The events of the past year or two in the rope community haven’t come as much of a surprise to me. I haven’t been part of that community for a long time and the reason why has a lot to do, I believe, with what has been happening.
For the past decade, I have been warning people of the problems and limitations of focusing kinbaku so intensely on technique, without thinking about the heart of it. The focus has been, almost exclusively, on the how to tie, rather than the why we tie. And by why, I don’t mean “why we use a munter hutch here, rather than there.” I mean motivation. I mean passion. I mean desire. I mean fantasy. I mean heart.
For me, it has always been simple. I want to tie someone so I can see a part of them they can only reveal when in rope. I want to evoke and provoke feelings of embarrassment, shame, and arousal. I want to share the part of myself that desires to see that with the part of them that wants to show it and give it to me.
None of that has anything to do with technique or even rope really. Those are my motivations. No one else needs to share them, other than the person I am tying with.
If you get tied by me in a rope scene (which for me requires some form of relationship, usually over a long period of time) that is what you are going to get and you will have no ambiguity about it.
The issue I have with rope education as I have seen it practiced is that the focus on technique has produced an unintended consequence and a rather serious one.
We all know the maxim that knowledge is power. In the rope world it has also taken on an added element. Rope is entitlement.
If you learn enough technique, you begin to feel you are entitled. You are entitled to the best play spaces. To the prettiest girls or boys. To getting what you want from a scene. To taking what you want from your partners.
You invested your time. You practiced. You learned the technique. Now you get the payoff.
Technique becomes about ego and it becomes about validation. You tie to show others how much you know and what you can do. Your partners become props. Beautiful props, suffering in your rope.
Your technique gets validated in stage two. You become a teacher. Maybe you even have travelled to meet people and learn from them. You got their technique and now you can show it to others.
Now your entitlement extends to the whole community. You get accolades and attention because you can show people how to tie 87 hishi patterns in 30 minutes or you can explain twenty different frictions by five Japanese bakushi. You may even have the latest news about how kannukis now are tied in an order different than they used to be.
And as we see over and over again, all that means exactly shit if your heart isn’t right.
The truth is, in the rope community no one talks about or values heart. They give it lip service all the time. Everyone is into “connective rope” and the way they go about it is to teach a class on “connective rope techniques,” almost, but not entirely, completely missing the point.
You value technique. You may as well order GOT T-shirts saying “I Tie and I Know Things” because that seems to be the value system of the rope community today.
So, it comes as no surprise to me that some of the top “riggers” in the rope community end up where they do. They start to believe their reviews and they start to act on that entitlement.
But some of the blame rests with a community so hungry for learning the next pattern or the new craziest tie that they not only look past the system of entitlement they are creating–they feed it and they are complicit in it.
You make these people your idols and that is a difficult thing to resist.
You have created a world where learning the next big thing often means tolerating egos, narcissism, and people who push boundaries, often times uncomfortably. But you put up with it because these people tie and they know things.
And when the inevitable happens people are shocked. They are wounded and hurt. And then slowly we hear all the stories. It has been happening for years. The stories start to all sound the same.
But mostly people are pissed. Their source of knowledge has been cut off and now they feel all the poorer for it. I think that is where a lot of the anger and disappointment comes from, to be honest.
What people fail to see is that everything you were learning was tainted from the beginning.
On a personal note, I can say in six years in studying with my teacher in Tokyo, I never once asked him how to do something. Technique was always second to heart. One of my most precious memories of him was when he told me, “I can tell you understand me, because of the questions you ask.” They were always questions about heart. Many of those conversations made me the person I am today, not just in rope, but in life.
I am not trying to tell anyone how to do what they do. I am just saying a lot of people need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the world they created and the consequences of it.
I am absolutely certain that I will change nothing by writing this, but at least now people can’t say “No one ever told me.”