Tuesday, May 24, 2011


New Whip Enthusiasts Group on Facebook

For those interested in joining a new and growing group of whip enthusiasts, check out the Whip Enthusiasts on Facebook!

There are several whipmakers on there, including Steve Koliski of 21st Century Whips, who makes the top-of-the-line synthetic spectra Apex whips, now used by Anthony and Mary DeLongis; Jeremiah S. Espinoza of Blind Man Whips , who also specializes in synthetic whips, and celebrity whip maker Paul Nolan of MidWestWhips, who make both leather and synthetic whips, including their synthetic hybrid snignal (signal/snake) whip.

Synthetic whips have come a long way since the original heavy 8-plait Colorado whips of 20 years ago. Most are now made with much thinner, finer nylon cord which are close in action (at least in my opinion) to most leather whips, with the advantage of being less susceptible to weather, plus being less expensive. Steve Koliski's Apex whips go a step further, using Dacron and Spectra (depending on the model), which flow like the finest leather whips and cost about the same.

While the finest whips I currently own are two nakes and a bullwhip from Steve Blanton (now retired) and a Latigo y Daga bullwhip from Peter Jack, the ones I seem to use the most are both synthetics, a deluxe bullwhip from Steve Koliski and one of his snake whips that travels with me in my car and on dog walks. I'm currently saving up and hoping to add one of his Apex whips to my collection soon. Honorable mention goes to Joe Strain, only because I passed that whip on to Latigo y Daga founder Tom Meadows. The last time I handled that whip, I couldn't believe how nicely it had broken in. I don't think he's giving it back ;-)

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Anthony DeLongis article and award

Anthony DeLongis, Black Belt Magazine's 2008 Weapons Instructor of the Year, has the first of a two-part article on combative application of the whip appearing in the December 2008 issue.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008


Coattails and cheap criticisms

*This blog has been heavily edited at the request of Mr. Deer, who objects to content from his site being quoted without permission. Much of the material he originally posted, which many found objectionable in tone, no longer exists on his site. You can read his remaining article expressing his views on whips as weapons at his website. What remains here is the truncated version of the original post:

One of the easiest ways to build a reputation is to latch on to the success of others, whether by claiming affiliation or by attacking them so that by controversy your name becomes associated with theirs, creating an impression of similar status and accomplishment. So it appears in the whip world that a certain Gery Deer tried to make a mark by taking cracks (pun intended) at a number of targets who have substantial credentials and credibility in film, writing and research.

The energy for Mr. Deer’s attack came from the recent release of Harrison Ford’s latest film, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," and his premise is that Hollywood misrepresents the practical potential of the whip as any sort of weapon. While Hollywood productions are certainly no stranger to glamorization of excess, I think the particulars of his criticism are not only far off the mark, but in fact go against historic facts and realities concerning the use and capabilities of the whip.

Dan Inosanto, one of the most famous martial art teachers in the world, has a pretty high tolerance to pain according to those who know him, but he’s described the effects of hitting himself accidently with a whip as excrutiating. Whips can flail skin, a proposition that has deterred many from attempting to learn.

While a long whip may be relatively slow to rechamber in a combative situation, shorter whips are quicker to bring back on target and fill close-quarter space more completely. Tom Meadows, author of “The Filipino Fighting Whip”, demonstrated this fairly conclusively in a friendly test with Eric Knauss, “Top Dog” of Dog Brothers fame. Even when Tom limited the speed, power and targeting of his strikes, Eric found entering against a short combative whip a daunting proposition, even armed with escrima sticks.

Mr. Deer ignores the history of the whip, overlooking the extensive use of whips for self defense in various cultures. The whip is still a living tradition in certain cultures such as Mexico, the Philippines and other parts of Asia, where combative whips traditionally are found in materials such as stingray tails and rope as well as leather. Weapons such as the Indonesian sarong and Chinese chain whip attest to the effectiveness of flexible weapon techniques in a variety of forms and ranges, and I’ve personally seen a Chinese whip chain expert develop frightening proficiency with a bullwhip in only a single day of practice.

Filipino martial artists who have included the whip in their arsenal of weapons include: Dan Inosanto, Ted Lucaylucay, Momoy Canete, Snooky Sanchez, Amante Marinas,Sonny Umpad, and many more. All I can say is, anyone who thinks this is not an effective weapon has not stood in front of someone with these kind of skills.

Certainly every weapon has weaknesses. Revolvers and semi-auto pistols can be jammed or caused to misfire. Swords or baseball bats can be countered or can break. All of these take skill to wield. In the hands of a trained martial artist, however, even these mishaps are simply transitions into other options. One can hand-pick examples to show the ineffectiveness of any weapon in unskilled hands, and so the argument against the whip as one ultimately is little more than the standard cautionary disclaimer of “Warning: Do not do this at home, as these techniques were performed by trained professionals.”

You can read the more tempered version of Mr. Deer’s opinion on his own website. This is a rebuttal by Mary DeLongis, and another by Tom Meadows, both of whom have experience that certainly rivals that of Mr. Deer. Here too is an article by Anthony DeLongis, a weapons master who has been the whip trainer on several Hollywood blockbusters.

Finally, to set the record straight, Mr. Deer does not run the only facility dedicated to teaching the whip. Anthony DeLongis has been training people in whip for several decades, and he and his wife have run Rancho Indalo as a training center for over half a decade. I’m sure a dedicated search would turn up other sites as well.

While my own experience in whips is relatively narrow, I’ve certainly met people in whose hands I would consider it a formidable threat. Unless Mr. Deer can come up with research to rebut the historical and contemporary record of the whip as a potential weapon, and demonstrate in a repeatable and conclusive manner the ease with which the whip can be defeated, I think he needs to rethink his conclusion in this matter. This in no way detracts from whatever he has accomplished in the field of demonstration and showmanship with the whip, but merely points out the difference between theory and application, because in theory, there is no difference (meaning in application, there certainly is one).

As a comparison, I’ve known plenty of people who could demonstrate forms with sticks or swords quite well, but whose applied skills in sparring left a lot to be desired. The fact that they themselves could not step up to the plate to make these things work means nothing to those who can. As an old Chinese proverb states, “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it, ” an adage that seems most applicable here.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Comparing Two LyD Whips

One of my students got an LyD whip from Peter Jack last week. It only took him a week to get it as it was already in stock, the only one. I had maybe a 6 week wait, which was pretty quick for getting one made from scratch.

There were some significant differences between the whips, which surprised me.

The first was obvious. His was solid black, mine is longitudinal (side by side) red and black. I'm giving the edge to his. It simply looks wicked!

The other differences were significant and functional. His handle was surprisingly much shorter. The distance between the facing edges of the knobs on mine is 5.25" edge to edge, his was shorter by 1", and the core rod felt more like 2" shorter.

His whip feels substantially more flexible than mine. It felt like my Blanton whips, whereas mine feels like the Joe Strain I gave to Tom a couple of years ago.

Whether that's a function of the handle differences or in the braid itself I'm not sure; I suspect some of both. I know the Strain whip broke in nicely eventually and I'm hoping this PJ will do the same.

The upshot, though, was that my student's whip is marvelously fluid right out of the box, while mine after a much longer period of use is still stiffer. I offered to swap him on the spot, which tells you what I thought of the differences. He declined (I knew he was a smart guy but I had to try!)

Sunday, April 30, 2006


Spring Training!

Now that good weather has finally arrived, it's a great time to get outdoors. It's the perfect opportunity to grab the whips and head to open spaces to train!

Why train with whips? Lots of reasons:

First of all, they are fun. There is something exciting about learning to control that long sinuous line of energy, emphatically demonstrated by placing a ¡POP! exactly where you want it!

Few weapons, if any, can match a whip for a sense of aliveness in motion. It is a dance with something that moves in perfect rhythm to your own. A whip shows you EXACTLY what you project and where your energy is focused. Mastering the sense of risk can be exhilarating!

Whips extend your range and sense of movement in space. With a 4' combative length whip, your effective reach goes out about 8" when including your arm's reach and the fall (the unbraided end) and popper of the whip

Whips are a great workout! Using them involves lots of throwing action, as well as other twists of the arm and wrist to develop more subtle control. As you become more proficient, footwork, body angling and use of the check hand become increasingly important, integrating skills already learned through use of escrima sticks, blades and empty hands.

Flexible weapons are an often overlooked part of training. While not everything can perform like a finely tuned whip, a whip can teach lines of motion that apply to other objects.

For more information, contact one of the instructors listed on this page or go to the official Latigo y Daga website.

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Remember that whips move FAST; cracking them breaks the sound barrier.

Always wear eye protection while practicing with whips.

As Tom Meadows says, "You can't rebuild an eyeball out of pulp!"

Other safety gear like jacket and a hat or helmet are suggested, particularly while learning to use a whip. Train safely; have fun!

Monday, January 16, 2006


Faster Than A Speeding Bullet: the Ultimate Flexible Weapon

THE BULLWHIP: Faster Than A Speeding Bullet: the Ultimate Flexible Weapon by Anthony De Longis

The sound of a whip slicing through the air to strike or ensnare with its explosive gunshot crack is something you never forget! I grew up on westerns, and my love for the genre has never abated. Western films and television taught the timeless values of honor, integrity, responsibility for your actions and loyalty to a friend. Western heroes said what they meant and their word was their bond. Two of my favorites were Zorro and Lash La Rue. They brought a little extra style to the justice they dispensed. Like the long arm of the law, their whips sliced through the air to envelop the evildoers and drag them to their just rewards.

Little did I realize how these early entertainments would come full circle. I’ve been a professional actor, fight director, sword master, weapons specialist and teacher for over three decades. I’ve spent the last twenty years developing and performing my own distinctive methods for using the whip for film, television and in my martial studies. The whip is the ultimate flexible weapon: precision, power and virtually unlimited versatility in one explosive package. The tip of the whip literally shatters the sound barrier!

Hollywood has only begun to tap the potential this extraordinary tool can offer. Stunt Coordinators who are looking for something truly different, stylish and devastatingly effective can have it all with the bullwhip. Westerns, historical period pieces and even modern action films can all benefit from the dynamic action a whip can offer.

The whip is one of civilized man’s oldest and most versatile tools. It is also his first supersonic weapon, but more on that later. Images dating back to 3000 BC, in both the Chinese and Egyptian cultures, illustrate whips helping man control and motivate a variety of animals—both wild and domestic. Although a controlled strike could be applied when necessary, it was rarely used. The explosive “crack” of the whip was sufficient to herd the cattle or drive a working team, stirring their spirits and urging them to work together as one.

Australia is the world’s last continuously functioning whip culture. Australian cowboys or ringers refined this ancient tool to meet the all-weather rigors of a tough job. Fast, light and very powerful, the stock whip is the tool of choice for the man working cattle and horses in the land “down under.” Whips of different styles, construction and materials developed in almost every culture to suit the specialized demands of a wide variety of rigorous, demanding jobs. In Europe and America, the coach or buggy whip moved elegant carriages and overland stages, the long and heavy thong of the “bullwhacker” guided mule trains and the pioneer’s oxen across the prairies, and the short dog quirt still drives sled teams in the frozen wastes. These are but a few of the form-to-function variations in the evolution of specialty whips.

When the whip is thrown, energy travels through the arm and fingers into the handle and out the tip of the whip. Due to its continuous tapered construction, momentum increases as the whip rolls out, forcing that energy into an increasingly smaller area. A good whip multiplies all the energy introduced into it so you must be very specific and selective or the whip will give you an ungentle reminder and attitude adjustment. A word of warning: you can’t outrun the pain, so I suggest you avoid it. This accelerating circle of energy concentrates at the end of the cracker, and produces a sonic explosion when the tip of the whip “hairpins.” The speed of sound is approximately 1,088 feet per second. The whip can achieve velocities up to 1,400 feet per second! Literally, “faster than a speeding bullet,” the tip of the whip travels over 700 miles per hour, delivering a powerful blow to anything it impacts, easily cutting through flesh and even breaking bones.

Initially the whip is intimidating and not without risk. You don’t want to hit anyone or anything by accident, especially yourself. Designed to respond to your every signal, the whip deserves respect and demands concentration. But you don’t have to be afraid, just focused in your practice and performance, especially when surrounded by the chaos of a movie set.

Most whip artists concentrate on throwing the tip of the whip. It’s hard and fast and it produces a big bang. I have a different agenda, especially for film or stage work. First, I want to use as little effort as possible, so I stay absolutely relaxed. Next, I want to slow the motion of the whip so the camera can catch the action and the audience can better appreciate the story the whip is telling. The whip, like good dialogue, becomes a tool to articulate and reveal the character we are creating. Finally, because I am always working with a partner, and usually around a lot of people in tight quarters, I want a safety protocol that I know I can count upon.

My long time friend and partner, director Ed Douglas, and I had been working on a style that would slow the motion of the whip for an audience. Yanking the whip across frame just to produce a big noise no longer satisfied us. What we came up with was simplicity itself. We discovered that if we turned our palm downward, the body of the whip curled outside of the hand and body, and formed a loop on top of the handle instead of hanging underneath it in the traditional manner. By employing this simple adjustment, the critical alignment loop formed much earlier in the throw and the whip required much less effort to crack because it could use its own structural alignment to produce the energy more efficiently. Water runs down hill. Why force water up hill just to have it run back down that same hill? With our method, the whip always travels along parallel lines or “railroad tracks” outside your hand and body. This is the key to never hitting yourself, your surroundings or you partner; a simple but effective safety protocol. Efficiency, safety and consistency, that’s the advantage to our system.

It was not until later that some people, often quite vehemently, told me that I was doing it all wrong. Too late. My technique makes sense to me, and it works under conditions both optimal and extreme. And it works just as dependably for the actors and stunt performers I coach. I trained and choreographed Michelle Pfeiffer with the bullwhip for her role as CATWOMAN in Batman Returns. Michelle performed all of her own whip action, including wrapping Christopher Walken around the neck on her first day of work. She developed an impressive array of skills with the whip, taming The Bat with both chair and whip, capturing the Ice Princess and battling Batman on rooftops and in the Penguin’s Lair. We wanted to create a new style for Michelle that would reflect the complexity of her character; alluring, hypnotic and sensual, combining feline grace with the danger and awesome striking power of a jungle cat. Michelle’s dedication and practice allowed us to walk onto the set, choreograph on the spot, rehearse the action once for camera, then shoot it without cuts or inserts.

There are few places more unfavorable to accurately throwing a whip than a crowded movie set interior; unless, it is an exterior location with the vagaries of wind, wet weather (rain, snow and mud) and malevolent flora (forest, jungle and desert—all of which want to grab and tangle your whip). These are the on-the-job conditions under which I’ve tested and refined my techniques. They have stood the test of time for over twenty years, both on the ground doing delicate partner combinations and galloping on horseback, severing targets from my wife’s fingertips.

This same technique is also deadly accurate and devastatingly effective when applied in combat.

The whip is a remarkably effective long range projectile weapon, allowing you to attack or disarm an opponent far beyond his kicking and punching range. The speed of the whip slices through exposed flesh like a knife. Strikes can be thrown from any angle, singly or in multiple combinations of diagonal, vertical and horizontal attacks delivered from either side of the body. Underhand, overhead, sidearm and backhand throws can be unleashed in baffling combinations that are impossible to predict or defend against. You can fend off a number of adversaries, keeping them out of range and allowing you time to formulate effective countermeasures to reduce their numbers. It is also possible to envelop various limbs of an opponent from this extended distance, wrapping the end around the arm or throat and yanking him off balance. Similarly, a wrap around the knees or ankles can bind the legs together, making it easy to pull your adversary to the ground. Slashing an adversary’s leg through heavy clothing or capturing his supporting leg during an attempted kick is also extremely effective.

For mid range techniques, a simple flip of the wrist allows you to catch the fall and halve the whip to produce blows similar to swinging a doubled rope or length of hose with the added advantage of an open loop to easily ensnare neck, limbs or torso at will. Slashes, parries and deflections with this shortened length can supplement kicks, knees, elbows and other techniques as you close distance to throw the opponent or apply an improvised garrote.

At close range the handle of the whip works like a baton to parry, deflect and administer strikes. Punches can be intercepted to “defang the snake” in mid-flight. The end of the handle is readily utilized to thrust or stab. The weighted handle can also be thrown like a mace or spear and pulled back after contact, the recoil being easily re-directed to envelop the legs and yank your opponent off his feet before delivering a crushing blow to your chosen target of opportunity. If the grip is further shortened, the result is a short, fast flexible blackjack. The whip then performs like a nunchaku, lashing out with brutal power and returning to a position of rest under you arm in preparation for the next assault.

During my whip demo at the Cold Steel Challenge this year, I dressed my assistants, Sifu James Houston and sword instructor, Jason Heck, both very experienced fighters, in thick leather padding, body armor and motorcycle helmets to illustrate the whip’s actual speed and true power. We showed the audience of martial artists and skeptics how diverse, illusive and effective the whip can be with applications at all ranges -- long, medium and close up personal. Sifu James, an aiki-jitsu expert, took some terrific throws from a variety of different wraps and envelopments that I applied to counter his attacks with both kicks and punches. I also armed both men with knives and had them try as hard as they could to get to me from opposite directions. They had no chance. We made believers out of the entire audience.

Any martial art you’ve studied will find powerful voice and action through the whip. If you know Filipino Kali or Karate or Kung Fu or even western fencing and boxing, the whip will apply your current knowledge and show you new ways to employ your skills. If you listen, the whip will whisper its secrets. The whip taught me, it can do the same for you. My methods are well documented in Tom Meadows excellent new book, The Filipino Fighting Whip from Paladin Press, along with his own highly effective combat whip techniques. I highly recommend it.

Of course everything combative that I’ve described can be recreated safely, by a skilled Stunt Coordinator and his team, and an experienced Whip Master. We’re in the business of creating exciting illusions. The whip is a powerfully expressive tool. Let’s make magic.

Anthony De Longis recently performed the climactic fight with Jet Li in Fearless, staged flashback action with Walter Scott for Secondhand Lions and was Co-Stunt Coordinator for The Queen of Swords. He trained the whip fighters for The Rundown and Underworld and both Angelica Huston & Ellen Barkin with the whip for Buffalo Girls and Wild Bill, and co-starred twice on Highlander, the Series. Visit his website at www.delongis.com for credits and contact information. Cell 818-422-8664 or Joni’s Stunt Service

Monday, November 21, 2005


Choosing Whips

Whips come in a wide range, from useless junk made to bilk tourists to fine collectibles costing hundreds of dollars or more. While the quality and artistry at the high end of the scale is admirable, most of us cannot afford such luxuries, and frankly, those aren’t whips one wants to beat up learning the art anyway.

Here are some basic guidelines for buying whips.

First, the more plaits it has, the more likely it will have smooth action. On the other hand, those plaits (the strips of braiding) will be thinner and more fragile. An 8-plait whip will generally not have the subtlety of movement as a 16-plait, but it should withstand a lot rougher use.

Second, fine whips have a fully braided inner belly. Cheap whips may just have a cable inside, or rope, or even stuffed with rolled newspaper.

Third is the type of whip. Bullwhips are the most common, what most people think of as a whip. These have a rigid handle. Snakes are similar but have no rigid handle, so roll up for saddlebags, backpacks, even pockets. Stock whips have a long handle and the whip itself is attached at an angle. These are considered by some to be the height of whip design. Florida cow whips are similar, as are some from the Philippines. There are of course specialty whips like cat-o-nine-tails and other flails, but those are not what we are using for our training. Here I am only writing of whips that demonstrate extension and flow of energy.

Finally there is the materials used for the whip. The finest whips are made from kangaroo hide, which is renowned for being both tough and supple. Cowhide whips are less supple and rougher, good for practice or hard use such as herding cattle in tough conditions. Calf hide is softer than cow, closer in quality to kangaroo but more delicate. Finally, there are nylon whips. One advantage of these is they are quite tough, less prone to damage if they get wet, and are cheaper to replace.

These have come a long way in the past decade. My first practice whips were heavy, coarse nylon with paper cores. They are still workable, after lots of use and abuse over the years by my students and me. The new generation of nylon whips, however, are made much like good leather whips, with full braided bellies and much finer plaits. Like most leather whips, they require a break-in period to loosen up a bit, but as trainers they are capable of doing most of what a good leather whip will accomplish. This is perhaps an opinion not shared by all, but my 4’ nylon whip has good action, and in motion is perhaps the most visually exciting whip I own.

I’ve had a few whips over the years. Besides my two original 6’ nylon whips (one of which was borrowed and not returned), I now have two 4’ nylon whips from 21st Century Whips, one a bright red and yellow bullwhip, the other a snake. I also have two whips by Stephen Blanton, who only sells whips on Ebay. These both arrived amazingly supple right out of the box. One, my favorite whip, is a 4’ calf-hide snake. The other is a 5’ bullwhip, just a bit longer than I’d prefer. My most recent whip is a Latigo y Daga whip from Peter Jack, which I’m still in the process of breaking in. I suspect it will be right up there with the Blanton snake as my favorite. At one point I got a 4’ Joe Strain bullwhip that I passed along to Tom Meadows, since I had the Blantons and didn’t want to break it in. I’ve had a chance to handle it now that it’s been used, and it’s turned into a fine piece.

The bottom line is getting the best whip you can afford, and one that will suit your purposes. For combative training, 4’ seems about a perfect length. Shorter whips lose versatility and can be hard to handle, as they will come back too quickly. Longer whips are visually attractive but easier to entangle and can be slow to reverse, though someone like Anthony DeLongis will have great skill with these. Tom Meadows is pretty adamant about leather whips, feeling that anyone serious about learning this craft should be willing to get one. Considering the Latigo y Daga whip from a master maker like Peter Jack is little more than 2x the cost of a nylon whip, Tom has a point. On the other hand, if budget is a necessary consideration, a good nylon whip is better than none at all.

Jeff "Stickman" Finder