For a discussion on how to sterilize a whip that has drawn blood, see the section on Whip Care.
I heard a very wise dominant friend of mine once comment that anyone can buy any toy and that it never has been the toys that are dangerous. This should be tattooed on the forehead of anyone that uses a single tail whip in BDSM play. I am starting this article with the accidents that have happened to me in private and public single tail play. it’s not that big of a list but each event had a lesson and usually some soul searching attached to it.
1. On an intimate night at home with my submissive securely tied to the bed, I was throwing my 4′ bullwhip over her head popping it and letting the end brush against her thigh. In my desire to frighten her i was concentrating on walking it higher up her inner thigh and forgot about the ceiling fan. When the fall caught in the fan blade I just kept following thru and in a single second my romantic night was over and the fan was not so delicately laying atop my sub. LESSON ONE: always check for clearance a 4′ bullwhip means an 8′ ball of potential objects to break.
2. being an expert “Master of the single tail ” a crowd always gathers to watch our scenes i was in an enclosed dance area with a spotter to keep the curious from walking into a back swing i was secure in the thought that a 4′ rail would keep everyone out of my 12′ circle so i was doing a wrapping with a 6′ snake. A person walked up behind me and leaned over the rail in there hand was a long necked bud 8o) it wasn’t there long and i can tell you i’m glad it missed the patrons on the other side of the bar. LESSON TWO: change is inevitable expect it. the second coming of lesson two includes pain and a big dent in my ego. while playing at a club i went back with the same whip and someone had pushed a chair onto the play area behind me it just thru the return stoke off enough to alter its flight and caused me to leave a 3″ cut on my subs leg. I am what some consider to be sadistic but I pride myself on control of my actions. My sub says the hurt like the scar is there no matter what my intentions. LESSON TWO AMENDMENT #1 no one is that good.
If there is a trend here i should also bring out the up side. My submissive and i have been including a single tail in our play for 5 years. I have been throwing single tails for 20+ years. I am proud to say that I practice with my whips about 4 times a week for an hour or so. we started with the drawing the whip across her and cracking it in the air and progressed over the years to to selective blood play. During the years we have made lots of friend and introduced many to single tail play. I have discovered that there is no source for reliable education about this, with so many experts and so many opinions, its hard to make absolute statements without including myself in the mix. so let me say its not my opinion its my experience that conveys the following.
signal whips are fun and noisy anyone can make the crack with one. I will never substitute easy for safe so I will never use a signal whip on or near a person.
its ok to miss your target a lot as long as you miss on the no pain side of the target in question.
yes you are allowed to change the fall on a whip. for the new thrower i recommend you take that 1/4 inch one off and save it for later put on something 1 inch wide and suede it will still pop but your sub will allow more mistakes before she loses your whip.
always ask your host if single tail play is ok.
My closing thoughts:
- Buy quality whips. even at first. The better whips are accurate and can last a lifetime.
- Practice as much as you can.
- Never ever crack a whip towards anyone’s face, even your own.
- Never let your ego direct your actions.
[The following section, which was written by Robert Dante, is an essay taken from the book "Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns" with the permission of Robert and the publisher. It is Copyright © 1995 Philip Miller and Molly Devon. All rights reserved. You can order or obtain more information about "Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns" at the Mystic Rose home page. Though Robert is active in the SM scene he is also gives rodeo-style whip performances, and there is much advice in this article that will be of interest to non-SM whip crackers. Andrew.]
The crack of a whip is the epitome of SM.
It explodes like lightning from the hand of a god or goddess, it snakes through the air like a dragon’s claw. It’s evil, languid, precise, supremely savage, and sensuous. In short, it is as sexy as it is dangerous.
It can create a range of sensations from delicate to cruel. It can be as subtle as a lover’s tongue or as frightening as a chain saw.
Such is the fantasy, such is the reality.
In the hand of an expert whip handler, a well-made whip becomes a living thing, much the same way a samurai warrior’s sword vibrates with the life force given to it by a master sword maker. With any performing art, dramatic or athletic, the moment of truth is authentic and unique. It cannot be programmed or choreographed to be precisely the same every time.
I have presented seminars and workshops on bullwhip use. I’ve also given private tutoring sessions. Dressing For Pleasure arranged for one of my workshops to be videotaped (warts and all).
I do emphasize “safety first”. Although I can show someone how to use a bullwhip, it’s up to that person to invest the hours of practice required to get the basics down. Be prepared for calluses and blisters. From what I’ve seen, each person develops his or her individual style and relationship with a whip, but the basics are usually in place. I try to communicate those basics clearly and, fortunately, the single-tail whip experience has a sharp learning curve. If you’ve got patience and persistence, you can get there from here.
One nice thing about the bullwhip is that the wielder does not have to be a burly linebacker – some of the best whip crackers I’ve seen have been smaller men and women.
Even a gentle stroke with a beautiful form carries more power and grace than a sloppy, strong swing.
Let’s get down to it:
Basically, there are three different types of single-tailed whips: black snake, bullwhip and stock whip. The difference is in the handle and the flexibility of the whip. The black snake (and in this category I put signal whips, dog sled whips, and other shot-loaded, flexible–handled, short whips) is a faster, shorter, meaner mother than the other whips. On the plus side, it is better for use in confined areas and does not require as much expertise to master. On the negative side, it has a narrower range of SM play potential.
The bullwhip has a short rigid handle and a flexible thong or lash which can come in various lengths. On the plus side, it is a highly versatile instrument. On the negative side, it demands that its user knows what he or she is doing or it will hurt someone (including the handler). It looks easier than it is and the potential to do damage is significant. This is a good place to tell you SAFETY RULE NO. 1: Protect your eyes. You were born with only two – you don’t grow new ones if you damage the ones you have, so wear glasses, goggles, or a hat with a brim.
The stock whip has a longer, rigid handle with the thongs attached. In this category I will put buggy whips, horse whips, dray whips, lunge whips, and the whole class of wrist action whips. They are easier to master than bullwhips, but again, the range of play is narrower. They do require less effort to create satisfying cracks, relying more on a fishing rod cast action than a whole-body, Tai-chi-like, bullwhip throw.
The different whips require slightly different throws to effect cracks, but they all crack for the same reason: the cracker or popper at the end of the lash breaks the sound barrier and makes a small sonic boom. A good whip acts like a magnifying glass, taking the motion, momentum, and energy you place into the whip’s handle focusing that energy more tightly into the whip’s tip (Newton’s Law of the Conservation of Energy). A well-made whip will conserve most of the energy put into it until it reaches its explosive release in the cracker. A shabbily made whip will dissipate its energy, requiring more effort to be put into it in order to create a halfway decent crack.
Using the bullwhip as our model, here is the basic anatomy of a whip: the handle attaches to the lash or thong, which attaches to the fall (a round length of leather or a flat, slapper-type length of leather), which attaches to the cracker or popper, the piece of string at the end. Most crackers are replaceable, some falls are replaceable. The idea is that if you bang the whip on the ground or into a wall, let the cracker or fall take the beating, not the thong of the whip. The cracker or fall are easier to replace; the thong will need to be rebraided, or replaced.
A good whip will have a good core, almost like a secondary whip inside the outer covering. That second whip will have a bolster around it, around which the outer covering is braided.
I recommend people start off with a shorter whip, usually a 4-foot bullwhip. It is faster, much less forgiving of mistakes and requires a stricter form. The advantage is that it is less expensive to buy than a longer whip, can be used in a smaller space and it win not tire out the user as quickly as a longer whip will. And once you have the basics down with a 4-footer, it is a relatively easy matter to take that knowledge and experience up into a 6-footer or an 8-footer.
The longer the whip, the less accurate it will be. Up to eight feet is about as long as you can go and still play fairly spontaneously with any precision. Beyond this length, the whip should be used primarily as a psychological toy — a “bullwhip ride” can be exhilarating and emotionally draining — even under a thick leather jacket (it will mitigate cuts but severe bruises are still possible).
A new whip will be particularly stiff, I tend to prefer a more flexible thong, but some others prefer their whips to have more body, density. A whip needs to be conditioned and cared for. It is an instrument, a tool. It is leather: it will dry out, so it will need to have its oils replaced to maintain its health (I use Dr. Jackson’s Hide Rejuvenator, available from Tandy – but others use tallow, lard, beeswax, even Neutragena soap). Don’t get it wet. Most whips are made of either cowhide or kangaroo. Cowhide is much less expensive and easier to find, but kangaroo is lighter and stronger, allowing a tighter braid without sacrificing strength.
You don’t have to play with the cracker attached. Texas bullwhips have flat falls which can slap; Australian-style whips have single thongs. For the versatility, I like the Texas bullwhip because you can detach the cracker easily and use the whip like a flexible rider’s crop. Still, don’t underestimate the potential for damage here. Go easy, even on a slow, wide and flat, slapping-type swing.
Safety: once again, protect your eyes. You can identify a new whip user by the welts on the arms and the nicks on the ears. Treat the whip as if you are learning to play with a chain-saw. The analogy is not exaggerated. Do not snap the whip down so it flies back at your face – unless you desire to sport a welt or scar on your cheek or lip. Wear long sleeves. Wear a hat with a brim. Before you start swinging the whip, make sure there is no one behind you and nothing loose on the ground around you – if you strike just right with the whip, you can send an object flying like a bullet.
Before we begin, spin the whip in a circle around you, like a propeller, using your wrist. Visualize the whip’s arc creating a disc in the air beside you, with the handle at the center. If you spin it on your other side. you have moved the disk. If you spin it over your head, the disk is now above your head. You are always at the center of the disc. If your body is not at the center of the imaginary disk… you will hit yourself. If you send the whip out and jerk it back at yourself, the whip will hit you. The whip will do exactly what you tell it to do. If you give a whip two different instructions, it will try to obey both of those instructions and will probably end up hitting you in the face. There is nothing as single-minded as a whip, so be unambiguous in the messages you give it.
After the whip cracks, it is ready to crack again, so continue the motion. Tell the whip with your hand where you want it to go. Always keep the whip moving away from your face. If you need to, drive it into the ground beside you.
There are three basic shots, all building from each other: The overhand throw (including backhand, side-arm “flick” and upward shot), the circus crack (or forward crack, S-shot, “serpentine” shot) and the reverse snap (or overhead crack).
With the overhand throw, lay the whip out on the ground behind you. Pull the whip handle-first, so you can pull the lash over your shoulder. Keep your wrist passive. Use your whole forearm as an extension of the whip, aiming the handle at the point where you want the whip to crack. You want to create a hairpin, a wave rolling along the length of the whip as it unwinds before you. Do not go for speed – if your form is correct and the hairpin is tight, the whip will crack all by itself. Listen to the quality of the crack; a sharp report means you have hit the sweet spot. A dull thud means fall is cracking but there is not enough energy to make the cracker pop.
Keep your elbow and forearm on the same plane. If your elbow is aimed outward and your hand tries to compensate by twisting the whip back, you are sending two different messages into the whip. Make every component of your throw a single thought, a single action, a single follow- through. Be single-minded.
Keep the whip moving over your shoulder, close to your face (but away from it, forward). If you minimize the parallax (the discrepancy between your eyes and your aim), you become more accurate, more likely to hit what you are looking at and aiming at.
Be flat-footed (at least, at first). Get grounded. Flex your knees, relax your ass muscles, commit yourself to the throw with your whole body, from the soles of your feet, up through your back, into your shoulder, right through your hand, into the whip. all the way to the cracker. Make it a whole-body experience. Go slow. Don’t worry about trying to make the whip crack. If your form is clean, the whip will crack, all by itself.
The second stroke is the circus crack. With this, you make a chopping motion as if you are holding a meat cleaver. Pull the whip forward and up, forming an S shape over your shoulder. Have it double back on itself so your hand now travels down. This is a single stroke, not two strokes. If it is done as a single stroke, by doing this you double the distance the whip travels, placing more momentum and potential energy into the lash, resulting in a louder crack. This is the cutting stroke.
The third stroke is the reverse snap. Make a circle over your head. Now cut the handle back along the same plane, sending a hairpin wave into the thong. Whip will crack, fairly close to you (half the length of the whip or less). This is the easiest stroke for the longer whips, but it is also the least accurate. Powerful stroke. basically the same as the circus crack, but on a different plane. It helps to line the whip up by swinging it twice in one direction. then cutting back on the third swing.
Tip: use both hands, first one, then the other. It will keep you from getting overdeveloped on one side. Also, the practice you get using your off hand will make you a better whip handler with your preferred hand. And when you have burned out the muscles in one arm, you can continue to practice by using your other arm until your tired arm has rested. All this switching hands will continue to educate your eye and the rest of your body, increasing your instinctive understanding of the rhythm of the whip and teaching your brain better whip handing protocol.
For the rest of it, practice. practice, practice. It’s the one thing someone else cannot do for you. Every stroke you invest in practice goes into your bank of experience. And it pays great interest, once that learning curve locks in.
Playing with someone else: in a word. DON’T – at least, not until you are good enough to take leaves off a tree a quarter-inch at a time. Play with plush toys and teddy bears (their fur will show you where you are hitting). Once again, safety first. Keep the whip moving away from your partner’s face. Expect to mess up; expect to miss a stroke. If you expect to screw up, you will make an effort to minimize the possibility for damage or injury. You will be glad you did. Have your partner wear glasses, goggles, hat. Even more, have him or her wear gloves, jacket, jeans, chaps.
Wrapping can be particular fun. Have your partner put a hand out (in a glove). Send the whip out so it cracks a bit above and behind the other’s arm. After the whip’s energy is expended in the crack, the thong will wrap around the arm harmlessly. If you get really good, you can minimize the time between the crack and the wrap so they sound almost simultaneous. It’s a head trip, a scary ride, but no damage will be done. If, however, the crack occurs at the surface of the skin, you may wind up taking your partner to an emergency room to have a deep cut stitched up. At the least, your partner will have a welt, or an abrasion, which may or may not be permanent. Proceed with great caution.
Don’t wrap the neck. The cracker may inadvertently stroke an eye or the thong may abrade the neck or the fall may cut.
I have read a whip user write that a bullwhip does not cut — it “burns.” Well, in my own rodeo-style public stage performances I cut paper and playing cards and slice bananas, stroke by stroke. A crack from a bullwhip can burn, and it can raise a welt — and it can cut. Just ask my favorite bottom.
I will not get into the intricacies of heavier play here. Some things are better (more safely) shown than described.
There is no substitute for having a friendly relationship with a good whip handler. If you can find someone who knows what he or she is doing, introduce yourself. Most of the good whip people I’ve met are happy to share their passion with other experts and neophytes alike. There’s always something new to learn and there is always someone out there who can do something you can’t.
Tricks are great fun and can sharpen one’s ability with a whip. Cutting newspaper sheets down smaller and smaller is a good one. Putting out candle flames is always dramatic. Popping balloons is fun, but harder than it appears. Hanky snatching is pleasurable, but is more easily done with a blunter cracker.
Resources are more easily available than they used to be. The Wild West Arts Club (3750 S. Valley View, #14. Las Vegas, NV 89103) has regional gatherings where people of a like mind get together to share their fascination with whip cracking, knife throwing, and rope twirling. It is also a stunt man’s organization with a membership of about 500 people worldwide. Founded by Mark Allen, its catalog features decent bullwhips and videos by such experts as Alex Green.
My own foray into video whip teaching, “Whip It Up,” was recently released by Invision Productions. For information, contact me.
Joe Wheeler is a recognized single-tail whip maker. He usually has a waiting list of clients, but the wait is worth it. The Australian Stock Saddle Co. at P. 0. Box 987, Malibu, CA 90265 has stock whips from Australia available. Roger Patterson of Arizona makes a unique spiral-wrapped whip from Australia available from some select stores in the U. S. and Canada. David Morgan, author of the comprehensive “Whips and Whip Making” is a first-class whip maker and importer in Washington (phone 206-485-2132), but if you indicate you are part of the Leather/SM scene, he will hang up on you. Tandy’s Leather has a small booklet by Dennis Rush called “Whipmaking, a Beginner’s Guide” which is clear, concise, and informative.
Remember there are two dimensions to whip play — the psychological and the physical. Blend them responsibly.
There you have it – enough information to make you a danger to yourself and others, so please remember, Safety First. I’ve tried to make sure the training wheels are on and you’re wearing a helmet, but there comes a time when you have to go out on your own and find out what it’s all about for yourself. Practice, practice, practice. Consider this a push in the right direction. Just like a motorcycle — all that power, right there in your hands. Have fun — that’s what it’s supposed to be about.