Anatomy of a Shibari Rope

Rope nerds use a lot of jargon. Here are a few of the basic terms used to describe bondage rope.

Hank

Technically, the term hank is used to refer to a coiled bundle of yarn, but in rope bondage, I use the term to refer to a length of rope, typically bundled up in a specific way that allows for easy un-bundling. 

Bight

In Japanese-inspired bondage, the rope is folded in half and used doubled. The middle of the rope, where it is bent, is called the bight.

End Knots

At the each end of the rope, opposite the bight, the rope is knotted to prevent it from fraying. I use simple overhand knots here, because they’re simple to fix if they come undone while tying, and they’re bulky enough to make for easy rope additions through a simple lark’s head.  But, overhand knots are much more likely to come undone and are much bulkier than other stopper knots.

It is also possible to finish rope ends with thread, through a process called whipping, but this leads them smooth, with no knots to catch on a lark’s head for rope additions.

Yarns & Strands

Most organic bondage rope is made of three strands of material twisted against each other. Each of these strands is itself made of a specific number of yarns twisted together.

Some synthetic bondage rope is made of strands braided together, rather than twisted, in various patterns, sometimes around a core. I don’t like the look of braided rope, and I find it’s texture more likely to cause burning when pulled quickly against the skin.

Length

Japanese-style bondage ropes generally come in 7 or 8 meter lengths (approximately 23 or 26 feet), typically called hanks. Western sources will sometimes sell rope in 30 foot pieces. Shorter lengths of rope will be easier to handle, especially for knots that require the entire length of rope to be pulled through a loop, but will require more frequent rope additions. People with longer arm spans will be able to smoothly use longer pieces of rope. My rope kits consist of primarily 8 meter lengths with a few 4 meter half pieces for finishing ties and tying hair.

Uplines

Most of the rope used for bondage is applied directly to the skin. In suspension bondage, uplines are ropes used to connect on-body rope harnesses to overhead suspension points. I use organic jute rope for on-body rope, for comfort and aesthetics, and synthetic POSH uplines for safety.

Diameter

6mm (approximately 1/4 inch) is the default bondage rope diameter, but sizes above and below it are used commonly. I use some 6.5mm rope to create visually heavier lines in rope webs, and some people use larger diameters for added strength as uplines. I also use 5.5mm rope to create more intricate patterns, and some 3mm rope to tie whisky bottles and hair. 

Thinner rope concentrates pressure to a smaller surface area than thicker rope does, so thinner rope can hurt more, especially in suspensions. However, thicker rope creates bulkier knots, which can cause pain if incorrectly placed.