UNDER THE RADAR // JAPANESE BONDAGE

Aarhus is known as the City of Smiles. Last year, it was the European Cultural Capital. It is pretty and polite. But what happens in the basements, behind closed doors, under the radar? Is Aarhus also for the freaks, the geeks, and the controversial?

My name is Emilie. Through a series of articles, I am going to dive into the secret life of Aarhus. I am going to immerse myself in alternative settings – both familiar and unfamiliar. My mission is simple: I want to explore the alternatives to everything ‘normal’. I will take you on a trip into the darkest, coldest, loudest, warmest, and most controversial places of our city. Hopefully it will intrigue you.

I am sitting on the bus, counting the stops until I have to get off. We are a bit outside of the city. I am normally hard to throw off but I feel a nervousness in my stomach as I come closer. It is starting to dawn on me what I have initiated. As the snow starts to fall, I get off the bus and walk with fast steps towards the address I found online. For a moment I start to wonder, if the location is placed inside an car repair shop. There isn’t anything that directly indicates that I have arrived on the right spot until I notice a banner with Japanese signs outside what looks like a warehouse.

I step into the building and get directly exposed to the activities of the club. The atmosphere in the room is calm, the temperature is nice, and everybody looks up and smiles at me, even though they all seem deeply concentrated. I take a deep breath and remove my jacket. Based on the location and interior, this could have been a club for various sorts of events; It could have been a self-defence club or a yoga club – but it is neither. It is a club for Japanese bondage.

Image by Tom Pruunsild

For some people, the term bondage creates associations to Fifty Shades of Grey – the movie that exposed the public to the concept of BDSM and domination. But Japanese bondage is both more complex and more simple. It involves only ropes, but it is complex in the way that the technique of tying the ropes and making the knots builds on a long history of Japanese tradition and knowledge. The concept involves a “model” (normally a woman) being meticulously tied up by a “rigger” (normally a man) whom then either suspends her from ropes hanging from the ceiling, or places her on the floor.

Image by Tom Pruunsild

The purpose of this is as diverse as the people doing it; some explain it as a meditative state by being completely released from control or racing thoughts as they hang upside down, only carried by their own weight in a few ropes. Some use it as pain relief for whiplashes or back pains because of the stretching of the body. And some are purely fascinated by the complexity and aesthetics of the symmetric knots. There is also a clear sexual implication in the idea of being tied up and pacified by another human being in a consensual and calm way. For this reason I was even more nervous and intrigued by the environment of Japanese bondage – would I feel as if I entered the privat sphere of several different peoples sexual acts or would it feel including and safe?

Image by Tom Pruunsild

“You can’t write about it, if you haven’t tried it yourself!”

Now I am here. And I have agreed to try it out on my own body – “You can’t write about it, if you haven’t tried it yourself!” says one of the participants, who has a lot of experience with Japanese bondage – or Shibari as it is also called. He is sitting on his knees as he is tying up the back of a middle aged woman lying on the floor on her stomach.

I decide to postpone my own first Shibari experience a little to just get into the vibe of the room I just entered. There is already women hanging from the ceiling. I have a hard time understanding the complexity of the knots – does it hurt her when she is hanging like that? Does the rigger know exactly what he is doing? Is the model even mentally present when I look at her?

Image by Tom Pruunsild

There is a humorous and unrestrained atmosphere in the room and nobody seems affected by the activities of the rigger and model next to themselves. On the first floor, two couples are being lectured by the owner on more basic knots and techniques. On the ground floor more experienced participants are being guided by a woman tying another woman up in an impressively swift manner. “The model has to decide herself, if she wants her hands crossed or next to each other before we tighten the rope” she advises her pupils. Within 10 minutes, the model is already suspended high above the floor.

“It is like lying on a pile of logs”

I get invited to the first floor where the owner wants to try out some simple ties to give me the experience of the process and the pain – or “the good pain” as he phrases it. He describes it as a “dope releaser” where the brain compensates for the pressure of your weight, by pumping out endorphins and adrenaline into the nervesystem. “It is like lying on a pile of logs” is the response I get when I ask him how it feels. “But then you give in to it and almost instantly start to feel the release of tension”.

I’m nervous but I feel I’m in safe hands. He seems knowledgeable, calm, and professional as he ties up my torso in two ropes. My hands are tightly tied to my back, and as he asks me to slowly lean to one side, I start to feel the rope carrying my weight until I am completely carried by the hook in the ceiling. He ties my ankles and my hips and before I even notice it, I am suspended almost 1 meter above the ground, rotating first backwards then forwards.

Image by Tom Pruunsild

I feel dizzy. It is a part of process, he says. “Once you get over the motion sickness, you get on the other side of discomfort, the other side of pain. The out-of-body experience”. I feel it. I feel my body fight against it and my groin being brutally pulled up towards the ceiling by the rough, thin ropes. Suddenly I feel my body giving in, giving up, just hanging. My upper body is covered in sweat as he releases the ropes. He tells me that it is my body’s natural survival instinct and that it is a great wake up call for my senses and nerves. Even though my thighs feel extremely sore, I don’t doubt his expertise.

 

Japanese Bondage Klub Nawa Shibari GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

On the ground floor I now sense a change in scenery – the lecture is over and the sounds have become more aggressive and sensuel. There is occasional loud moans of pain and pleasure and as I walk down the stairs I see six women hanging from the ceiling in different formations. The riggers walk around in silence placing more ropes, tightening and tying knots. One woman is hanging upside down. Another is hanging as if she sat on a swing consisting of ropes.

Some of the women seem in a complete state of trance, others are laughing. Some of them are in a relationship with the person tying them up. Some are purely there as partners of ropes and don’t know each other personally. Common to all of them is, that they share a unique chemistry and bond with the person collaborating in this “dance” – it is required for the model to even feel comfortable and to give in.

I can still see and feel the marks left by the braided ropes on my skin. No matter the reason for entering the doors of this club, there is no doubt: once you step inside, you exit the outside world.  

 

A big thanks to Klub Nawa, Aarhus for the collaboration!

 

 

Written By
More from Emilie

UNDER THE RADAR // JAPANESE BONDAGE

Aarhus is known as the City of Smiles. Last year, it was...
Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *