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When attaching support lines to a harness for suspension, I use a novel method that people frequently ask me about, and I've been meaning to document for a long time. Serendipitously, I ran into Kali from Kink Academy a few months ago at Wicked Grounds, and she asked me to film some instructional videos for them on suspension -- so I managed to slip this in there, and they've graciously agreed to allow me to use screenshots from those videos to illustrate a blog post here.
This method was inspired by the Tatu hitch, during a Fetlife discussion whose details are now murky in my memory -- in any case credit is due both Tatu and Jack Elfrink for making me aware of that knot, upon which this is based. Things needing names, and this technique using the first half of a Tatu hitch, I suppose we could call it the half-Tatu hitch.
Thanks also to Mecha-Kate for modeling for these. The full video version, in two parts, is here and here on Kink Academy. It's not free, but it's also hardly expensive -- and if you sign up using those links, I'll be getting half the proceeds.
Single Point Attachment, with Carabiner
Starting with the bight end of a doubled rope, form a new double-bight and pass that under the point you are attaching to, while keeping the center-bight on the side it started on:
Next, fold the single bight up against the double-bight, aligning all three loops:
Now clip a carabiner through all three loops, and around the standing line:
For asymmetrical biners, rotate the fat end away from the harness as shown, to make more space for use as a pulley.
VERY IMPORTANT: This is not done. At this point, if you pull on the rope, the carabiner will be yanked up against the body and pulled around the harness in a most ungainly way. While the support line can't actually come off, it will extend somewhat, and the carabiner could mess up your bottom. You need to also plan for (or make sure you have enough rope to avoid) passing back through this configuration while lowering, if you might lower past the point you lifted from.
From here, you want to go up through your ring, then back down and through the carabiner again:
Now you can lift, and the carabiner will stay at exactly the same distance from the harness it started. The above shows the rope also going through the ring a second time, but that's not required; if you prefer to lift up instead of pulling down, you can start lifting as soon as you've run back through the carabiner again. More times back and forth don't hurt, but they don't really help either, because of added friction.
Single Point Attachment, without Carabiner
If you don't want or need a carabiner on the bottom (which reduces lift friction, but could be argued against on aesthetic grounds), you can instead, from the point where you've got the three bights aligned, form a bight in the standing line and pass that through the triple bight, starting a daisy chain:
Chain this once or twice more, then pull the whole rope through the last one to lock it off:
Now unlike the carabiner variation, this is totally solid and locked off at this point; you can lift away from here. But if you want some leverage, you can come back down and go through all three bights again with the running end:
Hanger, with Carabiner
If you're not sold on this method yet, stay with me for a moment, because here's where it really shines. Sometimes you want to attach to a harness at multiple points, leaving some distance between them. And this method adapts beautifully to that situation. For two points, which I'll show here, you barely have to modify it at all; and for more than two, you can pretty much just add additional double-bights between each point.
Hanger, without Carabiner
Finally, of course, you can do a split hanger without a carabiner, using the daisy chaining method. In this case, there's an additional difference to keep in mind, which is that the carabiner version of the hanger has a neat property whereby it will self-equalize as the angle changes, due to the double-bight part being free to pass back and forth through the biner. The daisy-chain version adds a lot of friction and won't do that as much, behaving more like most other hanger techniques, where you set the angle when you tie the knot.
So is it safe?
There is one important drawback to this method, in case you didn't catch it: if your rope breaks at the center point, this is going to come right off and they are going to fall straight down. So while this method does a lot to reduce both wear and load on the center point, if your rope is already weakened there, you might want to think twice about using it for this. But if you're not totally confident in the integrity of your rope, you might want to think twice about using it for support lines at all. You'll notice in these pictures I'm using 8mm hemp for the support lines even though the harness is 6mm -- when using natural fiber rope, I prefer to have as much extra safety margin as reasonably possible, given that rope can break during suspension.
This is a column tie specifically designed to be easy to learn for people brand new to rope. It is an adaptation of a tie I learned from Nell, who learned it from Max, who developed it based on earlier work with yet murkier origins. As far as we can agree, the most historically accurate and descriptive name for this would be the Double-Modified Fishermen's Bend.
Thanks to Nell and Max for help producing the video, as well as introducing me to the original concept, although I hasten to add that what I present here is not Max's canonical version of the tie, and any pitfalls should be solely attributed to my own tinkering with it.
It's also worth noting that none of the three of us use this in our daily tying -- various more advanced column ties are quicker with sufficient practice -- but this is a good place to start if you're just looking for something easy to tie someone to the bed with.
You might notice that in the single-column video I do four wraps, and in the double-column video I do two -- there isn't some special math there that you should do half as many wraps for a double column as a single. It's just however much you need for your bottom to be comfortable, with the rope that you're using, but not so much that it bunches up all crazy...and modulated by how well you misunderestimated the amount of rope you needed. Always use at least two wraps, but don't stress over the exact number.
There is some debate in the community over the relative safety of the takate kote for suspension; regardless of how you feel about that, you may find these variations useful. The general idea is that by adding a few well-placed knots, suspension load can be shifted from the arms to the chest, while maintaining the general look, feel, and experience of a normal TK. Most bottoms seem to find this more comfortable, and my hope is that it will prove safer.
First of all, watching these videos does not make you qualified to do this tie. These are intended for an audience already familiar and comfortable with tying and suspending with TKs; no attempt is made to cover the general safety information necessary to use these responsibly.
Second, while I have solicited feedback from a number of other riggers, and done extensive testing on a small number of bottoms, TKs are complex ties, these variations are new, and there may be hidden dangers which won't come to light until they are used with a particular bottom or in a special situation. So don't just take my word for it that they work; pay attention, communicate with your bottom, etc. Adapt them as necessary; no TK works for everybody.
Most importantly, don't let the chest-loading aspect lull you too much into complacency; placement of the arms wraps is still important, and radial nerve injury is still possible; most especially, on the ground, someone can injure themselves struggling in these just as easily as in any TK.
Also, some thanks:
To RopeBoi and Ay for beta testing and encouragement; to Amy Morgan for showing me how to do the original long version without making a total mess; to Mike West for showing me the trick for making the overhands in the short version; and most especially to Nell, for hour upon hour of patient testing and feedback, not to mention modeling in all the videos below.
So here we go. This is the variation I now use most frequently:
Here's an alternate way of doing the stem for that:
Here's the original, 3-rope version of the tie, which still has some advantages, and is probably easier to get right:
Here's some information on how to attach support ropes, to either variation:
Finally, I know some people are going to object that these ties are too slow and complex. So here's a clip (sorry for the quality, never intended to publish) from a performance rehearsal, in which I do the shorter variation in just 4 minutes, into a complete suspension in under 6:
I know this has been a bit of a marathon post, congrats if you got through all of that in one sitting, I don't know that I could.
It's my hope that people will take the ideas in these ties, and continue to explore and change and adapt them. If you give these a try, and especially if you come up with a new variation, please let me know! I'm sure there is plenty of room for improvement.
I mentioned when I first posted the RSB that I considered it particularly useful for tying someone who was struggling, because it didn't require leaving room to pass a line under the cuff. However, if you're going to leave someone in a tie for a while, or if you're going to suspend with it, you don't want the cuff too tight. I recently had exactly this situation come up in preparing my performance for Citadel's post-pride party/demos, where I wanted to do a "take up", tying a struggling bottom into a puppet suspension.
It turns out, you can actually tie the RSB onto a moving target in a way that maintains space between the cuff and the limb. Here's a quick, unscripted video, just to show putting a bunch of column ties onto someone who's resisting:
And here's an illustration/explanation of what I was doing, there:
Personally I've never found any particular need for this -- I don't usually want to release a column tie while loaded -- but there was some previous discussion in which people were bemoaning not being able to untie a Somerville Bowline while under tension.
So if, for whatever reason, you want an ultra-quick-release column tie, here's a simple modification:
This has, I think, everything you could want in a quick-release knot -- when in the "locked" configuration, it would be very hard to release accidentally (and in fact you can tug on the bight all day long) -- but when you want to release it, it takes no force at all to unlock and then a single good yank not only releases the knot, but simultaneously unthreads the wrap passing under the cuff.
I'd say this is pretty inarguably easier to release than a Boola Boola, while also remaining more secure (if anything, it's even less likely to capsize than a normal Somerville Bowline).
Lochai also has a nice still shot of the (unlocked) finished knot, up here, that he did from my original textual description a couple weeks ago.
I've been sitting on this for a while, mostly because I'm not set up to do video, and people seem to prefer that to photos, but I finally gave in and just shot something off quickly with my phone gaffed to a tripod:
This is a fairly tricky knot, and finicky even once you know it, but in certain situations it is invaluable, most especially this one:
You might ask "but why can't I just do half hitches around the leg, like everybody does?". And the answer is that, if you really load that, from the standing line end, it tends to pull on just the first wrap, and cinch down -- it's not a real column tie. You'll notice that the tutorial I linked that image from then goes on to run the line back up to the harness, which is the usual way to avoid the issue; but with the RSB, you don't have to go back, you could end your rope at the cuff, or do another cuff further down the leg.
When I demonstrated this a while back at the last CT Grue, someone asked me why not just use this all the time instead of the normal Somerville Bowline -- the main reasons are that it's not as quick and easy to tie, and that it's easy to wind up with it too tight, or to wind up pulling unevenly on the first wrap if you're not careful how you lay it up. However, one reason you might want to use the Reverse SB even at the beginning of your line, is if you're tying on someone who's struggling; more about that here.
A few updates--
For those who may have missed it, Lochai has posted a great instructional video on the Somerville Bowline, demonstrating a third way of forming the loop beyond the two that I teach.
Trialsinner has invented the East Somerville Bowline, yet another way of forming the loop optimized for takedown play.
And finally, until 2/25 only, you can listen to my interview on Sexploration with Monika, where I talk about the Somerville Bowline amongst various other things.
There's been some discussion recently of reverse bowline column ties. Jack has long had posted on his site the Reverse French Bowline, a knot which I never paid much mind on account of his warning that it can collapse when the standing line is loaded (as one would expect, from the construction of the knot). However, WykD Dave points out that this is actually a very appealing way to begin a takate-kote.
Further, it turns out that this is actually the same as David Lawrence's Reverse Portuguese Bowline -- a knot I've wondered about for some time. So that begs the question..is it French, or is it Portuguese? For reference, here are the French Bowline and Portuguese Bowline.
I'd argue that Jack is correct in his naming -- the reverse bowline he demonstrates shares two key properties with the French Bowline -- only a single line passes behind the cuff, and the whole cuff is bundled together. A Reverse Portuguese Bowline should pass both sides of the bight under the cuff, in the same way a Portuguese Bowline passes both sides of the loop under. So by way of contrast, I present to you, a proper Reverse Portuguese Bowline:
(note that I do not recommend using this cuff for any purpose whatever; it combines the worst properties of the Reverse French Bowline and the Portuguese Bowline)
To start, form a bight in the standing line:
Now pass this bight under the entire cuff:
Take the working end, cross over the cuff, and under both sides of the neck of the bight:
And now finish by passing the working end down through the bight:
And snugging things up:
You can see how this mirrors the Portuguese Bowline, in that the knot is half under, half over the cuff; but now the parts are Reversed. It also has the characteristic property of one of the wraps of the cuff being separated from the rest by the knot, a pet peeve of mine and one reason I never got into the normal Portuguese Bowline.
In practice, this cuff is terrible, because it has even more tendency for the knot to bunch up under the cuff than the Portuguese Bowline, and is even more prone to capsizing than the Reverse French Bowline. But hopefully this will help establish what a Reverse Portuguese Bowline would be, in contrast to a Reverse French Bowline.