The six most serious mistakes beginners in Kinbaku consistently do

Giving lessons to beginners in Kinbaku, I always start my workshops with: “I will teach you, what I wish someone would have taught me as I started.”

My start in Kinbaku was really not good. This was not only as I became interested already almost 10 years ago, at a time where the scene just started to develop and chances to find a teacher or workshop were less abundant as they are now, but mainly because I made a lot of mistakes. So I had to learn the hard way. I was only lucky insofar that I never (knock on bamboo) harmed anyone (rope burns and pinches aside).

I really see my mission in using my skills as scientist and strategy consultant to bring some structure into the material and find a system to teach it consistently to beginners to bring them as fast as it is safely possible to a consistent high standard from where they can explore on their own.

Six beginners mistakes

Making mistakes in the beginning of the learning Kinbaku keeps you in the space of insecurity

Therefore here is what I believe the most serious mistakes beginners do quite commonly when they start to learn Kinbaku / Shibari / Rope Bondage.

Mistake number one: No regular practice

There are many people that like to tie (a bit), that are interested to do some ropework, but they never have time to practice. I am guilty as charged myself. It took me very long time to admit that to myself. But the truth is: there is no craft based art, that comes with the holy spirit overnight, no martial art, no calligraphy, no music. Did Jimmy Hendricks regularly practiced to play guitar, even when he was not performing? You bet he did! Of course, after a while, just practicing the art becomes the “training”, but as a beginner, you must set regular time aside, to repeat the stuff you just learned in the workshop.

Mistake number 2: No style / no teacher

The second most common pattern is not Takate Kote, but the tendency to hop from teacher to teacher, from workshop to workshop, from style to style. Sure, there are many inspirations around, and often beginner don’t even have a clue what they really want, so they try out everything. For the very beginning this might be a good idea, but better sooner than later, it is essential to find a teacher and/or style you stay with – for a while. This is important, because the beginners training is aimed to set the base. How will you ever practice at home, when you saw 5 different ways to make a single column tie, but never brought one into your (muscle) memory? How will you ever go safely from the ground to the air, when you get lost in the jungle of too many variations of the basic patterns? I don’t say, that everything which is out there is same quality, same good. What I say is: find someone who seem to do good quality and is appealing for your Kinbaku and learn from this person. Learn one way to do a tie – at first. You can look out and search for variations later. I do not preach here any specific style. I have found mine, but it is not necessary the right or best one for everyone. No matter, traditional Japanese, or more laissez-faire European, no matter softer or harder – when it is appealing to you and provides a consistent system to learn and progress fast – go for it.

Mistake number three: Wanting too fast too much

Many people want too much too fast. This is understandable. Again, I am the first one who had (still have, to be honest) this weakness. I mean, in these days, where everyone goes on stage, and there is so much beautiful but also extreme stuff out there, it is easy to get the impression that running up the hill is the only way to succeed. But it is counterproductive. It sets a huge pressure both on the model and the rigger. It makes your practice unsafe. It leads to frustration, which maybe than leads to practicing even less. So when you want too much too fast, you might end up being even slower in your progress. This all doesn’t mean that you should not be ambitious. Nor it means that you need to train for decades before you can do “safely” a basic tie. No, when you have a good teacher, with a system and when you practice at home (!) the ties you learn on the workshop, you can do shit-crazy suspensions in a very short time (if this is your intention). All I’m saying it is not the absolute time in days or weeks or months, but the net time of practice in a good and well delivered system that matters.

Mistake number 4: Too slow, stagnation (often in combination with no practice)

I do observe also the opposite approach. Quite a lot of people play their ambitions low. Näh… we are not ready… We cannot do this; we cannot do that. They say this, even WHEN they do regularly practice. My hypothesis is that this self-diminishing is fueled by Rope Teachers who try to make it a hermetic art: only if you got the wisdom from the master from the mountain, after years and years of humble training, you will be ready… Many people are also concerned about safety or their physical ability. I like to say: Kinbaku is not a rocket science! Yes, you need a teacher, and yes, you need to practice… but at the end, it is not sword fighting. Relax, have fun. Trust yourself, dare to try what you want, enjoy yourself with and in ropes. Enjoyment often is not in the most dangerous and artistic suspensions. Just sayin’…

Mistake number five: Focus on free work too early (as they don’t like to learn “patterns”)

I know, everyone will hate me for that, but as you hate me anyway for my insisting on practicing, I will go for it: The range of order for any craft based art is: 1. Learn the basic techniques 2. Apply them 3. Transcend / break them.

It is not vice versa… and no, you cannot do step three before one and two. Picasso could draw very skillfully realistic paintings – he just got over it, and went for decomposition. But he could, I saw it with my own eyes in the first room of Picasso Museum in Paris. The Japanese call it Shu-Ha-Ri and have a whole philosophy around it in martial arts, but common sense will do it for us. No matter how much you love just to dance in ropes with your partner, no matter how intuitive you feel the connection, no matter how creative you are: if you want to become good, you must learn some basic patterns and principles. It will be so much more fun later to decompose them.

Mistake number six (6): Forget the purpose, which is to create a journey together with your partner

Finally, in my opinion, there are too many people who are overly concerned with the material of their ropes or its color, the touch and feel from the yarn, the right knots or patterns… They barely touch their partners. Maybe this is not their intention. That’s perfectly fine. There are many ways to play, to enjoy. Just don’t call it Kinbaku. And please, don’t ever mention the C-Word. For everyone else, who wants to do Kinbaku, learn to let go. The knots and patterns become perfect over time, with a good teacher, a consistent system and – YES! – practice. They don’t yet need to be perfect in THAT moment. So even during training, bring some spice into it. Look at your partner, touch your partner (consensually), be playful! Did I mention already that Kinbaku was designed to have fun? So fun comes from embarking on a journey together. It is not about you Rigger with your skills. It is not about you Model, with your endurance or flexibility or cuteness. It is about the story you create together.

Avoiding these six mistakes will set you on a path of fast learning – and fast enjoyment on your journey. Have fun!

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