The importance of a Takatekote

Those people who have spent some time studying shibari know the importance of traditional school patterns when you practice it. Some of those patterns not only guarantee a short way to achieve something, but also entail several years and several generations of experience from great masters embedded in their loops and twists.

Takatekote is a Japanese expression that literally means “hands up in angle with the forearms” which is clearly not the position we all know in the tie with that name. Gote shibari as an expression refers to any tie that has the model’s hands tied on the back. Occidental rope culture has redefined it’s meaning lately, as many riggers use Takatekote or TK as a synonym for the chest harness patterns often used for suspensions.

3 ropes Takatekote
3 ropes Takatekote

There are numerous TK versions. There are floor versions, suspension versions, versions that fit different body types, more technical or more artistical versions. Also many riggers had developed their own TK to enhance their personal style.

In KinbakuMania Shibari Dojo we start learning a lot about anatomy and rope security, so we can move further on to a TK that guarantees the quick release knots among many other security aspects. We do it this way because we focus on the rope model’s security before trying any other more complex versions of TK that may require aditional knowledge, skills and ability.

This TK is rooted in the very origins of shibari in Japan. From the Samurai era to that moment when Ito Seiu published his first photos in 1928, giving birth to what we know nowadays as shibari kinbaku. It passed though several generations of prolific bakushis like Tsujimura, Minomura, Nureki, Akechi, Hiroshi, Osada, Yukimura, Naka, Kanna among many others, all of them Great Shibari Masters.

The renowned contemporary Nawashi Kanna Sensei, from whom I’ve received teaching on 2014, personally told us how he took Akechi Denki Sensei’s TK roots when he developed his own TK versions. For 5 long years this great master only practiced TKs focusing on its structure and studying the way tensions interact in depth. Therefore this structure not only keeps in its soul the very essence of those great masters’ shibari, but also carries in it’s own years of studies and experience that all of them have achieved through years of practice of shibari in their wisdom. Anyone who underestimates this historic legacy, beyond making a terrible logical mistake, may also be taken as a complete arrogant.

But..  Why do we consider this structure so important?

If we stop to analyze human body’s structure (and before unfolding any rope) we realize that most part of body weight resides in the upper part of the body. On the other hand we would also realize that in that upper part you’ll find the head and the thoracic cage that carries inside the most vital and sensible organs (brain, heart and lungs), and bellow the false ribs there are also some important organs as the stomach, liver, spleen, intestines, etc..  Trying to do any kind of suspension tie without taking into account this particularities of our body may lead us to dangerous mistakes and totally avoidable accidents that we might regret later on.

A good TK, properly performed, should behave as a single structure working together as a whole. It’s tensions should interact harmonically and in a predictable way. It should stay flawless in the way it was tied even when it’s holding all the weight of a suspension.

When you tie a TK, the arms are parallel to both sides of the thorax. Being there they act as a contention structure that (through the humerus, biceps and triceps and other muscles in the area) allow the tie to interact with a highly solid structure and that is used to hold body’s weight for long periods of time (as when we sleep on our side).  A completely different situation will be when you move the model’s arms to other positions and the tie holds all it’s tension directly over model’s ribs cage. Not all kind of bodies may be able to stand that kind of tensions, as it may depend in many cases on the kind of muscular structure that model in particular may have developed in that particular area, and also on the personal stamina to resist great efforts with them. It may also require a great muscular effort that the rigger should think in advance before doing any long time suspension.

The typical symptoms that any suspension or semi suspension with ropes around an armless thorax (specially if you put some ropes over the ribs and or the diaphragm area) are:

  • Breathing difficulties (due to thoracic cage compression or mechanical diaphragm limitation)
  • Low blood pressure problems (hypotension) (due to related consequence of shallow breathing or vital organs being under pressure)
  • Nausea (as a consequence of ropes tension over the stomach area)
  • Ribs fissure (extremely dangerous for the possible consequences over pleura and lungs)
  • Cold sweating
  • Fainting, passing out, etc.

If you are a rope model it’s crucial that if you happen to feel any of these symptoms during the rigging process or the suspension, immediately ask the person with you to untie you and/or get you back on the floor. It does not matter who was rigging you, just take care of your health. Symptoms may escalate quickly and thus it’s important to verbalize them as soon as you feel them (before you eventually pass out). The person that is with you must immediately take the needed actions as quickly as possible and take your symptoms seriously.

Being able to perform shibari suspensions without a TK structure holding them requires a very high technical knowledge, rope control, and body anatomy knowledge that only very few riggers around the world have. In some cases you may find a rigger’s photo bragging he or she is able to perform this kind of suspensions. What you don’t see behind that photo is how long the suspension lasted, or how much the model is enjoying or enduring (bearing) ropes. Sometimes some photographers (that are usually not quite skilled in ropes) use old tricks as having some chair, stool, or people around who can hold the model until he or she is able to take the photo. When he or she is ready for those few secconds that that click takes the photo looks “spectacular and perfect” but that it’s not what it takes to be a good rigger.

As Osada Steve Sensei says and many great masters agree Rigger’s honor is reflected and shown in the kind of patterns he proposes” . So, showing yourself through the phisical effort or the endurance of a rope model is quite far away from what I understand as the real spirit of shibari. This is the split point between riggers and those photographers who only search for a good photo no matter what.  In my humble opinion photographers should focus on taking good pictures and riggers should focus on rigging and taking care of the health of their models.

As a rope model it’s vital you can evaluate the skills of the person you let yourself tie. We aim to give you the needed knowledge and tools as we always did so your rope art experience can be pleasant, sane and beautiful.

Haru TsubakiHaruTsubaki

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