(Photo: Lorena PH. Model: Xana Fernández)
(This is an interview of the Shibari Talks series)
We have a telephone chat with Miguel Makido, who has been for a lot of years one of the most active riggers in the south of Spain. We talk about structures, warmth, macrame, erotic photography, the dangers of fashion… And a bit about the workshops and rope meetings hosted by Ata2 Crew in Granada.
How would you define yourself as a rigger, in your own words?
I apply my personality to everything I do, so I consider myself to be a rigger as practical as possible, nothing else. I don’t like to take too many risks, engage in complicated ties or do unnecessary rope filigrees. Certain esthetical aspects in shibari do not appeal to me… I just care about the structure working correctly, and during a session I look for balance between emotion and technique, so I can enjoy and give enjoyment.
How and when did your interest in rope begin?
When I was a child I tied up occasionally my cousin playfully… And I showed a lot of interest when damsels in distress appeared on TV. I have always felt attracted to restraints even before I knew this was called “bondage” and had some erotic connotations. When I developed my sexuality, looking bondage stuff and how to use rope in the Internet I found incidentally some pictures of japanese women tied up in a very complex way. I’m very fond of ancient history, historical novels, period films… And the fact that shibari had such a fascinating backstory made me dig deeper into its intricacies. I wanted to do things well, so I started looking for online learning resources.
When did you start to learn more seriously?
In 2003 I went to a bondage workshop in Madrid, hosted by El Garaje. It was given by an italian rigger called Dr Fatso, who is currently not widely known but has a webpage with information… I learned from that workshop mainly safety precautions to take care of the model, but not very much shibari-related skills. From then on, taking into account the lack of readily available shibari information in Spain at the time, I tried to look for workshops and travel abroad if necessary.
You live in the Malaga province… Did you know any other riggers in your area?
I didn’t know much people in the scene: I started chatting by IRC, in BDSM chats… And I did not know anyone who liked rope. In 2005-2006 I went to some parties in Seville, and I was nearly the only one who brought ropes, everyone else were more interested in spanking and similar activities. And I was sad that there wasn’t more people tying. Nowadays I almost regret having thought that, because ropes have become too fashionable… In any case, I’ve been self-taught for a lot of time, and that was good and bad at the same time. The good part is that I was having fun while trying to be as careful as possible to avoid accidents. And the bad thing was that nobody warned me about what was I doing wrong… Until finally I realized that in all that time studying by myself I hadn’t really learned anything valuable.
How did you kept learning from then on?
I had some contact with Alfil and Kurt, from the Rosas 5 Club in Barcelona… I sent them my pictures and they commented what did I do well and what did I do wrong, and I was doing wrong quite a lot of things. So they encouraged me to take shibari a bit more seriously and learn it in depth. I wanted to be receive this advice humbly. All things considered, I thought that what I was doing was OK because people who did not really understand shibari told me that my ties were beautiful, but when Alfil pointed out my defects I realized that I should be more humble. It was because of them that I decided to go abroad to keep learning. I took some classes with Alfil around 2010, and soon I went to Berlin to study with Zamil. From there on, I always tried to receive private tuition every time my economy allowed for them, and when I couldn’t, at least I tried to assist to as many workshops as possible. Since Osada Steve’s visits in 2010-2011, different workshops started to appear in many places in Spain, particularly in Madrid and Barcelona. I took some classes and workshops by Pedro Cordas, from Lisbon; I currently consider him one of the best riggers in the world. I also took classes from nawashi Monko in Barcelona, I did a workshop with Akira Naka during his Madrid visit… I was with Kazami Ranki in november 2015 in Barcelona… And with Gorgone and Maya Homerton in Madrid. We recently brought Miss Eris to Granada and we studied her takatekote, inspired in Kazami’s, and her hip harness based in Gorgone’s.
I found references to something called Shibari Project…
That was a project I tried to develop between 2008 and 2010. I simply wanted to share the shibari pictures I was taking at the time, and also some written shibari material in Spanish… Both articles written by me and documents I was gathering, as there wasn’t much written information in Spanish in the Internet those days. I didn’t have much knowledge on web design, but I did what I could… I also lacked skill as rigger at the time, so I realized that during the sessions I could not achieve what I had previously visualized in my head before taking the picture. That being said, I learnt a lot, for good or bad, from the models I collaborated with and from other photographers. Around 2010 I decided to abandon that project and I started focusing in shibari from another perspective… And I opened a personal blog.
You also translated some Clover articles about shibari modeling.
In my blog I wrote articles coming from my heart, independently of the reactions that they may cause, but I also wanted to translate documents about shibari from English to Spanish, to make them more accessible… Of course, always with explicit permission from the author. I contacted Clover when she wrote her first guide for models, and I asked her if I could translate her text for my blog; she gave me her permission, so I did it. And when she published her revised and extended version, she herself asked me to translate it. I’m not a professional translator, but I’m good enough with English and I did it the best I could.
What happened to your blog, by the way?
I deleted it in December 2016, and I also took a break from photographic sessions because of strictly personal and familiar reasons. As I like to express my feelings and thoughts, I know I will return to express my vision of shibari and share my pictures. That’s the way I’ve chosen to share my shibari: other people prepare performances or workshops, I do photography.
Have you ever thought about doing performances, or that does not appeal to you?
I’ve thought about it: actually I did some in Málaga with Lorena Blaze, my regular model, between 2008 and 2009. But I wasn’t a particularly skilled rigger at the time, and I didn’t have experience tying in front of an audience… Moreover, the shows took place in night joints full of people who didn’t know how to behave during a shibari performance, you know, the lack of respect that comes with ignorance… So I lost a bit of my willingness to perform. I’ve always been a bit withdrawn on that regard. I’m a very private person, I don’t like to tie in front of other people so I’m reluctant to performances. It’s another thing to tie during the regular meetings that we host now, during which people looks your work with certain respect… And so, regardless of how I felt before, I’m getting used to tie in public. But anyway: I don’t have many notions of scenography or how to behave artistically on stage… In photography I keep myself more in the background, the model is the protagonist and I can shift out of the way.
What relationship do you have with other riggers or shibari groups in Andalusia?
Meeting other riggers and people who wanted to learn shibari encouraged me to do things. Around Andalusia there’s people who like ropes and practice bondage in a way or another. In Málaga there is a very active BDSM community organizing some rope activities, but our Ata2 Rope Crew is the only collective dedicated exclusively to shibari. The attendants to our events are basically young people who want to learn and live new experiences.
How does Ata2 Rope Crew work?
We are four people right now: Lorena Blake, Carlos G. who lives in Granada, and her partner Silvia. I’ve wanted since a long time ago to have a place of my own in which I could convey my vision of shibari. I’ve been doing photography sessions since 2008, but I’ve always lacked a physical space to cover the necessity of saving money to learn: I always had to travel to Madrid, Barcelona, Madrid… Having a place nearby allows to bring people from outside and learn without spending too much money. Carlos found an affordable venue in Granada and we founded there Ata2 Rope Crew… In February 2016 we hosted our first activity, and since then we meet monthly for practice and learning, and when we can we bring reputable riggers to teach quality shibari. In July 2016 we brought Pedro Cordas, and in February Miss Eris, both with Maya Homerton. That was the first time that we managed to get a shibari performance in a scenic art gallery in Granada, El Apeadero. We suggested them the idea, it came together and it was a success. The audience was happy, and the guys in El Apeadero seemed to want more, so probably we will keep doing things together in the future.
Did people from outside the scene come to this performance in an art gallery?
As I don’t usually attend to many BDSM parties, I cannot tell for sure, but I know that some people who came to that performance became regulars to our shibari activities.
You have collaborated in projects for other photographers, right? You worked with Tentesion during his recent visit to Andalucía for Tattooatados and Shibari Experience.
Yeah, I collaborated. He asked me if I would come and I told him to count me in, of course… They did it in a BDSM association in Málaga. I did two Shibari Experience and one Tattooatados, I didn’t have time for more and lots of people wanted to participate… Since Tentesion started the project we had tried to find the moment to shoot during one of my visits to Barcelona, but it wasn’t possible until he himself ended up coming to Málaga.
Have you lived any incidents during your years as a rigger?
I’ve been lucky enough to avoid serious incidents. I’ve been tying since 2001, learning since 2003 and doing photography sessions since 2008, and during that time two persons have felt sick, finally vomiting… And one person fainted at the very beginning of the session. That was a curious anecdote… She was not yet suspended, but she said she was not feeling well and in a few seconds she fainted, with both feet still on the floor. Because of the training I’ve received I know how to take out a suspension line in a matter of seconds, I use carabiners that open quickly and I can remove the entire suspension line fast. In less than four seconds we put her in the ground, ten seconds later she woke up, she was on her side so she could breathe well… And she asks, very calmly, “ah, have we finished already?” [Laughs] We told her that we hadn’t even started, and she answered that she hadn’t noticed anything, that it was like she had fallen asleep… That’s the only accident I’ve had. I think it’s good that these things go public. You learn from incidents, and in the end I think that all accidents are responsibility of the rigger. It is true that the model may have slept badly that night, or maybe wasn’t hydrated enough or didn’t disclose a health problem… But there are a lot of incidents that don’t come to light to avoid damaging the rigger’s ego. Everything has to be understood as a learning process, even the mistakes… I’ve never had problems to tell about the dizziness that two of my models experienced. After that I investigated why, maybe the line was badly tied or pressed too much on the thorax… It’s always good to share those ideas with other models and riggers, so they can weigh in about the possible issue.
You mentioned egos: have you met many riggers with oversized egos?
A lot! Not only Spanish, but from all over the world. I don’t know if it depends more on individual personality or on the environment… Until very recently shibari was a relatively unknown skill in the BDSM scene: lots of people see someone tying a model in an apparently beautiful way and praise the rigger without having a clue if what they’re seeing is good or badly done… So the environment ends up boosting the rigger’s ego. I’m very self-critical: when a picture of my ties gets published I look for possible technique and handling mistakes myself. I try not to feed my ego too much. Some people accuse me of having a big ego because I usually call a spade a spade, but who really knows me is aware that I am humbler than I look.
Have you tied up male models? Why do you think that there are less male than female models in the shibari scene?
Nowadays there are a lot of women riggers, and that’s very good. My theory is that shibari comes from Japan, a country with a beautiful culture but also very sexist. There’s always been exceptions, SM japanese magazines with men tied up by women, but generally the rigger was a man and the model a woman. It’s also true that it’s a bit more ergonomic to tie a woman than a man. It’s easy to tie a 45 kg girl 1,50 m high, but very few men have that size. Moreover, in the West both women and men tend to have more size and weight… It’s always been easier to teach shibari to tie women than to tie men, with different builds. For photography I’ve never tied a man. For me shibari, even if not necessarily done for sexual reasons, it has strong emotional and erotic implications. And being a heterosexual person myself, I’m not capable of establishing the emotional connection that I do establish with a female model. If I’m not going to be capable of enjoying and provide enjoyment to a man tying him up, I prefer not to do it.
What relationship do you see between pain and shibari? Do you practice semenawa?
Shibari is a kind of japanese bondage, so it’s an erotic tool applied to sadomasochistic play… Even if pain and shibari are not always together, the connection exists. Keeping in mind my knowledge and the training I’ve received about semenawa, I apply it when I can. It’s true that I’m a very calm rigger, I try that the model enters in a state of deep relaxation and frequently I don’t want to ruin that atmosphere adding torture… But when I can, I apply semenawa, and I think it’s necessary: it allows to go further from simple aesthetics to the building of a scene and an atmosphere in which the model suffers beautifully.
Have you explored other restraint techniques beyond ropes? Chains, mummifications, bandages…
Ropes are what interests me most, so I devote to ropes most of my training time, but beyond that, I do like other forms of immobilization. As a bondage lover, I liked to restrain movement even before I knew about shibari: I’m not fond of chains and handcuffs, but I’ve used leather restraints, tape… And I’m a fanatic of mummifications and vacuum beds.
How do you negotiate a shibari session with an unknown person?
If we talk first using Internet the first conversation is usually by Whatsapp, or Facebook chat… I always try to conduct a short interview to know her physical and emotional state. I ask if she has any kind of injury, physical problems, breathing difficulties, anything that I should consider while making a tie. Afterwards, basic negotiation for a photography session, without any extra practice, is where I can and where I can’t put rope on: in the face, mouth, hair, breasts, genital zone… And after that, depending on the specific connotations of each session, other practices may be discussed.
What do you think the best approach is for a newbie to learn shibari? Which kind of learning should a newbie follow?
I’ve always been a staunch defender of supervised private classes. I started by looking at videos, tutorials and pictures in the Internet, but until I started with Alfil I didn’t realize that I didn’t have a clue. That’s why I think that an experienced rigger with good knowledge should supervise learning processes. Workshops are also good, although not all of them are the same quality. When I attend to a workshop as a student, independently of the quality of the rigger and the clarity of their references and prestige, I look closely at the programme. And seeing programmes with lots of content makes me back down, because I don’t think there will be enough time… A workshop of less than five hours is a fraud, independently of its content. Kinoko Hajime said that he needs three hours just for teaching the basic knot… So I look for workshops with not too much content, so there is enough time to digest it.
What qualifications should someone have to be able to give shibari lessons and workshops?
In 2016 I dared to give a workshop for the first time… I’ve been learning shibari seriously since 2010, but it’s been six years until I felt prepared to impart even the most basic stuff. I don’t know what qualifications should a teacher have, but I feel comfortable with learning experience verifiable by images and references… There’s people saying they have years of experience and lots of teachers, but without any specification of who they were. [Laughs] I’m also nonplussed by workshops with lots of content and Japanese concepts in a few hours: I feel like the teacher wants to prove their knowledge of lots of concepts and nothing else… It’s another thing to be capable of conveying the meaning of those concepts.
When do you think that a new rigger is ready to start doing suspensions?
It’s a bit relative, because it’s not the same to go once or twice a month to a place to practice than attending regularly to a rope dojo… For instance you have the Barcelona Shibari Dojo. When you go regularly to a place like that in order to learn and practice, progress is much faster. So the timing depends on the type of learning, level of dedication and training hours. With our activity frequency in Granada, there’s people who started using rope in February 2016, and were capable of doing trustworthy suspensions in February 2017. That being said, I try to supervise their suspension line handling, as their structure is generally sound enough.
How should the rigger/model communication be during a tie?
I started by making too many questions… Until a workshop with Pedro Cordas in which Miss Eris was modeling for me, and she herself asked me to stop making so many questions. That it was good to ask from time to time, but too many questions blocked her from concentrating. From there on I grew used to reduce the level of verbal communication. I try to be aware of body language, hand movement of the model… And during key points, for instance when raising the first leg during a suspension, I always ask if things are going all right. If the model is too deep in concentration and I don’t want to break that, I can always look at her body language.
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?
I don’t like to be tied up… It’s true that some riggers have been tied up, and they test their structures in themselves to know how they feel. I don’t see myself with that necessity, because I intend communication to be fluid, and after each session I look for feedback to find out how the structure worked. I would say that in my case is not important to be tied, but it’s true that lots of people do it, and it’s OK for them to do it.
You started saying that you like the historical part of shibari… Does that mean that you like a more traditional shibari? Or are you interested also in Western developments?
Right now I’m exploring a lot of Western shibari. In Europe there’s a lot of shibari being developed, and some variations work very well, so I include them in my structures. Right now the takatekote I use most often is Gorgone’s, because I think its structure is very good. When I started I looked for tradition, but it’s true that traditional stuff gets sometimes obsolete or remains too closed to evolution. I like balance between tradition and evolution. I remember a conversation with Malporro
on that regard: he said that there were things around that weren’t Japanese, and I thought that was to be expected. Yoga came out from India and nowadays everybody practices it, and it’s still called yoga even if variations are developed outside India. Evolution is always good, as long as you make things that work and don’t depart too much from tradition. Some time ago we were not supposed to do many knots because that was theoretically non-Japanese, but then when we started finding Japanese riggers doing lots of knots, how are we supposed to tell them that what they do is not Japanese? [Laughs] You have to be a bit open with styles, not concentrating in one as it were the only valid.
Any preference regarding the aesthetics of your sessions, like for instance in the costumes?
I’m not very strict with that. For comfort reasons I prefer to tie over the naked body, because clothing creates some difficulties. Not for playing, but for handling… Every time, when I tie a person wearing a T-shirt, at some point my finger gets stuck in the shirt. [Laughs] If the model does not want to be naked, she can use whatever clothing she feels comfortable with.
When you were saying before that you consider yourself as a practical rigger, what were you exactly referring to?
To the fact that I don’t give more importance to the aesthetics of a knot or a figure than to its efficiency. There’s people concentrating too much in doing macrame, giving more importance to the rope itself than to the person being tied up. To do that, a mannequin would suffice, because a person will not have fun. When it was my turn to do Tattooatados, I told Tentesion that I was completely against macrame… But anyway, in the end I did the effort with pleasure. I try not to center into the rope aesthetics, but in the whole scene. In the end, what’s important for me is to live and offer a gratifying experience. I try to use body mechanics in the benefit of the model, while trying to create an adequate atmosphere for the scene, independently on the beauty of the ropework itself. I’ve had to fight a bit against myself, because I like very much symmetric forms, if I see a bunch of cards and there’s one not fully aligned, I must correct its position. In the beginning I was very meticulous with symmetry, but as years pass I’m giving it less and less importance.
Which rope places have you visited and what impression have they caused to you?
I have not been in Barcelona’s Dojo, but I know Vic and I have good relationship with him, although we haven’t spoken for a long time. I respect him a lot as a rigger and as a person, and I think that he’s doing things very well in the Dojo. You’ve got a bit of overbooking in Barcelona right now: beyond Rosas 5 and La Orbita de IO there is also now Fausto, whose administrators I know and respect; in Rosas there’s Jordi Lucena, and I’m not sure if Alberto has something going on somewhere or in Rosas… In Barcelona there are right now eight or nine places where you can tie. In Madrid I’ve been in the mythical Garaje, where a lot of events are hosted regularly.
Which currently active riggers do you think are more interesting and why? Ideally one from Spain, one from abroad and one Japanese.
That’s a very difficult question… I’ve always said that, for me, the best rigger currently in Spain is by far Alfil. It’s true that in the later times he hasn’t been very public, but if Kurt is considered to be the father of shibari in Spain, Alfil is his most direct heir, and the rigger with best technique in Spain. It’s true that in Spain there are a lot of riggers coming out, but for me none is better than Alfil. Outside Spain, leaving aside that I consider him wonderful and I have a good friendship with him, I would choose the portuguese Pedro Cordas.
What do you like most about him?
The way he applies his own personality into his shibari. Pedro Cordas is the most honest person I’ve met in the shibari scene. He has a lot of Japanese influence, actually he’s been during a lot of years a student under nawashi Kanna, and his style is very Japanese. Taking into account that nowadays in Europe there’s a lot of shibari evolution that a traditionalist may consider non-Japanese, let’s say that Pedro would be a bit in defense of Japanese shibari… Although he learns from many people, he tries that his shibari stays as Japanese as possible.
And which japanese rigger would you choose?
I like very much Kazami Ranki’s style. When he came to Barcelona, you asked me why was he called the Atrocious Nawashi. He has some figures with a very clumped structure, he does not care much about the aesthetics of any particular knot, and prepares structures that look shoddy but that are actually very strong and comfortable for suspensions. I understood that he’s called Atrocious Nawashi for that. I like very much his style… And his takatekote, although open to evolution as all are, is for me one of the best and strongest structures I’ve known.
Shibari has been getting more and more popular during the later years: do you see in that certain risk of saturation?
From the moment that shibari started to be fashionable, everybody who picks up a rope says that is doing shibari and, worse of all, starts teaching it. I would like shibari to stop being trendy, leaving only the few people who were interested in it since the beginning… Not for removing competition, but to avoid distortions: when something becomes fashionable and everybody wants to do it, it gets a bit subverted.