Basic Shibari Knots

Rope bondage is like a language. Some simple techniques are letters, and more complex combinations of those techniques into knots and frictions are like words. Ties, like an armbinder or a futomomo are sentences, and floor work, partials or full suspension sequences are full stories. It is possible to say a nearly endless array of different things with rope, as it is with any language, through the use and re-use of a small set of base ingredients.

An important caveat to remember when comparing shibari-inspired bondage knots to knots from other contexts is that bondage is usually done with a doubled rope.

These are a few of the ingredients I use the most. It’s not an exhaustive list, nor am I presenting it as how-to knowledge. All bondage is dangerous, especially rope bondage, so you probably shouldn’t try this at home.

Sommerville Bowline

The most important knot in bondage is not a specific knot, but a group of knots that can produce the same result, the single column: a loop of rope that does not get smaller when tension is applied. A single column functions like a leash rather than a noose. Common variants include the square/reef knot, called honmusubi in Japanese, and the Sommerville Bowline, what I use.

A modern knot designed in 2009, for bondage, by an artist named Topologist, the Sommerville Bowline is based on an ancient knot type called a bowline, sometimes referred to as the King of Knots.

Nodome

Sometimes referred to as a “Munter Hitch” by rope bondage enthusiasts, this friction, called Nodome in Japanese, is not a true Munter Hitch, but it is one of the most common techniques used in modern rope bondage, particularly webbing.

Half Hitch

Called a takedome in Japanese, a half hitch is basically just an overhand knot, with one rope wrapped around a standing line. Multiple half hitches in a row can be used to lock off uplines, and a half hitch can be tied slipped as a “quick release” knot.

Larks Head

In use since at least the first century CE in ancient Greece, the larks head knot is tied by passing the working end of the rope through the bight, trapping a standing line.

Slipped Overhand

While tying, I often want to put a piece of rope aside that I can quickly and easily pickup to use when I need it. I use a slipped overhand knot to tie off and hold the bight. Because shibari uses a doubled rope, every time a new rope is used, the person tying must find the middle of it. When I’ve set the ropes aide with slipped overhands, I can easily grab one, pull on the bight to untie it and be ready to use it in a few seconds.