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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