Stereotypes about Semenawa

about semenawa rope bottoming

I have heard a lot of stereotypes and opinions about seme-nawa. Many of those have stopped me for years to engage with this rope style. I was convinced semenawa was not for me, because I didn’t comply with these “requirements”… Life gave me a chance – and I could find where I really belong. So I am writing this because maybe there is someone else out there just like me who doesn’t dare to try, because of what they have heard. But it might not even be true… 

It is all about pain 

This is the most common reference to seme-nawa that one hears. Especially when it is translated as “torture rope”. But is it all true?..

I’m not going to lie to you, there is some pain involved. But what kind of pain? Pain from the mass of ropes on your body, pain from the positional impact, emotional pain…Pain that belongs to the process of transformation. And there is so much more than pain! There might be fear when you come close to your limits. There might be resistance that you need to deal with. There might be shame… vulnerability of totally exposing and totally showing yourself. There is an indescribable piercing movement of opening your heart towards the whole world…

Bad pain is to be avoided, by learning a good technique. My partner ties me tight, very tight. “Unbearable” – I feel sometimes in the first second. However – whilst squeezing my guts out of me – he cares about equal tension, even layers, correct placement… Someone commented in our last workshop on his demo how to equalize the wraps on my calves: “there is so much care in this gesture”. He will hang half of my weight on these calves. He wants me to suffer – but not from the bad rope. He wants me to ​melt ​slowly, so he makes the rope sustainable. We need to make this distinction. Semenawa is not about enduring very bad rope, because you are so devoted.

This style is only for masochistic people

This is the one that stopped me from engaging with semenawa and thinking it’s nothing for me. I don’t get off from pain, I don’t sexualize it, I don’t seek pain. None of that you nessesarily “need” in semenawa. Masochism is about serving myself – with the sensations I like, isn’t it so? In semenawa, I don’t serve myself. I serve the moment, I serve “what is” there that is brought to the surface with a medium of rope, and I give it all I have. I will accept pain when it’s there, I will endure it for my partner, because that has a meaning for me and for him. This is my offering, this is part of my devotion.

Isn’t that a completely different mindset?

You need to be flexible

You don’t need to be flexible. Semenawa is a challenging rope that will bring you to your limits, wherever they are. It’s not about how high you can get your leg up.

What does it even mean, to be flexible? We all have different degrees of flexibility in different positions. I am very comfortable with all kinds of torsion, however, not flexible at all in my hips. I have difficulties sitting in an agura position. I am not flexible in my back and back bend is a challenge. Some others may feel comfortable with back bend and struggle in the side torsion. That’s your uniqueness. This makes it interesting to explore. It is the task of your rigger to find an adaptation for your body, and ways to challenge ​your​ body and soul.

Having said that, you need to be fit, if you like to keep doing it for longer time. Semenawa is demanding – physically, emotionally, mentally. It is adviced, to care about yourself and keep yourself fit. For that, you might like to choose to do exercises, to strengthen your core, to work on your flexibility, that is your good right and responsibility to take care of yourself.

Same goes for “I need to be small / thin / skinny …” Yes, my small size allows me to endure positions maybe not accessible to someone else. But is that a requirement to engage with semenawa? Certainly not!

It’s about suspensions

Seme-nawa is about challenge. Suspending the person in the air is a very common way to create an intense challenge. It is however not the only way! My partner can create a challenge with a Ji Ai harness – and me sitting on my butt – so that I will cry and beg for mercy…

Here is an amazing writing from Red Sabbath on semenawa. And this is written about the floor work. It is – literally – a matter of skills of your rigger. Can they make you ​feel something without involving the obvious challenge of gravity?..

All rope bottoms are crying

It’s partly true! 🙂 Well, semenawa is not a funny casual activity. There are some dark emotions surfacing, when we tie with the semenawa mindset and scratch on our both limits. One doesn’t laugh at such moments.

But also, crying doesnt always mean that I am feeling “bad”. In me, semenawa often evokes the deep feeling of sadness simply from acknowledging the transient nature of the moment. I feel my partner being so present – focused – so much there – and I already know that this moment will pass, he will “leave me” again… Simply that realization sometimes bring me to tears…

Often I feel that my own feelings are sharpened – enhanced – I become so overwhelmed from the feeling of my heart opening and pressing on my chest from inside – till I relieve myself with tears… I am not able to give a rational reason why I am crying at this moment. Just from the fullness of life.

It’s sexual

I believe it is true. What do we understand under “sex”? You don’t have to have penetrative sex in ropes. However the very nature of the activity – for me – is sexual. You let the person inside​ of yourself. That would feel draining if this would be random, for me personally.

For me kinbaku is very heavy and dark. I don’t consider it light, easy and something I can do with everyone I meet. It’s not like I would say to someone: “Hey, come to be tied up!” – I would never do that. Because I really give myself 100% every single time, I have to consider it very deep and special.

Naka Akira, interview to Kinbaku Today

“​Seme-nawa is not mechanical, seme-nawa is relationa​l”, my partner Alexander Ma said once. I don’t tie with a lot of people. I wouldn’t be able to do so…

I believe that semenawa is an intense – ritualistic – way of ​relating to each other. You don’t have to to be masohistic, flexible, or slim – to choose to relate to your partner in this way. But what is really necessary, you need to want to relate…