When I started learning kinbaku, the first tie I learned wasn’t the takate kote. It wasn’t the second or third of fourth tie I learned either. It wasn’t until several months into my instruction that I learned a very basic gote. It was probably two years until I was shown a high hands tie.
Six years later, I am still learning about the gote. It is a tie of almost infinite complexity, possibility, and depth. It can be tied dozens, if not hundreds, of ways from one rope to three or four (or more).
The current debate raging in the west right now (and by that I mean the people sniping at each other on fetlife) is whether or not the tie is “safe.” What people mean by safe, as I understand it, is safe for suspensions, particularly dynamic ones.
My answer to that question is simple and direct. I have no idea. I have never done a dynamic suspension or a transition or any other type of kinbaku that would require me to consider that question. In the complex, diverse, and extensive world of kinbaku, dynamic suspensions are a tiny slice of what is the art has to offer.
What bothers me about the discussion is not the question of safety (I think we should always be asking ourselves about safety and how to improve it). What I dislike is the way the entire question has been reduced to an engineering problem.
The two reasons I tie a takate kote or gote have nothing to do with the safety of the engineering of it. The reasons I tie it are these: beauty and effect.
I find the takate kote, especially a high hands version, to be the most beautiful form of restraint I know how to do. It is simple in its elegance. It is an example, for me, of what might be considered shibusa (渋さ). It gives a strong feeling, one which encompasses simplicity without being simple. It is modest and natural, not showy or ostentatious. It has an element of imperfection. A beautiful gote is never neat or perfect. It is worn on the body and each body both shapes and is shaped by the tie. It is a tie of infinite complexity that appears on the surface to be simple and natural.
Even the most simple gote, such as the one we do in Yukimura ryu (with one rope) can evoke in your partner some of the deepest feelings of surrender, helplessness, eroticism, shame, and desire. Its power is not just in the tie itself, but how it is tied. It is a tie that progresses gradually and creates layers upon layers of feelings and emotions. Once it begins your partner never loses the feeling of being tied and growing increasingly bound. The tie itself cannot be separated from the act of tying it.
No other tie I know allows me to combine these things, the beauty and power of a sense of aesthetics with the dramatic effect this tie can create.
Years ago, I was privileged to watch Nureki Chimuo tie a woman in Tokyo. As she was tied by him into a takate kote, she began to orgasm, not once, but multiple times. Nureki Sensei grew very cross with her and reprimanded her to stop it. “We have a very long day ahead of us and if you keep doing that, you aren’t going to last,” he told her. Nureki’s style exemplified what I mean. Each gote he tied was like a masterpiece, but the way he tied made it all look so effortless.
When you watch a bakushi slowly draw his partners arms behind them, purposefully tie their wrists and wrap their arms around them, slowly drawing the rope across their skin, listening as their breathing changes, feeling the almost imperceptible shifts in their body. Their skin flushes and their eyes shut. Soft moans escape their lips as you secure the rope, feeling them fall back into you as you snap the last knot taut, pulling them off balance, helpless and exposed to you. You can feel, sense, hear, and smell everything happening around you. Your hearts beat in unison.
I step away and admire her, bound and posed just as I like her. She knows I am watching her but she can’t quite bring herself to look into my eyes. Helpless and abandoned, even just for a moment. A beautiful object to be admired and inspected. She feels my absence now as strongly as she felt my presence before. There is a rawness to her beauty. Helplessly, she aches for my return.
That is my takate kote.
The person who then asks “Yeah but it this acceptably safe?” might just be missing the point.