Rope Practice vs. Rope Play

The difference between rope practice and play is frequently a topic of conversation among riggers. Many people believe that there should be a distinct difference between practice time and play time. And there are certainly advantages to this way of thinking. It allows people to learn each technical component of a tie without the distraction of those silly emotions that we like to have and elicit during our play. It forces our bottoms to remain mentally present to give us feedback on how the tie feels. And it lets us test out new ideas for scenes while we maintain a razor focus on what we are doing with the rope.


I have come to the conclusion over the past few years that this style of practice has extreme disadvantages to my play. I discovered that I was using ties in my scenes in the exact same way as I practiced them, devoid of any emotion. That connection that I was looking for and hoping for by practicing so I didn’t have to think about my rope while I played was just as absent as it was during my practice time. I discovered that I didn’t have the confidence to improvise during my scenes because I hadn’t practiced that specific technique yet. I was holding my emotions and myself as a rigger back because of the way I was practicing.

A rigger, for whom I hold a substantial amount of respect, once told me “practice how you want to play” and I fought against this idea for a long time. I figured that a lack of technical knowledge was what was holding my rope back but it wasn’t. It was that by practicing without emotion, I was playing without emotion. What was missing from my scenes wasn’t technical in nature at all, it was me. I was missing from my scenes. Once I started combining my practice and my play and once I started making practice enjoyable for my bottom and for me, my scenes started reaching the places I wanted them to go.

So, what is my point?

My point here is not to say that practice is a waste of time or even that practice
on a technical skill is a waste. But rather to encourage a blending of practice and play, so that when scene time comes around, you aren’t tempted to step back and remove yourself from the scene because that’s how you practiced it. Now, it is important to make your bottoms aware that this is how you intend to practice, as many of people are uncomfortable with something that they thought was going to be cold and detached turning into a scene. But, in my experience, this was the missing aspect in my scenes and getting them to go the way I wanted.