I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into Shibari and related topics. Someone accidentally helped me unlock the world of rope such that I can get my head around it in a manner that’s safe. Previously, for personal reasons I don’t plan to share publicly, I could not engage with this topic beyond “that’s certainly interesting but not for me”.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know a good number of kinksters and someone who’s eligible to be certified as a rigger at their local, well known dungeon. I’ve never backed out of the discussions but I’ve also minimally engaged due to those previously mentioned “personal reasons”. Everyone got along and I ended up with a solid catalog of knowledge related to Shibari and more.
Thanks to a key person: A single moment of realization unlocked something like 15 years of information was unlocked in a way that I could SAFELY engage with the material.
Given my penchant for immersing myself in topics to better understand them as well as see if I want to progress learning a new skill, information, etc… I dug in based on the cumulative knowledge I had at the time.
Safety Is Critical!
The world of rope is dense, technical and infinitely creative. There is so much to the topic it can easily overwhelm. I <3 it!
Knowing it can “get out of hand”, I’ve made it a point to focus on the absolute most important and critical element: safety.
So how do you be safe?
Simple: buy good rope, treat your rope well and ensure you have a proper cutting tool if you need to cut your rope for any reason. This is a borderline dangerous simplification of concerns, I’m aware. I won’t cover the topic of rope care but I will cover [emergency] rope cutting.
If you can’t cut your rope work and release whatever is tied up in less than a handful of seconds… you’ve epically failed and likely just hurt someone. I take this beyond seriously and below you’ll find my specific setup.
Before getting into my setup, a critical set of concerns that must be taken into account:
- You should always/* cut a little of your rope end to ensure that it /can be easily cut by your emergency tools (test ALL of them!). Yes this is much testing but you cannot cheat safety or injury. You MUST do test cutting a rope with ALL your tools!
- You should always sharpen your cutting tools after each use. Buy the tools and learn to sharpen by hand correctly. If your cutters are not properly sharpened they won’t cut a rope in an emergency. You must keep things sharp! Always! Even the blades of scissors!
- You should also spend time actively cutting various styles of rope so you know in your bones how it should feel for a proper, lightning fast cut to release tension and whoever or whatever is tied up in your handiwork.
With those critical safety points in mind…
I found 4 (four) tools that allow a rigger to have a proper cutter “at hand”, a bottom to have an “oh shit, I’ll help too” and backup cutter(s) in case of primary cutter failure or you need an additional human helper for cutting duties. You should not need the backup or help ever but you must always account for the scenario of needing help and you must ensure you have the necessary safety gear “at hand” for such scenarios.
DO NOT FUCK AROUND WITH SAFETY
For a rigger I recommend a Gerber Strap Cutter (link) (Amazon). It’s able to be sharpened by hand, comes sharpened properly and should outlast the human owner. This particular cutter comes with a quick access sheath that can be attached to molle webbing. The sheath is a big deal! The sheath allows a rigger to keep the cutter close while keeping the sharp edge covered. The molle clip that comes with it can be used to attach the cutter to rope work. This allows the cutter to be attached very creatively and in ways that allow faster access than “traditional” belt based sheaths/holsters/etc attachment points.
Models & Bottoms
For a human having rope fashion applied (bottoms too!) I recommend a CRKT Micro Tool (link) (Amazon). This keychain allows you, the model, to release yourself from any rope fashion that’s been applied to your person. It can also be sharpened properly and should outlast the human owner. This keychain is also very adaptable. There are a lot of ways to ensure the person with rope fashion applied has easy access to this cutter.
Backups and Secondary Backups
For a backup cutter I recommend a Leatherman Raptor Rescue (link) (Amazon) and Rescue Holder (link) (Amazon). This will let you use a hook cutter or shears to cut rope. I personally find shears to be too slow and require far more hand force over time to be practical. However, this multi-tool includes a strap cutter which allows me to use the belt cutter or shears. I may not like shears but I will use them if the situation requires it.
For a backup knife I recommend a CRKT Provoke With Veff Serrations (link) (Amazon) and its CRKT Provoke Sheath (link) (Amazon). Note there is a version without the serrations. I do not recommend the non-serrated versions for rope use. It’s far too easy to slip when cutting rope with a non-hook or non-semi-serrated blade IMO (yes, this is my opinion). You’ll also note the Veff Serrations have a similar curve as the hook cutters, that’s intentional per the designer as the Veff Serrations are designed to aid cutting rope! Given I find knives to slippery for rope cutting, why do I keep this in my kit? It’s simple: I may not like knives for rope but I will use them if the situation requires it.
Notice a theme to the backups? They ensure you have any cutting tool handy in case of emergency. This also means they can ensure anyone free of rope can help cut a rope safely and quickly. These are also not cheap cutting tools. They are designed to last and can be maintained properly over time. You won’t appreciate this simple fact until you’re having an emergency. Take it from someone who’s survived many emergencies and physical traumas that shouldn’t be survivable: you want to buy cutting tools that will outlast your personal meat sack that can be maintained properly over time.
DO NOT CHEAT ON SAFETY GEAR
Buy quality hardware that will last for at least your entire lifetime. Ensure you have “one of each cutter” always handy, you really never know when a knife or shears or hook will be needed and you want to have one handy. Emergencies are NOT the time to need a tool you don’t already have at hand.
Also remember: a dull knife (or cutting tool) is a dangerous knife. If you don’t have a proper edge on your cutting tools you risk causing serious harm to yourself and others. Do not screw around, sharpen your tools after every use to ensure a proper edge is always present on your tool(s).
Now that we have the safety gear selected, how do I ensure it’s always “at hand”? Rope.
The safety gear I’ve selected includes quick access options that’ll protect you and your rope from being cut accidentally or can attach to a keychain. This is very intentional as it allows me to use my rope to create any attachment setup I desire. I have rope dedicated to this task.
A CRITICAL Note About Emergencies
Emergencies are great at fucking with your senses, shock is a thing and applies here. You MUST be able to be safe and manage the situation, even if you’re slipping towards blackout levels of shock. I promise I’m alive today because my instincts took over despite me being on the verge of total blackout (head injury). I cannot make this point strongly enough… It WILL safe a life!
For anyone I do fashion work with (bottoms), I make sure they have a cutter IN THEIR HAND AT ALL TIMES. This is in their hand BEFORE any non-safety related rope is attached to their body and AFTER your own cutter is in place. I also NEVER let someone go without a cutter of their own. The person sporting rope fashions is the only person that can tell you, the rigger, if there is an emergency. They MUST be free to act if things turn into an emergency faster than they can speak or for you to react.
To attach the keychain cutter I usually suggest a gauntlet that has a tail attached to a quick release attached to the keychain cutter. See below for a critical note on quick release setups to ensure this approach isn’t dangerous. You MUST include a quick release between the cutter and any attachments when using this approach or you risk serious injury or worse!
This is NOT hyperbole. There are many points on the body where a rope attached too tightly can kill another human. Do NOT fuck around and ensure everyone has cutters (riggers and models/bottoms)!
A CRITICAL Note About Safety
Before I get into my typical setup(s) I’d like to point out this is all about safety. I care not one whit, iota or shit about “looks” or “feels good but dangerous”. I only care about “emergency” and “safety”. I must stay calm and remove all rope as fast as possible while supporting whatever or whoever is “tied up”.
What comes below you should adapt to your needs. Adapt the below fully, entirely and without taking a word of this as “The One True Way”. There is not “One True Way” just the safest way for ALL meat sacks and objects involved. Below is meant as a way for your inner muse to get hot and bothered and help you find YOUR safest way.
My Rigger Safety Kit
It should be noted I’m a semi-tall human that isn’t terribly heavy. I’m semi-ambidexterous too. I have some atypical needs for quickly accessing cutters in an emergency.
For me as a rigger I skew towards the following setup. I may adjust to a given scenario but this is my go-to at the moment. There are many ways to attach things to your person with rope, I strongly recommend playing with ideas until you find a perfect fit for your body and needs.
That said, I setup a small gauntlet on my left arm (I lead right handed with rope at the moment) that’s roughly the center of my forearm. Any lower and it can interfere with my wrist motions. Any higher and it can interfere with my elbow/shoulder motions.
Once I’ve got the gauntlet on, I use a molle hook to attach a Gerber Strap Cutter linked above to the inside of my forearm. If you put your arms at your side palms towards your side, it’s the part of your forearm on the same side as your palm. I also set it up so I pull the cutter ‘down’ towards my palm to release it. As I move in to grab the handle I shift my wrist such that my palm is ‘up’ and at a 90 degree angle away from where the cutter is going to move as I pull forward. If you don’t put your palm ‘up’ you risk cutting your palm open badly. You don’t want a hand laceration. I’ve had a few, none were fun.
Be smart here and practice emergency cutting + release until you can do this blindfolded with ear plugs and dizzy while holding a rope attached to an immovable object in your gauntlet hand. Think about if you ‘fall’ while trying to cut rope as described above too, can you still do what is necessary to manage the emergency? You want to be able to do this by pure muscle memory no matter how bad the shock gets.
Model Safety Kit
I default to suggesting a gauntlet with the CRKT keychain linked above attached via quick release for the model. This allows them to have easy access to the cutter while allowing it to be ‘dropped’ safely.
I put the gauntlet on the wrist that allows the model to use the cutter to release themselves FASTEST. A gauntlet + tail has the benefit of allowing them to ‘drop’ the cutter but still have ready access to it in an emergency. Have them ‘drop’ and ‘pickup’ the cutter at least half a dozen times with just a rope tail hanging first. This will let you and the other person adjust the setup for fastest and easiest access in an emergency. Try using only a single hand or both hands. Everyone is different and this is important. This will let y’all get a feel for any additional considerations or tweaks needed.
*Keep an eye out for the model having a hard time pulling up the keychain from the leash on their cutting hand or accessing it via their off hand. If the person needs both hands to reliably get access to their cutter, you *must leave both arms free. Safety is more important than feels or looks.**
I also ensure that a quick release is attached between the cutting tool and the rope that attaches it to the other person. I use the Kappa Quick Release in bronze for this task. Bronze is strong, slowly oxidizes (rusts) and can be cleaned. These quick releases have NO MOVING PARTS and instead use a tension spring on the interior of one side of the release. All you have to do is yank with sufficient force and it will disconnect. Make sure your model is strong enough to disconnect the quick release. This is CRITICAL as they MUST be able to detach the cutter from its attachment rope. These are not “heavy” quick releases but folks have varied strengths and experience with quick releases. If the Kappa won’t suffice for any reason, don’t use it, find an alternative! *Do *NOT skip having your model get comfortable with the chosen quick release method.**
I do this for a critical reason: the cutter can be disconnected from the rope tail easily allowing greater range of motion by simply giving the cutter a good yank if you’re using a Kappa. Having a cutter attached to a rope of fixed length will cause an emergency to get worse, not better. *Allow for *any possible need, no matter how rare. If it can happen, it will at some point actually happen. Ensure the person the cutter is attached to is ready and actually able to disconnect the cutter and use it effectively in an emergency.**
I’d like to note: I spent a long fucking time finding the Kappa’s and I cannot say enough positive about them. I’ve had one on my keychain for my emergency meds for at least 5 years and you’d think it was brand new. The spring can also be replaced. The spring is the only part to these quick releases aside from the two housings. Simple and effective and not prone to failure like the common, plentiful and cheaply made quick releases.
For keyrings to attach the quick release, I use Freekey (link) (Amazon) rings instead of the ones that come with the quick release or CRKT cutter. I’ve had a lot of key rings fail over the years. Nevermind some can be a huge PITA to work with. I’ve had great success with the Freekey’s and they are made of stainless steel. I’ve used these in a lot of scenaios over the years and they have always held up well over time. That said, I am very careful about which rope I use to attach these keyrings and ALWAYS check my rope for wear after using these key rings. I actually use the SAME rope each time. I dedicated a rope to attaching these rings to a person. These rings CAN cause more rope wear than expected, it’s minimal and minor but you MUST be smart. I might be an asshole about safety but this is one of those small but critical things that will easily cause an emergency if you’re not pro active.
For models/bottoms If you regularly wear rope fashion I recommend looking at the CRKT keychain cutter linked above. It’s actually one of the rare times when “inexpensive” has no bearing on “quality”. For not much money (less than $25 USD as of this writing) and a single rope you can ensure you have a safety cutter “at hand” no matter what.
That’s really the whole of it. I managed to find proper safety gear that can integrate into whatever rope fashion you want to wear. This approach also doesn’t require any extra “accessories” to be effective. It’s also highly adaptable to rope fashions for connection and additional concerns related to safety.