Partnered Suspension Classes
“Learning upline management was challenging, as it's most often taught from a rope top perspective. Learning how to leverage your body to raise different parts (like using a foot tie to get your hips up higher) just isn't taught in partnered classes, so I came into that knowledge after more than a full year of self suspending.”—OnionSkin
“Most partnered suspension I learned was based on the TK, and for self-suspension I wasn't sure how to go about doing it without the armbinders. Of course anything with armbinders is very difficult if not impossible to do on yourself. I’ve found the coordination of uplines is more challenging with self-suspension, too. Transitions are tough with regular suspensions, but even more difficult with self-suspensions, and that’s one I’m still working on.”—LP
If you can't get mentoring and instruction from an experienced self-suspender, consider reaching out to rope tops and bottoms in your area and learning from them. Taking partnered suspension classes (perhaps with a friend who is also interested in approaching the material with an eye towards self-suspension) is a reasonable place to start, if self-suspension classes are not available. The skills certainly have overlap, and more importantly, a good suspension class will teach you how to think about rigging and rope bottoming in a general sense (rather than just having students copy a transition formula without learning about the underlying principles). Starting to develop this thought process will serve you well on your self-suspension journey.
Similarly, rope bottoming classes have a lot to offer the buddinge self-suspender. Content on pain processing, judging your time in a tie, increasing flexibility and endurance, building body awareness, and many more are commonly discussed and can be extremely helpful as you work on tying yourself.
Keeping someone who knows how to rig around as you start to explore self-suspension will give you a resource who can provide a safety overview and checks as you go. This was one of the methods I utilized when I was getting started—I didn't know any self-suspenders, but I did know lots of riggers. These riggers could at the very least guide me through some basic rope handling and up line management skills, and make sure I wasn’t going to drop myself on my head. It was not uncommon for me to call over a rigger friend while I was in mid-self-suspension and ask something like “I'm thinking of detaching this line and moving this way, then tying off over here—think I'll die?”
As I was working through ties in this way, I had to come up with some modifications of methods that riggers experienced on with partnered suspension showed me. For example, all the riggers I was working with tied off support lines at the upper ring, while I quickly surmised that it was better for me to tie off at a carabiner close to my harnesses.
Some key differences between partnered suspension and self-suspension to keep in mind:
Consider how you will reach your rope/safety supplies. Riggers suspending a partner can just keep them on the floor, in a pocket, or a nearby table, but for self-suspension you might find these supplies are more accessible clipped to your ring or attached to your body (tucked into socks, clipped onto clothing or existing harnesses… I’ve even seen a self-suspender tie a rescue hook into their hair!)
Think about building your support lines so you end up pulling toward your dominant arm, and with the carabiner gates facing you. These little details will make your pulleys smoother and rope less likely to jam.
Most types of partnered suspension tie off support lines at the suspension ring, rather than at the harness. For self-suspension, you will generally want to do the opposite—tie off at the harness rather than the ring. This allows you to easily reach your tie-off to move through transitions.
Don’t reply just on upper body strength to lift yourself up—much can be accomplished by “kipping” your body up and manipulating your center of gravity. This is a skill you’ll probably never see or learn in a partnered suspension class, but it’s invaluable to self-suspension!
In partnered suspension, rings are used mostly to help the rigger separate and organize their support lines. While this is also true for self-suspension, we can use our rings for so much more! Especially if you have a large ring, you can grab it for support and to take some weight off a stuck line, hang from it with your elbow, knee, or even the back of your neck to facilitate transitions (or just as an extra cool trick), attach extra rope from it, and more.
If you’re looking at a partnered suspension class and wondering if attending will have relevance to your self-suspension skills, you might consider the following:
If possible, write the instructor and simply ask them. You can first inquire if you can attend/follow along in the class as a self-suspender, which may work for certain topics (although be prepared to be told no, as many instructors may not be comfortable with or knowledge about self-suspension). If the class is strictly covering partnered techniques, you might inquire if it’s possible for you to either just observe or to attend with a partner, and whether the instructor thinks there are skills/techniques that might translate to self-tying.
It’s been my experience that any class that firmly requires a TK is going to be pretty useless for me in terms of applying anything to self-suspension. Your mileage may vary, of course, but it’s a flag I look for in class descriptions.
Self-suspension has more in common with western/fusion techniques than Shibari. Therefore, I’ve gotten a lot more transferable knowledge out of classes based around the former, as opposed to formal kinbaku/shibari-based instruction.
Any class focused on connection and creating a mood or connection for partnered bondage has very limited applicability to the way I practice self-suspension.
Suspension classes that are explicitly co-taught by the top and bottom—rather than being taught by just the top, with the rope bottom seemingly regarded as little more than an interchangeable bondage doll—are often more applicable to my self-suspension practice. You may have detected a few feelings about this type of suspension class in the above sentence...
Regardless of how you go about learning and building your skills, always keep in mind your basic safety measures, and never self-suspend without a spotter!