There has been some ‘debate’ recently about people being certified for their bondage skills. There are many arguments both for and against this idea…

Individual certification


Firstly it’s important to remember that there are teaches already that have certificates of attendance for bondage courses. These do not make any promises about the quality of the student, how completely and not how well they learned the subject matter of the class. In short they say nothing about competence, they just confirm attendance.


Some systems do provide certificates once people reach a certain verifiable level and have obtained competence and required skills. A very few of these are credible because of the very high standards they maintain and because of the consistency of method they use to teach and to evaluate. Most importantly they also require a long term commitment to excellence. That is to say they are not just meaningless pieces of paper handed out to anyone that turned up and paid their money on one or two days. They spent weeks, months or even years obtaining serious skills.

That then seems at the moment to be the outliers of certification, such as it is in rope bondage.

My problem with general certification

The reason there has not been a system of certification so far is that nobody really can agree on what basic competence consists of or how to satisfactorily measure it. This is why it has been the province so far of small, defined and dedicated schools.

Certification, to be widely recognised needs acceptance by a large number of people and for that to happen you need standardisation.

This is where the problem for me lies. People can, and do, argue to the end of time about what is right and what is wrong and what is true and what is ‘best practice’.

Applying an engineering rule to it doesn’t help either as much happens in bondage that is not about best practice engineering but has a great deal to do with the experience being had by the participants, especially the tied. So the quantifiable rules that apply to lifting loads in the workplace do not easily fit.

Also bondage contains an artistic element, or at least to my mind should. And sometimes that overrides what might otherwise be considered practical.

Bondage is ever changing, new techniques rise and fall. New knowledge comes to light and spreads.

There is most certainly a need for education, for responsibility for good teachers. But unless you go down the route that martial arts has taken where execution is standardised for the sake of being able to test and teach and certificate and effectively to freeze that art in one state, bound from development or at the very least suffering from massive inertia in change subject to comities of approval etc. then there is going to be very considerable difficulty in getting any type of meaningful certification.

Take something basic say a single column tie. Want to standardise how to do that? There are dozens of ways, which one will be the certified way? Will more than one way be certified? How will which will and wont qualify as certifiable be determined?

While I can’t say that it’s impossible for certification to happen  I have reservations about how it might be done. I have also fears that any general certification may at restrict the heart of innovation from an art where it is its changing nature that excites me so much.


When most people think of certification they think of it in the general terms of for instance a motor mechanic who is certified to service your car. He may have learned his skills in any one of thousands of places and have a certificate from many bodies around the world.

In rope bondage this is not the case. For instance some Japanese teachers gave both attendance and competence certificates (and it’s important to be able to differentiate these). These certificates are absolutely valid for the style of the teacher and are in essence their personal word regarding the competence of the recipient. (Even so some have even been given almost as honorary doctorates rather than as signs of actual achievement)