A lot of people have been asking me and Ojipan recently if we have tips for them as they prepare to go to Bondage Expo Dallas or their first big con.
So I thought I’d put together my tips, in no particular order.
• Mark and count your gear! If you think a small class of 10-12 people is challenging to keep track of your natural colored, natural fiber rope and carabiners, imagine a class of 25 or 30. Count your gear when you pack to go and every time you pack up after a class, practice session, or scene at the party.
• The learning area is often very air conditioned. Bring layers.
• The floor is often covered with durable, but rough, high-traffic carpet. Consider bringing a sheet or towel from your room. Or a blanket, scarf, furoshiki, yoga-mat, etc. for your own comfort.
• You will typically not be allowed to have your phone out in the con space itself (editors note: except at ROPECRAFT). Bring a watch!
• No phones also means no video or pictures of what is being taught. Develop a way to document what you’re learning: bring a notebook! Sketch, write, do what you need to do to remember.
• Accept that you will be presented with a lot of information in a small amount of time. You are very likely to only remember 20% of it at most. Try to break things down into small pieces (chunks). Focus on what is different from what you already know and how you can contextualize it based on your previous understanding. Ask questions to engage with the material more fully.
• Practice what you’re learning. Take advantage of your instructors while they’re on hand! Go to the practice room(s) as available to reinforce what you learned.
• Plan on a few practice sessions in the weeks immediately following the con to review what you have learned. Spaced repetition is key.
• Be mindful of your body (both tops and bottoms get physically beat up tying this much over a 2-3 day event).
• Tops: if it’s day 1 and you’re getting ready to do a suspension with a TK and a hip harness, remember that the person you’re tying is likely going be in boxties all weekend. Maybe give their shoulders a break and tie the hip harness first.
• Bottoms: if you’re getting tired of being in box ties, maybe ask for a different arm position, suggest being tied with the box tie reversed (built with arms crossed in front), or remind the top to please tie the hip harness first to prep for that suspension.
• Both: do active warm ups to start the day and stretches throughout. (BED is offering morning yoga both Saturday and Sunday.)
• Rest. Take breaks when you need them, whether that’s away from class, away from the people, or outside of the con completely. (Ojipan and I make a point of leaving the hotel at least once / day.)
• Sleep. It is very tempting to burn the candle at both ends, staying in the play party until it closes at 3 AM. This will deprive your brain of the vital rest it needs to absorb the class material fully. Play as much as you want, but recognize how it will affect your cognition the next day.
• Make new friends! It’s easy and comfortable to stick close to the people you already know. But cons are a great way to expand your national and international network of rope acquaintances and build your understanding of how rope can look.
• If your personal dynamic allows for it, tie with new people. Have in-depth conversations about how rope learning works elsewhere. Peer-share. These relationships last well after the con is over and are always the highlight of the event for me.
• Get friends to introduce you to their friends. We’re all there because we have at least one thing in common. Revel in that! At BED, the ticket swapping process has provided a great opportunity to do this. Don’t be shy to go talk to that person you heard has a ticket for the class you want!
• Corollary: don’t go to the classes being taught by people from your local area (unless you’re TAing). You can learn from them when you’re at home. Take advantage of all the top talent that is now at your fingertips.
• Have fun! Remember that while it can be hard to learn new things, overwhelming to meet so many new people, or may be challenging to be in a new city away from home, you’re there to push yourself. Enjoy the novelty of your situation and just how lucky you are to be in that space at that time with those people who love this thing that you love.
And here’s my list of things I typically pack (specifically for BED but this list is pretty solid for any con). Feel free to adapt it to your needs.