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San Diego, CA - Of all the scenes we do, it is our impact play that seems to freak people out the most. Impact play is a common yet misunderstood part of the Leather-S/M scene. Whether delivered with bare hands (our personal favorite) or through a variety of implements designed or perverted to do wicked and nasty things – impact play can create strong physical, emotional and mental connections.
Impact play encompasses a wide range of activities, many of which epitomize images of S/M. Implements like floggers, paddles, belts, whips, and canes all play here – but hands, feet, elbows, and knees all are great striking implements (the latter few on their physical-intimacy attributes alone!) To many outside observers, our play looks rather violent, but it’s more than just the intense stimulation. In its deepest manifestation, it’s a brutal expression of our love and the way we make our deepest connection.
Tony: Inevitably, when we play in public or even in semi-private settings, someone will try to stop our scene. All they see is violence and abuse. Even when I am beating on Derek unrestrained, there is often someone that thinks that this must be non-consensual, even though he clearly could step away at any time... or just use his martial arts background to kick the SHIT out of me.
Derek: After a scene some guys will ask how I can take so much pain. This throws me a bit because in my head, I don’t see it that way: I still think I wimp out and always feel like I want more but lack what it takes to get there! Regardless, it takes time to learn to bottom at an advanced level. And there is absolutely no rush to become the heaviest pain pig on the planet – the joy for both the Dom and the sub is in the journey and learning to go deeper and deeper together.
As you get heavier, it’s hard to find people you can play with safely. I was lucky to find Tony. While when we first met he wasn’t playing at my level, he had the focus and passion to learn and go there with me. Together we’ve pushed each other hard and it’s been rather intense. In many ways this journey into pain-play is our twisted love story.
So why would anyone want to be beat until they are howling in pain and maybe even bruised or bloody?
Some guys feel a deep need for punishment. This is common especially with guys that are overachievers who have mixed feelings about their fortune. For others, it’s a need to show toughness, to overcome fear, to have a rite of passage, or a desire for an endorphine rush. As for us, we are most motivated by the connection that comes from this energy-exchange and the act of giving-up control of your body out of love.
Likewise, a top may have different motives for giving a beating. The control in this kind of scene is a high all by itself – the type that can create an intimate physical connection. A heavy scene can be a safe and positive way to vent aggression, establish dominance, train a sub in desired behaviors or simply as a display of skill. Probably the biggest joy for a top is taking someone to a moment of catharsis or breaking point. In a good scene, you can throw someone over a cliff... then catch them at the bottom.
Tony: At my first Inferno [a private, week-long BDSM event held annually for advanced players – ed.], Derek was the punching bottom for a workshop. The instructor had Derek strung up naked by his wrists so he couldn’t protect himself. While the play was heavy, much of the demo was basic stuff... places to hit and not to hit, and how hard you can punch in more sensitive areas.
For example, joints should always be avoided, but with places like the gut it will vary from guy to guy. While the kidneys are pretty sensitive, the right strike will cause deep, intense pain without damage... but too much force can cause serious injury. I had long been interested in taking my punching skills to the next level, so for our first major scene together I suspended Derek by his ankles like a human punching bag.
Derek: The next time we got to play was at a dungeon party after a Leather contest that Tony produces in Seattle. For this scene, he placed me in partial suspension so if I fell from the blows, the ropes would safely catch me. When we play this way, we are constantly communicating in subtle ways: I signal readiness to take more by looking him in the eyes a certain way, or Tony telegraphs movement before hitting a fragile area like the gut to I can tighten my abs. As the scene warms up, we are soon growling and yelling in primal fashion; very much an effective means of communication between one another.
Tony: I punched Derek and struck his iliotibial (IT) bands [tissue on the outside of the thigh, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee – ed.] until he could barely stand. I hit him so hard my fists swelled up. When you first start punching, you’ll find yourself with the same swollen fists of a new boxer. The really cute part was that, after this heavy scene, Derek was limping around the play space trying to find ice for my fists... sometimes it’s the Top that needs the aftercare!
Impact play involves varying degrees of skill and conditioning. While a basic spanking scene can probably be safely done without a lot of instruction, many of the classic scenes like flogging or single tail whipping take a lot of time to learn to do well. And it’s not just the mechanical skills. Learning to read the bottom is harder when your will finds its expression in an implement rather than in your bare hands. Even simple things like cleaning your toys correctly is critical for safety. So it’s important to learn from a skilled practitioner or S/M club like AVATAR, Chicago Hellfire, The 15 Association, GMSMA, etc. This column should offer up a fair idea of whether or not you are learning from someone that knows her or his stuff, but it’s not a substitute for real expertise in hands-on training. The best thing to do is ask around – even inside the aforementioned clubs.
Derek: While I had done plenty of flogging scenes before meeting Tony, doing it with him is very different for me. Because of our connection, I’m able to go deeper and faster into the scene. Then emotions become extremely intense.
Tony moderates the flow, going from deep, thuddy blows that make me go further into an endorphin high and then brings me back out with sharper, stingy blows that pump adrenaline and make me alert again. Enough of the thuddy can send me into a dissociative state where I no longer feel pain and become sort of an observer of the whole scene. When that happens I’m totally gone, but he soon takes me back by varying the strikes.
The down-time immediately after a scene is equally important. It’s at that time when I feel the most loved – the safest and the closest to Tony. People like to rush a scene when it’s over to ask questions, yet it’s really important to allow the players a moment for their afterglow – that is their prize. After that, all that is left are the memories and maybe a few short-lived bruises for your trophies.
Tony: When a scene is really working for us, it’s a dance. I adjust and control the scene and ride off the energy that Derek gives me. I can read his body language and the sounds he makes are a very effective communication. Plus, they’re hot as fuck.
Derek: While my back is to Tony I can still feel him through the strokes and he communicates with me through them. Usually Tony flogs me unbound and I think that also makes a difference in how I take the scene. Taking it freestanding gives you more control but ultimately requires deeper submission. This submissive head space – this totally giving over control of oneself willingly – is very much a feeling of love and connection. There is a point in a scene where Top and bottom merge as one, becoming one body without organs. His desire to hurt me and take me places is the same as my desire to go there. The differences we create and emphasize in our Top bottom roles, paradoxically allow us to dissolve our boundaries and explore new ways to connect with each other.
All advanced play is an exploration. It starts with learning the traditions of our community, the safety and techniques involved. From there you make it your own, maybe even innovating to create new paths. In BDSM play, there is no old or new guard, but rather a continuous stream of tradition that builds on the values of the past, with each new generation adding new ideas and passing on what they have found.
Folsom Prison, we do a prison beatdown that climaxes in a face-punching scene. This wasn’t cinematic punching – this was BDSM scene punching the way it was taught to us by an experienced Hellfire Club brother.
Derek: When I was new to the scene I used to let this guy at the bars punch me in the face, sometimes until I had a bloody fat lip. Later, I learned why this guy’s boyfriend didn’t do this particular scene with him. He had broken his boyfriend’s jaw doing this very scene in the past and now the guy’s jaw was too fragile for this kind of play. I was bummed when I realized this was unsafe, but stopped doing face punching from that point on. I was ecstatic when I finally saw a club brother topping a punching scene with the apparent care needed to do it safely: mouth guard in place to prevent concussions and the bottoms head braced with his arm to prevent whiplash. Not as showy as swinging from the fences and cold cocking someone, but it rings my bell enough for me to see stars and for my legs to buckle like they did in Folsom Prison. And I don’t need a trip to the ER afterwards.
Tony: Derek had been doing this face punch scene as a capper each year at Inferno. So when he became my boy, I wanted to learn it from both sides. Derek bought me my own mouth guard and introduced me to the club brother who then taught me. This was teaching, but it was also an emotionally intense and beautiful scene onto itself. The older brother is of the generation that was in bike clubs before gay liberation. He is rough working class guy and all man in the hottest way imaginable. When a tough guy like that is as visibly choked up as you are, you know you are in the midst of something powerful. This was a passing of secret knowledge and tradition, the kind that needs to be done in person, the older brother passing it to younger. This passing of tribal knowledge is critical for the cohesion of our community and insures the safety of SM players now and in the future.
The connections formed in impact play have truly joined us as a couple, and the connections we create in passing this knowledge tie us to the larger social fabric of the BDSM community across time. This play is one of our deepest expressions of love. More than any other scene we do, safe impact play requires a lot of trust and presence. It's a deeply emotional scene for us, but when tears come they are not tears of hurt, but of love or of release or of the sadness that comes from knowing that we need to part soon, ending this short moment of oneness when we return to the distant cities where we each live.
Tony & Derek are full-blown FUCKOS, respected players, and members of Chicago Hellfire Club. They also wow boys on film as stars for Titan Media and other notable studios. Check out Titan’s NEW flick “Folsom Prison” on sale NOW at fine fetish retailers & sleazy porn shops world-wide! – Thorn, Editor Instigator Magazine.
Anatomy of a Scene: Impact Play originally appeared in Issue No. 18 of Instigator Magazine which was published in May of 2008. Impact Play was the second column in the Anatomy of a Scene series co-written for Instigator by Tony Buff and his boy Derek da Silva. The series offers a unique perspective on a variety of BDSM activities as Dom and sub share their individual perceptions and experiences. Other titles include: Anatomy of a Scene: Blood Sports (Issue No. 17); Anatomy of a Scene: Rope, Bondage & Power (Issue No. 19); and, Anatomy of a Scene: Electro Play (Issue No. 20). Back issues can be ordered through Instigator Magazine.