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Inside the Koreatown Dojo Dedicated to the Art of Japanese Rope Bondage

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Mention anything bondage-related and Zetsu Nawa reflexively geeks out.

A participant in a recent Tuesday night class learns the basics of shibari, Japanese rope bondage.

By Lila Seidman

A casual reference to a dotted gag in one of his thousands of drawings and photos of bound women launches him into a mini-lecture about its “humiliation factor” in modern Japan. It’s just a dishtowel, he explains. “It’s like he grabbed the thing you’re using to wash your hands to gag you.” As he talks, he’s caressing a length of Japanese jute rope, which he extols for its “toothiness.”

Zetsu — an American who adopted the pseudonym to protect his identity — is the head of a one-room school in Koreatown dedicated exclusively to shibari, or erotic Japanese rope bondage. His rope work has been featured in Katy Perry’s music video “Bon Appetit” and on the cover of Jhené Aiko’s album Maniac.

Launched in its current space in 2014, L.A. Rope Dojo is tucked away on the second floor of an unassuming office building just off Western Avenue and Second Street. The walls are plastered with images of women in various states of constraint. Wooden beams stretch from wall to wall — not coincidentally, the perfect height and size for binding willing men and women to.

On a recent Tuesday night, mostly fresh-faced, young couples stream into the dojo for its sold-out, bimonthly beginner’s rope play class. They look, well, totally normal.

“Most of the people who come here would never set foot in a BDSM dungeon,” Zetsu says, crediting the historical, philosophical and artistic appeal of the practice.

At most dungeons in L.A., people go by BDSM aliases, “like BadMaster79,” Zetsu explains. “Here, people are ‘Beth’ and ‘Kevin.’” In class, Zetsu goes by his real first name. “Nobody’s thinking about hiding in a way that people tend to do in the broader BDSM scene,” he says.

Zetsu, who could pass for anyone’s affable uncle, begins every intro class by detailing the origin of shibari, which synthesizes elements from Kabuki theater and an ancient samurai policing technique.

Before students start immobilizing one another, he asks the “top” (the one doing the tying) to think of a word before grabing their partner’s wrist. The first word is “sensual.” The second is “mine.”

Subtle acts like this reflect the essence of the teaching style he learned from his longtime instructor, Yukimura Ryuu, a grandmaster of the erotic art, who stressed the Japanese concept of kokoro, or “heart,” over technique.
“If your partner is feeling things that they need to feel, then the rest of it doesn’t matter,” Zetsu says. “The rope is just a conduit to get to those feelings.”

As class progresses, a petite girl with her hands bound becomes flushed and sinks to the floor. Her equally flushed male partner asks her if she’d like to be untied. She breathes “no” and they embrace.

(Class assistant Howard, who also goes by Rope Daddy, describes the feeling as “rope drunk” — a sort of euphoric high some people experience via bondage.)

Baltimore-born Zetsu says his path to enjoying bondage was significantly more fraught than many of his students.’ In the late 1970s, at age 12, he would wait 45 minutes to download a single pixelated photo of a bound Japanese woman. He stored the images on cassette tapes; floppy disks didn’t yet exist.

It wasn’t until 2006 that he found himself in Tokyo for work and decided he had to finally explore “this thing.” He took a class with a German expat, Osada Steve, who in turn connected with him a teacher in L.A. At that time, it was still a rarefied practice in the West. Now, “It’s everywhere!” Zetsu says.

In 2010, he returned to Japan to study rope more explicitly. He is now one of only two people in the United States with a teaching certificate from the late Yukimura.

Zetsu says that in Japan, teaching “is an obligation, and a very sacred one.” He had no choice but to spread the knowledge he acquired.

Significant cultural translation is needed to bring the essence of the art form to Angelenos, he admits. For one, Zetsu says in Japan it is normal to “molest” the models during a lesson. Here, that wouldn’t go over so well.
While Zetsu acknowledges ethical questions inherent to sexual power exchange, he believes it’s a basic question of consent.

“It should ultimately be about love and care for your partner, which sounds kind of ironic as you’re tying them up and hitting them,” Zetsu says. “But that’s the whole point: You only do that to people who need it and crave it and love it.”

Ivy, a 20-something Asian woman who came to the class Tuesday with her boyfriend of 3½ years, looks gleeful in the dingy hall outside the dojo. She says she was happy to act on some of her desires for the first time.

“It’s just sort of intimidating, taking that first step,” she explains. She’s already plotting her return.

Complete Article HERE!

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Meet The Photographer Using Rope Bondage To Create Incredible Art

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Art has a long history of drawing inspiration from the otherwise underground world of BDSM. The custom goes as far back as 1928, when the surrealist artist Man Ray captured an image of a woman sensually reclining while bound in ropes and a harness.

Robert Mapplethorpe famously stunned the ’70s art establishment with his documentation of the S&M play flourishing in certain corners of the gay community. Acclaimed Japanese artist Nobuyoshi Araki made his name with graphic, intensely sexual, and often controversial images of Kinbaku-bi, the ancient Japanese art of “tight binding” or rope play. The list goes on and on…

Contemporary photographer Garth Knight both aligns with and breaks from this complicated tradition. A former engineering student, Knight pursues his lingering interest in forces and mechanisms by creating intricate sculptural rope forms in which human models hang.

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While Knight also draws from the kinbaku tradition, his photographs are less corporal and titillating than Araki’s work or your typical bondage art. The focus of Knight’s stunning and meticulous rope suspensions is more on transcendence than the human form.

Konbini spoke with Knight about his vivid rope worlds, his process, and whether he considers his work erotic. Read the full interview below!

Konbini: When did you begin drawing from bondage and shibari in your work? What attracted you to those worlds/forms?

Garth Knight: I have always had a strong affinity with line and had enjoyed playing with rope for practical purposes. In 1999, when I first saw a person being beautifully bound, it was like a revelation.

At that stage I wasn’t particularly interested in or even really aware of erotic bondage, but just seeing the rope and the body combined aesthetically spoke very deeply to me and I knew I had to do it myself.

The mechanics of tying came quite naturally and very easily to me, but the emotional and psychological aspects of rope bondage took a long time to develop. I still feel like there are whole worlds to discover and cultivate in this respect.

There was no internet back then and Japanese rope art (shibari, or kinbaku) was also completely unknown to me. I just started playing around and for many years I was just teaching myself, developing my own style and stumbling around in the dark. When I became aware of kinbaku I was very attracted to it and started incorporating elements of it into my style, though I have always been very careful to make this symbiosis influential rather than a replication.

Garth Knight

How has rope bondage influenced your art?

The more I’ve used rope and tying, the more I’ve learned that my own place in this world is tenuous and unreal and a construct of my mind. This world is connection overlayed with connection which we try and make sense of by building patterns.

When you work with rope, you lay rope onto rope and connection onto connection making an extended and cumulative embrace, forming a vibrating web of touch on the body and in the surrounding space, the connectivity and flow of energy pulsing through the space and the body and our psyches.

It’s a very powerful and sometimes transcendent place to be. It’s compelling and overwhelming and sensual and hypnotic. To release yourself to these emotions, to be able to submit to this, is all facilitated by the constraint of the rope.

Garth Knight

What does your process look like when you are making something like your Blood Consciousness or Vortex series? Who are your models? How long does it take you to finish one of your rope sculptures?

Ideas come mostly in daydreaming states, or while drawing, sketching. The end result is usually very process-driven: I make a start and the work develops organically. Working with the model is usually a very experimental process, working together to find their “place” in the work.

The rope used to tie someone takes up their energy, their sweat and skin and touch and experience. The models are a mixture of my friends and associates, as well as people contacting me who are interested in being part of this process. I choose people who intuitively feel right for that particular image, sometimes this just comes down to serendipity.

Each shoot takes place over several hours. The entire series takes many days to produce, normally stretched out over weeks or months.

contact garth@garthknight.com

Where do you draw or find inspiration? What other artists influence you? What do you draw specifically from the BDSM or bondage world?

The natural world with its constant infinite dance of order and chaos is always my greatest inspiration and ongoing fascination. I am attracted to bonsai and the constraint of form combined with simultaneously attempting to see and bring out the individual plants “true” being.

Surrealist artists like Dali and Man Ray set me on my path early. Escher, Odd Nerdrum, Andy Goldsworthy and Da Vinci are the kind of artists that also rate highly. From the kinbaku world, Kinoko and Kanna are two artists I really admire.

From BDSM specifically, I draw an interest in transcending the body and mind through the use of extreme sensation, and the use of physicality and eroticism as a pathway to awe.

contact garth@garthknight.com

contact garth@garthknight.com

Do you regard your work as erotic or sensual? What do you hope your work conveys about the human body, submission, and constraint?

I’ve brought up a couple of times the erotic and sensual aspects, both in the process and final images, and I definitely find both of these things to be essential elements and integral parts of my work.

In the past, I have avoided talking too much about this aspect, partly because it’s definitely not the only thing the work is about and since it is such a powerful element in people’s perception it can cloud the other aspects. Mostly though I’ve come to realize it’s because I find it very confusing and difficult to extricate some meaningful description of that part of the work using words.

contact garth@garthknight.com

contact garth@garthknight.com

Hopefully, ultimately, I would like to convey that the human body is just a construct for the perception and interaction of the flow of energy which we call consciousness, which moves from the infinite collective unconscious through our momentary singular consciousness to learn and grow and then onto its ultimate dispersal into the collective super-consciousness.

This flow adds to some spiritual momentum which, once it reaches some critical level, will lead to the complete enlightenment of the One which contains us all.

My mind tells me that this thought is ridiculous and just does not add up with what it sees and the physical reality that it has built and fastidiously maintains, and which we are so constrained by and invested in. And yet, when I submit myself entirely to the experience of the creation of art, I do believe this thought to be so.


More of Garth Knight’s work can be found on his website. The “Blood Consciousness” and “Vortex” series are also available in full in Knight’s new book

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Bondage Can Be So Much Fun

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Whips, chains and blindfolds – oh my! Oh yes!

By Stephanie Weaver

bondage

Whether you’re a woman or a guy, by now you’ve probably read – or at least heard of – the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon. The fastest-selling trilogy of all time depicts the S&M relationship between virginal Anastasia Steele and young business mogul Christian Grey.

What exactly made these books so appealing to women of all ages? The idea of allowing a man to tie you up and make you submit to all of his sexual desires seems to go against everything feminism and Gloria Steinem ever taught us. But despite the scary descriptions you’ve heard about bondage in the bedroom, a little kink can bring you and your partner endless pleasure and joy between the sheets. Whether you just want to tie each other up, smack one another around, or go all out with nipple clamps and anal beads, bondage can be your new BFF in bed. (Read any dirty books lately? Find out why you should in Beyond “Fifty Shades:” How Erotica Can Improve Your Sex Life.)

 

Complete Article HERE!

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Would you try rope bondage for meditation?

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The word bondage usually has connotations of latex, domination, and sexual deviancy. But some young Australians are turning to rope bondage for meditation and relaxation. DISCLAIMER: Seek professional advice in the art of Shibari; do not attempt independently.

By Lucinda Kent

Rope bondage enthusiast Teneil Zerbst says it can be practised almost anywhere - even from a tree.

Rope bondage enthusiast Teneil Zerbst says it can be practised almost anywhere – even from a tree.

Teneil Zerbst’s life looks pretty normal from the outside.

Office job, cute pet, happy relationship. She likes art and going to gigs.

But Teneil’s preferred method of relaxation in her spare time is a little… unconventional.

Teneil likes to be tied up (or tie others up) in a style of bondage known as Shibari, based on a centuries-old Japanese practise that Samurai once used for restraining prisoners.

It takes around 30 minutes to suspend someone with Shibari knots, or even hours for more elaborate styles.

It takes around 30 minutes to suspend someone with Shibari knots, or even hours for more elaborate styles.

While there is definitely a sub-culture of rope bondage for sexual pleasure (Teneil’s rope venue The Salon has a stall at Sexpo), she says getting tied up and hung in the air it is much more about relaxation than gratification.

“Shibari has deep origins in utility and practicality, but is also incredibly aesthetically pleasing and over the years has morphed into something of an art form; combining restraint, deep connection and power exchange between model (or bottom) and rigger (or top),” she said.

Teneil Zerbst (right) says passing control over to the rigger is a key reason why many people find suspension relaxing.

Teneil Zerbst (right) says passing control over to the rigger is a key reason why many people find suspension relaxing.

When she is ‘modelling’, Teneil is routinely bound and tied up in elaborately knotted and tied ropes, then suspended in the air for up to hours at a time.

“Being suspended is an incredible feeling. When I first started modelling, I was somewhat nervous about feeling constricted and helpless; claustrophobic even! But as soon as I left the ground, I felt an immediate sense of deep relaxation and a wonderful calm come over me,” she says.

“Modelling is not the same for everyone, but I’m confident that most models at one time or another experience ‘sub space’ – a level of relaxation or high as a result of endorphin release through the body.

“It’s something that is hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it, especially considering ‘bondage’ and ‘relaxation’ aren’t terms that are usually associated!”

While Teneil was first introduced to Shibari through Brisbane’s BDSM scene, she says the key to converting people to the wonders of the rope is to bring it to a more pedestrian environment.

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She is just as likely to tie up a fully-clothed friend from a backyard tree on a Sunday afternoon as she is a scantily-clad bondage enthusiast in the dark of night at The Salon.

Teneil has introduced people from every part of her life to rope bondage, and has been surprised at how accepting people are of her unusual hobby.

“I’ve tied up my brother in front of my entire family at Christmas-time, and I have even suspended my mother in my family backyard,” she says.

“My family and friends are incredibly supportive of what I do and I’m glad to be able to share it with them.”

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She says she hopes one day rope bondage will be as normal as yoga for relaxation.

“Being tied up is not something most people would think would be synonymous with being relaxing, but to me, there is a freedom in restraint that I have not felt anywhere else; not at yoga, not during traditional meditation, she says.

“I think what makes rope bondage different is that it is pure connection. It’s connection between your mind and your body, and your body and your rigger. It is relaxing, challenging, meditative and intimate, whether you’re tying yourself or being tied by someone else – even when you’re tying someone else.”

“I have two friends that I tie regularly, and I self-suspend every now and again. My passion, however, definitely lies in modelling for others. I love to fly!”

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Complete Article HERE!

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Bondage Aficionados Are Better Adjusted Than Most

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New research from the Netherlands finds that the psychological profile of people who enjoy certain non-mainstream sex games is surprisingly positive.

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handcuffs

Is everyone you know unhappy or neurotic? Perhaps it’s time to find a new crowd—a group of open-minded individuals who are happier and better adjusted than most.

That is to say, people whose sexual preferences lean toward bondage and sadomasochism.

bondageAccording to new research from the Netherlands, the psychological profile of people who participate in these types of erotic games “is characterized by a set of balanced, autonomous, and beneficial personality characteristics.” Compared to those who engage in more mainstream sexual behavior, such aficionados report “a higher level of subjective well-being.”

“We conclude that (these activities) may be thought of as a recreational leisure, rather than the expression of psychopathological processes,” psychologist Andreas Wismeijer of Nyenrode Business University writes in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

“Overall, a picture emerges of the psychological characteristics of the average BDSM practitioner that, compared with non-BDSM practitioners, is quite favorable.”

Wismeijer notes that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, both public opinion and the psychological establishment tend to equate BDSM activities (bondage-discipline, dominance-submission, or sadism-masochism) with some form of psychological damage. “BDSM is to some degree still pathologized in the upcoming fifth edition of the DSM,” he notes.

Along with statistician Marcel van Assen, he conducted a study at Tilburg University to determine whether there is truth behind this belief.<

Wismeijer created a detailed survey designed to reveal respondents’ personality traits and attachment style: how secure they feel when bonding with others and how they deal with their insecurities. In addition, the respondents rated their subjective level of well-being over the previous two weeks.

The participants were 902 people who “responded to a call posted on the largest BDSM Web forum in the Netherlands,” and another 434 contacted through a popular Dutch women’s magazine. The control group was 70 percent female; the group of people interested in BDSM was roughly half men and half women. (Those in the latter group were also asked if they preferred playing a dominant or submissive role, or regularly switched.)

The results will certainly produce intense feelings, although whether they are painful or pleasurable largely depends on the person.bondge_arms

“Our findings suggests that BDSM participants as a group are, compared with non-BDSM participants, less neurotic, more extroverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, yet less agreeable,” the researchers write. They add that females in the BDSM group had “more confidence in their relationships” and “a lower need for approval” than those in the mainstream sample.

“Finally, the subjective well-being of BDSM participants was higher than that of the control group. Together, these findings suggest that BDSM practitioners are characterized by greater psychological and interpersonal strength and autonomy.”

Why might this be? Wismeijer notes that “BDSM play requires the explicit consent of the players regarding the type of actions to be performed, their duration and intensity, and therefore involves careful scrutiny and communication of one’s own sexual desires and needs.”

In other words, it requires thought, awareness, and communication—all of which lead to happier relationships, both in and outside of the bedroom.

Like sadomasochistic sex itself, these results shouldn’t be taken too far; the differences between the groups were, for the most part, not huge. And there were some differences among members of the BDSM community: “Scores were generally more favorable for those with a dominant than a submissive role.”

Nevertheless, “Overall, a picture emerges of the psychological characteristics of the average BDSM practitioner that, compared with non-BDSM practitioners, is quite favorable,” Wismeijer concludes.

This may be hard for some to accept. But think of it this way: Old prejudices are not something you want to be handcuffed to.

Complete Article HERE!

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