The Learning Mindset: your key to making real progress in rope bondage
Did you ever wonder why some people make fast progress taking up a new discipline and others don’t? Looks like it’s not limited to rope bondage, it is the same in aikido or dance or any other body based arts… Now, as we both learn and teach a lot, we feel that we found some answers about what will facilitate the most progress in learning rope bondage (either as rigger or as a model) or any other somatic discipline.
But before we share our insights, we want to share some of the observations… Many people seem to consume rope bondage as any other leisure entertainment activity. They pay their fee, sit down in the chair, take their popcorn and hope the movie is fun. There is nothing wrong with going to the cinema, but honestly: what did you learn in the last movie you saw?
How does it show up in learning rope bondage? People rarely take notes in our classes. When we invite participants to take a video of a specific routine or just to come closer to see a detail, many stay on their seats. Very few people practice between the classes. Same time, they expect a new thrilling exercise – or actually: pattern – in every unit. They cannot tie one good futomomo yet, but they already expect a variation from the one demonstrated 2 weeks ago.
And there’s nothing wrong with entertainment. Hanging with friends, socialising, having a cup of tea with likeminded people, all this is not bad at all. But it is not learning. It is consuming. And this is counter-productive, when we actually strive to learn.
The process of acquiring the new somatic skills (learning) is fundamentally different from acquiring the new goods (consuming). When you really like to make progress in rope bondage, be it as the one who ties or as the one who gets tied, you must come into another mindset. You must be willing to change. Change as letting go of old patterns (for instance, hectic micro-movements during tying a handcuff) and acquiring new (more efficient and smooth) ones. Change as unlearning the habitual way of tensing up and holding a breath when the rope is pressing into your body and learning to relax and exhale.
„In order to learn, we must, to a certain degree, let go of who we think we are, and what we think we know. This transition, from what we are to what we can become, is where we learn and also where we have the potential of seeing how we learn…“
Richard Strozzi Heckler
Our educational system emphasises the teaching of concepts. Taught concepts are somewhat outside of us, somewhat foreign, rather than alive bodily application of it, right? How do you feel about the fact that Seiu Itoh published his „Seme No Kenkyu / Research on Torture“ in 1928?
So since school age we are trained to accumulate techniques and theories… the same way as we’re encouraged to accumulate material goods – that seem to be true for many people. At the end, there is a lot of information, but not much wisdom… that is embodied… that we can use to navigate through life’s transitions, through painful and stressful times, to stay connected and present with ourselves and our bellowed ones.
And this is the same process that we are going through when we learn. An old (habitual, comfortable) form of us has to go, and new one gets embodied. And one day, all of a sudden, we can tie the handcuffs without thinking about it, without losing „connection“ to our partner. One day, all of a sudden, we can „surrender“ to a difficult tie, just because we breathe differently or relax the part of our body that was tensed up before.
So, here is the message: Learning requires a different mindset than consuming.
SCHEMA COMES HERE
To be more specific, we list eight important factors that helped us to become what we are in Kinbaku. It is the essence from 5 years of learning Kinbaku for real, fed from all the other academic and somatic influences that we had in our lives so far.
You need to be very honest to yourself. Do you really like to learn Kinbaku (Shibari, rope bondage…)? Life can be great without it! Maybe you just like the scene? We are cool dudes here (most of us), but you don’t need to be a 14th grade initiated Shibari-Master to hang out with us. Just don’t be an asshole. When you really want to learn, you feel it, it’s itching, you feel the urge. Follow this feeling. This urge feeds your passion you need for coming into the learning mindset.
You will only be able to stay in the process of learning when you are passionate about it. The process of learning will be painful. Embarrassing. Most of the time you get exposed to what you cannot do. You will be frustrated. You will question yourself. That’s normal. Passion is what keeps you going. Always remember what made you step on this pathway in the first place. Maybe it was the smile on the face of your partner. Or the feeling of deep connection much beyond words. Or you were in a „flow“ for a couple of seconds before you got stuck. Make sure to find opportunities to feed these joyful moments beside the learning process.
3. A good teacher
Learning requires good teachers. Your teacher is the one who walked the path before you. They are there to set the benchmark. They are there to show you what is possible. They embody the skills you want to learn. When looking for a teacher, look for one who can do the things you want to learn, and not just talk about it.
If they have good pedagogic skills, lucky you, but they might not… if they are patient and nice to repeat twice, again, lucky you, but they might not. It is also not relevant if they are pretty or famous (this belongs to „consumption mindset“). It is however relevant for your learning whether they still have fun doing what you want to learn and whether they themselves keep on learning.
4. Attention (to your body)
Notice yourself, first of all. To make a change, you need to first of all notice „what is“ – this is a departure point on your journey to change. During the training, always keep attention to your own body (your muscle tension, your breathing, your energy level, your movements and your pacing etc.) You might feel clumsy. You might feel stupid. That’s ok. Everyone feels like this. It must be like this. These movements or positions are new to your nervous system after all. Don’t numb yourself. Don’t distract yourself. Don’t go into your mind. It is not important how you appear to the external (except for your own EGO). Breathe and accept it. The best advice we can give: Slow down! Often people get faster when something is difficult, as if they want to rush through or get over it. Do the opposite. Slow down. Breathe.
5. Attention (to your teacher)
Do pay attention to your teacher. Look where they look, listen when they listen, get curious about their movements, their breathing, their focus, their thinking… Absorb like a sponge, not just the knowledge, but how they are. Try to resonate! The big part of teaching comes to you beyond words. Japanese actually don’t “teach” at all in our western meaning of it. But they give a lot, when you are open to see. They teach with their body, with their gestures and expressions. Iroha – the model of Naka-san – does not say much on the workshops in Europe, she does not „teach“ in our meaning of it. Yet, Natasha had tremendous insights and progress in her own learning by just observing Iroha-san closely.
Once you are on the path, you need to trust. Trust yourself, that you will make progress eventually. Trust your teacher, that they will give you good guidance. Trust them to guide you out of your comfort zone (the place where learning happens). You are looking to change yourself, so don’t expect to stay comfortable. Allow the vulnerability and insecurity of not knowing. Do not argue with your teacher. There is no place for „Yes, but…“ If you cannot trust your teacher – ask yourself – why did you choose them in the first place? Relax, soften your muscles. Breathe. And then take the courage to step into the unknown, trustfully.
You need to commit to your learning intention. You need to commit your time and effort. If you don’t make it a priority, you will not make progress. This is true for Kinbaku as it is for martial arts, dance, etc. Go to tango class just once a week and you will never dance (we tried it, it is really true). You cannot buy yourself the shortcut. That’s consuming. You know how they say: it takes nine months for a woman from getting pregnant to give birth to a baby. You cannot deliver this baby in one month just by making nine women pregnant. Once you find your teacher, make a commitment, at least, for a reasonable amount of time, at least, for one course, at least, for one workshop. Make an effort actually to implement what they offer you. Then, you need time to integrate what you have learned, to train it and to apply it.
Don’t forget to celebrate your progress. Apply what you’ve learned, even if it is only a small step (in your judgement). It is actually a lot. Enjoy when the rope flows more effortlessly. Enjoy when your hands tie whilst your eyes focus on your partner’s face. It is super important and a great challenge to re-focus on the joy during the learning process. But this is what we were seeking for, right? This is the beginner’s mind! Sometimes we just need to do something that we have fun with! Go out and tie someone or get tied. Enjoy!
To sum this up, it is you switching your brain (and attitude) to a “learning mindset“ that actually brings the result. This feels awkward in the beginning, that’s why we tend to avoid it. Consuming feels more downstream, more familiar. But it does not facilitate our progress.
So, get inspired, get insecure, look and listen, try to repeat, get distracted, make mistakes, get frustrated, get corrected, get lost in the technique, maybe get an insight – and repeat!
Good luck, all the best on your way to learn!