on rope and roping

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Communicating with other tie-and-be-tied enthusiasts has been my aim since childhood.

A thick correspondence file has accumulated over the years ... but to avoid repetition, much of my thinking about roping and getting roped has now been distilled into a wild 'stream of consciousness'.
Reproduced in full below, this introduces
a bundle of R&R-related topics ... so it can serve as a
'discussion document'. To keep ideas flowing by e-mail, phone calls and face-to-face meetings is the reason for this site.

Work your way down the headings below - and feel free to get back to me on any topic you'd like to add to. Jim Stewart Oct 20005

N.B. Many of the following files are un-illustrated.
For photos and drawings


(500 words)

The character of rope as distinct from string, cord or leather thongs has always fascinated me - but let’s include them all here.

Cowboy literature with a coil of rope at the ready on a leather saddle conjured up fantasies of a thrown rope - a lasso - a quick tug and the rope tight around elbows as the start of something more efficient. A skill I was eager to get the feel of as a kid.

Knots and knotting, the more intricate the better - left over right - the difference between a reef knot and a granny. Slick techniques, something to be practiced methodically rather than left to chance in the heat of a moment - and that was long before I heard anything about the ancient Japanese art of Hojojutsu - or Shibari. I’d heard about Houdini’s exploits - but the rope ties in the photos of him never looked all that difficult to escape from.

Boy Scouts and sailors were supposed to know most about knots - but the days of sailing ships and intricate rigging were long gone - and I soon learned that it takes a special sort of person to have enough interest to want to really learn the ins and the outs - and I was always on the alert for such men.

Mountaineers, I’d heard, needed to learn their ropes and tie knots guaranteed not to slip - so I took up rock climbing. Farmers I’ve known have shown me quick tricks to keep a cow’s legs out of mischief, or to get a leash on a struggling sheep - all useful in an emergency. Most farmers keep a short length of rope or twine in a pocket just in case. And fishermen often pride themselves on a range of knotting skills which in the past I’ve enjoyed persuading them to demonstrate - and pitting my wits against their expertise.

Tying a person is very different from tying up a parcel which doesn’t wriggle around or attempt to find a way out - that's something I discovered very early on!

Tying a person who is alert and struggling is very different from tying an inert body. Even when unconscious, getting a firm tie in place which is not going to cause circulation problems after only a short time, is a skill that can be fun to practice.

Attaching a first rope-hold on a limb before the intended victim realises what’s happening is all it takes if you know how to follow through, completing a ‘capture’ with or without cooperation. Tricks for taking surprise control and retaining it by keeping an opponent off-balance can be dangerous until you’ve got the knack. The premise that once an anchor point is attached you can inevitably achieve a ‘take-down’ is explored further in a text called 'Take-downs’
(All LINKS mentioned in this text are indexed at the end of the page.)

As a competitive sport, two well-matched opponents, each with six foot of rope with a slip knot in one end, can have a very satisfactory wrestling match until one combatant is securely roped with both lengths of rope.




The differences between smooth cotton rope and hairy hemp, the different weights and diameters are mainly a matter of personal preference. Knots in nylon rope tend to slip - and the harsh abrasiveness of polythene rope can quickly cause burns. For me, the sticky cling of well waxed sash-line which welds into unslippable knots is particularly interesting to get the feel of. Twisted twine as distinct from multi-strand braided rope moves in different ways while being knotted.

Thinner cord soon cuts into the skin, but skillfully tied it can serve a useful purpose and is less bulky in the pocket in case of an emergency (or the opportunity to demonstrate a few quick parlour tricks).

Soft strips of leather - often mis-named rawhide have a very different feel. The tough flexible cling of a wrap of leather thongs (about 1cm wide) is less likely to cut and burn wrists than rope - and the knots are not so easy for fingers to get into. A long leather bootlace from tall boots is long enough to tie wrists efficiently in a good square lash - and still have enough left over to tie ankles together - or at least to anchor wrists behind the back through the crotch to the waist-belt in front - or to the scrotum if you really want to let the prisoner know who’s in control.

Real rawhide, strips of untreated leather, are very pliable when wet - and hard as glass-fibre when dry; a very different story. It really does shrink while drying as described in many a cowboys-and-Indians tale. This can be a slow and painful process - and the dried hide can cut the skin if you fight it. Genuine rawhide can be seriously dangerous - I know because I’ve tried it just to get the feel of it - more than once.

Wire is a different story and a seriously powerful hype. Soft metal or plastic-covered cable and a pair of pliers can contrive a really freaky trip. Check out text titled 'Ladder tie challenge'
(Linked below).

When possible, start any tie from the centre of a piece of rope rather than one end. Obviously, always finish off a tie with knots beyond reach of fingers. Simple rope ties are usually more efficient than elaborate macramé webs if the aim is to be escape-proof rather than visually interesting. Then, less rope rather than more is the general rule - but the slow and deliberate process of applying a complicated tie can be enjoyable to do, have done to or to watch. And, an elaborate rope body harnesses under street clothes or over thick leathers or waterproof layers - clinging, constricting can be a challenge to wear and fun to apply. Body hugging roping can produce pain or pleasure.



This, for the tied person, is an all-important factor.

Hog-tied or spread-eagled; both quickly have a powerful physical impact. Monitoring is essential in either case because the effect on the individual’s body can be unpredictable.
Hog-tied face down can lead to breathing problems which can start suddenly as the energy level drops.
Spread-eagled standing, as with any arms-above-head position, circulation problems soon occur. Also, a well-stretched spread-eagle is guaranteed to cause joint stress and maybe cramps.

Hands behind or in front has a completely different psychological effect as well as on the sense of balance. But tying hands is usually only the beginning. Not knowing what is going to happen next is often where the real tension is generated. Wrists crossed or parallel are technically different when starting a tie. A useful alternative not often seen, is hands placed with palms forearm-against-forearm behind the back. It is not too difficult to get someone’s arms into that position if one wrist is circled with rope first, before they are brought together. This position is called 'stacking' when handcuff techniques are taught.

Elbows roped tight together behind the back can have an immediately challenging effect, but should not be sustained for long. Useful as a first move, closely cinched elbows in preparation for tying wrists if the intended victim is struggling. Elbows can be eased slightly after hands are secure.

Rope around the throat is, for some game-players a total no-no. However, used intelligently, a noose around the throat temporarily can persuade a struggler to stop resisting. Explaining that they are creating the problem not the rope, places responsibility with them. But, no rope which is likely to tighten against the wind-pipe should ever be left in place if the victim is unsupervised.

Hands high above the head (as mentioned before) can soon cause circulation ‘drain’. Wrists pulled high enough to keep you on tip-toe soon causes stress - which can be an effective short-term measure. Other off-balance stress positions can quickly drain energy. This can be intentional if ‘softening up’ is required.

Kneeling can very soon become painful, and if secured into that position the whole body can soon ache.

Chair rope ties can be relatively comfortable or deliberately uncomfortable. Obviously, much depends on the structure of the chair. Arms pulled tight behind a chair back affect the shoulders as well as wrists. Ankles pulled up and back remove the sense of stability given by feet on the floor. (More on chair-ties in the next section).

Lying on the floor, whether hands are bound in front or behind, can be surprisingly uncomfortable. If not tethered firmly to an anchor point, it is often beneficial to be able to change position regularly. Having something to rest the head on can also relieve some strain. If leaving somebody tied for any length of time, a pillow is not just a kindness - it can lengthen the time they can be kept restrained safely.

Standing or walking allows various opportunities. A hobble between the ankles may be necessary if moving a roped prisoner from place to place. The length of stride can be controlled, especially if a linking rope is run upwards from the between-ankles link through a suitably robust waist belt. Thus with a sharp tug on this ‘lead’ rope the prisoner can be on his knees before he can make any trouble. Of course, if this lead rope is tethered to his scrotum the prisoner is less likely to make any ‘silly moves’

Astride a horse or a fence, the classic Western movie image of the prisoner forced to ride a horse can, in reality, be a memorable trip. Hands tied in front to a saddle pommel, boots lashed to stirrups make it possible to canter but scary to gallop (and uncomfortable). With hands tied behind and ankles lashed under the belly or to stirrups can be a real pain.
But imagination can not give a true picture of travelling any distance in the ‘belly down’ position often seen in movies. Whether lying over a saddle or over bare back, this is a really gut-churning experience - which I recommend only the healthiest masochist to experience by choice.


Documenting any such process in words is never easy. Ties can sound more complicated than they really are. Before the days of digital cameras when film had to be taken to the chemists to develop, step-by-step illustrations were a chore. Now both digital and video cameras offer fantastic opportunities. Ropes being applied in different circumstances can be informative to watch - and fun to take the pictures. The process can be better documented when an extra person is taking the pictures as the tier ties.

The process of watching a well-roped man attempt to escape can be both informative and stimulating. Body language, even of somebody almost totally immobilised, can speak volumes.

Both tying and attempting to escape can be fun for both the doer and the done-to but it can also be a rewarding spectator sport. Furthermore, if a good roping-job has been done, protracted efforts to escape by a determined opponent can, if videoed, be enjoyed time and time again (including by the protagonists who were too preoccupied whilst the video was being shot).

Tying up in movies was, for me, always a great thrill when it was about to happen - but usually a disappointment because either you didn’t get to see enough of the roped person struggling (or suffering) - or the dumb-ass who’d done the tying had done such a poor job the hero escaped too easily.

Why somebody is tied must, in the context of this web site, always be by mutual consent. Even if force is used because competition or resistance is to be part of the event, mutual agreement in advance is an essential in any predicaments described here.

The process and the outcome of somebody being restrained is totally a matter of personal preference. The degree of physical or even emotional challenge something worked out between the protagonists.

Efficiency and safety are essentials if the object is to incapacitate, whatever the means and manner used. Whether the motive is to experience, or to challenge - or satisfy some innate enjoyment for either the tier or the tied, it is often accepted that the outcome may be the beginning of something else - some extension of the situation may happen because a changed balance of physical power has been achieved. Some punishment or forfeit may have to be paid. But - not always. The tier is, on occasions, doing a favour to the person tied if he just backs off and allows the experience to be savoured - while being safely monitored.

The process of tying can, on occasions, become a sensual or dramatic end in itself. A slow and meticulous reduction of movement, a carefully contrived gradual removal of freedom can be like seduction. This can be like ritual preparation for whatever might follow - or for the on-coming experience of powerlessness - endurance - survival.

Body-roping can be both an art and science, especially if the tie is to be in place for any length of time. Because loss of circulation can bring an interesting experiment or challenge to a disappointingly early end, opportunity to practice techniques is essential. In purely skill-practicing sessions, observing / experiencing / discussing the effects, roping skills can be enjoyable to learn from inside and from out. So much depends on the intention behind the exercise.

Being tied clothed or naked has totally different impacts sensually, psychologically, physically and visually - all a matter of personal preference - and what subsequent activity is planned for the restrained person. Skin abrasion can shorten scenes - temperature can become a factor.

Thicker clothing can avoid rope burns and bruising.


In restraint-as-enjoyment game-playing, this can be a question of more than the efficiency of the tier. With rope, possibility of escape is higher than with many other forms of restraint such as metal devices or straps (if buckles are lockable or unreachable).

Enjoyment of exploring opportunities for escape from a rope tie can generate energy. Determination to struggle can be exhilarating when trying, and stimulating to watch. The tied situation is disappointing for some people if escape is a possibility. With others, if it’s accepted that escape is impossible, there is no point in wasting energy - so, no struggle and wriggling except to delay the onset of numbness - or to fight off boredom.

Determination to escape from a situation can generate unexpected energy. What may not seem possible early in the game may, after some time restrained, be worth trying as desperation sets in. On the other hand, in some roped situations if the effort isn’t made early, the loss of finger sensitivity can reduce likelihood of dealing with knots later.

The process of escaping from tied rope can not be catalogued because every situation is a unique combination of factors. Theories and advice from Escape Artists can generalise and offer a few tips - but many of these hinge on tricks for leaving options open whilst being tied. Between certain game-playing partners such tricks are fun to try and get away with ... and fun to prevent.

Allowing a tied person to expend a lot of energy getting part-way free and then stepping in to close the opening loophole can be seriously frustrating. If such an escapee knows that this will happen - there is not much point in starting the process. If, on the other hand, knowing that by indicating a possible escape route it will get closed, can benefit someone who prefers that the tie be totally efficient and escape-proof.

Finally, when an expert tier is dealing with somebody who likes to try and escape - loopholes can be deliberately left - to see if the escapee discovers them.

is another related topic which also applies to more than rope and roping. The extra dimension of having a visual record of an event offers lots of possibilities for added enjoyment.
The process of videoing or taking still pictures during a ‘happening’ can complicate the scene or add an extra excitement.

A static video camera monitoring a restrained person when left alone can be a useful safety measure - but also an enjoyable alternative to having to baby-sit somebody who is incapacitated. Keeping an eye on the situation but being free to do other things (or socialise) can be a bonus.

Watching a completely immobilised person can be like watching paint dry - or, body language can be fascinating to watch as the restrained person goes through shifts of mood while dealing with a sustained experience.

The impact on the restrained person being left unattended is more intense that knowing somebody is there in the room: a totally different head-space.

Recording an event on either live or remote monitoring camera can have various spin-off uses. The ‘victim’ in a restraint scenario can gain enjoyment by re-living the experience, watching the tape afterwards. In ‘Feedback’ a couple of people describe being able to see a scene they were involved in from a totally different perspective, by watching a re-play.

Several related topics on-site discuss different uses of video and stills in more detail. See the 'Photo-feedback’ link (next).


This is usually a matter of what is available. Ladders, tables, chairs, beds, trees, scaffold poles (upright or horizontal), home gym equipment or something more specialised?

A separate section offers descriptions and photos of a few alternative STRUCTURES

The ancient Japanese art of Hojojutsu and modern interpretations of it, is a topic covered separately. see SHIBARI



March 2007 - THE ROPING KID is part correspondence - part story.
More thoughts on the practicalities and fantasies of rope game-playing

describes a particularly uncomfortable rope-tie

Find more on take-down and tie situations

Add photographic feedback

Return to




NOTE from L.K.

Maurice, I had a friend who was a fireman and they used to have Open Days and a kind of fete to raise money for charity. He was tied between two trees whilst people could pay to dowse him with water. I think he knew a thing or two about roping and restraint but I never got him actually to open up about it. I am sure that he enjoyed his predicament which was between two trees.

“Between two trees: It is simple to incapacitate a person between two trees, which need to be spaced about eight to ten feet apart. The person is held in almost a spread-eagle position. At shoulder level a length of rope is tied round the first tree, next it is tied around the person’s left wrist with his arm fully extended from the body. Then tied around his waist. It carries on and is again tied round his right wrist fully extended from the body, and finally secured to the second tree. The same roping is carried out at near-ground level between the trees and his two ankles. Such a person is at some distance from the final knots and has little hope of escape. There are of course variations on this theme.