilar LaOtra, Camelia, Desper_TNT… A little congress of european riggers around grandfather Yukimura.

 

Did your understanding of shibari change when you met Yukimura?

Completely. Yukimura marked a before and an after for me. He made me question that idea that shibari was what Osada Steve did. Yukimura made us understand the strand joining shibari and Japanese culture. Yukimura was a scholar, hojojutsu erudite, calligrapher… He explained for instance the relationship between his handwriting and his body movements when moving the model around, or what relationship existed between the kanji patterns and the shapes of his ties. We were lucky that Nuitdetokyo was translating and expanding the information. It was only a six hours workshop, merely a morning, but it felt like if suddenly we were able to see clearly all Japanese shibari history. We did very few exercises, it was a workshop for clearing the clouds away… There is almost a direct line between the primitive shibari from Itoh Seiyu and what Yukimura did. He changed our lives. Moreover: until then Kuss had suffered the way in which we westerners learned, basically “you stay still there withstanding everything I do”. An attitude that is also present in other Japanese riggers, but Yukimura explained us another way: I think he’s the only one that offered a communication way between the rigger and the model. Yukimura tied for the model; Steve and Kinoko tie for the audience.

 

You also went to a Kinoko workshop in Rome, right?  

It was a very complex workshop, with fascinating and very elaborated ties. It was funny because all the riggers were there, Kinoko did the next step and all the riggers closed in to see it more closely, leaving the models there waiting half-tied. Kuss asked him what could he say about the work of the models, and Kinoko answered: “well, nothing, relax and enjoy!”. Kuss got very angry… Moreover, the girl that accompanied Kinoko, a fascinating person that spoke five languages and translated the workshop while being tied up, said the same thing.

 

So the one giving you clues about communication with the model was Yukimura, then.

Yukimura changed our way of working. Kuss and myself belong to the show and performance shibari, and my technique was based in the takatekote and yokotsuri, in the style of Steve or Kinoko… But from Yukimura onwards, we all started focusing on newaza, floor work. It looks easy, but we saw how incredibly complicated it was. When Yukinaga Max and Tina came to Gijón, we asked for a couple of particular classes about this. With Yukimura we saw the tip of the iceberg… When we were doing the exhibition exercises during Yukimura’s workshop I opened Kuss’ legs and Yukimura looked and laughed, hihihi [Laughs] In a certain moment we had to do a movement in the floor, a transition in which Kuss was laying on her side and I had to put her standing on four legs. And I didn’t manage to get her up. I had to put the hand below, use the arm as a lever… Yukimura came, he did a very small gesture and paff, Kuss adopted the position immediately. Yukimura tied hundreds of women during his life, and he almost always did floor work. At night, during the dojo-oriented part, the Copenhagen guys started suspending their models, and Yukimura saw that while saying “wow, I don’t do those things”. And actually nobody was minding Yukimura after the workshop.  Pilar LaOtra told me about this, as we had to go out before that: Pilar and Sita were there with him… But nobody else came to stay with them, they started hanging the girls with their own system. Yukimura didn’t speak English and the translator wasn’t around, so they were playing with Yukimura with smiles and rope only until he went to sleep, and nobody asked anything. What a pity. Soon afterwards Yukimura died and we lost a human shibari encyclopedia.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: jöjö lând for Tattooatados

Around that time you started the shibari student group in Rosas 5…

When Rock&Wolf y Malporro started running the club, Kuss and myself increased our involvement in Tentesion projects like Tattooatados or Shibari Experience, as a way to support the club… When we lost the Scorpion’s Nest I felt a void, I needed to keep creating rope relationships. A shibari workshop is like a flash in the dark: a weekend, five days… But what do you do the rest of the time? It’s not the same to work at home with your partner or seeing someone for a session than studying, perfecting or remembering what you learnt in the workshops. We decided to try the formula of a working group. There was not much space in Rosas, so we limited the group to five or six couples, allowing some more people as listeners in the dungeon stands. I only asked for two things: first, commitment to attend to the monthly meeting, if a couple fails to come, they lose their spot. And second, every participant had to prepare a topic to develop: something about shibari history, a tie… We created for instance some abdominal breathing exercises for models. We tried to translate material from English to Spanish: later on, Camelia Tsubaki started creating and translating texts, but there was nothing available at that point. We were doing that during almost a year… We didn’t finish the translations, but we achieved a good pace of work.

 

Was it then when you presented at EURIX, the rigger meeting in Schwelle 7?

That was the first moment in which I started thinking about shibari as something more contemporary, more European. EURIX is a challenge, because you are invited to go there and you must present something. I didn’t know what to talk about, so I was three or four months working almost daily at home, with two or three friends, until I found a line of work that I’m still following, and that it worked very well at EURIX.

 

What does this new line of work consist of?  

A different way of tying, with some characteristics that move it away from shibari concepts but that allowed me to enhance the emotional part that interested me most. I felt a bit collapsed, because I wasn’t very much interested in a technical level on the dynamics of the ties we knew. People always have been telling Kuss and myself that during the shows, for some reason, we transmitted a lot. Something was happening there. So I considered to enhance that, without knowing exactly what it was, and I realized that traditional shibari ties were working against that energy that exploded in the stage. Then I started looking for a way of tying more attuned to my flux and way of expression. And I started also to think about rope aesthetics. I come from a visual culture, a lot of time ago I worked with painting and sculpture, so I saw a contradiction between traditional ties and my tendency towards a more western and abstract aesthetic. I love contemporary art, particularly the abstract expressionist american painters: Rothko, Pollock… And in their trajectory you can find a moment in which their style collapses, they find suddenly in a territory that is completely theirs, were nobody else can enter. If someone gets close to the working methodology of Rothko or Pollock, he becomes a Rothko or a Pollock. Japanese art does not need to break with tradition because it links with it, even manga links perfectly with the illustration arts from their medieval period. But the western artist is more selfish, looking for his own territory. Thinking about this aesthetics of abstract art, brushstrokes and dripping, I started to work for this first EURIX presentation.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: Susana, for Shibari Experience

You performed with Kuss in the Clamores jazz club during the first visit to Spain of Akira Naka. What do you remember about that experience?

Pilar LaOtra, her significant other, Kuss and myself were a small family, we loved each other very much. Pilar is a photographer, and at the time she did an impressive exhibition with an art dealer and curator in Madrid. That art dealer was fascinated by the shibari scene, and she suggested to Pilar to do something in Madrid. Pilar proposed bringing Akira Naka from Japan and organizing something with people around here: she did her performance with Sita and I showed with Kuss the work developed for EURIX. That show was key. We were in the same hotel as Naka, we had breakfast together, and one morning Pilar brought the Tentesion calendar in which the first image of my breakthrough appears, the image that gave me, of course very humbly, the sensation of having found a territory of my own, even if it was still shibari. Naka saw the picture, said “interesting” and kept having breakfast. And I thought: “I really don’t have anything to do with him, what he does gives me the same lack of reaction that what I do gives him”. I realized that I did not have anything to do with Japanese tradition… When you study shibari it seems that you must be fascinated by all things Japanese, but with the exception of sushi, pretty girls and shibari, I don’t really understand or love Japan. I recently started to speak consciously about this transition, my healing from the Japanese flu. Because shibari would not be like it is without the Japanese, but we are not Japanese. In theory, if you do shibari well, the essence of both rigger and model should emerge, but if I let my inner essence out, it’s not a Japanese who comes out, but a guy from Valladolid! [Laughs] With his temperament, aesthetics and composing methods. We have all been there, but the shibari of kimonos and Japanese decor it’s getting more and more contradictory for me. Since that split in Madrid I feel released.  

 

Was that the origin of your “Alberto No Shibari” nickname?

It was a bit before… When I started I used the nick “Shibari”, thoughtlessly, when I didn’t even know what shibari was. Later I wanted to change it, partly because it was petulant and partly because of my personal evolution. I tried different alternatives until I reached No Shibari… In Spanish or English, “no” is a negative particle, but in Japanese it is an ownership particle: Alberto No Shibari in Japanese means “the shibari of Alberto”, while in English it means “Alberto does not do shibari”. With that duality I feel released: don’t ask me about shibari, because what I do is “no shibari”. In parallel, I had been researching ties with untied hands, because Kuss could not keep her hands tied up in the back for too long because of problems in shoulders and cervicals. Thanks to that we saw that the hands were an important element of expression and we found the way to the baroque aesthetic, something that I found very interesting. And Osada Steve commented a Fetlife picture in which the model appeared with untied hands. Steve says that the first rule of hojojutsu is to restrain the prisoner’s hands to avoid him attacking you. He said jokingly in his workshops: “if you don’t tie the model’s hands, she can grab your balls”. [Laughs] Yukimura also started by tying the hands, because it’s the first sensation for the model of being at the mercy of the rigger. For Osada, if the hands are not tied the strand joining shibari with hojojutsu gets broken and then it is not shibari, it’s “no shibari”. And that fitted perfectly with what was happening to me.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: Lips, for Shibari Experience

You aim for a different and baroque aesthetic, but what elements do you want to keep from Japanese aesthetics?

I don’t want to lose what we have learnt from the Japanese. Rope has an architecture that imposes itself to you, you cannot go against how it works… The sooner you accept that, the better you tie. Japanese see that architecture since they are born, they have a centenary tradition about every type of ties and a vocabulary about how to tie people, not cows or flowerpots like we do. The only western rope heritage comes from fishermen, climbers or cowboy knots. It may be an observation bias, but every time that westerners go to Japan to learn, there is a period afterwards during which they tie in a very Japanese way. But with time, if they don’t keep studying in Japan, their aesthetics drift again towards westerner ways. And instead of trying to fight that travelling over and over to Japan to recover the Japanese way of tying, I think that we must do the opposite, letting your own stuff out, but running away from fishermen or cowboy knots, avoiding that way of tying. What Two Knotty Boys and americans do still has its own relevance, but for doing shibari you must avoid that way of tying influenced by macramé and functional decorative ties. In order to do that we have to keep contact with Japanese, but without having to tie exactly like them. We have to keep key concepts, like Yukimura’s communication, forgetting the rope shapes and simply follow its architecture… Doing shibari maybe means to stay connected with the Japanese so we are not overrun by our barbaric and illiterate way of tying people.

 

Have you lived any incidents during all your years as a rigger?  

Lots of problems come from the fact that the anatomy of western women, her size, complexion and weight, is different than the japanese women for whom the Japanese ties were designed. The severe issues I’ve had, basically injuries in the radial nerve, have come from tying using techniques that I should have modified. Some serious problems, luckily not a single irreversible one, I think that the maximum convalescence period was one month… But it is a serious injury, because you force the injured person to a change in daily life and work. Part of my technical work aims to avoid injuries like those. For the model it is a serious incident, but it is also like that for the rigger: it is horrible the feeling of injuring someone who put her health and trust in your hands. In some of these incidents I have been tempted of giving up the ropes so I wouldn’t have to feel that again. Luckily after that you get everything together, like when you fall from your motorcycle and you go up again, but it leaves an internal sediment that ends up having secondary effects. Moreover, the people I’ve had serious incidents with were those with which I was more emotionally attached, and it was that emotion what created the risk situation, made me lose a bit of control. I’ve tied up hundreds of unknown men and women without any incident, but I lowered my guard when there was emotional closeness with the model. I’ve had no incidents of other kinds, except for some minor distractions in shows.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: Juanma Zombie

Why is it more frequent to see tied up women than men?

If there were more women riggers, there would be much more men wanting to be tied up. Heterosexual men, with exceptions, are not normally interested in being touched by other men… The first phase of rope exploration is kinky, there has to be an interest not only in the aesthetics and the sensorial experience. Now that in Tentesion’s projects there is a woman rigger tying regularly, a higher number of men come to live the experience. I have tied men, and it’s true that it doesn’t feel the same for me, even at a functional level we are bigger, heavier, less elastic… And the physical contact is not so pleasurable for me, even if my shibari is not sensual.

 

What relationship do you see between pain and shibari, what has been called semenawa?

For me, pain in shibari is a hindrance, a significant burden. We have all approached shibari from the BDSM scene, but that has been a circumstance, not a reason. There is a contradiction there. The concept of sadomasochism was not present in the original Itoh Seiyu shibari, but the concept of torture. In Itoh Seiyu’s biopic there is a key scene in which he says that he’s reproducing torture scenes from old prints. At that time photography was arriving to Japan, so there was a trend for re-enacting ancient scenes, like with Holy Week in here… Suspensions were the punishment for adulterous women to expose them in public: they were suspended in their home’s threshold, playing with the Japanese idea of humiliation as punishment. Seiyu reproduced medieval tortures literally, he did not think that he was applying a sadistic treatment that the receiver could enjoy. When she’s tying and flogging her sister-in-law and she smiles, he gets surprised… That scene is fundamental, because it indicates that he was not doing sadomasochism: he had sadistic sexual urges, but there was no consent. Original shibari was not BDSM, was not sadomasochist. Later on it was incorporated to the current world of sadomasochism: in a consensual way and trying to understand the pleasure triggers of masochism. This means that we are inheriting something that’s not exactly what we want.

That being said, there is a strand that comes directly from the idea of shibari as literal reproduction of medieval tortures… In my work I try to avoid that. Shibari should not be painful: for me pain in shibari is a mistake, an error. There are moments in suspensions in which pain appears momentarily, but in the moment that there is a localized pain the magic disappears, because the person suffering it concentrates more in the pain than in the more general and holistic feeling of embrace that I want to create with ropes. Sometimes I work with masochist models that need pain to be included in the tie… But I work with many non-masochistic people, and I feel that is precisely the pain the thing that prevents the tie to cause the effect that I’m looking for.

Photo: JJ Román. Model: Kristina.

Have you explored other methods of immobilization? Chains, cloth, bandages…

I worked a bit with cloth as simple plastic experimentation when I started with the idea of inheriting the aesthetics of abstract painting in the ties. But there is nothing like jute rope and its flexibility, quickness, feeling… I’ve tried different rope thicknesses: sometimes thin, sometimes I miss the traditional shapes of 6 or 7 mm rope… My experimentation is centered in that, more than changing materials.

 

How do you negotiate a shibari scene with an unknown person?

I try not to negotiate anything, actually, I only worry about body limitations: injuries, physical status. I’ve grown accustomed to listen. With people that I don’t know I don’t take out ropes from the first moment. With the excuse of stretching and flexing, and also to avoid the person to become wary, I try to measure how much can she flex her arms, her level of flexibility, if she’s ready to leave herself to be carried away… A first exploratory phase. When everything works, ropes are not even needed, because I find positions and interesting sensations. This allows me to streamline what is going to happen later. If a person has never done shibari before you cannot ask what can or cannot do to them because it’s an unknown, she could be closing to possibilities she does not even know. I don’t think that previous negotiation is useful.  

 

And about the quantity of physical intimacy that there’s going to be?  

No. When I start working with a new person there is never any kind of sensual or sexual contact. I must have another kind of relationship for that. It’s true that when I work often with someone I sometimes reach a level of confidence enough to include a genital part to the sensations, a matanawa for instance. But I see if it can be done or not. I feel it. For me it’s almost not even necessary to ask beforehand, because it would be to present a situation that may not even appear. Listening and monitoring is much more practical, incorporating a very effective component of surprise. Unless it’s very evident that there is a sensual undertone, normally I don’t have to ask if I can touch the breasts because I never touch the breasts, nor I must ask if I can put a rope through the genitals because I never do that unless it becomes so evident that it’s OK, that I must do it. And that almost never happens.

Photo: JJ Roman. Model: Canela anahi

How should the rigger/model communication be during a tie?

It’s hard to explain, because it is a completely irrational communication. It’s always decided by the model. I arrive where I’m allowed to, until where the model can go. I feel like there are invisible layers in a person… For instance at a sensorial level: if I tie someone who is masochist we will work with intense tensions or with pressure points and pain. If not, we’ll work more with the dancing and movement part. If I see that she reacts well to the skin contact, there will be more skin contact, if she gets rigid at first touch then there will be only rope contact. Then there’s movement: there are models that remain languid, others get rigid like a tree trunk. A tying session is a series of proposals and responses depending on the reaction to such proposals, nonverbal microwords: “I want to do this to you”, “hmm, no, reaction’s not good, let’s propose something else” until I find a way. The final intention of my shibari is to take the person I’m tying out of her time and space. That is complicated, it’s not always accomplished, but it’s enough for me to achieve it for a single instant. Sometimes it is enough with an embrace or a pressure, sometimes I have to suspend the model and turn her around a thousand times… Only getting to where I’m allowed to get, by using intuitive listening.

 

Aside from tying, do you practice any other activity that makes you a better rigger?

No. Tying. [Laughs]

 

What do you think is the best approach for a newcomer who wants to learn shibari? Which kind of learning should he or she follow?

Someone who doesn’t know anything about shibari must learn with a Japanese. It’s essential. But it’s not possible unless he or she’s a millionaire with enough money to travel to Japan three months… And a five days workshop with a Japanese rigger will not be really fruitful as a first contact with shibari. So it’s necessary to have before that a pre-learning of basic concepts and to get a minimum skill with rope… And it would be nice that this pre-learning was with a teacher that had studied directly with a Japanese. Because if not, shibari learning starts becoming like the telephone game in which a message traverses twenty people in a row, and when it gets to the end, the received message is completely different. And without that direct line, the newcomer may acquire a lot of flaws, manual memory may become contaminated and it will make very difficult to learn later what the Japanese rigger may teach.

Photo: NoShibari. Model: Kuss.

What qualifications should someone have to be able to give shibari lessons and workshops?

By the same reason as before, first requirement is to have studied with Japanese riggers, even if it’s from time to time as I did. It’s not so much what the Japanese teacher says, but what you see: there is something in shibari that cannot be understood without seeing it firsthand. If possible, with Japanese models too… In order to have in the head that spark that avoids the western way of tying. Also, the teacher should have the ability to teach, and convey transparently the information without modifying it. Lately teachers are not referencing enough. There’s people teaching shibari ties without identifying them: this harness comes from Kinoko, this takate from Naka… The relationship with the origin is getting lost. The teacher should know about shibari history, the strand joining Itoh Seiyu with the contemporary. It’s interesting to teach your own style or experimentation, but first you have to explain shibari origins. Not the other way around.

 

When do you think that a new rigger is ready to start suspending?

Some people say that you must do a lot of ties before your first suspension, while others like me think that it should be done as soon as possible. You must give the basic resources to do it and go along with them while they do it.

 

How do you minimize the risks associated with a rookie suspending?

The greatest risk is that the newcomer tries to do it unsupervised and without knowing the implications. The first time is hard to do it right, you have to face the real situation with all its dangers. So the next time you try, you will have a reference. But if someone tries on their own, because of the common anxiety we all had for suspending, without supervision and without a minimum technical skill, the danger is for me much greater. In my classes I say to my pupils, even if they haven’t fully yet understood the takatekote or have problems with the basic knot, to do a suspension. And, well, they shit their pants in fright. But we do it carefully, and I see that the respect towards a suspension is truer in this way than when someone says “I’ve suspended my cousin at home…” and I don’t know what was done, but the cousin should definitely take precautions.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: Nery Eagle, for Shibari Experience

What’s your opinion on self-taught riggers, who have not attended workshops or classes but have learnt through other means (observation, books, tutorials…)?

I’ve been a self-taught rigger, and evidently if you’re self-taught is because you don’t have access to classes. The problem is the dilution of shibari, because it has things that cannot be learnt from pictures or videos. And if this self-taught riggers want to learn proper shibari later on they will have lots of difficulties, because they will have developed techniques and flaws that may be in contradiction with the true way of doing it. I say this from personal experience: during the first Osada workshop i noticed that what I had learnt prevented me from doing things as he explained. That being said: if someone studies with the multiple resources available today, works honestly and understands communication with the tied up person, they can reach a valid conclusion. But shibari comes from Japanese: who hasn’t been through that route will be probably confused.

 

It is frequently said that in order to learn shibari it’s necessary to repeat over and over again the paters, like martial arts katas, before improvising or doing variations. Do you agree with that?  

Repetition is required. It’s a neurophysiological mechanism: you first learn a tie with your brain, and after repeating it there comes a moment in which the tie is in your arms and hands, not in your mind. The only way to create muscular memory is through repetition. After that, your own muscles or thinking processes suggest other ways, the evolution of your style. But before, it’s necessary to record the first way in your hands. If someone’s thinking about where the rope should be going next, automatically forgets about the tied person.

Photo: JJ Roman. Model: Akemi Goto

Do you think that it’s an advantage for the rigger to be tied up frequently, it’s enough to have experimented once, or it is not necessary at all?

In my classes I try not to direct the teachings to couples but persons, so I encourage them to tie and be tied. To be aware, at least at the beginning, of the sensations caused by what you’re learning is fundamental. But in this I am contradictory. I don’t like to be tied, so I don’t know exactly how it’s felt. [Laughs]

 

Which currently active riggers do you think are more interesting and why? Ideally one from Spain, one from abroad and one Japanese.

I’m not interested in the shibari that needs torture and masochistic models to flourish, so my possible choice is really reduced. That being said, in Spain we start to have an acceptable level despite our underdevelopment against the rest of Europe. I would highlight one rigger, Pilar LaOtra, for me the best example of personal expression and integration of different forms of art around the ropes. In France there’s Nicolas Yoroï, for me the rigger that has distilled best the teachings of Japanese shibari to find a personal way, a territory of his own of great aesthetic beauty. And I’m not keeping up to date with the new riggers coming from Japan, I’m very interested in Bingo Shigonawa, as an example of this mixture between tradition and contemporaneity that fascinates me in any Japanese discipline.  

 

How do you think shibari is going to evolve?

Shibari is a minority practice, very few people go further than the first phase of kinky curiosity and bedroom play. I don’t think that’s going to change because, even though there’s been an effort in making shibari independent from the BDSM scene, it has still an aura of sadomasochistic perversion and apology of abuse that will block it from becoming a mainstream practice and getting into circuits that allow professionalization. So in the medium term we’ll be exactly as we are, with a lot of people approaching shibari and leaving after a while; with a minority of riggers, models, photographers and clubs, working with more willingness than means; and some unfocused efforts coming from certain entertainment venues trying to integrate without success the circus aspects of shibari. It’s not a pessimist vision, because I don’t think that shibari is ready to be enjoyed in big venues, in its current format it requires a particular ambience of intimacy and closeness. Who has the opportunity of living or seeing a shibari session in optimal conditions knows that it’s something unique… And that’s what is going to evolve: the minority of riggers doing a worthy job will be more and more requested by anyone capable of appreciating work well done.

Photo: Tentesion. Model: medora for Opera Shibari

How do you see the next generation of riggers and models?  

Even if the scene is yet small, we’ve seen recently an international boom of places, workshops, events, meetings… It seems that there’s an intense activity, and never before has it been so easy to access to good quality rope knowledge. Teaching processes that took years and great money investments are fulfilled now in much shorter cycles; and there are a lot of circuits for sharing knowledge that make easier to learn the technique… But access to direct teachings from Japanese riggers is still very elitist, so the proportion between riggers with first-hand knowledge and the ones learning from hearsay is changing. This will generate a divergence between the different ways of understanding shibari, and it will also rise diversity, creating an ecosystem like the musical one, with tendencies, styles, fusions and mixes; it will be no longer possible to say that there is a “good” or a “bad” shibari. It’s an interesting perspective.

Where I do see shortcomings is in the fact that teaching activity is almost integrally oriented to the rigger technique, there is still not enough attention to the work of the rope receiver; maybe it’s a pernicious tendency inherited from some Japanese riggers. But the rigger cannot go further than where the tied up person arrives! A situation is unfortunately consolidating in which the model is just a container object for the wonders performed by the rigger, and who simply gets asked (or worse, demanded) to be still and bear stoically until the end of the session. Maybe this is related to the restriction of the public practice of shibari to the BDSM clubs… I hope that this tendency evolves quickly and it becomes clear that the person in the receiving end has as much to say, and sometimes more, as the rigger.

Photo: Pilar Aldea. Model: Kuss, for EURIX 2014

Responder

Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de WordPress.com

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de WordPress.com. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Google+ photo

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Google+. Cerrar sesión / Cambiar )

Conectando a %s

Blog de WordPress.com.

Subir ↑

A %d blogueros les gusta esto: