18 Jun Tied by Takeshi Nagiake
Another piece written in 2013.
I am going through my ropes again after the long weekend that was Shibaricon. Have done it a couple of times already, but there is a somewhat therapeutic aspect of letting the strands of rope move through the hands. When I come to a specific coil of rope I recognise it immediately and it makes me smile. It differs from my own rope, I don’t even need to look at it to know it is not mine. Or, it is mine now, but it is not from any of my regular batches of rope. It is fluffier, scratchier, slightly more golden and perhaps a bit thicker than my usual ropes. And I will keep it. For a very long time. It was gifted to me from someone very special.
It started with a completely unexpected phonecall. I was standing in my room at Shibaricon prepping for the meet and greet organised by MBE. My head was starting to get into that mode of focus which it does when amping up for a performance. But I was also smiling because I was going to tie Sughra again for the first time in many months. Continents do strange things to relationships and my ropes and me had missed her, so we had agreed to not tie anything ’for show’ but for us. All of the rope was in the bag, I was checking ring and carabiners when the phone rang and it was a phonecall that asked if I would like to bottom in a kinbakusalon featuring Mr. Takeshi Nagiake and Sugiura Norio. I sat down, flabbergasted. Not due to coyness but actually due to real chock. It is not a question I get asked often, but I made sure they had asked the right person, what was required of me and accepted this offer, with butterflies flying somewhere deep in my belly. That extra little bit of adrenaline more or less made me hobble down the stairs in the heels I was wearing. It took me a while to focus on what to do, but the wonderful experience with Sughra in the livesession is a different story.
As it so happened, Mr. Nagiake is Midori’s mentor and teacher for the last 20 years and it was she who brought him over to visit Shibaricon and to top it off; masterminded the Kinbaku salon. During Thursday evening I was introduced to Mr. Nagiake and he listened carefully while I explained through an interpreter who I was and asked what he was looking for. I mention my annoying shoulders which makes a regular TK impossible.
The next evening I was giddy and also a bit sore. Ropenspace had been fantastic and what awaited after the opening ceremony felt like somewhat of a haze when I try to think about it. After some chaos in regards to where and when, people start walking through the doors and I do my usual ’stop talking to people’. There is a headspace that I go into before getting tied and it places focus inwards. I try to scan my body, warming up. At one point Mr. Nagiake asks me, through sign language more or less, if it is ok for me to go upside down. I nod and smile and make sure I move even a bit more knowing a demanding suspension might be on the table. Mr. Sugiura Norio and Midori discuss his photographic work and I look at the pictures. Cue brainhamsters. The ties in the photos, are difficult, even for the tiny models they use in their work. I sincerely start wonder and think about what is ahead. I am not tiny, by any stretch. I have problems with my body which has prevented me from doing things in the past. And I don’t want to fail, don’t wish to disappoint anyone watching but above all not disappoint or dishonor Mr. Nagiake or Midori or the audience present.
While taking deep breaths I look around at the audience and suddenly go calm when I meet his eyes. Someone who I just have started to trust. And then I look into the eyes of someone else who has tied me before and who have seen me at my most vulnerable. They are in the room with me here and they know what rope can be. It is a family, a wonky and slightly dysfuctional one admittedly, but I still trust them. Knowing that it is calming: I can close the cage for the brainhamsters and they go more quiet. Not completely but a smile from a friend in the audience finally shut them up. Back to concentrating on what I can affect: preparing myself.
He invites me to the suspension rig and the rope is soon tightening around my wrists, raised above my head. His style of tying is calm, collected, methodical and I decide to just feel the ropes, to follow his lead. He catches my eye, I can’t help but smiling. It is tight. Very tight. Keep check on muscles, focus on the feeling and my balance as we are standing up. Sometimes he twists me around, sometimes he moves around me. Rope tightening even further. I’m not spaced in the sense that I don’t know what is happening, nor completely transfixed on the here and now of the experience, I am very much cognisent of what is going on, and have not let fact that there is an audience yet slip the mind. This is why there is a small sense of fear and excitement as he ties me into a very tight chest harness which moves down around my belly.
I get images in my head, of tough as nails rope bottoms in old school ties with suspensionlines supporting not from the hip but from the belly. The images create a different kind of suspense together with the increasing tightness of ropes. He moves to attach those lines very lines around my stomach and I realise where this is going. All of the deep breaths, keep on checking that sore shoulder, making sure I belly breathe as much as I can before this turns tougher.
And it will turn tough. He turns me away from the audience and it gives an opportunity to refocus on what is happening, blocking out the audience. One leg goes up, I focus my balance, point the toes, it is getting harder. Misunderstand me right, I can space like crazy in suspensions, but with this, I am fully present, even though as the adrenaline is pumping. I’m already sweating.
When I’m then being fully suspended, I have two attachment points which are the mainlines, on the tie which are attached at my stomach and when pulling the last leg (or first?) I am flipped backwards into an inversion, hanging upside down, now facing the audience. It felt like a swift movement, but am at this point not sure how it actually looked. I just remember a movement, and suddenly hanging upside down, with a lot of pressure on my waist and belly. It is excruciating and delicious in the same time. I’m not sure what I do at this point, since that shift is disorientating. I might have opened my eyes, hazy memories of seeing lots of legs, and my vocal chords are making sounds I’m not sure where it comes from. This is painful, strenous and like nothing ever before. As I come out of the first haze, I scan the body and I realise how my breathing is really restricted. Chest compressed tightly, belly and diaphragm compressed. I can just about shift my breathing around enough to breathe through the chest and stomach, alternating, smaller ones, trying to not be too quick.
Mr. Nagiake ties something more on my leg and my instinct tells me to strech that leg out, a slap on my leg from him tells me he wants it down. Because he is a sadist and it hurts more with a leg bent in the position I’m in, or because that is the lines that he wish to convey. I’m trying to take as many cues from him as I can, but at this point something starts pressing from another point on my chest. The lines of rope that goes down in over my shoulders and between the breasts are now pressing more and more, gradually limiting the possibility of chest breathing. I keep on thinking I need to breathe as much as I can, but with the lines on the stomach there is little to do. I need to say something, speak up and the fear grips me, to shame or embarrass him. A millisecond of a moment I wish I could take more, but as I start saying the words: ’I cannot breathe’, I know it is the only thing I can do. Me speaking up is picked up by someone in the audience. Midori steps in and ask what the problem is, and as I tell her about the chestcompression and those lines, she translates.
This part was told to me by someone else who saw what happened next. Mr. Nagiake signed in the air, using his hands as clippers. The whole room reached out with their preferred cutting tools. I only remember feeling those two small lines being cut and breathing out loudly. I remember also very little of the following, but after the cutting of the rope I can easier assess what is going on instead. The slight buzz from having a hard time breathing folds away, and now it is ’just’ pain, pressure, gravity and tensions that is working on my body. I know I can take pain if I turn it into sound but there is hardly any sound coming from my body.
The audience has muted away, my left shoulder has started to feel agitated, I attempt to flex and relax, check my fingers, but I’m getting slower at doing it, closer to the edge of dropping away all of those things and just move into the pain. If I was in a different scene, I would have been able to do that, but this is a performance and things are done to my body I have never explored before. That lingering desire to just fade into it is what makes me understand I need to again speak my mind and let this experience come to an end. It feels sad, but necessary.
As I’m coming down, Midori and someone else is acting as support, while Mr Nagiake is untying me. There is a sense of shame there, of not having gone all the way. I remember feeling the hair covering my face and for once feeling grateful that it is in the way, so I can hide behind it. I might smile, as the adrenaline makes it impossible to not be giddy. But yes, there is a sense of failure as I sit down. A volunteer is standing at the ready with a sheet to wrap myself up in and glasses of water which I make sure to drink.
At this point, everything is still fresh, so close and very much not over yet. Sitting and watching the rest of the demo become the perfect distraction as I have to move out of the shame part, that internalised voice and critical eye and instead enjoying the action right in front of me. I drink so much water it feels as if I must be a sieve. Realise how much my body was sweating. How fun, and insanely frightening it was. How my body again had done much more than I had expected it to be able to do.
As I sat down at Woodentiger’s feet, he was sitting at the front row, and I knew our eyes had met at some point when I was being tied, it was the perfect place. On the floor, at his feet, slowly stroking his his boots, letting my fingertips trace the sole of the boots, his hands stroking and pressing the muscles on my shoulders I still have a feeling of nagging disappointment. I’m soft, somewhat frail, not very coordinated and blurrier than I was in the actual suspension. Intellectually I can grasp how much harder than anything I’ve ever experienced that tie was. Emotionally, I just wanted to bash myself. The only thing I wanted to leave behind in that state was the shame, everything else was just perfect.
As the kinbaku salon wraps up, Molly_V approach me and looks me in the eyes and says the simple words: ”Thank you”. I’m shaken to the core, because I don’t understand what she means. And my memory is still rather hazy from it all, because I don’t remember the exact words that she used. But it was somewhere along the lines of how empowered as bottom she felt with me speaking up in that context, and despite despite that context. Her expressing just those words, just those few words made it all feel ok again. Made me understand that it was ok to speak up. To acknowledge where it had to end. I grew a couple of inches, my spine bacame stronger from those very words, and for that I am so very grateful. Thank you Molly.
Right after I had been untied and had sat down I noticed one rope was still attached to my leg. I removed it, coiled it up and offered it to Mr Nagiake. He gifted that rope, and it is the rope which I will keep, as a memory of trusting my body, trusting my voice and a couple of very shaky, initial steps of letting go of shame.
I want to thank those who made it possible for this to happen, as well as of course Mr. Takeshi Nagiake and Midori. A special thank you to the volunteers that worked so hard at creating a space which could showcase the beautiful artwork of Suguira Norio and the ropes of Mr Nagiake, and the volunteer who provided water and sheets afterwards, when I was more than a bit wobbly.
And thank you Shibaricon, for providing a space where this can happen. Sincerely. It is one of the events which always challenge me the most and this year was no exception.
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