Unconscious Competence

June 22, 2016 in Hebari's Blog, Rope

IMG_6114With rope education we are always talking about competence, ego, getting students to slow down and focus on depth rather than breadth, don’t jump ahead yada yada and on it goes.

The thing about learning a skill is that it’s bloody boring, it starts out as exciting, the prospect of the wonders to be unlocked, the cool things we’ll be able to do soon, and that generates the enthusiasm that gets us started.

Then we hit a road block, something that doesn’t work as expected, maybe a knot won’t hold, maybe the tie falls apart, maybe our bottom tells us that something doesn’t feel right. Whatever, we stall and it’s frustrating.

At this point we all know what we are supposed to do, we are supposed to stop go back and work on things until we have it right and this is where we have a choice to do things well or poorly.

So here is the trick I teach my students, at the point where you feel you “have it”, rather than jump ahead see if you can do it while doing something else, talk to your model, watch television whatever, the point is when you can use the skill well while doing something else you have become “unconsciously competent”, unconscious competence is essentially the point where as kill has been moved down to your automation functions and it’s actually really cool to become aware of it as it happens.

Human beings actually can’t do many things concurrently using our conscious minds, basically we can do one thing well or two things poorly. So the reason we are able to multi-task at all is that we have amazing automation systems run by our subconscious mind.

A great example is watching a child learn to walk, what they are doing initially is using their conscious mind to try to walk, which is really hard, there are just so many things to think of, and you can actually see them jump between them, they get one thing working then they try to do something else and fall over. Then over time they train their automation systems and walking becomes easier and easier.

When we walk we have all the motor and balancing in automation, we also scan our surroundings and avoid obstacles automatically, we also have a light automated tactical system that plans and remaps out route for us and we only need to move that to conscious thought when a major change occurs.

Rope is the same, we start by getting the basic components into automation, then bigger patterns that a formed form the smaller components, then we are free to notice our model more, and our feel and flow can be moulded by that feedback and so on.

So the moral to this story is get in touch with your learning processes, start to feel the progression as less of a progression into boredom and more as a progression into automation that opens up new layers of awareness and ability and your learning experience will naturally become richer.

Connective Rope

June 21, 2016 in Hebari's Blog, Rope

20160611 - Victoria Rose 0052This may seem obvious but sensual rope is about engaging the senses and what may surprise you is there are more than 5. We all know about sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, all first order senses what is often missed are not strictly speaking senses but I’m going to take some poetic license.

Sense of timing, sense of trust, sense of state, sense of intensity, sense of space and sense of flow.

Very often I think people wanting to get into sensual rope do one of two things, they either smother the person they are tying or they try to use the first order senses as a series of buttons to be pushed to get an effect.

Each of these have elements that can be used and may look similar to a more connected rope scene but the thing that makes the difference is extended senses if I can call them that.

The way I like to think of it is like an old school story teller taking an audience on a journey, feeding off their reactions and changing the story as they go for maximum impact with a few twists for those that have heard the story before. That subtle understanding of the human condition, the reading of expressions and the sounds the audience makes, sometimes calm then building up to a crescendo, a pause then the revelation.

So I think of myself as a story teller, a purveyor of sensual journeys, and to tell those stories I have to use the language of human experience.

Kurt Vonnegut did a great lecture on this exact point called “The shape of stories” where he discusses the concept of flow, intensity and timing as it relates to the way people experience a story.

Rope is the same,  we experience it though the difference between moments and states. If things happen very fast and intensely then it builds up until we either break out or burn out. If we experience thing at a low intensity and a slow measured pace it’s either calming or boring depending on the context. Whether it’s a good piece of music, a play, a movie or a conversation the most interesting experiences generally have build ups, pauses, intense periods followed by calm and then the build again. A spike of intensity after a pregnant pause and so on.

The other thing about experience is the idea of “right moments”, the best example for me is a kiss, if you go in for a kiss a bit early it’s awkward and the same if it’s a bit late, there is an indefinable “right moment” to kiss someone and the only way to work it out is through intuition.

Intuition was once described to me as the queues our subconscious mind gives to our conscious mind after processing far more information than our concious mind ever could, and the way it informs us of it’s conclusion is with “those feelings”, the pressure or the feeling that it’s not the right time. The hard part is learning to listen. We all have days when our brain is full for whatever reason and our ability to listen to our intuition or our partners in just not very good, maybe we are tired or maybe we had bad news or any number of other things. On days like that I don’t do rope, I find a way to relax that doesn’t require me to be very capable.

So if I listen to my intuition and the feedback I get from my partner, then use my skills at both rope and story telling the end result is a unique journey, a conversation tailored to the people involved and our momentary state of being, and that is the best connective rope for me.

How long does it take?

May 24, 2016 in Hebari's Blog, Rope

0004cab1-37c2-c3a9-8f50-37560ab14059_720This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s a bit like asking how long it will take to get fit, it depends on how much work you are prepared to put in and how much you are prepared to put your ego aside. As someone once said you can’t learn something you already think you know.
I’m also going to be sexist for a moment and let the guys know something. I hate to tell you but the girls are much less prone to tripping over their egos.

Let me break down the bad process for a bit and talk about some of the things I have observed from poor students.

  • They talk rather than do, it feels like the talking is to cover their inability to take on the information, or maybe they feel that it’s so easy it doesn’t require all their attention. Either way the people that talk a lot in class invariably end up lagging behind
  • They want to jump ahead rather than focus on getting what is in front of them right
  • They are the first to start trying to teach others
  • They obviously don’t practice between classes, or maybe they don’t practice well. Either way the progression between classes is small or non-existent
  • They seem to think that a quick class will give them the skills to get laid. Sorry no one will fuck you for skills especially not bad ones
  • The rush ahead when something frustrates them
  • They have a it’s good enough attitude

The behaviours of good students that progress quickly I have observed are:

  • They are quiet but inquisitive, they ask why
  • They are tenacious, they keep at a tie until they have that “Ah ha” moment
  • When they get frustrated they ask for help
  • They practice as often as they can and they practice within their limits
  • They critically analyse their work and work to understand why things are used they way they are
  • They, like everyone have an ego, they just don’t turn class into a competition with their teacher or the other students

For me the moment I an doing something for attention, or external factors, my ego is in play and prevents me, so I actively avoid competition. When I’m focused on the person I’m tying or just getting something right my ego subsides. So that’s what I try to do.

Visiting Tokyo

April 19, 2016 in Hebari's Blog

wp-1461033970015.jpegI come to Tokyo at least once a year, normally two or three times, and have done so for the last 6 years or so.
When I first started to come, it was just about rope, doing lessons and tying every day, but as time has gone on it’s become more about discovering the country and the culture, reading about the long and interesting history and visiting the places myself. Coming from such a young country (at least from European cultural perspective), it’s really amazing to sit in buildings hundreds of years old and look at arts and crafts developed over more than a thousand years.
On my latest trip especially I’ve played guide a bit to some of my friends visiting from Australia, so I thought I’d write a post about my favourite places in Tokyo and a few things I’ve worked out to make things easier.

Making It Easier

So first things first, when I get off the plane in Narita airport the first two things I do are get a data SIM fir my phone and enable my Suica card (travel card for buses and trains). As I leave the customs area in terminal 3, I go down stairs where the telcos have booths, they all have pretty much the same stuff so all good there. From terminal 3 its a bit of a walk or a short bus ride to terminal 2.
The trains run from terminal 2 so I go to the JR office and get my card re-enabled and put 5000 yen on it then head to the Keisei Skyline, which is basically a short shinkansen to Ueno in Tokyo, 2400 yen and a 40min trip so really good value all around, the Narita Express takes about 2hrs and is 3600 yen go figure.
A note on money, the best thing in Tokyo is cash and the most efficient way to change money is generally to hunt around at home for the best rates before you go and change most of your spending money ahead of time, ATMs are really expensive wats to change money.
Now I have my travel pass, a bit of cash and a data dim in my phone. So the next thing is that technology is your friend, Facebook and Whatsapp are great for staying in touch with everyone in and out of town cheaply and google maps is just brilliant. It will give you all the details you need to navigate Tokyo with ease, from walking directions to train and platform information.
Lastly for the general stuff all I can say is wander a bit, Tokyo is at its best when you don’t run from point A to point B, the little lanes and shopping districts have amazing treasures if you bother to look.

Places to Visit

Asuksa and Senso-ji Temple

Asuksa is the suburb surrounding the Senso-ji temple, one of the largest in Japan from the Asuksa metro station you come up just at the front of the arcade leading down to the temple itself, it starts with a huge torii (stylised gate) and heads down through a dense market through to another torii before you step into the temple grounds themselves.

Then one either side there are streets full of shops with food as always and a lot of traditional arts, and more than a little touristy crap. The surprise for me was just how much good and well-priced stuff there actually is, probably because 95% or more of the tourists are actually Japanese.

There are a couple of things you will see when you enter, the first is small buildings on the side with lots of little drawers, these have fortunes in them. The idea is that you put a 100 yen coin in the slot then pick up one of the steel containers and shake out a stick. On the stick are 3 kanji, just match these up to the corresponding drawer and inside is your fortune. If it’s a bag one you can fold it up and tie it to one of the racks near bye to get rid of the bad luck.

The next thing you might see is a big basin with lots of smoke coming out of it. You can buy incense just next to it and light it on the lighters then offer it with your prayers. When you are done put it in the basin. Also the smoke from the basin is good luck so waft it on your body where you need some help. Also if you buy a bracelet or jizu at one of the stores the smoke will cleanse it and fill it with good energy.

Kinoko once told me that I should get a jizu to help filter out bad energy when I’m tying people. Ki energy flows in the left hand, through the heart and back out the right, so a jizu is worn on the left hand to filter out bad energy, so you share and share in good energy.

After that you can go and look at all the gardens and shrines, there are lots of different things you can get for good luck and as offerings with your prayers but I only know a few.

Harajuku and Meiji-jingu Shrine

Harajuku has something of a split personality, on one side there is the shopping district the suburb is so well known for with bustling crowds filled with local fashionistas, cos players and foreign tourists. On the other side of the JR line is the Meiji-Jingu shrine to the first Meiji emperor who took back power from the Tokogawa shogunate and began the Japanese process of modernisation and involvement in the world at large.

The shrine is one of my favourite places in Tokyo, the moment I step into the grounds I’m surrounded by peace and clam away from the usual pace of Tokyo. Inside is the shrine itself, which is one of the most extensive in Tokyo along with a wall of wine barrels from French vineyards, given by the French at the dedication of the shrine and a wall of sake barrels given by the sake makes each year for the New Year’s celebrations. The big things for me though is just the meditative peace, it’s a great place to collect my thoughts after lessons or just as a calm start to a big night out in Shinjuku

Ueno Park and Markets

Ueno Park and the area surrounding it are filled with shrines, temples, gardens and museums all largely catering to Japanese internal tourists and external tourists to a lesser extent so the pricing and number of people are generally a bit nicer. The part itself is full of cherry trees so during sakura season <insert dates> and to a lesser degree lotus season, the park can get a lot fuller as people come to relax and watch the uniquely Japanese spectacles. The rest of the time the park is a pretty relaxing place to be.

Peoni Garden & Toshogu shrine

Up on the hill overlooking the Ueno park pond is the Toshogu shrine, dedicated to the founding member of the Tokogawa shogunate beginning the Edo period of Japan (Edo is the old name for Tokyo), leading up to the shine is a path lined with old carved stone pillars and to one side is the peoni garden, for 1100 yen you can access both, for my part I think they are well worth visiting, if like me you have an interest in the history and culture of Japan.

Ueno Garden Pond

20160408-Tokyo-008The large pond in the middle of Ueno park is split in half by a cherry tree lined walkway that end in a moderate shrine. On one side of the walkway is an open pond with small boats that can be hired some shaped like swans for the romantic at heart. The other side is full of lotus. In spring the lotus rises up to the surface just after the sakura have passed, at first the round leaves resting on the surface and finally the flowers that open each morning at dawn.

During sakura season the pond is lined with delicate pink and white sakura blossoms and almost looks like an infra red photo.

Shopping

Akihabara

Also called Electric Town, Akihabara is well known for its electronics and maybe less often for its sex stores which are a great resource for anyone on a kinky holiday. Here you can find all the usual bits and pieces you would expect at any sex store with the addition of some great costumes, SM gear and toys and of course SM videos. Be careful what you buy though a lot of the video content isn’t legal in western countries.

Asuksa

20160412-Tokyo-010Asuksa and the area around Senso-ji temple are filled with food and all kind of vendors selling everything from cloths to kitchen equipment and knives. Most of the stores have a traditional bent and so make a great place to shop for quintessentially Japanese items from cooking knives to kimono and often at very good prices despite being a tourist area. The upside of the tourist business in Asuksa is that there are a fair few English speakers so for people that haven’t gotten into Japanese for dummies yet ( yes I used this book J ), it’s a great spot to shop.

The alley leading up to the temple itself has a few interesting stores though it is the most crazy part of the area and has the most touristy stuff, it’s still worth a look.

Kappabashi

Kappabashi is also known as cooking town and forms a dense grouping of cooking supply stores mostly catering to the commercial market, so prices are really good though English speakers can be a bit thin on the ground. It’s almost half way between Ueno station and Asuksa so I tend to walk it.

I’m passionate about food and cooking so Kappabashi is a little gold mine for me that has claimed more than its fair share of my holiday budget on more than one occasion.  Some of the great things you can get are traditionally made knives, noren (the curtains used in doorways) and a whole range of different bits and pieces used for various Japanese cooking such as lanterns, soba trays and wooden trays for making sushi rice.

Ueno Markets

The markets in Ueno run from Ueno JR station to Okachimachi station underneath and parallel to the train lines. Here you can find all the daily basics like cloths and shoes along with lots of food and food components. One of my favourite stores sells fresh fruit on sticks for 100 yen, the pineapple is brilliant.

To be honest the best thing to do is just wander J

Bars

Arcadia

Run by Teshin san, Arcadia originated in Osaka as the brainchild of Outski san, a famous bakushi from Osaka. It’s a fun bar located in the Kabkicho area of Shinjuki, \ with a lot of cool factor and welcoming to western guests as long as they know how to be polite. The times I have been there it’s been great fun but best to go with an interpreter as communication can be a problem.

Mitsu

Run by Yoi san, Mitsu is just across the stairs from Ubu. Mitsu means honey and also is a way of saying secret, also it’s a girls bar primarily. Fitted out in a traditional style it has a great atmosphere and Yoi is a an amazing host and rope artist so definitely worth a visit.

Tied Up

In a basement full of bars, Tied up is the newest of the rope bars in Tokyo and has a relaxed loungy feel with integral cat. Also for out of towners the staff are ok with English.

Ubu

Ubu like MItsu is owned by both Bingo and Yoi but mostly run by Bingo. It’s the regular stopover for a range of rope people in the know while in Tokyo so you can regularly see well known faces as you are greeted by Bingo at the door.