Ties for Limited Range of Motion - bondage basics

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It’s no secret that diferent bodies have different ranges of motion in the joints—those areas where the ends of two bones come together, like the shoulders and elbows. Injuries, diseases, disorders, infammation, infection, and more can prevent a joint from moving through its normal range of motion.

“Normal” - ugh. I hate that word here, because “not normal” has negative connotations, and because I’ve never met a rope bottom without some kind of physical limitation. Let me repeat that: Never. So really, limitations are actually the norm.

But to determine whether a range of motion is limited, there needs to be a standard to measure against, so for lack of a better word, well stick with the medical professions use of “normal” If you’re curious about what the normal ranges (in degrees) are for flexion, extension, rotation, and so on of the various joints.

For bondage purposes, were going to consider it limited range of motion if you can’t comfortably move the joints into positions as required by standard ties, like the takate-kote. “Comfortably” is the key word here, because having your joints forcibly moved past that point isn’t just painful; it can potentially aggravate your condition.

The good news is, you don’t need to do any specific tie to have an awesome experience in rope! Really. If anyone tells you that they can’t tie you because you can't be in certain ties, they are actually telling you that their knowledge base and skill set are limited. And if they tell you this in any way that makes you feel bad about yourself, consider yourself lucky that you didn’t end up tying with such an insensitive jerk.

Remember too that “lab time” — when you tie for the sake of learning and exploration rather than pure fun—is for bottoms as well as tops. You can use it to figure out ways of tying that work for the range of motion that is available to you.

Normal vs. Limited: Examples

Because the TK is so popular, and because many bottoms have trouble with it even outside of suspension, we’ll focus here on limited range of motion in the shoulders and elbows.

This is within the normal range of motion:

You can see in the photo that the rope can safely be tied above the wrist joints on both arms without the elbows being forced together. (Tying on the wrist joint increases the risk of nerve compression.) So even though the fingertips don’t reach the elbows, forming that perfect box shape, it’s not limited range of motion.

Tis is limited range of motion:

You can see in the above that there’s no way to tie the arms together above the wrist joints on both arms. You could get rope above the joint on one arm, but then it would have to go around the hand on the other arm. So if this, or with the elbows further apart, is the range of motion you’re working with, a standard TK is not the ideal tie for you.

The Shibari Show

We’re showing all Japanese-style ties because, you know, Japanese style is the best, most authentic, most historically accurate form of tying, and you should never do anything else or you are not doing true bondage.

Ha! Kidding, of course. Whatever makes you happy is the best style of bondage for you. These ties are Japanese-style because the two highly esteemed rope instructors who came up with them have trained in the Japanese style—plus, the Japanese have been tying people up and thinking about ways to improve ties longer than Westerners have. But the concepts are easily transferrable to Western-style tying, so feel free to riff on them to your heart's content!

These ties are not for suspension. There’s no way we could impart all the instruction needed for safe, suspension-worthy ties in just a few photos. Think of them as modular floor ties: They can be a piece that is added to, for a tie that includes the lower body, feet, hair, and so on. Or they can make for a fabulous scene all by themselves.

Show Me the Ties!

I know, you want to get right to the tying—don’t we all. But bear with me. It behooves you to know first that:

  • Size has absolutely nothing to do with range of motion or flexibility. Our model, Terri, has beautiful curves and had to dial back her range of motion for this shoot, for instance.
  • Cotton rope has more “give” than hemp or jute. That extra bit of rope flexibility can help you be more comfortable in a tie if you have limited range of motion. We used cotton rope for this shoot.
  • Honest communication with your rope top about limitations is essential. If you try to hide them, you’ll increase your chances of getting hurt, and if your partner finds out later, you’ll have earned some mistrust. Plus, worrying about getting hurt can distract you from enjoying the scene fully.
  • The ties described in this chapter, while not as risky as something like a TK in a suspension, still do carry the risk of motor and sensory nerve damage. So pay attention to how your fingers, hands, and arms feel and report any numbness, tingling, etc. to your top.

A word on kannukis: Notice in the photo above how the top rope is coming over and down instead of under and up. This type of cinch pulls those top wraps down, away from the brachial plexus (the network of nerves that sends signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand), so it carries a lower risk of nerve damage than one that pulls the rope up toward it.

Here you can see the effect of pulling the rope when the cinch is tied over and down instead of under and up—it moves those top wraps down and away from the danger zone.

Lastly before we get to the ties, know that the wrists don’t need to be tied tightly for a chest harness (TK or other) to be effective. Tying the wrists tightly is a rookie mistake that increases the risk of nerve damage and (unproductive) discomfort for the person being tied. Look how loosely the wrists are tied in the photo above, allowing Terri to switch which arm is on top as needed and to keep the elbows a comfortable distance apart. The wraps around the arms, including the lower ones when added, are what makes the tie secure. And with such loose tying around the wrists in a standing position like this, you don’t need to be concerned if the wraps slip up past the wrist joint, because there’s no compression.

5 Nonsuspension Ties for Limited Range of Motion

Here we go! Tese ties don’t require anything fancy—someone with basic bondage knowledge should be able to figure them out by looking at the photos. If not, get creative! They don’t have to be exact to be effective. And remember to think of them as modular pieces. If you were lying facedown on the floor, for example, your partner could put each leg separately in a futomomo, bind your legs together to look like a mermaid's tail, tie your ankles to your hair, or come up with something else. Have fun experimenting.

1. Wrap and Cuf ’Em

From the front, this doesn’t look like much, does it?

But in the back, it’s a different story. Having the wrists tied behind the back can create a vulnerable feeling—because for one thing, you wouldn’t be able to break a face-plant with your arms. And having the shoulders pulled back even a little opens the chest and energetically makes the heart feel exposed. Ihe wrap around the upper arms makes this tie feel more binding than the cuffs alone would.

2. Self-Adjusting Strappado

This beauty of this tie is that it works whether the elbows are an inch or a foot apart, and whether your partner pulls your arms up (putting pressure on the shoulders) only a teeny amount or a lot more. You could even just use it as a regular armbinder and not pull the arms up into a strappado at all.

Safety notes: Notice how the rope at the neck and under the arms avoids the brachial plexus. Also, avoid tying directly over the elbows, because there’s a higher risk of nerve compression, the area tends to move around a lot, and overall it’s just more delicate than other parts of the arm.

3. Knot Below the Neck

This tie is pretty simple but has some deceptively complex benefits. See that little knot just below the clavicle? It pushes in just the right spot to add lovely pressure and the feeling of being at someone’s mercy, but without any worry about being strangled.

And check out the back: The placement of the arms and hands, along with the wide wrist cuffs, means you won’t have to work to hold your arms and hands in a certain position, the way you do in most TKs. And, as in tie #1, the shoulders are being pulled back to open the chest and energetically expose the heart, increasing the feeling of vulnerability.

Also notice that the rope is binding in multiple ways, wrapping the upper and lower chest, arms, wrists, and abdomen. That coverage makes you feel more tied up than it may look. And some bottoms find symmetrical ties like this one soothing, because you’re not doing all that extra mental and physical processing that asymmetrical ties require.

4. Hand to Heart

Crossing the hands over the chest creates a different feel: You’re less exposed and are in a sense “protecting” your heart. This tie can feel more comforting, more nurturing, more inward-gazing than the others—which may or may not be your cup of tea. But in any case, you’re still nicely bound. And it might not feel as comforting if, say, your partner then lays you on your back, spread-eagled, and ties each ankle to a hook in the ceiling, just savin.’

5. Diamonds and Pearls

Decorative and satisfyingly snug! Your hands can move a bit in this one, but your arms won’t be going anywhere. Plus, it looks cool. And you’ve got that sweet “pearl” pressing right below the clavicle. (If you were thinking the pearl part of the tie’s name had anything to do with those innocent rope strands meandering down below the belly button, you have a dirt)’, dirt)’ mind, and I hope we meet someday.)

So now you have five fun ties to play around with. And who knows? Maybe this will inspire some bondage instructors to come up with others - and maybe even teach more classes on ties for bottoms with a limited range of motion (hint, hint).


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