One of the best-known types of shibari – Japanese style bondage – is the ‘karada’. This is the well-known tie that creates a series of diamond patterns down your victim’s body. I have a series of thoughts about ‘shibari’, its history and influences, and other things but they’re best left for another post… this one just concentrates on the ‘how-to’ of this particular tie.
Sometimes described as a ‘rope dress’, it might more accurately be thought of as a rope corset. In essence it consists of a loop that sits over the shoulders, and two long strands that run down the front, between the legs, up the back, and then criss-cross around the torso. It gives a very strong sense of restriction, the knots can sit in sensitive places, and it looks good. There are many different ways to tie it and what’s shown here is a mix-and-match of two different techniques. Once you have the basics, a lot of experimentation and refinement is possible.
On the model shown, who is 5 feet 5, I used 10 metres of rope. On more ample-bodied women, 10-12 metres should work; on male subjects, 12-15 metres is likely to be needed. I’ve used 8mm diameter rope. Much thinner and it tends to cut into the skin. Much thicker and the knots become bulky. Yes, the model’s wearing a T-shirt – you’re supposed to be studying the ropes, not the tits! Sorry about that…
1. The first stage is the loop over the shoulders (Figure 1). At the back, the bottom of the loop sits above the shoulder blades. I’ve tied this off with a figure of eight knot because it won’t slip – it mustn’t move and cut into your model’s windpipe!
2. I put some ordinary overhand knots into the rope down the front of the body. These are easier than figure of eight knots to loosen and adjust to make them sit exactly where you want them (Figure 2). The close-up below shows both knots, the overhand on the left and the figure of eight on the right (Figure 3).
I haven’t put knots up the back (see later) but if you do, you will have to make sure they sit to one side of the spine. They become uncomfortable if they rub on vertebrae and can cause injury if you lay someone on their back.
By way of explanation, some purists will say you shouldn’t need to put any knots in the ropes other than the initial figure-of-eight and the reef knot that finishes the whole thing off. They may refer to historical sources that say the ties come from ways of holding prisoners and high-status prisoners would be demeaned or insulted if knots were used. Others may say the knots are useful because they create pressure on erotic pressure points (and you can refer to discussions of shiatsu massage or chakras to find out more about those). What I’m showing here is the front with knots and the back without – you can mix-and-match. Your milage may vary. Practice, experimentation and discussion with your sub should result in a style that suits you both.
3. The two tails go between the legs and up the back, then through the shoulder loop (I had the model hold the ends out of the way). You’ll see one knot sits between the legs – bear in mind as you tighten the ropes all the knots will move an inch or two upwards (Figure 4).
4. Next: those two tails go one under each arm and through the front part of the shoulder loop, then back to the ropes at the back, forwards again to make the first diamond (between the shoulder loop and the knot on the chest), return to the back, forwards again to make the second diamond shape and so on. As you do this the ropes down the front, between the legs and up the back begin to tighten interestingly (Figure 5).
5. There are several ways to do the back. You could disregard the ropes up the back and just take each end completely round the body working from one diamond to the next on the front. You could put knots up the back – but position them so they’re not on the spine – and make diamonds front and back. What I’ve done (Figure 6) is cross the ropes over. As you look at the back, the tail from the left loops around the right-hand vertical rope and vice versa. The result is a ‘woven’ set of diamonds, and you can do this at the front as well if you want to cut down on the number of knots.
I haven’t illustrated this, but tweaking the position of the ropes above and below the breasts can compress them in a way that feels good and looks perky and attractive – so-called ‘anime breasts’.
6. I’ve carried on winding the ropes until I have just enough left to tie a reef knot at the base of the spine, though I’ve tied this around some of the other ropes and wound the ends back into the other ropes just for the sake of tidiness (Figures 7, 8). The next photo in the sequence shows a side view of the finished karada (Figure 9). You’ll see at one point I decided to make a ‘diamond’ into a ‘hexagon’ by running ropes between two knots a second time. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do this if it looks good.
7. So when someone’s wearing a karada, what can you do with them? The final picture (Figure 10) shows my model on the floor. The cushion at her chest is there to ease the pressure of the knots against her chest, but I’ve taken a second 10-metre rope, tied her hands, anchored the rope to the karada and run it around her ankles, then tied it off back next to the first anchor point. There are of course plenty of other possibilities…
After a while, if done right, your model will begin to find the ropes and knots pressing in ways they will find quite erotic. These feelings usually persist even after the ropes come off.
Perhaps obviously, the victim’s arms aren’t tied into the karada, hence the separate restraint. If you do tie their arms in and they’re fond of being escape artists, they’ll be able to reach the final knot and untie the ropes or shrug them off unless you do some other stuff I haven’t discussed here. Alternatively they’ll end up dragging ropes from around their upper arms over their shoulders and possibly even get them caught around their throat, which tends to be life-threatening… On the whole, a separate tie for the arms tends to be a better plan…
Safety issues. First, while the ropes need to be tight your model needs to be able to breathe. Experienced subs will almost automatically breathe in as ropes are tightened, to ensure that they’ll have room to fill their lungs when the ropes are tight. Inexperienced subs take note, and do likewise! Second, making someone lie on the knots can be very uncomfortable and potentially interfere with breathing – hence the cushion in the photo above. Never leave someone unattended when tied up; monitor them and have scissors handy. If you’re interested, the European Commission for the Prevention of Torture has criticised several European police forces and prison services for leaving prisoners face down and hogtied for periods of time, resulting in them suffocating because they couldn’t change position enough to breathe. If people experienced in the use of restraints can make such mistakes, they can happen in your bedroom too…
Third, be aware of any medical conditions your model has, and consider carefully if they are contra-indications for restrictive bondage. Low blood pressure or conditions that leave someone at risk of thrombosis would be examples. Always remember that people’s mileage will vary. The model in the photos is an experienced bondage bunny, was tied for about 20 minutes in the hogtie position and had pretty much reached her limit by that stage.
How you use your ropes and the conditions under which you use them are your own responsibility. We take no responsibility for any problems you encounter or injuries you cause. But on the other hand we hope you play safely and have fun!
Photos for this piece are courtesy of Sintheticnation, a special effects and graphic design freelance (but the photos are real and unedited!). An earlier version of this piece appeared in a now-defunct magazine, Midlands Fetish Scene.
Oh yeah – Fulani has published a couple of stories that revolve around, and describe, this kind of bondage. You might like Sex, Art and Aromatherapy, or Zen and the Art of Bondage, the latter in the Cocktales: Kiss in the Dark collection. Both published by Xcite.