Whips & Whipping 101, Part 4: The First Crack

By Jim the Whip Maker and Dick Carlson

Part 1: Bulls, Snakes & Other Scary Critters
Part 2: Swing & Target Practice
Part 3: Long Whips
Part 5: The First Shot – The Full Overhand Shot
Part 6: The First Useful Shot – The Pick Up
Part 7: The Real Thing – The Single Side Shot
Part 8: For the Whip Top – Dealing with Your Whip Bottom
Part 9: For the Whip Bottom – Dealing with Your Whip Top
Part 10: A Word on Cuts for Whip Bottoms

When novices try to crack a whip for the first time, they will always try the same shot. They hold it in front, flick it up and then jerk it downward. It may crack or not. Either way, this is very dangerous, and don’t do it. You are inviting it to crack right in your face. The idea is to crack it as far away as possible. (Back on the subject of Tinseltown, it is amazing how often you see extras doing exactly this, with the described result!).

Well, now to business. If you are a total beginner, the first thing to do is to learn to hold your whip correctly. The grip to use is a loose one at the end of the handle with the button in the palm of your hand and the two middle fingers actually on the button itself, and the first finger and thumb on the grip. Just wrap the fingers around normally. Keep the wrist relaxed.

It is a mistake to try to “steer” the whip by swinging the handle one way or the other. The whip is aimed by the direction of the throw and the looseness of the grip should not interfere with the natural, fluid motion. The result of a tight grip is only to destroy this natural action of the whip, possibly preventing the crack from occurring at all. Any good whip will project correctly without assistance, providing the throw is made smoothly.

Try swinging the whip around in a full circle. You will have to keep your hand well up, so as to clear your head! If right-handed, go right to left, ie counterclockwise. Keep going and notice the pull in your hand. Let your wrist move nice and loosely, try to keep the whip straight by making your hand movement smooth and steady. Your hand should make a circle of about a foot across.

From this point, we can try for a crack.

Lay the whip aside for a moment and get in front of a mirror. Now, imagine yourself at the royal court of France (I kid not) and you have bumped into the king. What do you do? You say, “Oops, excuse me mate”, and then you sweep off your big, feathery hat and bow. It’s the hat part we are interested in. You swing it off and finish up with it behind you at arm’s length and about hip level or so. Bow if you must. Try it out. But don’t laugh.

Now, back with your whip, circle it around as before, but quickly and as your hand comes to the front, take your hat off. Notice that you have to reverse direction of travel as you do this. This is called “cutting back”.

Make the sweep really wide with your arm straight. You should get a good, loud crack. This is a good showy shot, easily done, that gets attention, but is actually not very useful. It is possible to develop this into a continuous succession of cracks that reverse the circle each time, but I think that requires individual instruction, so I will not attempt the description here.

Remember the loose, flexible grip.


DungeonMaster33This article first appeared in DungeonMaster magazine, Number 33, September 1987 published by Desmodus Publications and edited by Fledermaus (Tony DeBlase).

Jim the Whip Maker and Dick Carlson taught this material as a course for the now defunct SandMutopia University, which was founded and operated by Tony DeBlase.

DungeonMaster was published from 1979 to 1992. After Tony DeBlase bought Drummer magazine in 1986, DungeonMaster became, in some ways,  the little brother of its more popular stable-mate. Articles published in DungeonMaster were sometimes later reprinted in Drummer. In 1992, Desmodus Inc., which then included Drummer, Mach, Tough Customers, DungeonMaster, The Sandmutopia Guardian and The Sandmutopia Supply Company, was sold to a Dutch corporation headed by Martjin Bakker, the owner of RoB Amsterdam stores and galleries. Tony DeBlase became Editor Emeritus and passed away in 2000.

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