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What is shibari, the art of Japanese rope bondage, and how can you practice it?

Although often associated with fetish practitioners, shibari is a learned skill that can be used for mental stimulation and relaxation, both by the roper (usually called a rigger) and the person being trussed up (the model or ‘bunny’). When done well, it is incredibly beautiful.

When done badly, it can be dangerous – but it’s a skill that most people can learn.

I spoke to five people for whom shibari is a intrinsic part of their lives and asked them what makes them want to play with ropes.

Djfet runs the South Coast Shibari group – I asked her what attracted her to such an unusual craft.

Why shibari?

‘I am hyperactive with a very fast brain, but due to the intense connection and slow build up and removal of rope, shibari allows me to be mentally still.

‘There is no point in fighting bonds if you are stuck – there comes a time when you need to accept it and simply ‘be’.

‘I love the beauty of it and how the women look so feminine, but people get into shibari for millions of different reasons.

‘Perhaps they like being restricted. Some like the control of binding someone else, others enjoy the intense emotional connection.

‘Being the centre of someone’s full attention is intoxicating, seductive, intimidating and demanding.’

How did you learn the ropes (sorry!)?

‘I started with the internet but you very quickly need other people to bounce ideas off.

‘I went to my local peer rope group and it blew my mind – a whole room full of people who liked the same thing that I did.

‘A room of people in leggings and t-shirts giggling, laughing, being intense, being caring with each other – and eating a lot of cake!

‘I started to attend specific workshops and extended my skills.

‘When I moved south I found there was a gap in the local area so I gathered my courage and set up South Coast Shibari.

‘I still attend workshops and private tuition with more experienced practitioners and in turn I teach and give private tuition myself.’

What do you get out of it?

‘I adore zoning in on the person I tie with.

‘I find out what mood they are in and always negotiate what they want – and really don’t want – before I tie them.

‘Seeing them become free and relaxed is a huge gift to both give and receive.

When I am tied myself I still get that sense of quiet inside my head – the space where my thoughts aren’t racing at a million miles an hour.

‘For me, this is not a sexual act – which is not to say that it doesn’t become erotic; after all it’s primarily an erotic art form.

‘When I teach I feel really honoured to give people the skills they’ve been looking for.

‘I’m the house rigger at FILTH fetish club in Brighton and the amount of women who ask me to tie them is phenomenal.

‘They see me as a safe way to try the experience without being hit on. They want to feel bound, beautiful and feminine – just as I did when I first started.’