What is Shibari?

0

The term shibari comes from the Japanese verb “shibaru” which simply means “to tie.”  Just as in English, the word shibari can refer to just about any kind of tying.  In the context of erotic expression, the word takes on a different connotation.  Just as in English, when we say we want to “tie someone up” we are generally referring to erotic bondage, in Japanese when you say shibari in the right context, people understand you mean tying for sexual pleasure.

The word itself has taken on a much deeper meaning, however, as shibari has become more of a worldwide phenomenon.  Accordingly, when people say Shibari in the West, they are referring to a specifically Japanese approach to erotic rope bondage.

What that means, however, is a bit more complicated.

Contemporary shibari, while having connections to older styles of tying from sources as diverse as Samurai martial arts and kabuki theater, is primarily a post-war activity in Japan.

Beginning in the 1950s, shibari became popularized in magazines and as part of an underground world that combined photography, tying, and erotic fiction to create a subculture of erotic rope bondage.  Those activities would expand into video and performances in the 1970s and 1980s as rope bondage became more visible and entered the mainstream through popular film in the era of “Roman Porno” or romance pornography.

While there is a strong desire in the West to create a checklist of qualities or to name essential ingredients as to what makes something “true shibari,” doing so it virtually impossible.  The variety of approaches, techniques, materials used, and motivations and intentions behind these ties are as numerous and as complex as the people doing them.

That said, there are style of shibari that have emerged from generations of rope artists learning from each other and tying in particular styles over long period of time.  Shibari itself is a living art form, growing and re-inventing itself over time.  As new techniques and approaches emerge, some of the older ways fade into the background, only to be rediscovered, reinvented, and renewed.

Shibari, then, can be seen as a fusion of the old and the new.  It is both respectful of history and tradition as well as constantly creating, imagining, and inventing itself.  It is always both old and new.  It requires an awareness of what has come before and a respect for the tradition, while also giving us the freedom to explore, expand, and experiment.

At the highest levels, and when done at its very best, shibari becomes a medium for personal expression, using the tools of tradition, history, and technique to share one’s deepest sense of self.  It is both freedom and constraint, and because of that, it is an art form that has a recognizable form even when it is showing us things that we have never seen before.

At Rope Flix, you see an amazing variety of rope artists, each unique in their own way.  Whether it is the semenawa techniques of Nureki Chimuo or Naka Akira or the caressing style of Yukimura Haruki or performances by Randa Mai or Miura Takumi, you always discover some new aspect of shibari.

Facebook Comments

Share.