I’ve had it pointed out to me that I say it over and over that I think new rope tops rush into suspension too quickly. Apparently I’ve begun to sound like a broken record. And from postings I’ve read recently, it seems there are people who strongly disagree with me. They believe that it is quite reasonable for beginning riggers to move to suspension ties in something less than the expected months and months of training and experience with rope that some people think is appropriate (as if several months of patience and diligence was completely unreasonable to ask of someone learning a craft that entails putting their partner in danger). There are yet others who advocate taking years to work up to suspension bondage. I think there could even be a reasonable argument that it shouldn’t be done at all.

Since the debates on the issue seem so endless and fruitless, and I felt like I was becoming tedious with my responses, I decided that I would quit preaching about it. But after having one friend say he thought some riggers might benefit from my haranguing, and having another friend ask me to clarify my position on this, I thought I should publicly voice some of my thoughts in one place, especially since some of my reasoning isn’t brought up very often in the ongoing discussions posted elsewhere.

Before I do, though, I feel like I need to make sure it’s understood that I sincerely believe there are different valid approaches to rope and rope education than the ways that I presently advocate. Everyone has their own path. No one way is the only correct way. All have drawbacks and pitfalls. That said, I do think some approaches are better than others, at least for me. But people must always judge things for themselves. Keeping that in mind, the following are some of my opinions on the subject.


The hidden risks of learning suspension too fast

By Noble

In my opinion most riggers tend to jump into tying suspension bondage too soon after they start learning rope. People are drawn to the excitement of suspension bondage, and, understandably, the new riggers want to attain the skills to do rope suspensions as soon as they can. However, in most cases I think newbie riggers are attempting these advanced ties before they have the adequate skills, knowledge, and experience for facing the challenges of safe and gratifying suspension. Moreover, I think their eagerness to get into suspension actually retards and possibly even limits their growth and potential as a rigger.

I am not the only person who has voiced concerns about safety. You hear it from experienced riggers and instructors all the time. Still, despite the repeated warnings, most new riggers continue to want to rush ahead to suspension at break neck speed. That’s pretty much the rule. I see very few exceptions. I do know of one accomplished rigger in my local scene who first honed his skills thoroughly on the ground and in partial suspensions, and then mastered simple suspension work before getting into more difficult aerial work. It’s paid off marvelously for him. He is now considered one of the very best riggers in the area. But few, if any, of the people who admire his skills follow his example.

Most of the multitude of tops who are drawn to rope seem to wish they could go straight from being shown the basics to doing gnarly suspensions a week or two later. The very few who actually seek formal instruction will often even tell me outright that their purpose in taking lessons is to learn suspension as quickly as possible. I’ve even had prospective students tell me that they didn’t want to bother learning anything about rope that wouldn’t be of direct use to them in getting to their ultimate goal of suspension bondage. One guy hadn’t even attended a beginner’s workshop on rope bondage, and he was asking me about how to install a hardpoint in his apartment. In his mind the lack of an adequate suspension point seemed to be the only obstacle to his driving desire to get someone airborne. And he seemed proud of the fact that he realized there was such a thing as an improper hardpoint. In his mind he wasn’t anything like those other people who rush ahead without knowing the difference. Everyone thinks they’re the exception.

For some reason floor-based bondage and partial suspensions are considered blasé or mere stepping stones rather than incredibly satisfying and exciting experiences to be sought out and enjoyed for their own merits. The problem as I see it is that suspension is somehow being seen as some kind of end-all or holy grail to be attained as soon as is feasible. It isn’t. It shouldn’t be. And I have some good reasons for believing that.

But let’s face it: suspension bondage is showy. It does look exciting. Those who see it want that excitement for themselves and they also want to be seen as being able to do it. There is ego involved. But there is so much more to rope bondage than suspension work. Suspension bondage is great, don’t get me wrong. But showiness and exhibitionism are not the right reasons, in my opinion, to be learning rope bondage. I sincerely believe that rushing to tying suspensions too soon is not only risky for the bottom’s safety but it can also curtail the top and bottom’s enjoyment of the most compelling reasons I find to tie – intimate connection and joy.

Most bondage instructors try to get their students to take it slow, while novices in the forums keep asking why it should take so long to teach some basic rope techniques so new riggers can just learn to do some simple suspensions. Indeed, why should it take so long? It’s a legitimate question. My answer is that if you just want to mechanically tie suspensions moderately safely in one or two positions, then by all means, a skilled instructor could put an apt student on a fast track to becoming a “suspension rigger” in a few jam packed lessons. That’s assuming the student could retain that kind of volume of information taught that fast. But I think if they do take that course that they are also on a fast track to becoming a robotic rigger who is more concerned with engineering and mechanics (and ego and showing off) than with what this kinky stuff is supposed to really be about – getting deeply into our hearts and desires and connecting with the hearts and desires of others. Sure, arguably you could teach new students how to do some text book suspensions in a weekend, but after that most of them wouldn’t be able to safely do anything else that isn't cookbook or even recreate those recipes with any soul. There is more to cooking than just bringing together a list of ingredients. Great chefs extensively train in the basics before stepping into creating delectable delights. You have to know your knife work before you master sauces.

As in the culinary arts, martial artists well know that students are expected to train in the basics solidly before advancing. In Eastern-style teaching of the martial arts, students often aren’t even told why they are mimicking certain movements – they’re supposed to eventually grok the reasons on their own when they’re ready for the knowledge. The core idea is to learn the basics thoroughly until you can do them without thinking about it, then move to the harder stuff in small increments. The basics are the foundation that you build your later skills on. Likewise in music you have to learn your scales before you can improvise. You’ve got to know the rules before you can break them and riff, otherwise you’re just making noise. I don’t think rope bondage is so different, except nobody is permanently injured when you hit a sour note on your sax.

I’ve noticed that some people who leap ahead too fast in learning rope bondage sometimes never get the basics down adequately. I’ve seen riggers who’ve been doing suspensions for over a year who can’t seem to tie a decent single-column tie. Their technique looks sloppy to me. But worse – because they rushed through the basics and didn’t do the hard work of mastering them at the beginning, they never reached the stage of having all those critical movements and methods retained in muscle memory; so they never attained the fluidity that comes from not having to concentrate on the rope while they’re tying. Acquiring that feeling of flow creates a space where the rigger can sense a greater connection with the person they’re tying. But the person who never gets the basics into muscle memory and insists on tackling more and more difficult ties before mastering the last one is always exceeding their skill set and the limits of their knowledge. They never get to experience the calm and joy of having the tying become effortless and mindless for them. They never have a sound foundation to build upon, and so the reasons behind the more elaborate hand movements and rope placements they are supposed to be gradually groking never actually sink in.

And so, many fast track riggers seem to end up tying like robots to me – no joy, no deep connection, no real intimacy. And because they’re so concerned about appearance and what people think of the difficulty of their ropework, they seldom even seem to take pleasure in the technically successful ties they do manage because they’re always wanting to surpass some other rigger’s tie or a previous accomplishment of their own. They don’t tie in the moment. They tie to be seen. They tie for the hope of future accolades.

If bondage becomes a competition in the rigger's mind, they are losing sight of the reason they were drawn to kink in the first place. And the bottoms who are seeking connection through rope suffer for it by not getting the intimate attention they seek and also by being put at risk in the hands of riggers who don’t have the experience to efficiently handle something when it goes wrong during a difficult suspension.

And shit does go wrong during bondage, especially when gravity is playing a major role. I try to convince my students that they have to get their suspension skills sharpened during partial suspensions and experience how to handle all of the kinds of mishaps that can and do occur before they can conscientiously move into full suspension. You do not want to be handling a new kind of problem for the first time when you’ve got someone suspended. You don’t want to encounter a jammed rope for the first time when you’re in the middle of a suspension and the bottom suddenly has a severe shoulder problem that requires getting them down immediately. By working through all these things on the ground or during partial suspensions and learning how to deal with them efficiently when they inevitably occur, the risk of having them occur at all during full suspension drops dramatically. Those students have learned to anticipate and avoid them through experience. Experience, by definition, requires time. But time seems to be what so many eager new riggers don’t want to invest in learning how to safely engage in this amazing art form.

This is the tedious broken record I play over and over again. But hardly anyone seems to listen. So, I’m starting to feel like I should just shut up and try to set a quiet example instead, silently showing in my small way that wonderful rope is about connection and intensity, not complicated rope work and engineering. Yet when people see me perform on stage, I suspect it’s the flair and intensity of the aerial work that prompts the new riggers in the audience to want to leap into learning suspension.

The riggers who rush into doing suspensions are also unwittingly depriving themselves of the rewards of going slowly and learning things like flow, rhythm, pacing, responsiveness, communication, and energy exchange, (not to mention hoist line management, balance, assessing the bottom, reading the bottom, dealing with physical limitations, knowing the nuances of different ties and tensions for different positions, etc, etc.) all the things that could eventually make them truly great riggers, not just technically proficient ones. And those things can not be taught in a few short lessons or by just watching other riggers tie. And once they’ve rushed through the basics and acquired the skills to do modest suspensions and feel like they’re at the top of their game (and hopefully got lucky and worked through the inevitable mishaps without actually hurting someone severely), they have no idea what they have missed or how they’ve hamstrung their development as a rigger. And even if they do eventually realize what they’ve missed, it is very hard to go back and learn those other subtle things once their egos have gotten them to this place they think they’ve successfully arrived. To make it worse, once they’ve rushed ahead it is harder to start over from the beginning because of all the bad habits that they acquired during the process.

I often watch riggers doing suspensions who are just, by necessity, having to concentrate solely on the rope itself, or the wrap placements, or the tie-off knots, or struggling with the physics, or focused on all the other mechanical and engineering concerns they rightly have to deal with. They’ve taught themselves to tie with this narrow focus by repeatedly practicing their basic skills in the frantic environment of having their bottom in the air, not the languid and forgiving intimate space of being on the ground. They have programmed themselves to tie mechanically and methodically as if at the knife point of gravity even when they aren’t doing suspensions. That’s operant conditioning. It’s Pavlovian. When they tie they fall into the same mental state they were in when the techniques were ingrained and then practiced. They can’t help but have it happen. It’s human nature.

By ignoring floorwork and rushing into suspensions they’ve conditioned themselves to tie this way, without heart, because they wanted this exterior emblem of accomplishment that would say they’d arrived as a rigger. But by taking that path they’ve denied themselves the ability to get to that endpoint with the ability to open their focus to include the bottom and their wonderful “good” responses to what they are doing (instead of only being able to react to the “bad” responses and frantically going into damage control mode when necessary).

Part of the drive to not take your time learning the basics is that people have a strong desire to excel in the eyes of others. But, again, that is ego talking. Zen, enlightenment, and the Eastern martial arts are about letting go of ego. In my opinion excessive ego hurts good tying, as well.

I believe that the people who are drawn to my style of rope are drawn to it because they sense that I try to tie with “heart.” After they see me tie someone up during an intimate scene, hardly anybody ever comes up to me and mentions something about my technical skill. They almost always comment on the connection they could see between me and my rope partner.

The irony is that because people can sense that, some bottoms who like that kind of stuff are drawn to being in my rope. But my goal isn’t getting people to want to be in my rope. My goal is connection with the person in my rope at that moment and the magic of letting go of ego during a tie. Having people drawn to that is only a side effect - a result that isn’t often accomplished any other way.

If you’re an intermediate rigger and are feeling stifled or lacking creativity in your rope bondage, you might be seeing some of the pitfalls of having jumped ahead in your learning curve too quickly. I’ve recently heard two riggers who routinely do suspensions say that if they had it all to do over again they wouldn’t have rushed into suspension so quickly. One of them says that he's now advising beginning riggers to slow down. But I doubt his warnings will be any more effective than my broken record was. Newbies who are excited about rigging want to learn as fast as they can. And they’ll jump ahead without hesitation when they see all the other intermediate and even beginning riggers doing suspensions all around them. It’s hard to convince them of the merits of taking it slow when the apparent rewards of rushing forward are so immediate and exciting. And most riggers already think they’re taking it plenty slow. Slower than they think they should have to.



On a rope bondage forum lately one person has repeatedly asked why it should take months and months to learn how to do a boxtie that's safe for suspension.

Well, in my opinion, it wouldn’t necessarily take months and months. But from what I’ve seen of most students it does take that long or longer because even most “dedicated” students only get instruction once a week or once a month at best. And in my experience you can’t learn to tie a consistent boxtie in one lesson or even three. There are too many nuances. And most students don’t practice every day, either because they don't have the time or they don’t have a place to practice or a person to practice with. Most of the people I see at monthly peer rope meetings have forgotten most of what they learned at the last meeting. There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re having fun. And it’s just human nature to lose what you don’t practice. But to then think they’re ready for suspension after a couple of months of “study” is simply outrageous.

Even the students who are serious and seek out one-on-one instruction don’t always advance quickly. They have other things that necessarily require more of their attention than learning rope bondage. They can take months and months and longer to hone their skills to the point of being ready to even consider suspension bondage. Imagine then the people who are just willy nilly picking up their knowledge and skill base off of the internet or from books or copying what they saw someone else do once in a scene they watched at a play party or in performance. People do that. They unabashedly tell me they do that. They really don’t see anything wrong with it. And I believe those people comprise the vast majority of people who are doing suspensions today.

Most of those people are going to somehow manage to do rope suspensions without hurting someone permanently. But because of the lack of experience and knowledge in all the new people getting into suspension because it is so popular, the incidence rate of accidents and injuries is going to increase. That’s a no-brainer. That means that this phenomena of rushing into suspension too quickly is hurting people – even if it doesn’t hurt you individually or someone you suspended. Just like not using seat-belts doesn’t hurt the vast majority of people because they never get into a serious accident. But having everyone wear seat-belts prevents a whole lot of injuries in the population as a whole. Not wearing a seat-belt contributes to the problem even if you never have an accident – you’ve personally increased the pool of people who are at risk.



Some people do learn faster than others. Some people are more dedicated. Some people have a knack for it. You see this in the martial arts, too. Some students have an aptitude and dedication and advance faster than others. But no conscientious instructor would ever have them skip belts. There is a progression. There is a reason for it. That system works. The students who progress through the belt system are more accomplished at the end because of it. And part of that system is designed to break misconceptions and hammer in the fundamentals as a foundation while simultaneously diminishing ego.

So, if you’re a rigger and you personally are feeling like you’ve become a one-trick pony with your suspensions or that your floorwork or partial suspensions have stagnated, then I would suggest that perhaps you should think about whether or not you might have inadvertently skipped some belts along the way to where you are. Perhaps you advanced too quickly for your own good. I fully understand the motivation to do this. The bottoms want to be in fancy rope ties. And us riggers want to give the bottoms great experiences and be seen as accomplished at what we do.

But in terms of a rigger’s ultimate enjoyment of rope, I think rushing through the basics can backfire terribly. However, I doubt that my argument here is going to change that tendency in people new to rope. I need to accept that it’s just human nature to rush headlong into something so enticing. To each his own. But it still bothers me because as a kink educator I want people to be aware of the risks they need to accept when they engage in consensual bondage. And one risk people might not be seeing so clearly is that rushing to suspension may be an unnecessary detriment to learning how to play with rope in a way that can eventually transcend ego and be deeply gratifying for both parties in ways they’ve only imagined.