Rope Bondage Positions

I approach rope with a shape or position first perspective, that is, I decide on a shape I’d like to arrange the model’s body in and then I figure out what rope pattern will best achieve that shapes. Below are some of my most commonly used shapes, but do not take this an exhaustive list, it’s far from it.

Upper Body Shapes

The most traditional, and commonly seen, upper body shape in Japanese-inspired shibari rope bondage is the box tie, so called because of the square shape the arms back behind the bottom’s back, with each arm in the opposite elbow. The next most common shape in shibari and the most common upper body shape western bondage is the arm binder, with the bottom’s arms extended and palms together behind their back. 

Armbinder

Called Ushirode-gasso shibari, or reverse Buddhist prayer tie, the arm binder is the most common upper body rope bondage shape in the western style, and a very common shape in Japanese rope bondage, second only to the box tie. In the Japanese naming structure, Christian prayer position has the bottom’s with the elbows bent, and their palms pressed flat together just under their chin. Buddhist prayer position is the same hand shape, but with the bottom’s arms extended down towards their thighs. It is the reverse of this Buddhist prayer position, the same shape, but behind the back, that I call an armbinder.

Sweet Gwendoline, a character by American bondage art pioneer John Willie, was frequently shown restrained in an arm binder. And combined with the full body rope wrap tie I call the Damsel Tie, is the upper body shape shown in traditional “tied on the train tracks” imagery. While it does appear in mid century Japanese bondage art, it does so less than the box tie. In American bondage art of the same period however, the arm binder shape dominates. 

The armbinder position externally rotates the shoulders and presses the model’s chest forward. From the back, the elongated V shape created by the arms enhances the appearance of the shoulder to waist ratio, which in turn indirectly enhances the appearance of the hip to waist ratio. It makes butts look good from the back, where all the interesting rope is in an armbinder tie. From the front, the model’s pose is aesthetic, but unless a bunch of extra is added, there isn’t much interesting rope on that side.

Box Tie / TK

One line of thinking about rope bondage traces the history of shibari to an anachronistic rope-based martial art called hojojitsu. This style was used in Edo Japan to both to subdue opponents on a sword based battlefield, and restrain civilian prisoners. Most of the hojojitsu ties we still know about feature the box tie shape: arms behind the back, with each elbow bent at a 90 degree ankle inward. Both hands are near the opposite arm’s elbow and the upper arms are perpendicular to the floor.

In modern shibari style rope bondage, the box tie shape is primarily achieved through a tie called a takate kote, or gote, I abbreviate this to TK. There are numerous variations of the TK tie, the best of which are the result of talented bondage artists learning from their mentors, and passing on their own enhancements.

The TK tie includes a bunch of technical rope in the back and the opportunity for unique third rope patterns in the front. Like an armbinder, it also forces external rotation, providing both a photogenic pose and interesting rope from the front and back.

Prayer and Reverse Prayer

The traditional, Christian, palms pressed together under the chin prayer position makes for a useful and fairly comfortable bondage shape. And while it doesn’t add much in terms of posing the model’s body, it does give an opportunity for lots of expressive rope from a front-facing position.

I call this same position, but with the hands behind the back, reverse prayer. In Japanese, it’s called ushirote kannon. Clearly more challenging for the model, this position also creates external rotation at the shoulder, pushing the chest up and forward.

Wrists-behind-the-Head

A favorite upper body position of mine, wrists-behind-head, or koutoubu ryo-tekubi in Japanese, this shape is made by tying the hands together in a prayer position in front of the body, and then lifting them over and behind the head, tying them down to wraps around the torso.

The wrists-behind-head pose forces a big back arch, creating an awesome looking S-shaped curve in the model’s back. But unlike the armbinder and the TK, the model’s head is pushed forward and down which can cause aesthetic challenges.

Front Armbinder

Reversing an armbinder, to place the arms in front of the body creates what I call a front armbinder. Like the front prayer position, the shape doesn’t add much to the model’s pose, but it’s an approachable position that allows for creative rope, and gives the model the opportunity to show their personality by facing the camera. In Japanese, this is called enchou ude mae te shibari.

Teppo

Teppo, or hunter’s tie, or rifle carrier tie, is an asymmetrical upper body shape that comes from japanese-style shibari bondage. One of the models elbows is over their head, as in the wrists-behind-the-head tie, and the other is by their side, in a position similar to reverse prayer. Their two hands meet in the middle of their back. It’s name comes from the fact that the model’s arms look like a rifle, slung across a hunter’s back.

This position focuses the interesting rope in the back, and does create some external rotation, but like the wrists-behind-the-head shape, it pushes the model’s head down and forward.

Tengu

The tengu or demon tie is another upper body shape that’s come from shibari. The model’s arms are raised to either side of their head, with their elbows tucked to their sides, and resemble demon or bat wings, hence the name. This shape creates a big, aesthetic back arch and does not put the model’s head in an awkward position.

Shinju

A shinju, or chest harness is simply rope applied to the chest, typically non-immobilizing, that leaves the model’s hands free. These are used either for decorative purposes or suspensions.

Lower Body Shapes

Futomomo

Futomomo is said to mean “fat leg” in Japanese, and it’s the name of the most common lower body tie seen in shibari style bondage. It’s formed by tying the model’s lower leg to their upper leg, starting at the ankle and wrapping up the shins and thighs to the bent knee.

Hip Harness

Some of the most comfortable suspension positions are based off a hip harness, of which there are many modern variations. Most resemble a rock climbing harness and feature several suspension attachment points that can distribute  force evenly across the model’s center of gravity. The version I use is called a peach tie. Hip harness normally do not, by themselves, immobilize the legs or any other part of the model’s body.

Mermaid

Positions where both legs are tied together are known in Japanese as ryo-ashi, I call them mermaid. This is the most commonly seen lower body tie used when a model is not kneeling, in both mid century Japanese and Western bondage media. Most folks tied to train tracks find themselves in a mermaid position.

Agura

In Shibari, the cross-legged position is called agura. I prefer to emphasize strong lines and soft curves, so this position is not one my go to shapes, but it is very useful to create slow burn, challenging positions like ebi.

Floor Shapes

Floor shapes, called newaza in Japanese, are those where the model’s body is not lifted off the ground by the rope. While many floor shapes are great for beginning rope artists and models, there are a number of very challenging ties that can be done without a hard point.

Damsel

If you’ve ever seen a damsel in distress tied up in a Western movie, especially if she was tied to train tracks, you’ve seen this tie. Usually accompanied by an armbinder tie, the damsel tie was featured prominently in John Willie’s bondage cartoon series Sweet Gwendoline, dating to the late 1940s.

The damsel tie is not a very complex tie, with the model wrapped in both parallel and crossing ropes, up and down their entire body. While somewhat haphazard looking at first glance, the tie is both immobilizing and allows the rope artist to apply tension and pressure to accentuate the model’s body. 

Hog Tie

Probably the most well known bondage position, particularly in western media. The hog tie shape is made by tying the models upper body to their lower body, behind their back. Generally enough tension is applied to force the model’s back to arch and their midsection to bend forward.

In western versions, this is usually accomplished by tying an arm binder type upper body position to the model’s ankles. In shibari style bondage, it is more common to tie the back of a box tie to the model’s legs, a position known in japaese as gyaku-ebi, or reverse shrimp.

I have had great results with a minimalist version of the hog tie, in which the wrists are tied behind the model’s back, tightly to a section of a hip harness called a butt bridge. I call this shape “butt prayer.”

Strappado

Once tied into an armbinder shape, if the model’s arms are lifted (typically by the wrists) upwards towards a hard point, the resulting shape is called a strappado. The height of the model’s arms can be adjusted for effect and comfort, and it includes the external rotation of an armbinder with a very dynamic zig-zag shape from the wrists to the armpits, to the butt, the knees and finally the feet. 

The strappado is a torture position dating from 15th century Europe, and while it is considered a “western” bondage position, it does occur in mid 20th century Japanese bondage magazines alongside all the other “core” shibari shapes. 

Ebi

Based on an Edo period Japanese interrogation method, the ebi shape folds the model in half, forcing their upper body towards their crossed legs. As with the strappado, the intensity of the tie can be modulated for specific models, but unlike the powerful lines drawn by a strappado, the ebi shape squishes the model into a small space. Given enough time in this position, positional asphyxia will start to set in and the model will find it hard to breathe. Like all bondage, this shape can be dangerous.

Partial Suspensions

A partial suspension is just what it sounds like, a shape where part of the model’s body is suspended. For my own purposes, I define this as when a model’s leg or legs are lifted off the ground, rather than just when some part of their upper body is attached to the hard point (as in a strappado).

The simplest face up partial is when a model’s legs are pulled off the ground to a hardpoint, but their upper body is left laying on the ground. Depending on how high their legs are pulled and how much of their legs are tied, this can be a very challenging position and it produces a very strong vertical line and can accentuate the model’s curves. Their upper body can be left untied, or tied in any upper body shape.

Face Up, TK to Point

The most approachable partial, a tk-to-point face up partial happens when the model is attached, via a box tie to the hard point and their legs are pulled up in front of them. This shape is very similar to santen tsuri and becomes it when the model’s butt leaves the ground. This can easily happen with very small models.

Face up, Strappado to Point

A much more challenging face up partial variation is when a strappado is used, rather than a box tie. This (like all bondage) is dangerous, and requires a great deal of flexibility and aestheticism on the part of the model. Probably don’t do this at home.

Face Down Partials

Because the human body doesn’t bend backwards as much as it can bend forward, face down partials do not feature the strong V shape of a face up partial. Whatever upper body tie is used (or not used) the model’s torso can’t really be pulled back very far. I find the strappado shape to be useful here, as it does not require the an extreme back bend or upward torque on the shoulders, and it creates an awesome-looking shape.

Suspensions

Faceup

Called aomuke tsuri in Japanese, common face up suspension positions include several based on the box tie, including santen tsuri, or “mountain top” tie, with the model’s legs or ankles pulled up in front of them, resembling the peaks of a mountain range.

Side

A side suspension, or yoko tsuri in Japanese, with a hands-free chest harness and a hipharness is usually my go to suspension shape for model’s I’ve never suspended before. Once all the onbody rope is applied, the model is left standing on one leg, with their hands free. They’re then able to lift their own leg, placing themselves into suspension. If they don’t like it, they can just put their leg back down. If everything is OK, then I’ll typically tie their hands in an arm binder position to the lifted ankle, creating an actually immobilized suspension. There are more challenging kinds of side suspensions, including single point versions.

Facedown

A favorite facedown suspension, called utsubuse tsui in Japanese, of mine is based on a a wrists-behind-the-head tie, combined with a hip harness. This is a dramatic shape that seems to be more comfortable than it may look for some models.

Inversion

There are a bunch of ways to do an inverted suspension, sakasa tsuri in Japanese, but one of the most common ways I do it, is off from the front of a hip harness. Another dramatic looking shape that many models report as most comfortable than it appears.

Single Leg or Arm

As a general rule (although there are exceptions) more uplines from the model to the hardpoint means a more comfortable suspension, as the forces are distributed across multiple places. Hip harness inversions though, suspend the model’s center of gravity and use a lot of rope around a large area. Being suspended by a single ankle, arm or leg is generally much more challenging. And again, like all bondage, this is dangerous, you probably shouldn’t be trying it at home.